The race for the promised land of the EPL begins on Saturday when the Championship season begins. It is a hugely competitive section and although the clubs are not as rich or the players as well-known, it is probably the fifth best league in the world.
There are two teams which have caught eye in the close season who have been underrated in their bid to reach the top flight. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham are our standout soccer picks.
Indeed, Wolves could be our best bet of the whole season because of their captures in the transfer window. They have splashed big money on Ruben Neves from Porto for just shy of £16 million, a record fee for the league. It is arguable that Neves should be plying his trade in one of the top leagues in England, Italy or Spain.
The midfielder is a class above and industry insiders have told me they are amazed he is with Wolves because he should be “playing for Manchester United or Chelsea”. Other signings which impress are centre-half Willy Boly, also from Porto, Roderick Miranda from Rio Ave and Diogo Jota from Atletico Madrid.
Nuno is the new manager at Wolves after a disappointing campaign last season and he heads an interesting project. They are obsessed with Portuguese talent and with super agents having a keen interest in the club’s progression they have been able to capture players beyond most Championship teams’ means.
They are +400 with Betway to make the step up and that could look a very big price in no time at all.
Fulham are the team with momentum. In the ‘table of the last 23 games’, they actually finished second behind Newcastle. That brilliant run of form saw them snatch a play-off spot before they were undone.
The Cottagers have kept their squad together and have added new talent, notably Abou Kamara from Amiens for £5 million and Ibrahima Cisse from Standard Liege. They are +300 with Matchbook for promotion.
Middlesbrough are the title favourites at +650 with Will Hill. They have also spent big – and well – and under Garry Monk, a shrewd leader, they will be there or thereabouts.
But what puts us off is the record of the favourites in this league. Only two have copped in the last 16 seasons – Newcastle last term and Manchester City in 2001-02. That is an incredible statistic.
Newcastle, of course, had the biggest budget the Championship had ever seen. Now, Middlesbrough are not paupers but it is a trend which we would be foolish to ignore.