Championship outright predictions: Blades a cut above the rest
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Daniel Childs
LiveScore
Paul Heckingbottom is hoping to lead Sheffield United to the Championship title this season
Paul Heckingbottom is hoping to lead Sheffield United to the Championship title this season

- Sheffield United have the squad depth to go the distance 
- Reading's form a concern in the relegation battle 
- Recommended bet: Sheffield United to win title

The Championship has been as unpredictable as ever this season, but second-placed Sheffield United have shown a good level of consistency despite having to cope with constant injury problems and they could be perched at the summit when the music stops in May.

Burnley headed into the World Cup break in first place with a three-point lead over the Blades and a five-point advantage over third-placed Blackburn.

The Clarets have successfully switched from a direct to a shorter-passing style under Vincent Kompany and headed into the break in a positive mood after a convincing 3-0 victory at home to local rivals Blackburn.

However, they showed a weakness defending crosses when losing 5-2 at Sheffield United the previous weekend and it is a fair assumption that other second-tier sides will look to exploit their Achilles Heel.

Burnley's defensive record — 23 goals conceded — is the worst of the top four and a lack of clean sheets may cost them in the promotion race.

Blades to come back stronger from World Cup break

The Championship tests teams in different ways and Sheffield United look more battle hardened than most.

They have used 29 players in the league and had eight senior players on the sidelines when winning 1-0 at Cardiff in their last game before the World Cup break.

The Blades are likely to be stronger for the resumption with only Rhian Brewster and Rhys Norrington-Davies on the long-term injured list, and should pick up points on a more regular basis as a result.

Paul Heckingbottom's team experienced a high-pressure run in last season, reaching the play-offs, and they are 11/4 with LiveScore Bet to win the title, which could represent good value.

Hornets and Canaries to challenge

Watford could threaten the top two if they continue their improvement under Slaven Bilic.

The Hornets rose from tenth to fourth after eleven games under the Croatian and are getting ready to welcome back classy attacker Ismaila Sarr, who was Senegal's outstanding player at the World Cup.

Norwich could be the other team to contest the top-two places if they can shrug off the poor run they had going into the World Cup.

The Canaries have won just two of their last ten games but should be much better for the break and are likely to be more consistent in the second half of the campaign.

Dean Smith's side are 7/4 with LiveScore Bet to be promoted come the end of the season.

Royals trending in the wrong direction

It could be a long second half of the season for Paul Ince and Reading
It could be a long second half of the season for Paul Ince and Reading

The battle against relegation could be tighter than the race for promotion and, given the congested nature of the division, with eight points covering sixth to 22nd, it could involve teams in the middle part of the table.

Reading started the season better than expected but are only six points off the bottom three and could be sucked into trouble.

Paul Ince has to operate with a small squad, which includes a lot of older players, who are perhaps more susceptible to injuries, as well as inexperienced youngsters.

He has done an excellent job in the first part of the season but Reading could still slide into trouble and are 11/2 to be relegated with LiveScore Bet.

Huddersfield have been inside the bottom two since August and they could continue to struggle.

The Terriers' goal tally (19) is the second lowest in the division and their lack of offensive quality may end up costing them. Mark Fotheringham's side can be backed at 8/15 to go down via LiveScore Bet.

Prediction

Sheffield United and Burnley should remain in the thick of the automatic promotion race but it could be the Blades, who will have a much healthier squad following the World Cup, that finish top of the pile at 11/4 with LiveScore Bet.

Reading were on the slide before the World Cup — losing six of nine games — and could drop into the bottom three, while lowly Huddersfield may lack the firepower to get out of trouble.

Tags

ChampionshipSheffield UnitedBurnleyNorwich CityWatfordReadingHuddersfield Town
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