You Bet | South China Morning Post
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  • Mar 31, 2015
  • Updated: 10:31am

You Bet

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 August, 2007, 12:00am
 

The English Premiership, so predictable in recent years, looks set for one of the most fascinating seasons in its history.


Manchester United wrested the title from Chelsea's grasp last season and the new champions start as favourites this time, while stronger challenges are expected from Liverpool and Arsenal.


Still the most solid team is Chelsea, who look decent value to regain the title. They are the team least likely to suffer an unexpected defeat (they lost only three times last season, compared to United's five) and they could reach United's winning points total last season simply by turning three of last season's seven home draws into wins.


United will push them close again, but they are more likely to throw in an occasional stinker and there are doubts over the ability of ageing stars Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs to sustain a fierce pace over 38 games again, and over how long it will take new signings Nani and Anderson to settle.


Last season's top two still look some way ahead, as Liverpool must remedy a poor away record and Arsenal have to prove that they can handle the more physical teams in the Premiership.


It is possible the Big Four could be broken up at the top for only the second time in five seasons, with Tottenham looking for another step forward after two successive fifth-place finishes. They have to bridge an eight-point gap to Liverpool and Arsenal, and they will have to improve their away form to do so, but it is not out of the question.


The rest of the division looks incredibly competitive. There is a strong fancy for Aston Villa, who could make the top six, while Everton (almost certainly) and Portsmouth (probably) can repeat last season's top-half finishes. The most likely fallers out of the top half are Bolton, Reading and Blackburn, though from the teams that finished below them last season, only Villa have strong form claims to move into the top half.


Any or all of Newcastle, West Ham and Manchester City could break into the top half, given their extensive rebuilding, and Middlesbrough shouldn't be dismissed either. That leaves only five more teams, three of whom are the promoted group, which tends to produce at least one surprise performer. Fulham, too, could cause a surprise, though Wigan look set to struggle again.


The relegation battle could be intense, and it wouldn't be a shock if a decent team got sucked towards the bottom. From sixth to at least 16th, there is little to choose between the teams, which should produce plenty of twists and turns along the way.


The opening weekend in the Premiership hasn't thrown up any great betting opportunities and the best bets are Preston in the Championship and St Etienne and Lyon in France, while Hamburg on the handicap at Hannover is the best chance on the opening weekend of the German Bundesliga.


Shortlist: Bolton, Preston, St Etienne, Werder Bremen, Hamburg, Lyon. Best bets: $200 Preston (HW), St Etienne (HW), Lyon (AW).


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