After a summer of magnificent football (excluding England’s mundane showing), the Premier League looms large and with it the tremendous minefield of ante-post There is value a-plenty with bookmakers competing against each-other, to offer promotions to tempt the punters into siding with their firm. This is seen to full effect with the Top Goalscorer market, with Paddy Power offering a £2 free bet, every time your selection scores, should you bet £20 (£10 e.w works) on your selected individual.
Chelsea fell short last year, as their creative midfield talents were undone by the lack of a world-class finisher. Diego Costa has been signed by ‘The Special One’, to fill the void and he is sure to get the service of the magnificent Oscar, Fabregas, Hazard, Willian etc. The Spaniard hit the headlines last season after successfully guiding Atletico Madrid to their first league title in 18 years. His direct style of pace, power and deadly accuracy from inside the box propelled his side to the Champions League final, and he is a brilliant addition to Chelsea’s side. He is 15/2 to top the scoring charts on his first season in the Premier League and with the chances he is likely to find coming his way, he is sure to prove a success. If (more like when) he scores 10 goals, he has instantly paid for the bet, as Paddy Power will have dished out over £20 in free bets, so even if he doesn’t end up finishing top of the charts, a tally of 15 or more, will still provide a solid return. Also, Betfred are offering a rather unique ‘Top Goalscorer Handicap’ in which players are handed certain starting goals. Robin van Persie goes off scratch, and the rest have been given rather tight amounts to keep the lead. Costa has been handed a +4 figure, and at 15/1 this is worth a small punt.
The next selection in the market is an ex-Chelsea marksman, in the (rather large) shape of Romelu Lukaku. He has had two successful loan spells in the Premier League in the past two seasons, scoring 17 in 35 for West Brom, and 15 in 31 for new club Everton. He is perfectly suited for Everton’s attacking game, as his intelligent runs allow him to drift out wide to free up space for his counterparts, whilst his menacing build helps him shrug off defenders and create chances for himself. As a lone striker, he is supported from midfield and with Barkley and Mirallas likely to be sitting behind him this season, he will get the chance to carry on his impressive scoring record. The 21-year-old is improving with every season, and the experience is helping improve his finishing, which is going to help make him a very successful stereotypical ‘number nine’. Roberto Martinez will be keeping Lukaku fresh for the Premier League, with bit-part players like Arouna Kone and others being given the chance in the cup competitions, so burn-out is not an excuse as it could be with other strikers in the market, who are going to be heavily tested by Premier League and Champions League football. At 20/1 he looks a fair each-way bet, and he is definitely one to keep onside.
Outright & Tri-Cast:
Now, onto the outright betting, and following a rather disappointing (by their standards) showing in the league, Chelsea will be aiming to reclaim the title for the first time since the 09/10 season. Costa is a massive plus, as is their experienced addition to a rather youthful midfield, with Cesc Fabregas adding a cool head to proceedings following Frank Lampard’s departure. They have a solid defence, and Thibaus Courtois looks set to be one of the best shot-stoppers in recent years. With ‘The Special One’ at the helm, they are imperious at home and look solid favourites at 19/10 to land the title.
Manchester City are consistent under Manuel Pelligrini, and they are sure to be there or thereabouts. However, with fitness worries plaguing their main man, Sergio Aguero, and question marks over Yaya Toure’s desire to wear the City shirt, they are too short to be backing with massive confidence. Yet they do slot in as valuable members of the ‘tri-cast’ selection, with Manchester United taking third spot.
Louis Van Gaal looks set to bring a strict regime to Old Trafford, a total contrast to David Moyes’ embarrassing term. The Red Devils have looked sharp in pre-season, with Wayne Rooney looking set to flourish under the 3-5-2 formation his manager plays, and without Europe to focus on, United look set to mount a big challenge for the Premier League. They are still two or three signings away from matching the sides at the highest echelons, however they should improve massively on last year, and they have the ability to finish at least third, with Liverpool and Arsenal having European competitions to contend with, in an already busy season. The tri-cast of Chelsea/Manchester City/Manchester United pays a very fair 16/1, and is definitely worth a small punt, with the price as short as 9/1 in places.
Mark Hughes has transformed the ideology of Stoke being perceived as a hoof-it team, into a side that plays a nice brand of attacking football, whilst still maintaining their fearsome image at home. The Britannia has always been a tricky place to go, and it is set to be a case of more of the same this season.
Outside of the ‘big seven’, the remainder is rather open and there are no real stand-out teams who look to have eighth place cemented. With the fantastic addition of Bojan to the ranks, Stoke could make a real push and continue a solid upward curve with Hughes, who seems to be getting there slowly but surely.
The signings of experienced pair Steve Sidwell and Phil Bardsley will help bolster the side and ensure the Potters continue to grind out results, whilst Dionatan Teixeira and Mame Biram Diouf signal solid intent for the future.
Hughes’ men should have a much more comfortable season, and with Newcastle too short to get involved with as favourites, take the 6/1 in the ‘without big seven’ market.
The relegation battle looks set to be a long and torturous ordeal for plenty of clubs in this season’s Premier League, as there are more sides than ever, in with chance of facing the drop. Burnley surprised many last year with their fantastic performances, which seen then fill the runner-up spot behind Champions, Leicester. However this is a different kettle of fish, and with so much pressure on key-man, Danny Ings, they look set to fall short of meeting the required points total to survive. They fill the first spot on the relegation treble, and are joined by the side they finished behind last season, Leicester.
Nigel Pearson’s men oozed class when running away with the Championship, however they dominated most games, before breaking down sides with swift attacking creativity. They will not be given the opportunity to control many games this season, and will be forced to stay tight at the back, before attempting to counter late on. This is a dangerous ploy, and they may well fall short. This, coupled with the lack of real Premier League experience, means they will struggle to see out games the way fell new-boys QPR will, with their wealth of former Premier League talent. They should definitely fair better than Burnley, but they are worth a dabble to return to the Championship at a fair price.
The final side in the treble is a rather surprising choice, in Swansea. Garry Monk eased into the position smoothly, following the exit of Michael Laudrup, however he faces a stiff task next year. His inexperience may cost the Swans dear, and with talisman Wilfried Bony looking for a swift exit, goals may well be hard to come by at the Liberty Stadium. If the Ivorian stays, they will have a much better chance of surviving the dreaded drop, however should he be granted his wish to leave, the lack of transfer activity that has taken place and the rather thin squad, point to the price of the Swans to return to the Championship, being very tempting.
The relegation treble of Burnley, Leicester and Swansea being pays a rather large 50/1 with Bet365, and it should give us a solid run for our money.
Diego Costa @ 15/2 (Paddy Power)
Lukaku @ 20/1 (Paddy Power)
Top Goalscorer Handicap:
Diego Costa (+4) @ 15/1 (Betfred)
Chelsea/Manchester City/Manchester United @ 16/1 (Bet365)
Without the ‘big seven’:
Stoke @ 6/1 (ToteSport)
Burnley/Leicester/Swansea @ 50/1