EFL Championship Betting Tips

The EFL Championship is the English League’s second tier and boasts some of the highest club football attendance figures in the world, beaten only by the Premier League and German Bundesliga. It is also considered one of the most competitive leagues around with any of the 24 sides capable of beating another on a given matchday. There are plenty of twists and turns in the 46 game regular season, with many of the sides holding a realistic chance of promotion to the Premier League.

Here we give you our betting tips on every match from each round of games to guide you through the season, as well as pointers on who to follow in the outright markets. Previews will be available in the days before games are played.

EFL Championship Matches – 14th & 15th February 2020

Date Time Channel Match Tip
14/02/20 19:45 Sky Sports Hull v Swansea Draw
15/02/20 12:30 Sky Sports West Brom v Nottingham Forest West Brom to Win -1
15/02/20 15:00 N/A Birmingham v Brentford Brentford Win
15/02/20 15:00 N/A Cardiff v Wigan Cardiff to Win Both Halves
15/02/20 15:00 N/A Charlton v Blackburn Blackburn to Win by One
15/02/20 15:00 N/A Derby v Huddersfield Derby Win & BTTS
15/02/20 15:00 N/A Fulham v Barnsley Fulham to Win -2
15/02/20 15:00 N/A Leeds v Bristol City 1-1 Draw
15/02/20 15:00 N/A Middlesbrough v Luton Draw
15/02/20 15:00 N/A Preston v Millwall Preston Win
15/02/20 15:00 N/A QPR v Stoke Stoke Win
15/02/20 15:00 N/A Sheff Wed v Reading Draw & Under 2.5 Goals

The games are coming thick and fast in the second tier at the moment with plenty of midweek fixtures and just a couple of days to rest before the next phase of games begins. Hull City and Swansea City get the latest round of EFL Championship fixtures up and running on Friday night. Leaders West Bromwich Albion entertain Nottingham Forest on Saturday in what is a huge clash between first and fifth, while Leeds United and Bristol City lock horns at Elland Road, another top of the table battle (second versus seventh).

Just three points separate Leeds and Bristol and the battle at the top of the table could hardly be closer. There are big games at the other end of the table this weekend too though, with Boro v Luton something of a six-pointer and the likes of Wigan and Stoke also looking for big results.

Fourth Win on the Spin for West Brom

Slaven Bilic’s West Brom moved six points clear at the top of the Championship table with a 2-1 win at Reading on Wednesday. Can the Baggies extend their lead at the summit this weekend?

West Brom have got right back on track lately, picking up three wins in a row after a really poor spell some them drop off the top spot, albeit only briefly. Before Wednesday’s triumph at the Madejski Stadium, Albion secured an excellent 2-0 victory at The Den last Sunday and they are in fine fettle right now.

Nottingham Forest did the Baggies a huge favour as they beat Leeds last weekend, but Sabri Lamouchi’s men followed that up with a disappointing 1-0 home reverse to lowly Charlton Athletic in midweek. Still, the Reds are only two points away from the automatic places and there is certainly everything still to play for.

However, West Brom look a notch or two above Forest and they are starting to fire again. With the visitors a little hit and miss, Bilic’s boys should make it four wins in a row this weekend. Back the Baggies to win -1 at 15/8.

Bristol City to Hold Leeds to a Draw

One of the standout Championship games taking place this weekend is the Leeds v Bristol City fixture at Elland Road. United have stumbled in recent weeks, while the Robins have won six of their last eight. Bristol City are now just three points behind Leeds and a win here would put them in with a great chance of landing a place in the Premier League next term.

It’s been a painful last few weeks for Marcelo Bielsa’s men, as United have won just one of their previous eight in all competitions, losing five of those along the way. However, they did pick up a handy draw at Griffin Park in midweek and perhaps just as importantly their performance was much better than in the previous loss to Forest.

Bristol City head to Elland Road having won six of their past eight in the Championship and they are solid on the road too. The Robins hit back with a win after last Friday’s shock home defeat to Birmingham City, beating Derby County 3-2 at Ashton Gate.

Both sides will fancy their chances in this one, but we can see the pair cancelling each other out at Elland Road. Bielsa’s boys have drawn 1-1 with promotion rivals WBA and Brentford in the last month or so and another similar game seems likely here. The 1-1 draw is nicely priced at 17/2 and that’s a great bet if you want a long odds option for this game.

Cardiff and Fulham to Seal Comfortable Home Wins

Cardiff City Stadium

By Daicaregos, Wikimedia Commons

Neil Harris’ Cardiff City are coming along nicely and will feel they can force their way into the top six if they keep playing as they have been. Back-to-back away wins in the space of a few days has lifted the Bluebirds up to eighth, albeit four points behind Bristol City. Cardiff will want a third straight victory when lowly Wigan Athletic visit the Cardiff City Stadium this weekend. City won both halves at Huddersfield Town on Wednesday, and Harris’ men are priced at 11/2 to do so again this Saturday which is big enough to merit a small punt.

After drawing at Millwall in midweek, Scott Parker’s Fulham will be hoping to return to winning ways on Saturday. The Cottagers entertain Barnsley, who are down in 24th place after 32 games played. Fulham have won five of their last six at Craven Cottage in all competitions, and the London side will surely claim another easy home win at the weekend against the doomed Tykes. Fulham are available at 15/4 to win -2 and given their firepower a big win is a distinct possibility.

  • Hull v Swansea - Grant McCann’s Hull and Steve Cooper’s Swansea meet at the KCOM Stadium on Friday night. With neither side in good form, our money is going on the draw at the nice enough price of 5/2.
  • Birmingham v Brentford - In-form Birmingham and high flying Brentford meet in a tasty clash at St Andrew’s. The Blues have won three in a row, but the Bees have been excellent on their travels lately. Back the visitors to come out on top at 19/20.
  • Charlton v Blackburn - Charlton secured a vital and highly surprising win at the City Ground last time out. Can Lee Bowyer’s Addicks follow that up with a home victory over Blackburn Rovers on Saturday? Rovers have won three of their last five in the league, and we fancy Tony Mowbray’s boys to edge this one. Blackburn to win by one is available at very chunk looking odds of 3/1.
  • Derby v Huddersfield - Only Preston North End have picked up more home points than Derby this season. They are poor travellers but in front of their own fans they very dangerous. The Rams will be expecting another home victory when they take on Huddersfield at Pride Park and it’s what we are expecting too. You can get Derby to win and both teams to score at big odds of 10/3.
  • Middlesbrough v Luton - Luton Town have given themselves a lifeline after a narrow win over Sheffield Wednesday in midweek. We’re backing the Hatters to follow that up with a draw (10/3) at Middlesbrough on Saturday, not the worst result for either side.
  • Preston v Millwall - Preston and Millwall meet at Deepdale on Saturday. Alex Neil’s North End have the best home record in the division and with Millwall weak on their travels this looks set to end one way. The Preston victory in this one is priced at 11/10.
  • QPR v Stoke - Queens Park Rangers and Stoke City go head-to-head at the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium on Saturday. The Potters could do with the points, as Michael O’Neill’s troops hover just above the drop zone at present. QPR are very hit and miss and fail to turn up all too often so Stoke could nick this one (13/8).
  • Sheff Wed v Reading - Garry Monk’s Sheffield Wednesday are in dreadful form, losing six of their last nine in the Championship to drop right out of the promotion battle. Mark Bowen’s Reading visit Hillsborough on Saturday. The Royals have failed to win any of their last seven in league action so this is a meeting between two teams very short on confidence. With that in mind, put some money on the draw and under 2.5 goals at odds of 11/4.

Championship Betting Strategy & Tips

The EFL Championship is the second tier of professional men’s football in England. Over the years it has had many different names, including the Second Division and, perhaps a little more confusingly, the First Division. The latter name makes sense within the context of the English Football League, with the Championship being the highest level of football within the EFL. The Football League Championship took on its current moniker in 2016 and, to stop everyone from becoming completely confused, we rather hope it sticks to that name!

Structure of the Championship

Call it what you will, but as that famous box to box midfielder (not really!) of ye olde times William Shakespeare said, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. When it comes to the Championship, old Bill might have said “Division 2 by any other name would still be as fast, frenetic, fiendishly and fiercely competitive and attract crowds the size of which put many of Europe’s other leagues to shame”. Or words to that effect.

We’ve already established that the EFL Championship is the division below the Premier League. Now let’s take a look at its structure, format and some of the keys dates on its calendar. In common with most of the top leagues in Western Europe, the Championship generally runs from August to May. Again, in keeping with most other second tiers, it features promotion and relegation and, as with all levels of UK football, there is, as of 2018-19, no winter break.

For such an important and powerful league, the Championship consists of a lot of teams. A relatively bloated number of 24 sides ply their trade in England’s second tier, whereas, for example, there are only 19 clubs in Serie B at the time of writing and only 18 in the German second division.

Teams play home and away, creating a standard season of 46 games per club and 552 matches in total. At the end of this football marathon, the top two sides gain automatic promotion into the Premier League. The bottom three are relegated into League One, whilst the four clubs finishing third to sixth go into the play-offs.

Championship Play-Offs

After the regular league has finished there is still one huge prize up for grabs as the best four non-promoted teams battle it out for one final Premier League place. The teams finishing third and sixth, and fourth and fifth, meet home and away in a two-legged play-off semi.

The two sides prevailing in the semis head to Wembley at the end of May to meet in the crucial Championship play-off final. Often dubbed “the richest game in football”, in 2018 it was said that victory for Fulham would be worth at least £160m to the club. That huge figure would rise to a whopping £280m, according to football finance experts Deloitte, if Fulham can stay in the top flight for at least another campaign.

Key Dates

Note that the dates below are based on the 2018-19 EFL Championship. The exact dates will change from season to season but these can be used as a rough guide.

  • Fixtures for new season released – 21st June 2018
  • Normal season starts – 3rd August 2018
  • Normal season ends – 5th May 2019
  • Play-off final – 27th May 2019
  • Summer transfer window opens – 7th May 2018 (for domestic transfers, 9th June for international)
  • Summer window ends – 9th August 2018 (5pm)
  • Loan transfers – available in and out until 31st August 2018
  • Winter transfer window – runs from 1st to 31st January 2019

Betting on the Championship

Betting on the Championship is huge business. This should come as no surprise because the UK is the world’s biggest regulated gambling market; football is the most wagered on sport in the UK; and the Championship is the second most important division in the UK (apologies to Scottish football, but it’s true!).

The range of markets on the EFL Championship and the overall betting coverage is right up there with the Premier League. There isn’t quite the same depth of markets and betting options but it certainly isn’t far behind.

When it comes to betting on the Championship, most of the tips within our main football betting strategy guide apply. In short, that means that looking for value is key and that studying as much information and data as possible is the best way to try and find bets where the odds are in your favour.

Looking at stats is a great way to try and pick your bets, although it’s always worth remembering that usually the odds are reflective of such publicly available information. None the less, stats and trends are fluid and so if you can get on an emerging trend early you may be able to find some great value whilst the rest of the market – and the bookies – catch up.

Home Advantage

Home advantage is often thought to be a big factor in deciding which team will win. However, the fact of the matter is that the benefit of home advantage has been diminishing steadily for a long time. All the way back in 1896, home sides won a whopping 65% of games in the Football League.

In 2015/16 this had dropped to just 41% over the top four tiers of English football, a relative drop of 37%. In other words, home advantage was over 1/3 less powerful. In the Championship, on average sides win around 48% of their home games if we look at the last few years.

In the 2017/18 season, whilst promoted Wolves and Cardiff won 16 of their 23 home games, almost 70%, most sides took three points less than half of the time. Sunderland won just 13% of their home matches, whilst 14 sides won 43.4% or fewer.

Goals

When it comes to Championship football most people think of exciting, end-to-end games with lots of action and goals galore. As said, trends change over time, but looking at the most recent complete campaign, 2017/18, those looking to bet on goals should note the following:

  • Over 0.5 goals – this bet would win 91% of the time, meaning 0-0 landed around 9% of the time
  • Over 1.5 goals – 73% of Championship games last term saw two or more goals
  • Over 2.5 – the most popular overs bet landed 48% of the time
  • Over 3.5 – 25% of matches saw four or more goals
  • Over 4.5 – back overs here and you would have won 11% of your bets
  • BTTS – BTTS was a winner in 50% of 2017/18 Championship clashes
  • Win to nil – 21% of games saw a side win to nil

As said, the bookies are usually well aware of the main trends, so you usually have to work a bit harder to uncover some real value. However, it’s worth noting that within overall league trends, you will often find some real outliers in terms of individual teams and if you can get on these early you could well make a killing.

Again, considering the 2017/18 season, whilst both teams scored in 50% of matches overall, in QPR games this figure leapt to 63%. At the other end of the scale, “BTTS – no” was a winner in 61% of games involving either Wolves or Birmingham City.

Perhaps the most lucrative bet last term was to back over 4.5 goals in Hull’s Championship matches. Hull were poor last term, finishing 18th and they conceded and scored a lot of goals. However, with the odds for over 4.5 goals usually being around the 4/1 mark, even for games where many goals are likely, Hull would have yielded a remarkable profit.

Over 4.5 goals was a winner in 24% of their games, almost a quarter. That really was a huge number of high scoring games. The next highest in the Championship was Bristol City’s 15% and the lowest was Millwall, with just 4% of their matches seeing five or more goals.

Stats and Trivia

Want to impress your Championship-loving talking cat with some dandy football stats? Does the future love of your life look like she’d be wooed by a bit of second tier trivia? Or are you just a bit of a football nerd? Whatever your motivation for picking up some Championship trifles, we’ve got 10 great facts sure to wow even the geekiest of geeks!

  1. Macedonia – the Championship’s appeal is huge and games are broadcast live in Macedonia (not to mention Brazil, Kosovo, South Korea and loads of other countries)
  2. Dark Days – Rotherham won just 23 points from their 46 games in the 2016-17 campaign
  3. The Championship is Home – Rotherham’s neighbours Barnsley have spent longer in the second tier than any other side, becoming the first club to play 3,000 games in the division
  4. Draw Kings – Southampton and Swansea (separately) have both drawn eight games in a row in the Championship
  5. Double Trouble – when the Second Division, as it was called in 1892, was created, there were 12 clubs, half the current total of 24
  6. Better Than La Liga and Serie A – not on the pitch but off it, maybe. In the 2016-17 season the Championship was better attended than the top divisions in Spain, Italy and France
  7. Major But not THAT Major – the Championship’s attendances put it ninth on a list of global leagues in terms of total attendances. However, the 11m aggregate is some way behind the 70m achieved by Major League Baseball!
  8. Striker – in the Premier League era, the most goals scored in a second tier campaign by a single player is 42. Guy Whittingham achieved that in 1992-93 and the next best is just 31
  9. Striker MK II – since 2004-05, when the Championship became the Championship, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake is the only player to have been top scorer in more than one season
  10. Gaffer – in the same era, promotion specialist Neil Warnock has won the Manager of the Month award the most times. Warnock’s 10 were achieved with Cardiff, QPR, Sheffield United, Crystal palace and Rotherham

History

Now we’ve sated you stats fans, let’s give the history buffs a little information on the second rung of the English football ladder. We’ve touched on much of this already but here in chronological order is a concise history of the division.

The Football League Second Division was created in 1892 and operated under that moniker for 100 years until 1992. It came about following a meeting in 1888, at which the director of Aston Villa, a Scotsman called William McGregor, hoped to create an organised league.

The Football League was established following this meeting and soon after the rival, but little known, Football Alliance was also created. In 1892 the two merged, creating the Football League and the Football League Second Division.

Both divisions would have 12 teams and the founder members of the Second Division, nine of whom had been in the lesser Football Alliance, were:

  • Crewe Alexandra
  • Grimsby Town
  • Lincoln City
  • Sheffield United
  • Port Wale
  • Walsall
  • Northwich Victoria
  • Ardwick (now Man City)
  • Small Heath (now Birmingham City)
  • Bootle
  • Burton Swifts
  • Darwen

The number of teams in the second tier gradually grew, first going to 15 in its second season, before 16 in 1894. This became 18 in 1898, 20 in 1905, 22 in 1919, 23 in 1987, before settling on the current 24 in 1988.

The exact format of the league has changed very little after promotion and relegation were established relatively early on. There have been some minor changes but the biggest alterations were simply cosmetic.

When the Premier League was created for the 1992-93 season, the Second Division changed its name to the Football League First Division. This lasted until 2004, when the competition became known as the Football League Championship.

In 2016 the Football League took the decision to re-brand as the English Football League and so thus the English Football League Championship was born. But, as you might have heard, a rose by any other name…