Rafael Benitez has decided to stay on as Newcastle United manager – and that means the bookmakers have installed the club as clear favourites for the 2016-17 Sky Bet Championship title.
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Benitez was brought to Tyneside as the replacement for Steve McClaren in mid-March and although he improved Newcastle’s form significantly towards the end of the season, he could not prevent relegation from the Premier League.
After a 1-0 victory at home to Crystal Palace it looked as though the Magpies might send down their arch-rivals Sunderland, but the tables were turned on the penultimate weekend of last season when Newcastle could only draw 0-0 with already-relegated Aston Villa while the Black Cats came from behind to win 3-2 against Chelsea.
Although the Geordies’ fate was sealed four days later when Sunderland beat Everton, they still showed what they were capable of under Benitez when dishing out a 5-1 thrashing to title challengers Tottenham on the final day despite being down to 10 men.
Having started last season as the new coach of Real Madrid, where he was in charge until being sacked in January, Benitez now has the Championship to look forward to – from El Clasico to Burton Albion in the space of 12 months, you could say.
But at least his side are expected by the bookies to make short work of the second tier, as they did the last time they were relegated in 2009 and bounced straight back up as champions by 11 points.
Norwich City manager Alex Neil (Getty Images)
Aston Villa and Norwich City, the other two relegated clubs, are also prominent in the Championship title betting.
Villa endured a season from hell in 2015-16 but at least the club can now potentially move forward under new owner Dr Tony Xia, who has ambitious plans having bought out Randy Lerner.
Of those who just missed out on promotion last season, Brighton will feel confident of launching another challenge having been the odd one out in what developed into a three-way tussle for the automatic spots with Burnley and Middlesbrough and then missing out in the play-offs.
2016-17 Championship title best odds: