Best Premier League Bets 16/17

The Premier League returns in just over a week and having finally settled down in the aftermath of France’s disappointing Euro defeat (see last post); we’re back and ready to look forward at domestic football once again.

Antoine Griezmann’s heroic effort has ensured we should be heading into the new season with a bit of extra cash to use, so why not make the most of the ante-post markets and try and snaffle some season-long value?

There are a whole host of markets, more than we’ve ever had to enjoy before, yet it may pay to stick down the traditional route and cover Premier League title winner and Top Goalscorer markets to begin with, before moving on to special markets at a later date.

Cup competitions can often be a huge question mark, which each individual manager having their own opinion on how to set-up their sides in-terms of strength, so it may be best left until we see how the new managers bed in during the early rounds.

So, without further ado, onto the Premier League 2016/17 season!

Premier League Outright – Chelsea @ 13/2 (Various)

Firstly, we’ll start with the Premier League outright market in what looks the most competitive season in possibly the history of the league. Usually, there will be a short-price favourite with perhaps one or maybe two sides that could realistically challenge them.

(Excluding last season, which was just an anomaly for so many reasons…)

However this season we have Manchester City, worthy favourites with the addition of Pep Guardiola and recent strong signings in Gundogan and Sane.

Then, ‘The Special One’ returns with the unenviable task of returning Manchester United to their perch, yet the signings of Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Bailly with the potential for further (cough *Pogba* cough), as well as the emerging talents of Rashford and Martial.

They have to be serious contenders for the title, while Arsenal and Spurs are always there or thereabouts and both Chelsea and Liverpool can concentrate on solely the Premier League, with no European football as a distraction. Oh, and Leicester could retain the title? Though, not for me.

For me, the prices reflect the Manchester side’s chances fairly well at the head of the market but the value may lie with Chelsea.

Liverpool’s tremendous title challenge when they last had European football showed the benefit of having a week to prepare for games and this is what they and Chelsea will get to enjoy this year. Klopp’s Reds are a work-in-progress and he may need another year until he fully beds in his philosophy.

However Chelsea’s new manager, Antonio Conte, is walking in to a solid unit, who began to realise their roles towards the back-end of last season. They lacked discipline at times and their key players struggled to make an impact early on, however with time to prepare for their big weekend games and the new regimented approach from Conte, Chelsea have to be real challengers,

Michy Batshuayi adds an extra dimension to the side, as does N’Golo Kante, while the potential move for Kalidou Koulibaly and Romelu Lukaku would further add to the strength of the side. There is less emphasis on depth this year, without Europe to focus on, and as we seen with Conte’s Italy side during the Euros, he can form a side that are extremely hard to break down and very hard to contain on the counter.

Nemanja Matic was rather underwhelming in the system used by Chelsea last season but given Conte’s love for a holding midfielder, it would be no surprise to see him build on his earlier promise in a Chelsea shirt.

He is fantastic at breaking up play and provides the stability for the creative midfielders, such as Fabregas and also box-to-box midfielders, such as Kante, to go about and complete their roles to the best of their ability.

Diego Costa is a solid enough striking option, those it would be no surprise to see him used in the same way Pelle was for Italy, creating for the likes of Eden Hazard who will be coming from midfield/out wide.

Last season’s transitional phase will have been a real wake-up call and now with a solid base to start from and no European football to take precedence, Chelsea look value to win the Premier League  at 13/2.

Premier League Top Goalscorer – Daniel Sturridge @ 25/1 (Various)

Next up is the Top Goalscorer market and as usual, it’s headed by Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. If the awesome Argentinian stays fit for the entire season he is sure to be there or thereabout come the end of the year, yet with his fitness issues, is it worth taking a rather short price?

It is often worth taking a gamble on fitness, given injury can strike at any stage, yet with our selection, that eventuality appears to have been factored into the price.

The man, of course, is Daniel Sturridge.

Liverpool’s main man has a record of injuries and fitness issues but given when fit, he will almost certainly be Liverpool’s lone striker (supported by two wide men) he looks outstanding value at 25.1,

There is no doubting his superb finishing and natural goalscoring ability and now that Liverpool can focus solely on the league, Jurgen Klopp wont have to balance out his playing time between league and European games. He can manage his star striker, with only one game a week in-store and this may well be key to getting the best out of Sturridge,

There is no questioning his best season came back when Liverpool came within touching distance of winning the league (scoring 21 PL goals) and it was that season when he enjoyed his most consistent spell of playing time.

Liverpool weren’t in Europe and he had a nice break between games which seemed to bode well for his fitness. If Klopp can reproduce this again, now the Reds aren’t in Europe, then Sturridge could be the man to guide Liverpool bac into the Champions League.

Coutinho, Firmino and Origi, as well as the new signings, all offer a creative talent that is likely to ensure Sturridge receives plenty of service and as such, he should be able to make his presence felt towards the top of the goalscorer tables.

At 25/1 he looks big enough to take a chance on and if he stays fit for a large part of the season, it would be a surprise if he were not to at least go close to landing each-way money.

Selections:

Chelsea to win the Premier League 16/17 @ 13/2 (Various)

Daniel Sturridge to be Premier League top goalscorer (each-way) in 16/17 @ 25/1 (Various)

Premier League Football Preview – 14/12/13

One of the biggest games of the season so far kicks off at 12:45, Saturday lunch-time, with leaders Arsenal travelling to Manchester City who are currently sitting in fourth place.

Arsenal have been in great form this year, with the re-emergence of Aaron Ramsey proving pivotal, as the Welshman has been in impeccable form. They are managing to overrun teams in the centre, using three strong midfielders, and two wide man, that can turn into a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1 when defending. It is more than likely going to have to be a 4-5-1 tomorrow, as they come up against a City side who are imperious at home.

They have won every Premier League game they have played at the Etihad this season, and will be looking to carry on the tradition in the manner in which they dispatched of Arsenal’s north-London rivals last month.

The fact Arsenal suffered a defeat in Napoli midweek might have been irrelevant in terms of their Champions League qualification, but the mental implications may well follow through into their Premier League performance, and with City beating Munich 3-2 away midweek, momentum is definitely with the Manchester side.

For this reason, we must add the 5/6 on offer for the first part of the treble.

The second selection to go in to the treble is Everton at home to Fulham. Roberto Martinez’ side has been surprising everyone (apart from Everton fans) this season, as they continually play brilliant attacking football, something not seen under David Moyes.

barkley

The front four of Barkley, Mirallas, Deulofeu and Lukaku has the potential to put any team to the sword if they are all given the chance to play. Whereas Fulham have been exceptionally disappointing, failing to fire under Martin Jol. They showed glimpses of hope against Tottenham going 1-0 up before conceding two second-half goals to crumble to a defeat. René Meulensteen did manage to get off the mark at the second time of asking, beating an Aston Villa 2-0, that just failed to turn up.

Everton should have far too much class at Goodison, but at 4/11 they are no value. However when you take into account Fulham’s failure to fire on the road this season and the fact that Everton have kept nine clean sheets in their last twelve league games at Goodison, the 5/4 for Everton to win-to-nil looks great value.

This goes into the treble, with City, and our final selection plays at 4pm on Sunday, in the shape of Tottenham.

Liverpool have been surpassing expectations, flying high in fourth place but with recent injury worries, going to Tottenham and getting something is going to be a difficult ask. Gerrard, Sturridge, Enrique and Henderson (possibly), are all out, and it paves the way for a make-shift midfield of Joe Allen and Lucas, who will find it hard to cope with the strength that Sandro and Paulinho offer in the centre.

Spurs’ attacking full-backs will give Johnson and Flanagan endless amounts of trouble, and with Soldado finally finding his shooting boots midweek, he looks sure to be testing Mignolet on a regular occasion.

Liverpool do have the players to get something from the game, but there will be a lot of pressure on Luis Suarez to keep up his tremendous run of form, averaging a goal every hour (15 goals in 10 games). But Liverpool’s poor record at White Hart Lane looks set to continue, and the 6/4 on offer for Tottenham boosts the price up to 9.31/1.

Midfielders’ any-time scorer patent;

Any-time goalscorers are extremely enjoyable, as as long they’re on the pitch, it doesn’t matter what score it is, you still have a chance of landing your bet. Midfielders’ prices are often great value, and a combination of three to score anytime in a patent (could even add a small first-scorer one to, if feeling adventurous), often result in great odds.

The first midfield maestro to go into our patent is Newcastle’s Moussa Sissoko, who is priced at 10/1 to score first, and 7/2 to score any-time. His box-to-box prowess will be key if Newcastle are to win the game, as his direct running style is something that will constantly haunt Victor Wanyama.

Wanyama is used to man-marking attacking-midfielders out of the game, but with Sissoko the king of late surging runs, and efforts from distance, it is a whole new proposition for him to deal with. He will be in confident form, after netting against the Saints’ last season and having recently scored a magnificent strike against West Brom to win his side the game. He goes in at 7/2.

The next man to be added is Ross Barkley of Everton, who is continually attempting to cement a place on the plane for the World Cup in the summer.

He knows a big run of games is all he needs to prove his worth to Hodgson, and by showing he can score goals adds a key part to his game, with the potential to play behind the striker proving his versatility.

Fulham are rather poor defensively on the road, and Everton should be able to control the game in the way they want it to be played. Barkley is young and fearless, and loves nothing more than running at the defences. He will put fear into an aging Fulham defence, and he should manage to get himself on the scoresheet, so at 15/8 at http://sports.williamhill.com he goes into the treble.

shinj

If these pair manage to net, then we shall be waiting until Sunday for the final leg, as hopefully Shinji Kagawa can do the business against Aston Villa.

He hasn’t had a consistent run of games in the number ten role to be able to prove his worth, but now with RVP out, he may well get his wish in behind Wayne Rooney. He is undoubtedly brilliant on his day, and if he is able to replicate his Dortmund form, the 11/4 for him to net any-time against an inconsistent Villa side, looks a great bit of value.

That rounds off the treble, which pays 47.51/1  or if you wish to be extremely adventurous, the first-goalscorer treble pays a whopping 741.5/1.

Selections;

Treble: Manchester City & Tottenham to win, with Everton to win to nil @ 9.31/1

Patent: Sissoko, Barkley & Kagawa to score first @ 741.5/1

Patent: Sissoko, Barkley & Kagawa to score any-time @ 47.51/1

Manchester United v Chelsea – Match Preview with Selections

The first real big clash of the season is that of champions Manchester United versus a rejuvenated Chelsea side.

All eyes will be on a clash between ‘The Special One’, Jose Mourinho, and ‘The Dubious One’, David Moyes.

mourinho

Mourinho’s Chelsea side have started with two wins out of two, with rather workmanlike efforts over both Hull and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge. With both Hull and Villa sitting very deep to try and nullify the creativity of the Chelsea front-line, it became a struggle to break down the back-four, yet they did and managed to maintain a 100% record.

On Monday evening, Manchester United will no doubt name a strong attacking force and go out to dominate proceedings. Their 4-1 win over Swansea proved their attacking prowess is still going strong under Moyes, yet for the opening part of the game they looked vulnerable against a solid passing game.

With Rooney’s future at the club still up in the air, it is unknown whether he will start the game, and he may well opt for Van Persie with Welbeck or Giggs sitting behind him. Welbeck’s pressing game, and Giggs’ experience in the big games would be extremely valuable, but in terms of actually playing football it would make a lot more sense to incorporate both Rooney and play-maker Shinji Kagawa into the side.

This will give them plenty of opportunities to cut down the defensive pairing of Terry/Cahill, but with Welbeck/Giggs, chances will be harder to find. Fortunately RVP can make chances out of nothing, and although he may not get the greatest service, his natural goal-scoring ability will come to the rescue for Moyes and his side plenty this season, and the 11/8 about him scoring anytime looks a brilliant bet.

However, United’s defensive frailties are there to be exploited, and if Moyes attempts to encourage his side to attack (something he’s never really done before), there is plenty of pace and trickery to test the aging pair of Vidic and Ferdinand.

After a poor pre-season defensively, leaking goals, they didn’t look completely confident against the Swans, and Mourinho’s Chelsea will be a completely different proposition to the side they faced last week.

Romelu Lukaku made an massive impact last year for West Brom, when on-loan from the Blues, and he could be in line to start his first game of the season after Ba and Torres have both failed to fire when given their chances so far.

He bagged a hat-trick against United in the last game of the season, rounding off a fantastic season in the Premier League. The 20-year-old, (yes, he is only 20 years old..) can lead the Chelsea front-line, and be the pinnacle of their counter-attacking strategy on Monday evening. He looks set to bully Ferdinand and Vidic, and can guarentee that the defensive nature of the two sides (Chelsea for certain, United slightly likely under Moyes) should be punished, with over 2.5 goals being a solid bet at 5/6.

It will be a great spectacle for the neutrals with so much pressure on the new managers (Moyes more than Mourinho), and the pressure on Moyes not to lose may end up costing his side dearly.

Chelsea have the right attitude under Jose, and with Ramires set to have a field day against the rather slow United back-four, he could be the difference between the two sides, and the Blues should have the class to see off United. Available at 11/5, they looks a great bet, but with the unpredictability of the Premier League, it could pay to side with Chelsea draw-no-bet at 5/4, which still looks a solid play.

So that’s three short-priced bets for the game, but there are plenty of punters who prefer to get involved with small stakes at bigger prices, and that’s extremely fair. If that is the case, the best bet I could advise is Chelsea to win 3-1.

With United entering a period of change under Moyes, this is the best time to be heading to Old Trafford, and with Chelsea feeling rejuvinated under Jose, he can guide his side to a big win (on the way to claiming the title in my opinion..).

United are always likely to score at home, but if they fail to score first and are forced to chase the game, the pace Chelsea have on the break can be deadly, and it would be no surprise to see the Blues grab a good few goals against a weak United defence.

Advice:

2 points: RVP to score anytime @ 11/8 (BetVictor)

2 points: Over 2.5 goals @ 5/6 (BetVictor)

2 points: Chelsea (draw-no-bet) @ 5/4 (Bet365)

0.5 points: Chelsea to win 3-1 @ 28/1 (Betdaq)

 

 

Premier League 2013/14 – Preview with Tips

The 2013/14 Premier League season is approaching rapidly, and we can finally indulge in our footballing feasts once more.

There will plenty of thrills and spills along the way, tears will be shed, but where else can you experience the ups-and-downs that 90 minutes of football offers?

There is a new look and feel to this season, with Sir Alex Ferguson finally giving up his mantle as the greatest Premier League manager of all-time, handing it down to the extremely consistent David Moyes.

There has always been plenty of questions of how Moyes, would do with money, and this is where we find out.

Last year’s Champions looked imperious, romping the league by a cosy 11 points with very few worrying moments along the way.

Robin van Persie looked sensational, settling in to his new surroundings and bagging 26 league goals, finishing top scorer in his first season at the Red Devils.

Yet, pre-season has not gone very well for Moyes so far. It is only pre-season, and too much shouldn’t be read into the performances, however it’s always nice to begin your reign as boss with a steady few wins.

The players have looked lacklustre, and this could be a big factor in whether or not Moyes will be able to draw in the high-calibre players he needs to, to ensure they stay ahead of the competition, with both Chelsea and Manchester City improving their squads over the summer.

United haven’t managed to bring in any high class players to help boost their side, after failed bids for Cesc Fabregas and Thiago, and non-existent efforts to sign Fellaini and Baines from former club Everton.

There used to be a massive pull to United, to play under one of the greatest manager’s to have been involved with football, Sir Alex, but now there are many who are not feeling the same about playing under someone who failed to win a trophy on his 11 years on Merseyside.

Players are deciding to head elsewhere, and this could play a factor in Manchester United falling behind both Manchester City and Chelsea.

City and Chelsea have both been involved in manager changes as-well, with Mancini leaving Manchester after failing to win a trophy in his final season (the current state of modern football, where money is involved), being replaced by former Malaga manager, Manuel Pelligrini.

Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stefan Jovetic have all been bought in an attempt to bolster the squad at Eastlands, and look to have a great chance of doing so.

They could add the extra spark that was missing at certain parts last season, and on paper, it would seem that City have the stronger side in Manchester. This leads us to believe the Evens currently on offer for City to finish the season as the highest North-West club, looks a solid bet.

However, in terms of winning the league, I do feel they will fall slightly short, due to the magic that one man can work in London.

Step up, the Special One..

mouinho

Jose Mourinho makes his return to the place he once made his own, Stamford Bridge, and has inherited a brilliant squad which he looks set to round off in his own special way.

Romelu Lukaku returning is almost like a new signing in itself, with the 20-year-old returning from a successful loan spell at the Hawthorns, proclaiming his time there ‘made him a man’.

He adds depth to an already strong Chelsea attack, with Torres, Matam Hazard, Ba and the newly signed, and highly-rated Andre Shurrle.

The only thing that was lacking last season for the Blues was a calm head in front of goal, and with Mourinho extremely interested in Wayne Rooney, he could offer the missing link that Chelsea needed to become the complete unit.

They have a brilliant goalkeeper in the shape of Petr Cech, a solid defence, and sensational attack. Another holding midfielder would be the only position that really needs taking care of, however in the shape of David Luiz, they have a more than able deputy, who could slot in their when needed.

His fast feet, surprising pace, and brute strength make him an ideal candidate for the holding role, and playing him centre-half has often caused problems when the Brazilian neglects to curb his attacking instinct.

He is a great passer of the ball and has tremendous vision, so if he is played in what looks to be his best position, he could set the world alight.

This leads me to believe that Chelsea should just about prevail in the race for the title, after a strong battle with Manchester City, while Manchester United take a season to adjust under David Moyes, back in third.

Advice: Chelsea/Manchester City/Manchester United @ 10/1 (Bet365)

Robin van Persie is a worthy favourite for the top goalscorer market, but 4/1 looks far too short to get involved in, so we have to look elsewhere for each-way value.

With Luis Suarez banned for the opening six games, and maybe even venturing to Madrid before then, Daniel Sturridge is set for a more central role, the kind of which he’s always dreamed of.

With Suarez banned towards the end of last season, Sturridge spearheaded the Reds attack, with great effect.

Liverpool opened up defences with great team moves as opposed to just getting the ball to Suarez and hoping the Uruguayan would create some magic.

sturridge swans

Sturridge scored ten goals in fourteen games, and seemed to strike up a great understanding with the midfield trio of Gerrard, Henderson and in particular Phillipe Coutinho.

He is 20/1 for the top goalscorer prize, and this looks tremendous each-way value, with the Reds seemingly set for a big season.

At a bigger price, Olivier Giroud appeals at a surprisingly large 50/1.

The Frenchman began to hit form towards the back-end of last season, managing to bag 17 goals in his maiden Premier League campaign.

At the moment he looks set to be the central figure of the Arsenal attack, with the Gunners failing to bring any other attackers so far this summer.

They are still attempting to bring Luis Suarez to the Emirates, a move welcomed by Giroud, but even if they are successful with the move the Uruguayan could easily play behind the Frenchman, or on either side of an attacking trio.

Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta are two of the best at threading through balls, and with Jack Wilshere returning to fitness, Giroud is sure to receive to impeccable service.

All in all, the 50/1 looks far too big on a player who will know a lot more about the Premier League, having been here a year. 11 goals in his first season is a solid base, and he now has the ability to kick on, and must be key if Arsenal are to make a bold challenge for fourth spot.

Advice:

1pt e.w: Daniel Sturridge @ 20/1 (Various)

0.5pt e.w: Olivier Giroud @ 50/1 (Various)

The bridge between Championship football and Premiership football is something many find hard to adapt to, and Crystal Palace and Hull look set to struggle again this term.

Palace only just managed to make it to the promised land, via a very dramatic play-off final, and failing to replace their key man Wilfried Zaha looks set to come back to haunt them.

Hull as though they have failed to make enough moves in the transfer window so far to ensure survival next year, whereas Cardiff’s squad looked as though it could have stake a claim for a solid placing in the Premier League last year, and with high profile names such as Dirk Kuyt being linked, they look as though they should manage to escape relegation.

This means there is one team left to fill the bottom three, and at the time of writing the most likely candidates look to be Stoke City.

After looking as they were going to be Premier League stalwarts under Tony Pulis, the Potters finishing between 11th and 14th on four successive occasions under the Welshman.

mark hughes

However heading in to their fifth successive campaign, now under the tutoring of Mark Hughes, Stoke look as though they may well struggle over the coming season.

A massive dip in form seen the Potters pick up only five points in thirteen games during 2013, which managed to draw them into what could easily have escalated into a relegation battle. The fans were nervous before back-to-back victories over Norwich and QPR ensured Premier League survival for another year.

However they needed to improve during the transfer window just to make up for the rather dubious managerial expertise of Mark Hughes whose QPR side (30) were the only team to score less than Stoke (34) in the Premier League last season.

Goals win games, and if Hughes attempts to change Pulis’ tactical style of play too much, the Potters may well be in trouble. Stoke are not an overly footballing side, but do the basics very well. However Mark Hughes is renowned for making sides his own (usually negatively) and this could well spell trouble for Stoke City and it’s fans, with Hughes already offering a false dawn of ‘a new brand of attacking football’.

Advice: Crystal Palace/Hull/Stoke @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes)

ALL ADVICE:

2 points: Tri-cast: Chelsea/Manchester City/Manchester United @ 10/1 (Bet365)

1 point: Relegation treble: Crystal Palace/Hull/Stoke @ 20/1 (Ladbrokes)

1 point e.w: Top scorer: Daniel Sturridge @ 20/1 (Various)

0.5 points e.w: Top scorer: Olivier Giroud @ 50/1 (Various)

Liverpool v Chelsea – betting preview in association with BetVictor.

Rafael Benitez returns to Anfield for the first time since leaving Liverpool in 2010.

It will be a strange atmosphere for Rafa who will most likely receive a better reception from the home crowd, than his own set of fans.

Since Rafa was last in the dugout for this fixture, Liverpool have won four of the games, and drew one, does this bode well for the red men?

On the pitch, it is all set to be a tight affair, with Chelsea going all out to try and secure a Champions League spot, from fellow London rivals Arsenal and Spurs.

Liverpool’s only remaining hope of a successful season is to finish above rivals Everton, and know that home wins are imperative to make that happen.

It won’t be easy for the reds with Chelsea looking to finish the season on a high following their exit from the F.A Cup, whilst still maintaining one eye on Europe.

Fernando Torres has looked a completely different player over the last month, as his confidence is growing, seemingly after putting on his mask.

It’s transformed him, and he has regained the ability to attack defences in the way he did when gracing the turf at Anfield many years ago.

He knows the weaknesses of the centre-half duo of Agger and Carragher, having trained with them for so long.

It would be no surprise to see Torres on the score-sheet, and the 7/1 for the Spaniard to net first looks on the large side, having previously had so much success in this fixture previously (albeit on the other side). 21/10 for him to net any-time is big enough to tempt us in to a small saver, and it all looks set for Rafa and Torres to team up again to devilish effect at Anfield once more.

There is sure to be goals in the game, with a draw being no good for either side, so the 4/5 for over 2.5 appeals massively.

Both defences have had their troubles in the past, and although Liverpool’s consecutive clean-sheets look promising, you have to take into account they were against West Ham and Reading, who haven’t got the most potent attacks.

Whereas Chelsea have an attack-minded back-four, who tend to go walkabout when their side have possesion leaving themselves exposed to the counter-attacking threat of Liverpool, with the pace of Sturridge, and trickery of Suarez and Coutinho.

Liverpool v Chelsea very rarely disappoints and the 15/1 for a 2-2 draw, makes the most appeal in the correct score market.

Advice to back with BetVictor:

1 point win: Fernando Torres FGS @ 7/1 

1 point win: Fernando Torres any-time @ 21/10

2 points: Over 2.5 goals @ 4/5 

0.5 points: 2-2 correct score @ 15/1

 Image

2013: +24.61

Champions League 2012/13 – Preview with Best Bets.

Last year’s Champions League was as eventful as ever and eventually went the way of Chelsea, for the first time in their history. They hit 33/1 after losing the first leg of their last-16 game against Napoli 3-1. This result played some part in the sacking of AVB, this led to Di Matteo taking the reigns at the South London club, before guiding them through the second leg in dramatic fashion before going on to lift the trophy three months later in Munich, after beating Bayern on penalties.

This year they will be looking to emulate their success and are currently a best-priced 16/1 to do so. It will be a big task to land back to back Champions League’s, as no team have done so since the brilliant AC Milan side back in 89/90. However after landing the job on a permanent basis, Di Matteo has already done some brilliant business during the transfer window so far, bringing in Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin. Chelsea often lacked the cutting edge in the final third last year, failing to break defences down and not scoring as many goals as they should have done. The departure of Didier Drogba will pave the way for Fernando Torres to step up to the mark and prove to the world he is still the same magnificent player he was at Liverpool. He has never managed to get a decent run in the Chelsea team, with the amount of striking options that was at AVB/Di Matteo’s disposal, but this year he is set to be first-choice in the absence of Drogba and coming in off the back of winning the Golden Boot at the Euro’s, his confidence will be sky-high. He has always been a confidence player, and the past 18 months, he has looked someone who lacked self-belief, but following the Euro’s, he looks to have found his shooting boots, and with that comes confidence. He will be a key man for Chelsea, and will be key in any success they are to have this year.

Runners-up Bayern Munich have also been busy in the transfer market in an attempt to go one better than last year. They have brought in a number of new faces, which has given their squad tremendous strength in depth. The aquisition of Mario Mandzukic is superb one and the Croatian front-man looks set to have a massive season. He scored on his first competitive start for Bayern in the German Supercup against Bundesliga winners Borussia Dortmund, notching the first after six minutes in a 2-1 win for Munich. The 14/1 on offer for Bayern may tempt many, but they lack the flair against defensive opposition so I can see them coming up short again. But when the top goalscorer markets are released, it may pay to have a little flutter on Mandzukic being top.

Unsurprisingly, the two joint-favourites for the competition come from Spain. Barcelona have a great record in recent years, having won the Champions League in 2006, 2009 and 2011, beating English opposition in each final. They will be hoping for a repeat performance this year under new manager Tito Villanova, who had previously been assistant under Pep Guardiola from 2008 until taking over as the manager in June of this year. He has inherited arguably the greatest squad on the planet, headed by the worlds greatest, Lionel Messi. Messi is immensely talented, and never fails to make a difference. While he is on the pitch, anything is possible, and with David Villa returning to the squad, the team is sure to get goals. Their defence has often been highlighted as a potential weak spot, but when looking at the arrivals:

Alex Song
Defensive Midfield
24
Arsenal FC
  Premier League
16.720.000 £
Jordi Alba 10.000.000 €”>Jordi Alba
Fullback, left
23
Valencia CF
  Primera División
12.320.000 £
Marc Muniesa 2.500.000 €”>Marc Muniesa
Centre Back
20
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Martín Montoya 4.000.000 €”>Martín Montoya
Fullback, right
21
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Marc Bartra 2.500.000 €”>Marc Bartra
Centre Back
21
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Jonathan dos Santos 2.500.000 €”>Jonathan dos Santos
Central Midfield
22
FC Barcelona B
  Segunda División
Henrique 3.000.000 €”>Henrique *

You can see Tito is attempting so sure up the defensive side of the team, and Jordi Alba is a massive signing. He can attack with menace, as shown by his goal in the Euro Championship final but he can also defend extremely well and is regarded as one of the top three left-backs in the world. Alex Song has been brought in to hold in the midfield, but can also adopt to a centre-back role, meaning along with Mascherano, they have versaitaile holding midfielders who can play anywhere across the back. This could be the difference, and with the wealth of riches Barcelona have in midfield and attack, with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Fabgregas, it would take a brave man to back against them. However, they have began the new season slowly and other teams will be hopeful of explointing any weaknesses they find, especially with the new manager. They look to have the best squad in the world, but at a best price 7/2, there may be better value elsewhere.

Real Madrid on the other hand, look as steady as ever, with ‘the special one’ Jose Mourinho still at the helm. Los Blancos are the most successful club in the competitions history, with nine wins and Mourinho will be confident of adding a tenth. Madrid have strengethened their already exceptional midfield, by acquiring arguably the best deep-lying play-maker on the planet, Luca Modric. He will give the side that added creativity in midfield, and will help turn defence into attack in one smooth move. His range of passing is superb, and the attackers will be excited to be able to feed off his service. He is likely to line up next to the always solid and consistent Xabi Alonso, who now have a midfield strong enough to challenge Barcelona’s. With Europe’s greatest player, Cristiano Ronaldo, spearheading the attack, there is sure to be goals, and Madrid will be as confident as ever to build on last years unfortunate semi-final loss, and add the tenth Champions League in the clubs glistening history.

There will be an extremely strong challenge from Italy this year, in the shape of Juventus and AC Milan. Last years Serie A winners Juventus will be out to prove a point after not playing in Europe at all last season. They managed to fight off the challenge of AC Milan in the league, and secure their first Scudetto since the ’02/03 season, possibly helped by the lack of European distractions. This year, they have added to their squad, with numerous strong signings from across the world, most notably purchasing the other 50% of Sebastian Giavinco’s transfer rights from Parma. He will add that goalscoring touch alongside Mirko Vucinic. They look solid, and the Juventus Stadium is always a tough place to go, but I doubt their ability to go away from home and score goals, which could cause problems in the latter stages. So they would need to be considerably bigger than the current 16/1 to tempt me.

AC Milan have gotten rid of two of their key-men, in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. The club raked in £55 million from PSG during these sales and are yet to re-invest it. Milan have started their Serie A campaign very slowly, going down 1-0 at home to Sampdoria. They will need to pick up the pace and make two or three world class signings to be in the position to mount a serious challenge.

Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal complete the strong English challenge, along with holders Chelsea. Both Manchester United and Manchester City will be out to make amends on rather disappointing showings in last years competition, when they bowed out in the group stages. Manchester United have strengthened their squad massively, acquiring the highly-rated Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund as-well as Robin Van Persie from rivals Arsenal. RVP is sure to bring goals to the side, which is something, at times,  they lacked last year, as-well as the creativity in the final third that Kagawa will bring. The return of Vidic is massive, as is the form that De Gea seems to have started the season in. Expect a bold showing from United this year, as Ferguson will be going all out to land the European Cup at least once more before he finally retires. With the group they have, RVP will have many chances to get on the score-sheet in the opening games and he could be a value bet for top-scorer.

Manchester City were well fancied by many last season, when they flopped in the group stages. Going away from home, they looked extremely vulnerable and their defence has started the season in the exact same fashion this year. They have immense attacking quality, with Aguero, Tevez, Balotelli, David Silva etc, but their defence has often let them down. Joe Hart is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and will give his defence confidence that they have a pair of safe hands behind them, and he will be key to any success that City have. They have been dealt an extremely tough draw and at a best-priced 10/1, it would be difficult to hammer into them knowing they face a mammoth task, to even get out of their group.

Arsenal have started the season in mixed fashion, initially failing to score in their opening games before hitting form and showing what we all know they can do. They have a wonderful set-up, with a beautiful passing game. The departure of RVP is a massive loss for Wenger’s men, but in Podolski and Giroud, they have two apt replacements. They have a pair of forwards who have the potential to link-up and finish the chances provided by the solid midfield behind them. Santi Cazorla is one of the captures of the season, and his creativity is something Arsenal has definitely lacked in recent years, in the absence of Fabregas. They should be able to comfortably escape their group and the 25/1 may be some each-way value for small-stake punters.

Group Overview:

Group A: Paris Saint-Germain (11/10), FC Porto (15/8), Dynamo Kiev (7), Din Zagreb (25)

PSG will be pleased with their group, after avoiding many of Europe’s big guns. The French side have been splashing the cash in the the summer transfer window, bringing in many high class players in an attempt to land the Champions League for the first time. Lucas Moura, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marco Verratti, Thiago Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi have all signed for the club for massive transfer fees and expectation will be huge. They should comfortably come through their group with the amount of class they possess and it would be no shock to see them progress very far in the competition.

It looks as though Porto, Kiev and Zagreb will all be battling it out for second place, and 2004 winners Porto, look set to take that role. Seeded first in the draw, they will be fairly pleased with the draw, although trips to the Ukraine and Croatia will not be easy. They should be able to beat both Kiev and Zagreb on their own turf, and providing PSG do the same, all Porto would have to do, is stop the sides from beating them, which they should be able to do.

Group B: Arsenal (4/5), Schalke 04 (3), Montpellier (7), Olympiakos (14)

Arsenal will be hopeful of getting out of this group, but they do have to face tricky away days across France, Germany and Greece. They should be able to get maximum points at the Emirates however and as long as they pick up points at Montpellier and Olympiakos they should be able to top the group.

Of the rest, it looks a straight battle between Schalke and Montpellier for minor honours. Schalke have tremendous strength in depth, and with the likes of Huntelaar and Affelay (who is on loan from Barcelona), the German side should progress as runners-up.

Group C: AC Milan (13/11), Zenit St Petersburg (2), Malaga (5), Anderlecht (22)

It looks a straight battle between Milan and Zenit as to who tops the group, with Malaga close behind before a massive gulf in class between the rest and Anderlecht. Milan have started the season slowly and I can imagine it will take a while they hit top gear, so it may be wise to take a little risk on Zenit, who have recently acquired the highly-rated Hulk and Axil Witsel. They are 2/1 to win the group and this looks decent value, with Milan expected to fill the runners-up spot.

Group D: Real Madrid (10/11), Man City (5/2), Bor Dortmund (7), Ajax (33)

The group of death includes four champions from four different countries. Any team that wants to progress will have to be on top of their game and it would be no surprise to see the eventual winner, to come from this group.

Madrid always put in a major showing in whatever they take part in and they should have too much class for the opponents, and the 10/11 for them to top the group looks tremendous value. They host Manchester City first game, and a victory here would set them on their way to topping the group. Manchester City have never impressed in European competitions but should be able to see off Dortmund and Ajax, which would be enough to secure the runners-up spot.

Group E: Chelsea (20/19), Juventus (13/8), Shakhtar Donetsk (9), FC Nordsjaelland (100)

Chelsea have impressed so far this year in the Premier League, and Eden Hazard looks set to show his class on the big stage. Stamford Bridge is always a difficult place to go and the fact they are odds-against is a shock for me. The group could well go down to goal difference, and Juventus have never really been known as a team that scores many, as it is the strength of their defence that often gets them out of trouble. The pair should draw clear of Shakhtar and FC Nordsjaelland and it looks a banker forecast, for it to finish Chelsea/Juventus.

Group F: Bayern Munich (1/2), Valencia (3), Lille (10), BATE Borisov (33)

Essentially Group F is Bayern Munich’s group to lose. They should comfortably have enough to see off the declining giants Valencia and Lille who have lost their star-man Eden Hazard. Bate Borisov will struggle to get anything out of the group, and look set to finish in a distant last place.

It looks between Valencia and Lille for the runner-up position, and Valencia should be able to progress, as they look to  have too much fire-power for their French opponents, in the shape of Soldado and Jonas.

Group G: Barcelona (2/13), Benfica (9), Spartak Moscow (20), Celtic (66)

Barcelona should comfortably win the group, with Benfica filling the runners-up spot. Spartak and Celtic both lack the strength-in-depth to compete with Europe’s big guns at this stage, and it should be a procession.

Group H: Man Utd (2/7), Braga (8), Galatasaray (10), CFR Cluj (50)

Manchester United have managed to avoid all of Europe’s big-guns and will be extremely pleased with their group. They face tricky away ties across some tough parts of Europe, but they should top the group comfortably, with the strength of their current squad.

It will be extremely close between Braga and Galatasaray as to who fills the runner up-spot, and I think it may pay to side with Galatasaray. The Türk Telekom Arena as it is now known, is always a tough place to travel, and the Galatasaray fans will play a key part in making it a fortress, and an extremely difficult atmosphere for the away teams to come to.

BETTING TIPS:

Manchester United to win the Champions League: 0.5 point e.w @ 10/1

RVP top scorer and Manchester United to win UCL: 1 point @ 66/1 

Madrid, Barca, Chelsea, Munich, United to win their groups: 2 points @ 13/2

PSG, Arsenal, Zenit to win groups: 1 point @ 10.34/1

The Premier League Season – 2012/13.

With just under two weeks until the 2012/13 Premier League season kicks off, the bookmakers are still in the midst of finalising their current prices, and this is often the period of time in which value is there to be had.

Some clubs are yet to finalise transfers, so there is a still a slight gamble in hammering into anything with great force, but there are still some seemingly great odds on offer.

Firstly, this year looks like a three-way challenge for the title in my opinion. Reigning Champions Manchester City look set to hold a big hand in the title-race, as do runners-up Manchester United and last seasons F.A Cup and Champions League winners, Chelsea.

Manchester City have been surprisingly quiet in the transfer window so far, but when you look at the strength in depth of every aspect of their squad, I suppose new faces aren’t really needed. They played some brilliant football under Roberto Mancini last year and look set to carry that on, after impressing during pre-season so far. The spine of the team, in the shape of Hart, Kompany, Yaya Toure and Aguero, are four of the best players in the world in their positions, and with all four looking set to stay with the club for the foreseeable future, it is not out of the question that City will come to dominate English football in the manner in which Manchester United have done in recent years. The current price of 13/10 seems fair, but having the patience to wait so long for such a short price, is something which many find difficult.

Manchester United will have to regroup after the heartache of losing out to their arch-rivals in incredible circumstances last year. Leaving the pitch at Sunderland they thought they had their 20th title wrapped up, until Aguero popped up at the Etihad in the 94th minute and sent the title to Eastlands for the first time. Ferguson has since came out and stated his side will be doing everything in their grasp to wrestle back the title, and has gone about doing so in the best way possible. He has aquired the highly-rated Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, who looks set to make a big impact on the Premier League. He is highly skilled, and does his best work from just behind the striker, but can also play on the wing if needed. He has all the makings of a great, and his creativity is something United desperately lacked last year, he will definitely make a big difference to the side. Ferguson has also lined up a £50 million swoop for Lucas Moura and Robin Van Persie, which will definitely boost their title credentials if he can finalise the deals. Rooney and Van Persie would undoubtedly be the best strike-partnership the League, possibly even the World if it came to fruition, and with the creativity of Kagawa, Moura and Young behind the front two, they are sure to consistently get goals. The 13/5 won’t last long if the £50 million swoop does happen.

Chelsea are the team I am most interested in betting-wise. The bookmakers have seemingly underestimated their chances, offering 5/1 for the London giants to win the league. But it’s not this bet I am particularly interested in, it’s the range of match-bets that are on offer. Chelsea have arguably been doing the best bit of business during the transfer window so far, in bringing in Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin. Chelsea often lacked the cutting edge in the final third last year, failing to break defences down and not scoring as many goals as they should have done. This is what cost them dearly in the earlier parts of the season under AVB. Roberto Di Matteo changed the fortunes of the blues’ season last year, coming in at a difficult time in the season, and guiding them to both the F.A Cup and Champions League success. He is clearly a great man-manager and the players look up to him, this hasn’t been the case for Chelsea managers since Jose Mourinho, and Di Matteo could be the man to guide Chelsea to a brilliant domestic season, something which their fans crave desperately. The departure of Didier Drogba will pave the way for Fernando Torres to step up to the mark and prove to the world he is still the same magnificent players he was at Liverpool. He never managed to get a decent run in the team, with the amount of striking options that was at AVB/Di Matteo’s disposal, but this year he is set to be first-choice in the abscense of Drogba and coming in off the back of winning the Golden Boot at the Euro’s, his confidence will be sky-high. He has always been a confidence player, and the past 18 months, he has looked someone who lacked self-belief, but following the Euro’s, he looks to have found his shooting boots, and with that comes confidence. He will be a key man for Chelsea, and he can guide them to success.

Arsenal and Tottenham have failed to strengthen their squads with enough force to really challenge for the title this year. Arsenal have captured Santi Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski are all class players, but will not make up for RVP if he does leave, which looks likely. They haven’t performed on the big stage for many years now, with the fact they haven’t won a trophy in seven years, proving this. They look set to be in a scrap with their North-London rivals, Spurs, for fourth-place , and it certainly won’t be easy for either side.

Spurs look set to lose their key man to Real Madrid, with Luca Modric expected to sign for the Spanish giants this week. On top of this they are losing patience with Adebayor who had a major impact following his loan move from Manchester City, which means their choice of striking options look very limited. At the current time, they look set to be in a battle for fourth place with Arsenal, but unless they make two or three new signings, they look set to lose out. The fact that although they finished in 4th, they didn’t get Champions League football, means that big targets are choosing to go elsewhere so that they can play in Europe’s elite competition. The latest rumours are that Spurs are interested in Luis Damiao, which would be a tremendous aquisition, as the young Brazilian looks set to have a massive future.

Newcastle surprised many last year, finishing in 5th, with the partnership of Ba and Cisse being one of the highlights of the season itself. They notched 29 goals between them, despite the fact that Cisse only signed for the Toon in January, half-way through the season. The pair will have to be on fine form to maintain the high expectations, but I feel that next year defenders will be more aware on how to defend against them, and Newcastle will have to make do with 7th.

Liverpool are looking to add Joe Allen to their already predominantly British side, showing the emphasis of Brendan Rodgers’ tiki-taka philosophy. Rodgers’ himself will be Liverpool’s best transfer this year, regardless of who they sign. As the Merseyside club always had the players that could attack and score goals, but they were often thwarted by previous managers defensive tactics. With Rodgers’ free-flowing attacking football, the club will flourish and he will get the best out of the likes of Suarez, Downing, Henderson etc. It is very much a building process for Liverpool and this year, the aim with be 5th place, but expect the reds to mount a serious challenge for the Champions League again in years to come.

At the bottom of the table, the newly promoted clubs, Southampton, Reading and West Ham all come into the Premier League with high-hopes of staying up, after looking at the weaknesses of some of the clubs at the lower end of the table. West Ham have invested in some Premier League talent, and with the fan-base they have being so important, I think they should safely stay up. It will be extremely difficult for both Reading and Southampton to stay up, but at extremely short-odds to go down they offer no value. The team I am most interested in, is Fulham. They have gotten rid of some of their most important players, the likes of skipper Danny Murphy, second-top goalscorer Pogrebnyak and Andy Johnson. They look likely to lose Clint Dempsey to Liverpool and if this happens, I think Fulham could be in some serious danger of being relegated. They finished an impressive ninth last year, thanks to Dempsey’s 17 goals, but they often looked shaky defensively and with the league’s newcomers looking extremely strong, the 11/1 on offer looks too big to ignore.

In terms of top goalscorer, it is extremely open as any year, but there seems to be some over-priced players across the board. Fernando Torres is my main bet of the year, as he looks as if he has regained his confidence after a brilliant performance at the Euro’s, and as he is now the first-choice striker, following the departure of Drogba. This means he will get a decent run in the side, and with the creativity of Mata, Hazard, Lampard etc, he looks set to have some brilliant service to thrive off. He is 11/1 and looks a cracking each-way bet if he manages to stay fit.

Sergio Aguero looks an extremely safe each-way bet, at 8/1. He is the talisman for the Champions, and after scoring 23 in his first season at the club, he looks sure to improve as he settles into the English game, and he will be around the top ofthe goalscoring chart come May.

In terms of bigger prices, there are two players in particular which look incredibly over-priced. Nikica Jelavic was one of the buys of the year last season, after David Moyes brought the Croatian in from Rangers in January, many were sceptical of whether or not he would adapt to the English game, but he answered his critics in style. He scored 9 goals in 13 appearances for Everton and was key in guiding the toffee’s to a seventh placed finish, ahead of rivals Liverpool. Moyes has purchased Jelavic’s former strike partner Steven Naismith from Rangers, which means Jelavic will have yet more service and the pressure will be taken off, which often leads to more goals. Signing the creative Pienaar on a permanent deal, means the Croatian will be able to link up with the South African to great effect as was seen last year, and the 28/1 for top goalscorer looks massive.

Demba Ba was outshone by Senegalese team-mate Papis Cisse in the second half of the season, as Cisse embarked on an incredible goalscoring run. This meant that many forgot just how much Ba worked, and how much of a talented finisher he actually is. He managed to bag 16 goals last year, with most of these coming in the early part of the season. If he manages to stay fit, the partnership woth Cisse is likely to come to fruition once more, and the 40/1 for Ba looks much better value than the 16/1 for Cisse. There is not that much between the pair, and it is worth taking a chance on Ba.

TIPS:

Manchester City to win league: 3 points win @ 13/10 with Coral.

Chelsea to be top London club: 2 points win @ 11/10 with Bwin.

Fulham to be relegated: 0.5 points @ 11/1 with BetVictor.

Fernando Torres top goalscorer: 1.5 points e.w @ 11/1 with BetVictor.

Nikica Jelavic top goalscorer: 0.5 points e.w @ 28/1 with various.

Demba Ba top goalscorer: 0.25 points e.w @ 40/1 with various.

Sergio Aguero top goalscorer/Manchester City to win league: 2 points @ 12/1.