Who will win the Championship 2018-19? The favourites, outsiders, underdogs & latest odds

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Goal takes a detailed look at the English second division ahead of the return to domestic football this week

Barely 10 weeks after the end of last season, the 2018-19 Championship campaign is ready to kick off once again.

Wolves and Cardiff both secured a return to the Premier League last time out, with Fulham joining them via a 1-0 play-off final victory over Aston Villa.

Reading and Derby open the season on August 3, with Paul Clement and Frank Lampard both taking charge of their first full seasons with their clubs.

Ahead of Friday's curtain-raiser at the Madejski stadium, Goal takes a look at those looking to book their place in the 2019-20 Premier League campaign.


The Favourites


Benik Afobe

Though history tells us of the difficulty relegated clubs have returning to the Premier League at the first time of asking, Stoke City go into the 2018-19 season as overwhelming favourites.

Former Birmingham and Derby manager Gary Rowett is the man the Stoke board have appointed to lead the promotion charge, while backing him financially in the summer transfer market.

Benik Afobe arrives at the club from Wolves, initially on a loan deal, with James McClean, Tom Ince and Nigeria international Oghenekaro Etebo also joining the ranks in what shapes up as arguably the strongest squad in the division.

Following Stoke back into the Championship is West Brom , who will play in the second division for the first time since the 2009-10 season.

There are plenty of questions to be asked about the Baggies' squad and their rookie manager Darren Moore, whose takeover as manager at the Hawthorns sparked an inspired end to life in the top flight.

Moore has united the club and the supporters but must now prove to his players that he has the credentials to lead the club back into the Premier League, and has done so by reinforcing his defensive ranks.

Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone has arrived from Manchester United following a successful loan spell in the division with Aston Villa last season, with defenders Kyle Bartley and Conor Townsend going some way to fill the void left by Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley, who have both left the club this summer.

Former West Brom boss Tony Pulis is set to have his first full season in charge of Middlesbrough , who are firmly amongst the mix of title contenders this term.

Following his takeover from Garry Monk last season, Pulis' pragmatic approach saw Boro make a late charge into the play-offs where they would eventually lose their two-legged semi-final tie with Aston Villa, though his five months in charge restored faith from the supporters that it is only a matter of time before they return to the top flight.

Aden Flint joins the club from Bristol City having impressed Pulis with his attacking prowess from set-pieces, while former Manchester United hopeful Paddy McNair signs from relegated Sunderland.

Adama Troare will be looking to continue his spectacular form from last season as the club's main route of attack, though Pulis may need another attack-minded midfielder to take some pressure off the former Barcelona forward when opposition look to stifle him.


The Outsiders


Frank Lampard

Those affiliated with Derby are naturally excited to see what the club have to offer this season, with Chelsea icon Lampard opting to take his first steps into management at Pride Park.

Lampard has retained the main spine of the Rams squad from last season while adding the likes of Mason Mount on loan from Chelsea, Jack Marriott from Peterborough, and George Evans from Reading.

Another high-profile managerial appointment this summer came at Elland Road, as former Argentina boss Marcelo Bielsa takes charge of the club's promotion bid.

Despite a tense start to life at Leeds , Bielsa has slowly settled into his new role and acquired a number of new faces from his squad.

Patrick Bamford was the club's fifth signing of the summer, with Jamaal Blackman and Lewis Baker arriving on loan from Chelsea, Jack Harrison from Manchester City, and unquestionably one of the standout stars from the Championship last season joining the club in Barry Douglas.

Whether or not the veteran coach will be around to see his side play out the entire season remains to be seen - Bielsa has lasted just 60 games combined across his most recent three jobs.

Nottingham Forest have also had a busy summer and have been placed as an outside favourite to storm the league as a result.

Aitor Karanka led his team to a finish of 17th last season but has since taken a stance in line with title-winning Wolves and sourced Portuguese talent to add to his squad.

Joao Carvalho joined the club in a deal worth £13.2 million (€15m) from Benfica, while Tobias Figueiredo turned his loan deal into a permanent one. Lewis Grabban, Michael Dawson, Gil Dias, El Arbi Hillel Soudani have also joined the club, as Jack Colback returns on a season-long long.

Swansea 's summer spending has been limited, however, as they look to rebuild for the future as opposed to throwing everything at the upcoming campaign.

Former Ostersund boss Graham Potter is in charge at the Liberty Stadium and has signed Jordi Govea, Joel Asoro, and Yan Dhanda, all just 19 years of age, as well as 23-year-old Barry McKay from Forest.

The Swans are taking their time with their journey back to the big stage and will be expecting a slow start to proceedings while they put everything into place. 

Dean Smith’s Brentford side will be hoping for a quicker start, however, having seen their early form last season crush their play-off hopes.

The Bees were good value towards the end of the season and will again be fighting for a spot in the top six.


The Underdogs


Steve Bruce Aston Villa

Aston Villa were a game away from seeing their expensive 2017-18 season end in promotion, only for a Tom Cairney goal to hand Fulham a place in the Premier League instead.

Villa now have a number of hurdles to overcome if they are to make another push for promotion, such as the controversy that currently surrounds manager Steve Bruce, but will do so under new ownership as Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris takes control.

Norwich also face a number of questions to answer as James Maddison and Josh Murphy leaving the club for Premier League clubs in Leicester City and Cardiff City respectively, though remain hopeful of at least a top-six finish.

Preston 's progression is a slow but steady one - in the last five seasons, the Lancashire club have moved from the bottom section of League One to a finish of seventh, two points behind play-off qualifiers Derby last season.

Manager Alex Neil has added to his squad with Ryan Ledson and Michael Crowe and will be targeting a finish of one better in the 18-19 season.

Chris Wilder's habit of transforming his teams in January ultimately ended Sheffield United 's hopes of promotion last season, with the club eventually finishing 10th after winning 12 of their first 17 league games last year.

Wilder has reinstated belief at Bramall Lane following a miserable spell between 2010-2016 and United will fancy another shot at the Premier League this time round.


Latest odds


Should you fancy favourites Stoke to be promoted this season, dabblebet are offering odds of 8/2 for Rowett to lead the Potters back into the top-flight as champions , or 8/5 through the other two spots.

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West Brom stand at 12/5 to return straight back to the Premier League, while Middlesbrough are slightly longer at 13/5.

Leeds and Swansea are both priced at 7/2 to be promoted, with Forest's new-look squad placed at 10/3 to get out of the division.

Those looking for an outside bet may be tempted by a 7/1 punt on Sheffield United, with the Blades looking for at least a spot in this season's play-offs, Preston at 17/2, or Lampard's Derby at 17/4.

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