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EFL Antepost Championship Tips: Enzo Maresca set to outfox the pack

The Championship returns on Friday 4th August when promoted Sheffield Wednesday take on relegated Southampton at Hillsborough.

It's an opening-night cracker at the start of a fascinating looking campaign in the second tier. 

Steve Davies' EFL Championship Betting Tips

Leicester to win @ 4/1 
Sunderland each-way @ 20/1 

Odds were correct at time of writing and are subject to change.

Setting the scene…

The new Championship season is almost upon us and it promises to be as keenly fought as ever at both ends of the table. 

Three powerhouses in Leicester, Leeds and Southampton have dropped out of the Premier League to do battle with sleeping giants of the calibre of Sunderland, Middlesbrough, West Brom and Norwich. 

And joining that mix, up from League One, are another pair of Premier League old hands, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, who have weathered hard times and are back on the rise once again. 

And will this season see another Luton? Is there an unheralded team amid the 24 who are going to punch above their weight for the entire campaign and gatecrash the promotion party?

WhatEngland Championship 2023/24
WhereEngland & Wales
WhenFriday 4th August, 2023 – Saturday 4th May, 2024
How to watchSky Sports
OddsLeicester 4/1, Leeds 7/1, Southampton 7/1, Middlesbrough 10/1, Watford 16/1, Norwich 16/1, Ipswich 16/1

Leicester to win Championship @ 4/1

History supports the view that the three sides relegated from the Premier League could be big-hitters and of this season's trio of fall-guys, Leicester appear to have most in their favour.

All three – Leicester, Leeds and Southampton – have had to sell some of their superstars, just as Burnley did 12 months ago.

But it's not only Burnley who recovered from relegation to land the Championship title a year down the line. Fulham and Norwich in the preceding two seasons did exactly that, so there is no reason to think that Leicester cannot be this year's yo-yo club and go up as champions.

The fact is the Foxes became stagnant under Brendan Rodgers and change was needed.

They left it too late before giving Dean Smith the job and after he failed to keep City up the Thai owners drafted in Enzo Maresca, the type of positive appointment which has to give everyone around the King Power a lift.

As one of Pep Guardiola's right-hand men during last season's treble campaign at Manchester City, he's clearly learned from the best.

He inherited a squad at Leicester immediately shorn of the likes of James Maddison, Harvey Barnes and Youri Tielemans, but they were always going to go.

Maresca has added class in the shape of Conor Coady and Harry Winks to embellish a squad already packed with quality in the form of players like James Justin, Hamza Choudhury, Harry Souttar, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and the ageless Jamie Vardy.

Steve Davies' tip

Leicester had a good group of players who had lost their way under Rodgers and needed re-energising. Under Maresca, they've got a visionary at the helm who can do a 'Burnley' and guide the Foxes to the title at the first time of asking.

Football

Sunderland to win Championship each-way @ 20/1

Luton and Coventry did it for the outsider last season, storming into the promotion picture when few fancied them. And for Luton, of course, it worked out perfectly as they went up via the playoffs.

This is a competition packed with quality sides but it remains competitive. Sunderland, for example, got into the playoffs in 2022/23 and look a fair bit of value at 20/1, certainly meriting an each-way investment.

The Black Cats finished last season superbly, stringing a 10-match unbeaten run together which took them to the verge of Wembley until they were picked off at Luton in the second leg of their play-off semi-final.

That they managed to contend despite the absence of Ross Stewart for almost all of the season was remarkable, but the striker will be fit from September.

Tony Mowbray has gathered together a very decent squad and the number of goals they have been piling up during a successful pre-season campaign has to be heartening.

Sunderland were outstanding on the road last season and if they can improve their home form they can be contenders once again.

Steve Davies' tip

There's a lot to like about Sunderland at a price which doesn't fully reflect how well they did last season. They are only going to get better under Tony Mowbray and look a real threat.

Steve Davies' EFL Championship Betting Tips

Leicester to win @ 4/1 
Sunderland each-way @ 20/1 

Odds were correct at time of writing and are subject to change.

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