Can fellow high-fliers Brighton or relegated sides Burnley, Hull and QPR among others, prevent Boro from sealing Premier League promotion this season?
Pre-season promotion favourites Middlesbrough are already in pole position to finally get out of the Championship, with all bookmakers having them odds-on to go up. Sky Bet presently offer the best price on Boro returning to the Premier League at 2/5.
Can anyone stop Aitor Karanka from bringing the Teesside team back to the big time? The Championship is among the most unpredictable divisions among world football, so will anyone else in the current top eight deny Middlesbrough?
Brighton and Hove Albion
At a brilliant best-price of 9/4 with bet365 for promotion, the Seagulls have made a superb start under Chris Hughton, and certainly satisfy the phrase ‘surprise package’. It all depends on whether key attackers Tomer Hemed and Kazenga LuaLua can keep up their fine form.
The Rams hold top odds of 5/2 with the same bookie to go up under novice head coach Paul Clement after investing heavily in player recruitment, and are bidding to make their third attempt at a promotion tilt the charm. Pride Park’s talent must deliver consistently to mount a credible challenge and belie their poor start on the campaign.
BetVictor go a best-price 11/4 that Steve Bruce, who has three promotions on his managerial CV, will take the Tigers straight back into the Premier League. It’s all about whether their replacements for key quartet Robbie Brady, James Chester, Dame N’Doye and Nikica Jelavic are up to the task.
Steve Clarke’s late summer swoops to bolster the Royals’ roster in attacking areas have transformed his team into contenders. This sudden strength in depth means the Madejski Stadium side must be taken seriously in the promotion race at top odds of 4/1 with bet365.
There was a departure from the previously frugal regime at Turf Moor this summer when the Clarets splashed the cash with a £9m swoop for Brentford frontman Andre Gray. Sean Dyche has a credible striking replacement for Danny Ings and, despite Jelle Vossen returning to his native Belgium after a couple of months, Burnley will have a say in the promotion race also at 4/1 with bet365.
Speaking of long-standing shoestring budgets, Mick McCarthy has seen no loosening of the purse strings at Portman Road. The Tractor Boys had to sell before they could buy, but have a roster that looks to possess more strength in depth. Ipswich are thus worth a punt for promotion at best odds of 8/1 with Betfair.
Like Hull and Burnley, the Hoops came down from the Premier League last term, but have something of an injury crisis in attack. Star striker Charlie Austin and hard-working backup option Jamie Mackie are both injured, so QPR’s price for promotion has lengthened considerably with bet365 to 10/1.