(Photo:Action Images via Reuters)
Middlesbrough’s 3-2 win over QPR at the weekend catapulted them up to seventh in the table and they are now just three points behind the leaders. It is looking congested at the top of the Championship, but pre-season favourites Middlesbrough are finding their groove and look a good bet to win the title this season. There will be plenty more twists and turns over the course of the season in this chaotic division, and no team will achieve great consistency. But Boro looked the most likely team to win it at the start of the campaign and that remains the case today.
They got off to a slow start as they lost their opener against Wolves, but since then they have been strong. A 2-1 defeat away at an unpredictable Nottingham Forest was a blip, but aside from that the results have been very good. They have beaten Sheff Utd, Burton, Scunthorpe and now QPR, while a point away at Aston Villa was a good result and they also drew with high-flying Preston. Garry Monk’s men now have 14 points from eight games and they are really starting to find their feet.
There was some very sloppy defending on display against QPR, but that should not prove to be a concern over the course of the season. Boro have already kept five clean sheets in eight games and in Ben Gibson they have arguably the league’s best defender. Meanwhile, Middlesbrough’s attacking is currently giving fans real cause for excitement. They created chances aplenty against QPR and while they scored three, it could easily have been six. Britt Assombalonga is already justifying his hefty transfer fee and has banged in five goals. He is now the outright favourite to finish the season as top scorer and is even more likely to do so after Chris Wood left Leeds for Burnley before the transfer window slammed shut. The 6/1 available on him to win it currently looks great. If you want to place a bet, check out reviews of the best betting sites around to make sure you select a bookmaker with good odds and a reputation for fairness and prompt payouts. The 7/1 available on Middlesbrough to win the division also looks a great bet. They just need to go on a run now and establish themselves as one of the leading contenders by the turn of the year. They have the quality to do so.
“It’s important to put runs of results together, it’s a very difficult league to do that in, know matter who you are and how good your squad is,” said Monk. “You have to put the fight in first, play with intensity, with a high level of concentration – there are so many ingredients which go in just to win one game. We’re on a little run but we have to try to extend that now and take the club forward. We have a very good group here, with a good mentality and commitment to the work we are doing. We’ll keep showing that.”
Wolves are the favourites and are as low as 5/2 with some bookmakers. Punters are backing them but it is worth remembering that this is a team that finished 15th last season. Wolves are not infallible and at the prices being offered, Boro look far better value. Monk’s old team, Leeds, have started well, but are unlikely to hold out over the course of the season, particularly in the wake of Wood’s departure. There are plenty of decent teams buzzing around the top of the table, such as Cardiff, Fulham and Sheff Wed, while Aston Villa are really improving. But pound for pound, Boro have the best squad in the division as a result of careful financial management while in the Premiership, and Gibson and co look like they could well be playing Premiership football once again next campaign.