EFL expert, The Betting Desk, joins us for a look ahead to the 2022-23 season in the Championship, providing his best ante-post bets in England's second tier.
Blades can cut through the crowd
Sheffield Utd should go well this season. In their first season back in the EFL they took time to adjust which cost Slavisa Jokanovic his job after they managed to return just eight wins in his 22 games before Paul Heckingbottom was given the job again after serving as interim boss following Chris Wilder leaving his role back in March 2021.
Heckingbottom had a great impact on the team and managed to guide the team into the playoffs with a record of W15-D7-L5 conceding just 19 goals over the 27 games.
The Blades' home record was very impressive with only promoted Nottingham Forest collecting more points in the time Heckingbottom returned to the hot seat. Over these 14 games at Bramall Lane, they conceded just four goals with an xGA of just 0.66, whilst scoring 25 and creating a xG of 1.41. At home, they kept a massive 10 clean sheets in the 14 games that Heckingbottom was in charge. Their away form and underlying performances were also very good with an xG of 1.39 and xGA of 0.93, with only six teams collecting more points over the same period.
The Yorkshire outfit managed a top-six finish despite having several key senior players out injured over the back end of the season.
Jayden Bogle, Oli McBurnie, Chris Basham, David McGoldrick, John Fleck, Ben Davies, George Baldock, Enda Stevens all spent time out on the sidelines whilst record signing Rhian Brewster played just four times in 2022. Whilst McGoldrick and Davies have left the club, the Blades are starting to see a return to action for some of these players now.
They have released a few players who were maybe past their best and the recruitment of Tommy Doyle from Man City and Ciaran Clark from Newcastle will improve them. Clark played 13 times in the Premier League last season and could be a very shrewd signing. Anel Ahmedhodzic has come in from Malmo after spending time playing in France and much is expected from the defender who has played in the Champions League and for his country, Bosnia.
The squad is full of experience and has some quality with the likes of Sander Berge and Iliman Ndiaye plus it looks very likely that Reda Khadra will be joining from Brighton who had a successful loan spell at Blackburn last season.
The Blades have a good squad and performed well under Heckingbottom last term, and I think they have a real chance of going well again this season. We can back them at 10/1 with Bet365 to win the league and add in the security of taking them each way at ¼ of the odds. If you would rather just back them to finish in the top 6 at 6/5 with Bet365 with a double stake, I wouldn’t be putting anyone off this price.
Rover and out for Blackburn?
I fear for Blackburn Rovers this season and believe that their odds of relegation are too high and happy to back them to fall into League One.
They really struggled at the back end of last season with a record of W6-D6-L10 scoring just 16 goals since the turn of the year.
Rovers won just four of their last 17 games of which two were in the last three games against teams that had nothing to play for in Birmingham and Derby, whilst their other wins were over Preston and QPR. These four teams won just 22 games from their last 80 between them. Hardly inspiring stuff from Rovers.
Ben Brereton Diaz was the highlight of the season with 22 league goals, although the goals dried up after Christmas with him finding the net just twice over the remaining games, although he did find himself on the treatment table for a number of games.
Sam Gallagher 2nd top scored with just 9 league goals and so far this pre-season he has found a new position as a wide player, so may not find the net as much this term, with Reda Khadra who contributed four goals and two assists has returned to parent club Brighton and looks to be loaned out to Sheff Utd.
Joe Rothwell who contributed with three goals and 10 assists and Darragh Lenihan have both left the club. These two players played more than 75 games last season so will no doubt be a big miss and at the time of writing, no one of any note has come into the club.
Rovers released several youngsters and fringe players so now have the smallest squad in the league. They also have the youngest squad in the division with an average age of just 23 years old. Last season Barnsley had the youngest squad and ended up in League One.
Tony Mowbray left the club in the summer although as he explained in a post-match interview, he was expecting a conversation with the club for them to inform him of next year's plans and if that included him, yet the owners just didn’t speak to him. I guess Blackburn fans have learnt to expect the unexpected with it comes to the V H Group.
With Mowbray leaving, Blackburn were linked with several managers but eventually went with Jon Dahl Tomasson, who has had two successful years with Malmo. It will be interesting to see how a relatively inexperience manager deals with the Championship. Given the number of departures over the summer, recruitment was going to be key and so far, that hasn’t happened.
I believe all the right ingredients are present for a poor season for Rovers. It’s a young small squad, a manager with no English football experience whilst the team is over-reliant on their main striker in Brereton Diaz, who, before last season, had never scored more than seven goals in a single campaign.
I am therefore happy to back Blackburn to be relegated at odds of 10/1 with Bet365.