Can Brighton beat Newcastle and the bookies to the Championship title?
With just six games to play in the Football League season, Newcastle and Brighton are gearing up to go to battle in Championship title race and appear to be the two teams who’re Premier League bound, but who will be heading there in pole position?
Both Newcastle and Brighton, who play their football at opposite ends of the country, have been occupying the top two spots for the vast majority of the season with the former being in the automatic promotion places since match-day 12 and the latter being there since match-day 14. It is currently Brighton who top the table after their recent 3-1 win over Birmingham, although, if Newcastle beat Burton on Wednesday night, they will return to the summit.
With Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle having the biggest budget in the division, they were expected to absolutely romp the division. However, this is the Championship – a league that is arguably the most competitive in the world. Nobody simply ‘romps’ to the title in this division.
In fact, the Toon Army have hit a few bumps in the road during this campaign and even now they only have one win in their last four. These hurdles have often come on home soil with many sides travelling to St James’s Park and seemingly putting in an extra 20% in order to take that scalp. Newcastle currently boast only the seventh-best home record in the Championship this season and have lost to the likes of relegation-strugglers Blackburn Rovers and Wolverhampton Wanderers on home turf.
Despite a few minor blips, The Magpies are still massive favourites for the title thanks to their game in hand over Brighton and, as mentioned earlier, a win against Burton in their next match will see them leapfrog their closest pursuers and go back top of the pile.
For Brighton, this campaign is very different and is very much a revenge mission on last year’s failed season in which the Seagulls could have clinched automatic promotion on the final day with victory against Middlesbrough. However, they could only draw to Boro, a result which sent their opponents up instead!
As often seen with teams who just miss out on automatic promotion, they then went into the play-offs downhearted rather than with a sense of optimism and subsequently lost to Sheffield Wednesday in the semi-final. Manager Chris Hughton will certainly hope that his side have learnt from last season’s mistakes and, with a gap of ten points between them and 3rd, they should be home and hosed and look set to make their Premier League debuts next year.
An honorary mention must be given to Huddersfield Town who have been sensational this campaign but appear to have blown it at the final stage of the season with two straight losses. The play-offs are still a viable avenue for promotion but, as we all know, it is something of a lottery. The Terriers were the most viable option to challenge the top two but that ship has now sailed.
The odds on Newcastle to finish in the automatic promotion spots are understandably poor at 1/100 whilst Brighton are priced at 1/50 – better, but still incredibly bad value.
If you’re someone who likes a bet and are thinking of having a late punt on the Championship promotion battle, then focussing on the outright winner is the best bet. Newcastle are currently the favourites at 4/7, however, given the few slips they’ve already had, it’s hard to be convinced that the race is over just yet. As mentioned above, Newcastle are not particularly great at home and have some very tough matches coming up at St James’s Park against sides gunning for the play-offs who will, as previously stated, be putting in that extra effort up in the north east.
By comparison, most of Brighton’s tough fixtures are already behind them, leaving the Seagulls with a seemingly easier run-in compared to their title rivals, facing a bunch of the weaker sides in the division. Brighton to finish top after 46 games is nicely priced at 9/4 and could certainly be worth a shout.
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