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Championship: Battle for promotion intensifies in England's second tier

Often regarded as one of the fiercest divisions in the world, the Championship is once again impressing this season with a captivating contest for promotion.

Burnley and Sheffield United are in the driving seat for automatic promotion but the battle below them for the play-off spots looks impossible to call.

Burnley have excelled under Kompany

Burnley have undoubtedly been the story to follow in the Championship this season.

Having been relegated from the Premier League last term, the Clarets underwent a rebuild over the summer, drafting in Vincent Kompany as manager and reshaping their squad.

The likes of Ian Maatsen, Nathan Tella, Manuel Benson, Jordan Beyer and Anass Zaroury have made instant impacts at Turf Moor and, along with Sheffield United, Burnley are frontrunners for promotion.

While Burnley are red-hot 2/5 favourites for the Championship title this season, they can be backed at 1/14 for promotion, while Sheffield United are 1/6 in the same market.

The top two seems to be a foregone conclusion but the race for the play-offs is quite the opposite with only six points separating Blackburn in third and Reading in 13th in a congested table.

Carrick's appointment sparks Boro into life

Middlesbrough are one of the more recent teams to throw their name into the ring in the battle for the play-offs.

Boro started the season sluggishly under Chris Wilder and were in 21st spot in the Championship table before the appointment of Manchester United legend Michael Carrick as manager on 24th October.

But since Carrick's arrival, Boro have won seven of their last 10 matches, catapulting themselves up to fifth spot.

They are now 10/3 To Be Promoted to the Premier League and 4/6 to Finish In The Top Six.

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Carrick's tenure has been characterised by Boro's greater willingness to play attacking football and Chuba Akpom has been the greatest beneficiary of that, rising to the top of the Championship scoring charts with 13 goals in 19 matches.

Matt Crooks continues to be influential in midfield, while Riley McGree, fresh from helping Australia reach the last 16 of the Qatar World Cup, will be hoping his added experience in the middle can make a difference.

Boro are in a great position to make the top six this season and are worth keeping an eye on.

West Brom benefiting from Corberan's arrival

Another side to have benefited from a change of manager in October are West Brom.

The Baggies stagnated under Steve Bruce in the early stages of the season before snapping up former Huddersfield and Olympiacos manager Carlos Corberan a day after Carrick joined Middlesbrough.

Corberan's first match in charge was a baptism of fire - they lost 2-0 to high-flyers Sheffield United - but followed that with seven wins in eight league games.

In that run, they managed to keep six clean sheets with Corberan tightening the Baggies up at the back thanks to fine performances from the likes of veteran defender Erik Pieters and centre-back Dara O'Shea.

They are now only a point outside the play-off places and are third in the Championship form table (covering the last six matches) with Burnley and Sheffield United ahead of them and Boro just below in fourth spot.

West Brom are 11/10 to Finish In The Top Six in the Championship this season and can be backed at 9/2 To Be Promoted back to the Premier League.

Watford and Blackburn key parts of chasing pack

As for the rest of the chasing pack, Watford are considered key contenders in the race for promotion at 9/2, having made their managerial switch in September when Slaven Bilic replaced Rob Edwards.

They won their most recent Championship encounter 1-0 on the road at Norwich, who are 5/1 To Be Promoted to the Premier League and 5/4 to Finish In The Top Six but are still targeting a long-term replacement for Dean Smith with Allan Russell currently interim manager.

Blackburn Rovers are another high up in the betting at 11/8 to Finish In The Top Six, having started 2023 with a 1-0 win over Cardiff.

Bradley Dack scored the decisive goal in that one and remains a key player for them in their pursuit of promotion along with star forward Ben Brereton Diaz, who has bundled in nine league goals this term.

He is 18/1 to be the Championship's Top Scorer this season with Akpom 11/2 market leader, Coventry's Viktor Gyokeres 13/2 and Teemu Pukki of Norwich 16/1.

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