Punters browsing pre-season Premier League prices in their perennial search for value may feel as though they would have greater success unearthing the Lost Ark, such is the apparent absence of bookmaker generosity.
The longest price available for any one of last season’s top seven sides to finish inside the top 10 this term is Everton’s 1/12, while newly-promoted Burnley are already odds-on (3/5, Ladbrokes) to suffer an immediate return to the Championship.
However, value does exist. For instance, backers might be tempted to take bet365’s attractive-looking 20/1 for the promoted trio of Burnley, QPR and Leicester to be relegated next May, or else give due consideration to Stan James’s 12/1 posted against Newcastle’s Alan Pardew being the first top-flight manager to lose his job in the forthcoming season. In the same market, Sam Allardyce is 13/10 (betway), while Paul Lambert is Skybet’s 8/1, second favourite.
With Luis Suarez sold to Barcelona, a clutch of strikers are presented with an opportunity to become the Premier League’s leading scorer.
Bet365 favour Robin van Persie, pricing him at 9/2, while Winner.com post 11/2 about Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero pipping the Dutchman to the Golden Boot.
Not surprisingly, Chelsea new boy Diego Costa has been well backed at 7/1 (William Hill) to notch more league goals than anyone else, even though Jose Mourinho’s side are 11/4 (BetVictor) to score more goals than any other team in the division.
Louis van Gaal’s arrival at Old Trafford accounts for Manchester United’s installation as Winner.com’s 5/1 third favourites to win the title following a season they would rather forget.
Liverpool, however, last season’s runners-up, have drifted to 11/1 (BetVictor) as many punters suspect it’ll be difficult for a team likely to comprise so many new players (and missing perhaps their best one) to stage a performance similar to that which so nearly resulted in them becoming champions last term.
So where is the best pre-season value to be found?
It’s worth noting that excluding last term’s top-placed teams, the contest to win the so-called ‘league within a league’ and secure a top-10 finish promises to be as competitive as ever.
Here, Swansea are priced at 11/4 (bet365) to end the season in the top half of the table, while Hull City are offered at a slightly lengthier 4/1 (Stan James) in the same market – probably as a result of having probable Europa League commitments.
Bookies are expecting a two-horse race between Manchester City and Chelsea, hence they’re priced at 12/5 (Paddy Power) and 15/8 (Stan James) respectively to claim the title.
Those odds could look incredibly good value by next spring but, in the meantime, BetVictor’s 9/2 for Arsenal to be top of the pile at Christmas offers punters both decent value and a realistic opportunity to collect their winnings early.
Hull were held to a goalless draw on their Europa League debut at Trencin last week but the Tigers should have no trouble getting the job done at the KC Stadium in the second leg, hence Winner.com’s 1/4 for them to qualify for the next round.
Bet365 quote Stuart Bruce’s men at 3/10 to prevail in normal time and having kept a clean sheet over in Slovakia, Hull are an absolute steal at even money with Paddy Power to defeat their opponents ‘to nil’. Ladbrokes meanwhile, make City 5/1 to notch twice without reply.
Rugby League’s Challenge Cup reaches the semi-final stage this weekend and the first mouth-watering showdown sees Leeds take on Warrington at Langtree Park.
The Rhinos narrowly get the nod from bookmakers, Stan James installing them as 5/6 favourites to get to Wembley and BetVictor chalking the Wolves up at 11/10 to come out on top over the course of the 80 minutes.
That looks about right and though it should be a close affair at the home of St Helens, Brian McDermott’s side represent decent value in the handicaps where Ladbrokes make them 5/4 to overhaul Warrington’s four-point head start and Paddy Power price them at evens to cover a two-point advantage.
In the other clash, Widnes lock horns with Castleford at the Leigh Sports Village on Sunday and it’s the latter, Skybet’s 4/9 favourites, that stand out in bet365’s handicaps at 6/5 when starting eight points in arrears.
Bet of the week: Arsenal to be top at Christmas – 9/2 (BetVictor).
Odds supplied by www.betrescue.com