With a quarter of the English league season to go, Cardiff City were firmly trending towards securing themselves a Championship title and a return to the Premier League. It has been a very good season for the Welsh club and they have been the ones to take firm control of the title race. However, behind them, the big fight for the second automatic spot and the securing of a play off place was pretty hot. The Championship play off final is regarded as the most lucrative match in English football, simply because the financial rewards of playing up in the top flight are massive. It is the one match which produces a massive pay off the following season, a straight shoot out at the end of the season to play the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool. Securing automatic promotion of course is the less nerve-wracking way to go, as it is the reward for a consistent season.
But the play offs are a crap shoot. Nothing more. What could be more heartbreaking than finishing third in the Championship, missing out on automatic promotion and not making it through the play offs? That fate could befall either Watford or Hull City as with just a quarter of the season to go, they were locked on even points behind Cardiff for that second automatic spot. With Watford trending very well since the turn of the new year through January and February, they are the ones being fancied to join Cardiff in booking straight passage to the top flight, reflected in their odds of 4/6 to reach the Championship play offs. In fact Cardiff, Watford, Hull and Crystal Palace were all looking fairly certain to at least end up in the play offs in a worst case scenario deal on missing out on automatic promotion.
However, things were not looking so certain for Leicester and Brighton. Both have play off potential but neither looking quite strong enough to really push for that second automatic promotion spot. Leicester were looking the more secure of the two sides to land a top six finish in the Championship, trading well with games in hand over other play off rivals. Brighton meanwhile appear to be more on the cusp and in danger of being overtaken by one of the fringe teams. So there is looking to be a clear separation between the top four and the rest of the challengers trying to get into a play off spot. So there is going to perhaps be more value to be sought out in those hovering around just outside of the play off picture with three quarters of the season gone. It wouldn’t take that much to mount a late surge to put themselves in the picture.
Middlesbrough could well be the most disappointed side at the end of the season. After a wonderfully profitable October and start to November in the Championship, the Riverside crew were tracking well for an automatic promotion spot and then things started falling away. Slumping to a five match losing streak through January and February, saw them tumble out of the play off picture near the end of February. So a test of resolve in trying to turn things around will be needed as they drifted to 9/4 after looking a certainty in npower Championship 2012/13 betting to reach the play offs. Beyond them, Nottingham Forest are really the best looking option on the fringes of things in the Championship play off race.
Welsh club Swansea City have one big piece of silverware in their sights for the season, when they take on League Two side Bradford in the final of the League Cup in February 2013. The Swans knocked out Liverpool and Chelsea along the way to Wembley, for what is their first ever major final in English football. After impressing so many people on their first season in the English Premier League in 2011/12, with then manager Brendan Rodgers’ superb passing and movement style giving rise to the label of the Welsh Brazil, even when Rodgers departed for Liverpool, Swansea have still maintained their football ethic. As good as their 11th place finish in the 2011/12 Premier League table was, they could be in for bigger things if they continue their fine form to the end of the season.
The run to the final of the League Cup has justified the style that Swansea have. But even though they are known for their passing flair, there has been a grittier resilience about them in the top flight. It may have taken new manager Michael Laudrup a month or two to get to grips with things, but he has added the enhancement of defensive strength to the squad. After 26 matches played in the Premier League, Swansea could well be eyeing up a place in Europe. Victory in the final of the League Cup would guarantee a place in the 2013/14 Europa League anyway, but with the Swans firmly cementing their place as a top ten side in the top flight this season, a top six finish many not be out of the question. Although they are one of the outside shots in the market, it does mean that they are value.
With the big guns of Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Spurs and Arsenal likely to occupy the top five spots, it leaves Swansea in a four-horse race with Everton, West Brom and Liverpool in an attempt to grab that sixth spot. Only the top five get in Europe of course, unless one of the top five also win domestic or European silverware. The form of Swansea over the season suggests that they could be there or thereabouts at the end of the season in the top six. It would be a massive step forward for them if that was achieved and bookies are split on their chances, ranging from 25/1 in to as short as 10/1. One of the stars for Swansea City this season has been Spanish striker Michu.
The bargain purchase has set the Premier League alight this season with his clinical finishing. While Michu would have the power of Man United’s Robin van persie and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez to battle against in the race to finish as Premier League top scorer, after twenty six matches played on the season, Michu was sitting third behind only the two aforementioned strikers. A hattrick in a match would put him well in the hunt and it would shake things up immensely in the market. Despite all his efforts this season, the Swansea man will still be a long shot over the remaining dozen games or so of the season, as he tries to break the dominance of Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez. But the success of Swansea this season has been on his shoulders all season and he has delivered.
Reading 2012/13 Premier League season betting have seen a positive upswing since the festive period. After losing seven matches on the bounce between November 24th and December 22nd of 2012, and looking doomed to a return to the Championship, the Royals are looking like they may have survival skills after all. Since a 1-0 loss to Man City on December 22nd, Reading rattled off four wins in their next seven fixtures, losing just one match in that streak. With 25 matches played in the season, suddenly there is a glimmer of hope for the Royals, who have done a tremendous job of getting themselves clear of the relegation zone. They haven’t pulled clear enough away to relax, but at least some form has been with them, and they have been winning games where others around them have been struggling to do so.
So can Brian McDermott’s men beat the drop? Bookmakers still have them as one of the four favourites to take the brutal drop back down to the Championship. But with QPR and Aston Villa looking as if they are going to have almighty struggles to get themselves out of relegation dangers, the path, given the improved form and confidence of the Royals through the early stages of 2013, looks a little clearer for Reading in being able to maintain their Premier League status. The advantage that Reading have over some of the other relegation threatened sides around them, is that they have been showing a decent eye for goal. Their defence could still land them in trouble, but some greatly renewed spirit and opportunism going forward has benefited them.
The Royals also have one of the better goal differences of the teams around them and that is going to be worth an extra point to them. After 25 completed fixtures of the 2012/13 Premier League season, Reading were almost averaging a point per game and if that were to average out over the thirteen remaining fixtures for them, that would probably just give them enough to be safe. But it still would only be around the 36 point mark realistically, which could be really borderline for them surviving this season. So work to do for the Royals, but they are in better shape than the likes of Aston Villa and QPR, especially in terms of form in winning games. Three wins from their first five games in 2013 has breathed new life into them.
So some trends we have picked up for Reading 2012/13 Premier League betting from the first two thirds of the season. They are a good side at Madejski, not so much away. Over the first 25 games of the season, they lost 23% of their home matches but a massive 75% away from home. Over 25 games, Reading picked up 78% of all their points on home soil. At home they have generally been worth backing over 2.5 goals, with 70% of all home games going over the mark. So there is plenty of value left in Reading betting for their remaining fixtures of the season. There has a big scoreline trend of losing 1-0 away from home, which happened in one fifth of their first twelve away matches. At home, 2-2, 2-1 wins and 0-0 have been the most frequent home results for them.