English Premier League Preview: Early Season Betting Tips
The soccer world’s most popular domestic competition, the English Premier League, kicks off this weekend. No other league garners as much attention stateside, and it is a great starting point for any bettor looking to dive into the Beautiful Game. While the beginning of any season, in any sport, requires a cautious approach, there are areas we can look to find some value before the market has had the chance to correct itself. Below are some tips on where to start looking.
1. Life at the Top
It seems clear that a substantial gap remains between the league’s two powerhouses, Manchester City and Liverpool, and the rest of the EPL’s other big clubs. As these two known quantities will be priced highly right out of the gates, it’s better to look for a team that may struggle to start. Chelsea FC is the traditional English powerhouse that makes the most sense to fade. First off, they’re dealing with a transfer ban that has made it difficult for them to augment their playing squad. Exacerbating that is the fact that they lost superstar Eden Hazard, who finally made his long-rumored move to Real Madrid. Chelsea has been overly-reliant on Hazard in recent seasons, and although they managed to bring in highly-regarded American youngster Christian Pulisic to play a creative role, an attack featuring the likes of Pedro and Willian leaves a lot to be desired. Add to that a tricky opening slate that has the Blues away to Manchester United, then at home to trendy pick Leicester City. Further complicating factors is a trip in between those two league games across Europe to Turkey, where they will face Champions League Winners Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup. On top of all these issues, they’ve hired Frank Lampard as their new manager. A club legend he may be, but a proven top-flight boss he most certainly is not. It may take him time to find his feet. They’ll still be a force, but Chelsea could easily stumble out of the blocks.
2. Wolverhampton Wanderers and Early Season Travel
Just as a midweek trip to Istanbul presents a problem for Chelsea, last year’s upstart outfit Wolves have a difficult travel schedule to kick off their campaign. Having already played a qualifying round for this season’s Europa League, they traveled to Armenia on Thursday to play minnows Pyunik in an attempt to make it into the main draw of Europe’s secondary competition. They also have to play a return match at home against Pyunik, in between EPL matches away to Leicester and at home to Manchester United. They’ve improved their squad, but they’ll want to bring their brand to European football, and that could make them a team to avoid in early EPL action.
3. It’s the Schedule, Stupid
The EPL has a number of teams with very solid starting lineups, but with questionable depth. This makes sustained success difficult, but at the start of the season it can be an important equalizer. EPL matches are well-spaced through August and September, so a team with less depth can perform above their station for a time. To this end, consider Bournemouth. This is a club that has routinely outperformed its size and budget, thanks to strong continuity and a top manager in Eddie Howe. Last season they went 6-2-2 in their first 10 matches. They gained 20 points from that run, and once the season turned into a grind, the situation worsened. They amassed a paltry 25 points from their last 28 games. There’s no reason we can’t see a very similar trajectory for a team that knows itself very well. The first matches 10 this year are a little more difficult than last time round, but look for them to come out strong in their first two games at least. They face newly-promoted teams Sheffield United and Aston Villa to open the season. Playing on them to win their home opener against Sheffield United at -105 seems worth thinking about.
4. The Pressure is on at Manchester United
Few EPL clubs are facing as much uncertainty as Manchester United. A stop-start transfer window has only marginally improved the squad. Central defensive record-signing Harry Maguire should provide much needed pedigree at the back, but questions remain about newish Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who took over midway through last season. He started brilliantly, but his team collapsed down the stretch, missing out on the Champions League in the process. They’ll have to deal with a busy midweek schedule once Europa League action starts, an apparently disgruntled star in midfielder Paul Pogba, and potential unrest amongst the club’s massive fan base. Despite that, there may be some value here. They benefit from facing the above-mentioned Chelsea and Wolves to begin, and those could be good spots to jump on them early. Until a potentially tough match against Arsenal on September 30, the schedule is a pretty smooth one. But tread carefully.
5. The Future is Now
What’s the start of a new season without a couple of futures in the back pocket?
Manchester United over 67.5 points (-125):
Even taking into account everything discussed above, this feels a little low. The years after legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson have not been kind, but it seems as though you no longer have to pay a United premium. Last year was rife with turmoil and disappointment, but even with a manager change, and a cluttered fixture list due to a decent run to the Champions League quarterfinals, the Red Devils limped to 66 points. Importantly, they’ve retained world-class keeper David De Gea, who will benefit from an improved backline. Fewer goals conceded, along with the further development of attacking youngsters like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, point to at least some improvement on last year’s finish.
Newcastle United to Be Bottom on Christmas Day (+1000):
Love the price here. Newcastle is a club in almost constant crisis, with an ownership group always at odds with their fans. While they have spent some money, bringing in young striker Joelinton and the absurdly quick Allan Saint-Maximin, to go along with last year’s mid-season addition Miguel Almiron, the foundations are not strong. They lost well-respected manager Rafael Benitez, who had kept the team competitive despite itself. Replacing him with Steve Bruce is laughable. The squad is likely too good to not find a way to safety, but a tough schedule (five of their first nine matches are against teams from last year’s top six) and a plethora of questions surrounding the club makes them a great candidate for a disastrous beginning.