With the summer holidays drawing to their inevitable close and the memories of all that sun, sea and dubious sangria fading fast, it’s time to turn our attention once again to the annual thrills and spills, highs and heartbreaks of the Premier League.
Everyone’s got an opinion – what else would men actually talk about in the pub? – but are you ready to put your money where your mouth is?
First up, the title race. Chelsea muscled their way to glory last season and according to Betfair, Carlo Ancelotti’s boys are the favorites to repeat the trick in 2010-11. The Blues are 2.9 (15/8) to be crowned champions while Man United are 3.45 (12/5) to knock the Londoners off their perch and hand Fergie an incredible 12th Premier League title.
The odds suggest the bookies are predicting another two-horse race this year but if you fancy a punt outside the top two, Arsenal are rated at 7 (6/1) while you can get moneybags Man City at 8 (7/1). Don’t forget, if you get money on Roberto Mancini’s side now, there’s still more than a fortnight before the transfer window closes and who knows who could be heading to Eastlands before then.
Harry Redknapp’s Spurs are a tantalizing 38 (37/1) for the title and more than few ardent north Londoners will surely be investing a few quid on the Lily-whites at that price.
Further down the pecking order, hapless Aston Villa have slipped to a staggering 340 (339/1) for champions after carelessly parting company with Martin O’Neill on the eve of the new season while newly-promoted Newcastle are 970 (969/1), which will probably entice more than a few of the famously optimistic St James’ Park faithful.
The relegation battle could realistically feature up to 12 anxious sides this season and Betfair has plucky Blackpool at 1.25 (1/4) to go crashing back to the Championship at the first time of asking, followed by fellow debutants West Brom at 2.04 (21/20). Of the surviving Premier League outfits from last season, Wigan are considered the most vulnerable with the Latics at 3.2 (11/5) to see their top-flight adventure come to an end after six years.
The race to be crowned the Premier League’s top scorer will doubtless be as fiercely contested as ever and Betfair reckon Didier Drogba will retain his mantle as the division’s leading marksman. The big Ivorian scored 29 last season for the Blues, eclipsing Wayne Rooney’s haul of 26, and the Chelsea striker is 6.6 (11/2) to top the scoring charts again. Rooney comes in a close second favorite at 7.2 (6/1) despite his recent World Cup woes.
Liverpool fans might fancy a flutter on Kop idol Fernando Torres. The Spaniard is valued at 8.8 (8/1) to lead the way and if the striker can shrug off his recent injury problems, he looks a decent bet.
But what chance an Englishman emerging the Premier League’s top scorer for the first time since Kevin Phillips banged in 30 in the league for Sunderland back in the 1999-2000 campaign. Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe is favorite to restore some English pride at 20 (19/1) as Spurs look to continue their recent renaissance while you can get Darren Bent at 26 (25/1) and the evergreen Frank Lampard at 38 (37/1).
Of the Premier League’s new summer recruits, Arsenal’s Marouane Chamakh comes in at 27 (26/1) to become the division’s most deadly striker. Man United new boy Javier Hernandez is rated at 32 (31/1) and Liverpool signing Milan Jovanovic is valued at 220 (119/1).
This season’s opening day fixtures offer an intriguing array of bets, with the longest odds available for the Saturday games unsurprisingly the 24 (23/1) on Roberto di Matteo’s West Brom to upset the apple cart and beat Chelsea at fortress Stamford Bridge in the day’s late kick-off.
The weekend’s big clash however sees Liverpool and Arsenal renew old rivalries at Anfield on Sunday afternoon and Betfair believes home advantage will prove crucial, making Roy Hodgson’s side slight favorites at 2.58 (8/5). Arsene Wenger’s Gunners are 3.05 (2/1) as they look to repeat last season’s league win at Anfield with the draw at 3.35 (12/5).
Elsewhere, Spurs are 2.5 (6/4) to inflict defeat on Man City at White Hart Lane and make it five Premier League wins on the bounced against the boys in light blue.
And finally, if you fancy expanding your betting options, Betfair are also offering a series of intriguing doubles where you can predict both the eventual Premier League champions and the top scorer.
For example, if you believe Chelsea will emerge as top dogs and Carlos Tevez will bag a deluge of goals, you can get 26 (25/1). Doubling up on Man City for the title and Robin van Persie as the leading marksman will bring odds of 60 (59/1). The longest shot on offer is Liverpool to be crowned champions and Frank Lampard to fire in the goals at 180 (179/1).
Written by Iain Spragg, published author, respected sports writer and co-founder of Sports Media Solutions.