One month and 64 matches later, the World Cup has reached its conclusion, with France winning their second title thanks to a highly entertaining 4-2 win over Croatia in the final. But barely will the celebrations have time to die down than fans and players alike will be gearing up for the upcoming domestic campaigns – none more so, perhaps, than the FA Premier League.
Getting the ball rolling
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The Premier League has become the richest and, arguably, most competitive in Europe. However, that most certainly did not seem to be the case last season, as Manchester City sauntered to the title with barely a challenge from any of their closest rivals, and they are the odds on favourite to do exactly the same thing this time around.
City earned 100 points last time out and also scored comfortably over 100 goals. They come in at a price of just 1.57 to win the Premier League title for a second season in a row.
Their nearest competitors, if you can even call them that, were city rivals Manchester United. The Red Devils finished however a massive 19 points behind City, and the pressure will be mounting on Portuguese boss Jose Mourinho to deliver the Premier League trophy to Old Trafford – United still have not won a league crown since Sir Alex Ferguson retired in 2013.
United play in the very first game of the new Premier League season, on 10 August, at home to Leicester City. And it is the home side who come in as the clear favourites to pick up three points.
United are at just 1.36 to pick up three points on the first day of the season, while Leicester are at 9.00 to pick up a shock win. Having finished second last term, the odds are also favourable on United finishing in the top four this time around – they are priced at just 1.28 to ensure Champions League football once again, according to Oddsshark.
But one side who may well be worth keeping an eye on is Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp is doing a fine job of turning the side into serious rivals for a league title challenge with the side acting astutely during the summer transfer window.
The club are at 6.00 to wrest the league title from Manchester City’s grasp and just 1.25 to finish in the top four. Liverpool start their campaign at Anfield against West Ham, and the Reds are at the short price of just 1.28 to start the season by picking up three points in front of their own fans.
But of course, the season is not all about who will lift the trophy come May. The battle to avoid relegation to the Championship, the second tier of domestic English football, can be every bit as intriguing as the race to the crown.
The newly promoted sides of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Fulham and Cardiff City will of naturally be among the favourites to go straight back down, but it is not unknown for all three promoted clubs to avoid the dreaded drop.
The favourites to suffer relegation, however, are Cardiff City. The Welsh club are at just 1.72 to spend just one season in the top flight.
Fulham, who came up via the play-offs, are at 2.50 to face the drop, while Wolves would look to have the greater chance of survival in the Premier League. The club are priced at 7.00 to drop back down to the Championship, with others at far shorter prices to be relegated.
Huddersfield Town performed miracles to survive last season. Coach David Wagner has received high praise for his work at the Yorkshire club, but the second season can sometimes be even tougher than the first.
The Terriers are at a price of 2.20 to face the drop and they must hit the ground running this time around. They host Chelsea on 11 August and a draw may well be their best chance of picking up some points on the opening day – a stalemate in this one is priced at 4.00, with a Huddersfield win far higher at the price of 7.00.
Premier League Round 1 fixtures
Friday, 10 August
(1.36) Manchester United x Leicester City (9.00); draw (4.50)
Saturday, 11 August
(3.60) Newcastle United x Tottenham Hotspur (2.05); draw (3.40)
(2.00) Bournemouth x Cardiff City (3.60); draw (3.50)
(2.30) Fulham x Crystal Palace (3.10); draw (3.30)
(7.00) Huddersfield Town x Chelsea (1.50); draw (4.00)
(1.90) Southampton x Burnley (4.00); draw (3.40)
(2.20) Watford x Brighton (3.30); draw (3.25)
(2.25) Wolverhampton Wanderers x Everton (3.20); draw (3.30)
Sunday, 12 August
(1.28) Liverpool x West Ham United (11.00); draw (5.00)
(3.50) Arsenal x Manchester City (2.00); draw (3.60)