With Middlesbrough getting back into the Championship play-off places and Bayer Leverkusen recording their fourth straight win, we’re looking at some of the biggest Market Movers.
Middlesbrough were anxiously hovering over the relegation zone towards the end of the 2019-20 season, and Jonathan Woodgate made way for Neil Warnock, whose four wins were enough to guide them to safety.
He was kept on for the following season and after a brief flirtation with the play-offs, secured a solid 10th-place finish.
But unable to kick on this season, Warnock was let go with Chris Wilder taking charge in November. Boro had gone from 5/1 for promotion to 14/1 at the time of his departure. The instant impact of Wilder wasn’t forthcoming though, and an opening draw with Millwall followed by a late turnaround against Preston saw them drift further, to 20/1 for promotion and 7/1 for the top six.
That was about as bad as things have been though. Wilder then steered his side to six wins from seven and, after the 1-0 defeat at Blackburn, has taken another seven points from a possible nine to break into the play-offs.
With the table as tight as it is, and so many teams with games in hand, it’s tricky to get too good a read on the true state of play, but 4/7 for the top six certainly makes good reading for Wilder and the Boro fans.
Followers of German football will recall Bayer Leverkusen’s start to last season where they were top after 12 games, before winning just six more for the rest of the season – Peter Bosz getting the sack in March – only just hanging on to a Europa League place in the end.
Gerardo Seoane was appointed following three successive titles with Young Boys, and to say he favours attacking football would be an understatement – 16 of their 22 Bundesliga game have seen over 2.5 goals land.
Another proponent of gegenpressing, he’s brought his philosophy from Switzerland to Germany, and while Leverkusen were 11/10 for a top-four finish after a 4-3 defeat to Dortmund, three successive wins saw them cut to 4/6.
Another three successive wins, one of which came at RB Leipzig (albeit this time on the back of four without victory) saw them shorten further still to 2/5. The 7-1 win over whipping boys Greuther Furth saw Patrik Schick score four. It took a brave punter to oppose Robert Lewandowski for top scorer this season, but each-way bettors will have licked their lips at the 100/1 about Schick, particularly after his Euro 2020 exploits, and he’s currently three clear of nearest rival Erling Haaland.
Moussa Diaby has chipped in with 10, while 18-year-old Florian Wirtz has scored seven from midfield (assisting another 10), and you’d be surprised if he’s still with Leverkusen in 18 months.
After that 7-1, Leverkusen again went four without a win and were 25/1 in the Without Bayern Munich market, but four wins on the spin (in which they’ve scored 16 goals), have seen them shorten to 8/1 in the without market, and 1/11 for the top four.
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Although a top-half finish was realistically the best Strasbourg could’ve hoped for this season, no wins from their opening three games saw them rooted to the table and 80/1 for the top three. They soon steadied the ship and have been free-scoring ever since.
In fact, since the opening three games, they’ve been Ligue 1’s top scorers with 43 in 21 (PSG by comparison have 42).
Veteran Kevin Gameiro has rolled back the years; a summer signing from Valencia, he’s scored five in his last four taking him to nine for the season, while the 6ft6 Ludovic Ajorque – who was 200/1 for top scorer in pre-season having scored 16 last term – is on 10, while Habib Diallo and Adrien Thomasson have netted 15 between them.
Seven wins from their last nine have them a point behind third-place Nice and four points ahead of Rennes, Monaco and Lyon, though they’re still 14/1 for a top-three finish.
PEC Zwolle have endured a miserable season in the Dutch top flight. New manager Dick Schreuder took just one point from their opening nine matches, and they were 10 points off safety with one win all season when the winter break finally arrived, priced at 1/20 for the drop.
Whatever they worked on over Christmas, however, seems to have worked. They’ve now won three of their last four, most recently a 4-3 thriller at Cambuur. They still have plenty to do at 1/6 to go down, but they’re three points off the relegation play-off place and five points off guaranteed safety.
By Steve Freeth
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