The Premier League finally returns this week, and after 3 long months without a match, we look at what exactly is still up for grabs?
The league title already looks like a done deal. Liverpool could probably put their Under 23’s out for the rest of the season, and still be guaranteed the trophy. But beneath Klopp’s Reds, there’s still plenty to be decided when the Premier League returns.
Champions League Places
Starting with the Champions League, and Man City are now 12 points clear of 5th placed Manchester United.
As things stand, City are banned from next season’s Champions League, but that may yet change. So for the benefit of this article, we’ll assume they are going to play in it.
City also have a game in hand, so they look pretty certain to have already sewn up the 2nd Champions League spot.
The bookmakers seem to think Pep’s team are home and dry. Of those actually offering odds, and there aren’t many, City are 1/200.
Leicester currently sit in 3rd place, they are on 53 points from 29 games, that’s 8 points clear of Manchester United. The bookies have Brendan Rodgers’ team as short as 1/6 to be in the Top 4 at the end of the season.
Prior to Leicester’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa, the last match before the suspension, Leicester had wobbled a bit, with 2 draws and 2 defeats in the previous 4 matches.
Frank Lampard’s Chelsea currently sit in 4th place, and unless there is a spectacular collapse by Leicester, this looks to be the only Champions League place still up for grabs.
Chelsea are on 48 points from 29 matches, United are 5th on 45 points (P29), Wolves are 6th on 43 points (P29), Sheffield United are 7th on 43 points (P28), and then it’s the 2 North London clubs. Spurs are in 8th on 41 points (P29), while Arsenal are on 40 points in 9th place (P28).
Interestingly, Sheffield United and Arsenal have a game in hand on their rivals. If Sheffield win their game this Wednesday (away at Aston Villa), they will go 5th.
Can the Gunners launch a late run?
If the Gunners win their game in hand, they would go 5 points behind Chelsea. And unfortunately for Arsenal, the game in hand is away at Man City.
But with only 9 matches each left then, would it be too late for Mikel Arteta’s men to put a run together?
The bookmakers don’t seem to rate Arsenals’ chances. In football betting, they have them as the outsiders at 17/1.
They would have to go on a remarkable run and probably win nearly every match, but it could be worth a couple of quid. That said, at those odds they could be a decent value small bet.
If the bookmakers odds are a valid indicator, then the fight for 4th place is a two horse race. They have Lampard’s Chelsea at 8/15, and Solskjaer’s United at 17/10.
After that, the market seems to see Wolves as the most likely, they are 8/1 to gatecrash the Top 4. Spurs are 12/1, with Sheffield United and Arsenal both at 17/1.
Premier League Top 4 Betting Tip
Who wants to be in the Europa League?
The fight, if we can call it for that, for Europa League spots is always an odd one in England. For years, the competition has been treated with contempt, like no one actually wanted to be in it.
But with the guarantee of Champions League football the following season for Europa League winners, might we now find a change in attitude?
As it stands, only the 5th placed team qualifies for the Europa League, with the other two places going to the winners of the FA Cup and Carabao Cup.
With Manchester City having the Carabao Cup in the bag, and also looking certain for a Top 4 finish, the team in 6th place will qualify for the Europa League.
The same thing applies to the FA Cup. If any of the Top 4 win that, then it will go to the next league position. So this season, it could be the 5th, 6th, and 7th placed teams that get the Europa League spots.
This looks like being a huge battle. As it stands, the same 6 sides who are in the mix for the 4th Champions League spot, are also the sides who will contest the Europa League places.
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The Premier League Returns – Fight to avoid the drop
If the newspaper stories were to be believed, there was a lot of in-fighting amongst the bottom clubs about how the league should be resolved.
Stories emerged that some clubs just above the relegation zone were calling for the league to be called off, with current positions to stand. While rumours were rife that other clubs wanted the league to be voided, and restarted with same teams next season.
No one can blame any club for fighting their corner and protecting their position. But it sounds more like the potentially affected clubs weren’t too concerned for the greater good of the game of football.
Thankfully that issue is now put to bed, and matters will be sorted out on the pitch.
There looks to be 6 teams in the mix for relegation. Just 8 points separate 15th placed Brighton, and Norwich at the bottom.
The Canaries are relegation favourites
Starting with Norwich, and it appears the Canaries look doomed. They are 6 points from safety, and that is a massive gap at the bottom, with only 9 matches left.
To stand any chance of surviving, Daniel Farke’s side would need to put a run together like Leicester City did back in 2014/15. The bookmakers have Norwich at 1/12 for the drop.
Next in the league is Aston Villa, who have a game in hand against Sheffield United on Wednesday. Winning their game in hand would see Villa rise out of the bottom 3, and into 16th place. Despite this, the bookmakers have Villa second favourites for the drop at just 4/11.
Bournemouth sit 3rd from bottom, and that’s also where they stand in the betting. The bookmakers have Eddie Howe’s team at 8/11 for the drop. A lot will depend on how Callum Wilson gets on after the resumption. If he can find goals again, Bournemouth may well be in with a chance.
The way things were going for Bournemouth before the league suspension, relegation looked inevitable. They were in woeful form. This break may well play into their hands. It could be like a fresh start to the season, and be the break they’ve been looking for.
What about West Ham? Putting David Moyes in charge has certainly increased their chances. I’ve never been a huge fan of Manuel Pellegrini, and certainly didn’t see him as the right man for a relegation dog fight.
The Hammers are 2/1 for the drop, that’s 4th favourites in the betting. They currently sit 5th bottom, above Watford and Bournemouth on goal difference.
Did the break come at a bad time for Watford?
Next in the betting comes Watford. Unlike Bournemouth, who I think the break might help, Watford had just recently beaten Liverpool and things had started to look more positive for them. Could the suspension have a negative effect on the Hornets?
A lot will depend on Troy Deeney’s contribution. Deeney previously said he wouldn’t be returning to training as he believed it unsafe to do so. He has subsequently returned to training, but his overall contribution remains to be seen.
At the moment, Watford are 5/2 for the drop, but I fear they could be in a spot of bother.
Finally at the bottom, it’s Brighton. Currently 6th bottom, they are 5 points behind Southampton (7th bottom), and 2 points from safety.
In Graham Potter they have an inexperienced manager in this position. And he is also a manager who sticks to his footballing principles. So could this be a recipe for disaster for the Seagulls?
Brighton are the outsiders in the relegation betting. At just 11/4, they are not big outsiders, but I feel they could be worth a bet.