It’s the time of year when football supporters, starved of meaningful action for the past few weeks, are starting to see light at the end of a matchless tunnel and are subsequently planning their long-term bets for the impending campaign.
Whether they’re selecting champions Manchester City to retain their crown, Manchester United to wrest it back from their neighbours or one of the chasing pack however, there’s only one thing punters can bank on; that the climax of the title race can’t possibly be as dramatic as last term’s, when City grabbed two goals at the death against QPR to clinch the Premier League trophy.
Roberto Mancini’s men will be hoping their triumph is the start of a period of dominance and they’re 11/8 favourites with William Hill to make it back-to-back title wins. They only just stumbled over the line last season but they will be stronger for that experience and although expectation will be high at the Etihad Stadium, they will take some stopping.
Knowing that he needs to strengthen to keep pace with United’s local rivals, Sir Alex Ferguson has tweaked his squad and, as ever, they will be competitive at the summit, hence BetVictor’s quote of 13/5 for them to scoop a 20th championship while Chelsea, under the man that led them to Champions League glory, Roberto Di Matteo, are 11/2 (bodog) for domestic honours in the Premier League.
Bookmakers and punters alike aren’t really looking beyond that trio, Skybet offering Arsenal at 12/1, Stan James rating Spurs at 33/1 despite new boss Andre Villas-Boas making some very ambitious noises down at White Hart Lane and Ladbrokes chalking Liverpool up at 33/1.
It’s right to avoid that trio in terms of the title betting and in fact it could be that the final standings, when it comes to the top three anyway, are identical to the market with City leading the way from United and Chelsea.
In the battle to secure a top four berth, Bwin post 4/7 against Arsenal but with the Gunners potentially set to lose Robin van Persie and their North London foes Tottenham – 2/1 at Coral – set to apply plenty of pressure, an odds-on quote about Arsene Wenger’s charges does little to excite.
Instead, those looking for a short-priced banker could do worse than consider Stan James’ 8/13 for Everton to end up in the top eight. It’s a bet that would’ve been profitable in the last six seasons and with David Moyes continuing to get plenty out of his tight-knit squad, there’s every reason to expect the Toffees to at least replicate last terms’ 7th spot.
At the bottom, newly promoted Reading are 5/4 favourites via Paddy Power to drop straight back into the Championship with fellow top-flight new boys Southampton a marginally bigger 11/8 courtesy of bet365 for the drop. Norwich are just 13/8 (Boylesports) to be relegated now that Paul Lambert has left for Aston Villa but this could be the season when Wigan finally relinquish their Premier League status.
Roberto Martinez has done incredibly well to keep the Latics up over the last three campaigns and he has shown admirable loyalty by eschewing offers from elsewhere but the Spaniard can only work wonders for so long and Paddy Power’s 7/4 for them to go down this time around is hard to ignore, especially when you consider the close-season departures from the DW Stadium.
At 8/1 and 9/1 with Stan James and BetVictor respectively, Sergio Aguero and Wayne Rooney are jostling for favouritism in the top scorer market just ahead of Fernando Torres and Robin van Persie at 11/1 apiece with BetVictor.
A compelling case can be made for all of them and indeed they’re hard to separate so it might be worth casting an eye over some slightly longer-priced runners and backing them each-way. At 16/1 (Blue Square) Liverpool’s Luis Suarez fits the bill having struck 17 times in 39 matches in all competitions during the 2011-12 campaign while two players that ended last season in blistering form, Newcastle front man Papiss Cisse (25/1, Sportingbet) and Nikica Jelavic of Everton (30/1, Paddy Power), also catch the eye.