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Coca Cola Championship 2005/06 Betting preview

Coca Cola Championship 2005/06 Betting preview:

The new season is fast approaching, but there remains plenty of time for transfer movement over the coming weeks and that will be a key factor in the betting for the Championship.

The three teams that were relegated from the Premiership head the market, where they are joined by Wolves (13/2), who had an outstanding run over the second half of last season.

Southampton (6/1) and Crystal Palace (13/2) should each be expected to make a strong bid for the title but I believe Norwich, who are a touch longer than the other market leaders at 7/1, are the best equipped to bounce straight back to the top flight as champions.

Relegated teams do not always adjust straight away to the Championship, particularly if they are forced to sell key players and that is likely to happen to both the Saints and Palace and, like West Ham before them, I can see them scrapping for play-off places.

Southampton have already lost Kevin Phillips and Jamie Redknapp, while Peter Crouch is the subject of strong interest from several Premiership clubs. Similarly, it will be a surprise if Palace keep hold of Andy Johnson.

Norwich, on the other hand, look set to retain the key men who will make a significant difference to their prospects.

Dean Ashton scored 20 goals in 24 league games last season for Crewe at this level and then prospered in his five months in the Premiership with the Canaries.

He should guarantee them 20 goals, while Darren Huckerby will once again be a real menace, as he was when he inspired City to the title two years ago.

The hard-working Jason Jarrett, signed on a free transfer from Wigan, will be a decent replacement should Damien Francis depart, while Nigel Worthington can call on an experienced defence who have proved

themselves to be winners at this level.

Wolves finished last season unbeaten in 18 matches and I fancy them to push Norwich all the way this time around.

As Sunderland showed, it can take a year for a relegated team to come to terms with the drop before building a serious title challenge, and Wolves are now ready to push on.

Glenn Hoddle has enjoyed success at this level before with Swindon and has got his team playing some attractive, attacking football.

Carl Cort, who made such a slow start to his Molineux career, looks dangerous again while Kenny Miller may miss plenty of chances but is good for 20 goals.

They can expect a constant supply of chances from the excellent Seol hi-Kyeon, perhaps the best technical player in the Championship, who has been outstanding in 2005.

The biggest question mark is over the Wolves defence, which kept only four clean sheets in that 18-match unbeaten sequence, and that was a frailty which caused them to draw far too many games.

If Hoddle can find the right man to play alongside Joleon Lescott, and keep his full-backs fit, then Wolves will be right up there.

Ipswich have gone out to 14/1 after losing Darren Bent, Tommy Miller, Kelvin Davis and Shefki Kuqi and that is probably a fair price for Joe Royle's new-look squad. Losing their four best players doesn’t inspire confidence.

Preston, who like Wolves were excellent over the second half of last season, could be interesting outsiders at 18/1 and I can see them reaching the play-offs again, while Sheffield United, Leeds, Derby and Reading haven't done enough to suggest they can make the leap into the top two.

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