The Sky Blues are shooting for their third English Premier League title in the last four seasons and with new signee Wilfried Bony From Swansea City, the defending champs now have a killer strikeforce.
Way back in July when the Futures Odds were posted for this 2013/2014 English Premier League season, we examined the entire 20 teams in England’s top flight of soccer and came up with six picks—two each in Small (Stoke City 2500/1, Sunderland 2500/1; sportsbook.ag); Medium (Everton 125/1, Southampton 500/1); and, Large (Manchester City 7/4, Manchester United 11/4) category bet sizes. The first three clubs picked are all toast, Southampton is looking like a smart pick for mid-January and the two Mancunians are exactly where you would expect them to be.
With the second half of the season now underway, let’s look at the updated soccer betting odds and see if there is any perceived value in the new Futures numbers from here in Las Vegas, Europe and offshore to finish first in the Barclay’s Premier League come May 24
Only eight teams or maybe clubs nine have a realistic chance to finish in the top six spots in the table and earn a UEFA Champions League or Europa League berth for next season. But probably only four teams—league leaders Chelsea (52 points), defending champions Manchester City (47, play at Arsenal Sunday), upstart Southampton (43 points) and Manchester United (40 points)—have a realistic chance to win the division and this particular bet, although for the Red Devils, it will be extremely difficult.
The next big game in the Premier League is coming up on January 31 when league leaders Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge (NBC, 12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT) and if the Sky Blues can somehow find a way to be the team to finally beat José Mourinho and the Blues at home, then the stage will be set for entertaining months of February, March, April and May. A Manchester City win over Chelsea in that Week 23 fixture would also be good for third-place Southampton, who, believe it or not, can still make a run at this thing despite what the oddsmakers and projected final standings suggest.
Let’s look at the top eight teams in the table right now and determine if they really have a chance to win the English Premier League and if there is any value in their updated odds.
League-leaders Chelsea (16-4-2, 52 points) opened up at 2/1 (sportsbook.ag) this summer after signing Diego Costa (Atlético Madrid) and Cesc Fàbregas (Barcelona) and bringing loanee goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (Atlético Madrid) back to West London. Along with veteran Petr Cech, Chelsea (51 GF-19 GA, + 32 GD) will always have a stellar goalkeeper to turn to and with defenders like captain John Terry, Gary Cahill, César Azpilicueta, Branislav Ivanovic, Kurt Zouma and Filipe Luís, the Blues will be hard to score on but at 4/9 odds (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), there is almost no value to be had and it definitely won’t be the walk in the park to the crown many Blues fans are currently perceiving. There are four months to go and everyone guns at the team in first place and that added pressure can often be detrimental to achieving that final goal. Logic says Chelsea finally lose at Stamford Bridge to either the Citizens in two weeks or some time in the next four months. Whether or not it will end up mattering is another thing. In the end, 4/9 seems like owing money and even at the 2/1, the Blues haven’t provided much value because of their popularity and the expectations of the sports gambling public. May 24 is a long way way.
Manchester City FC
Manchester City (14-5-3, 47 points) is in second place and now 5 points behind Chelsea after Sunday’s devastating 2-0 home loss to Arsenal heading into Week 22 and the latest odds have the Sky Blues from 2/1 (+200, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) to +500 (bet365, Sky Bet)—after sunday’s loss to the Gunners—to win their third English Premier League title in the last four seasons and despite the way it looks now, it does seem there is still value there as this team is still loaded. Manchester City (Opened 7/4, sportsbook.ag) has a deep and expensive bench; a solid goalkeeper in Joe Hart; a wonderful blend of dependable veterans like captain Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Frank Lampard (5 goals), David Silva (6 goals) and Yaya Touré (7 goals); and now possibly the strongest quartet of strikers in the league in Sergio Agüero (14 goals), Edin Džeko, Stevan Jovetic (5 goals) and Wilfried Bony (9 goals), who the Sky Blues (45 GF-20 GA, +25 GD) signed from Swansea City over the winter transfer window. This team is now absolutely loaded and will always have two solid strikers on the pitch and when injuries come up as they recently did to Agüero, Džeko and Jovetic—forcing Manuel Pellegrini to use Silva and James Milner up top—the Manchester City manager can simply look at his bench and put in someone talented who no doubt thinks he should be in the starting lineup. Lampard staying at the Etihad the second half of the season and putting the MLS’s NYCFC on hold and Bony leaving Wales for Blue Mancunia is a very good turn of events for Citizens fans. City could win it again but will need Touré
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Southampton (13-3-6, 42 points) has been the surprise of the league this season and the Saints (37 GF-16 GA, +21 GD) have stayed up in the top four since their nice start and don’t look to be going anywhere although oddsmakers and a league projection table doesn’t give Southampton (Opened 500/1) and manager Ronald Koeman much of a chance. The Saints are 200/1 (Sky Bet, Paddy Power), and 150/1 (William Hill) in some places and 100/1 in others (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) and with a favorable future schedule, goalkeeper Fraser Forster and the EPL’s best defense (16 GA) and guys like Graziano Pellè (8 goals) and Sadio Mane (4 goals) scoring goals, there’s not a lot wrong with Southampton’s overall chances except that it does sit 10 points behind Chelsea.
The Saints will probably have to beat the first-place Blues at Stamford Bridge on March 14 to realistically have a shot, but outside of a season finale Week 38 match against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, the Saints schedule looks pretty good. Southampton has already gotten both games with Manchester United and Arsenal out of the way and will need both Chelsea and City to slip up to steal the title but it can be done and there is some value in these current longshot triple-digit odds. And this club could go on a winning streak in the not-so-distant future. Well worth a small wager.
Manchester United FC
Manchester United (11-7-4, 40 points) has had a freaky first half of the season under new manager Louis van Gaal and the Red Devils have stockpiled expensive talent and players like Juan Mata, Ángel Di María, Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie but the team has yet to gel and the new Dutch manager has been suspect, been playing 3 in his back line and using his fullbacks as wingers to try to generate some offense. But it’s been choppy and van Gaal changed to a more conventional 4-4-2 tactical formation when traveling Red Devils fans were chanting it (“4-4-2”) at Loftus Road on Saturday in Manchester United’s (11/2 Open) very hard-fought 2-0 win over QPR. Goalkeeper David de Gea has been fantastic and with guys like Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini and 19-year-old sensation James Wilson, the Red Devils have enough talent to fight for and keep a spot in the Top 4 but catching the eventual leaders and surpassing them from at this point, 12 points back is asking too much for a team that hasn’t played great on the road nor show the ability to get any win streaks going. And, at 40/1 (Sky Bet) or 30/1 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), there’s not enough value for the reward of that potential glorious march. Southampton will have a better chance, will be a much more fun ride and the potential payout is up to 5x higher than Manchester United’s despite the Saints third spot in the standings while the Red Devils are 2 points back in fourth place. Is Sir Alex Ferguson serious about retirement? United will end up in a bitter fight with Arsenal and Tottenham for fourth place and may end up regretting the fact that it played so poorly on the road in the first half of the season.
Arsenal (11-6-5, 39 points) always seems to find a way to finish in the Top 4 but with Southampton wiggling into the mix, it seems that the Gunners and Manchester United could be fighting for fourth place and that final valuable UEFA Champions League spot.
Alexis Sánchez (12 goals) has proved to be a great signing for Arsenal and Olivier Giroud (5 goals), Santi Cazorla (4 goals) and Danny Welbeck (4 goals) have provided some scoring for the Gunners who opened up as 11/1 to win the EPL. With youngsters Aaron Ramsey (23), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (20) and Jack Wilshere (22) and talent like Mesut Özil at his disposal, manager Arsene Wenger has a team which should have been able to make a run at the championship but with 11 draws (6) and losses (5) in its first 21 games, this club will have to everything right and get all the breaks to even finish second. Third place is Arsenal’s (39 GF-25 GA, +14) realistic goal but I think the Gunners end up fighting it out with Manchester United and Tottenham for fourth place and that Wenger’s boys get the job done as they seem to do almost every season. Arsenal are currently priced from 60/1 (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) to as high as 101/1 (BetVictor). Thirteen points off the pace should probably be about 500/1 or up, but with now fifth-place Arsenal’s big name and large fan base, the odds for the Gunners are set at this safe number heading into Week 22. Not enough value for the risk.
Tottenham Hotspur FC
Tottenham Hotspur (11-4-7, 37 points) is in fifth place and 15 points behind Chelsea right now and although Spurs have the second-best form in the Premier League right now, have a new sparkplug in Harry Kane (8 goals), good scorers in Christian Eriksen (8 goals) and Nacer Chadli (7 goals) and a pretty dependable goalkeeper in Hugo Lloris. Spurs problem is the 7 losses, 7 games where they earned 0 points and with game against Arsenal, Manchester United, Southampton and defending champs Manchester City all still on the schedule, Tottenham’s (32 GF-30 GA, +2 GD) best goal would be to try to lock down a Europa League spot like it did last season. Spurs opened at 50/1 this summer and Tottenham is now 250/1 (Sky Bet) to 500/1 (BetVictor) to shock the world and win the league. Not this season.
West Ham United FC
West Ham United (10-6-6, 34 points) sits in ninth place now after a glorious start but the worm has turned and now the Hammers (35 GF-25 GA, +10 GD) can only hope to somehow snag a Europa League spot with a strong finish sitting 16 points back of present league-leaders Chelsea (52 points). West Ham opened at a robust 5000/1 and right now the Hammers are at 1500/1 (bet365, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) so this would just basically be throwaway money. West Ham had its chance but reality caught up with manager Sam Allardyce and his boys in December and January and the upcoming schedule is nothing short of a nightmare.
Liverpool (10-5-7, 35) lies begrudgingly in seventh place and 17 points behind Chelsea and although the potential for the Reds (31 GF-27 GD, +4 GD) to make a nice run over these next four months possible, a departing legendary captain (Steven Gerrard), a still unproductive striker (Mario Balotelli) and a sporadic goalkeeper(Simon Mignolet) along with a coach (Brendan Rodgers) who looks like he’s in The Hot Seat just don’t add up to a historic run for this historic club this season. Too much turmoil. Liverpool opened up at 11/2 and is now priced at 500/1 (bet365) almost everywhere (300/1, SuperBook) but not even the return of Daniel Sturridge or Reds spark-plugs Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling can save this team. Qualifying for Europa League should be the Reds only frame of mind, In all honesty, this club probably lost this specific Futures bet over the summer when striker extraordinaire and occasional vampire Luis Suárez headed to Spain’s La Liga and Barcelona.
With only one team outside of the Fab Four (Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United) having won the English Premier League since its inception 1992-93—Blackburn Rovers (1994-95)—Southampton really has its work cut out for it despite the sexy start. But in the context of where the Saints sit in the table (3rd place), the number of points Southampton is off first place (10), the number of weeks that have been played (21) and the favorable schedule from here on out combined with the 100/1 (SuperBook) to 151/1 (bet365) odds, it’s too hard not to recommend Southampton (as well as Manchester City) here. This season is far from over and although it may basically only be a three-, four- or maybe even a five-team race, it’s still a race and the pundits who have handed the Blues the title already should know better and with the 4/9 odds, it’s impossible to bet on Chelsea despite the best manager and roster the club has fielded in several years. any bets made in this marketplace should be small and should be aimed at Manchester City (5/1) and a perfect finish—starting a win at Stamford Bridge on January 31 and Southampton (200/1) which is currently stuck in Rodney Dangerfield mode.
Prediction: 1-2-3-4: Manchester City, Chelsea, Southampton, Arsenal
Free EPL Soccer Picks: Manchester City +500 (bet365), Southampton 200/1 (Sky Bet)