The eagerly awaited UK football season gets underway next weekend with a full set of Championship and League One and two fixtures, and the Premier League kicks off the following weekend. As usual there are a host of ante post betting markets for all leagues and I will provide my idea of some that will hopefully return a profit come May 2017.
Defending champions Leicester are available at 33/ this year, which represents no value considering their ante post odds last season, and with far more pressure and expectation on them this time round I don’t believe they will repeat their fairy-tale story again this season.
The two Manchester clubs are understandably favourites to win the Premier League this season and Manchester United (18/5) under the stewardship of the “Special One” Jose Mourinho are my idea of this season’s winner. His vast experience and success will instil much needed confidence in his very strong squad, which he has improved further by signing Ibrahimovic and Mkhitaryan in attack, an area where they struggled for consistency last season.
United have plenty of experience and strength in depth throughout their squad and with a proven world class striker in Ibrahimovic leading the attack, the likes of Mkhitaryan, Rooney, Martial, Rashford, Lingard, Mata and Herrera in support, I expect they should improve considerably in attack. If they do they will grow in confidence as the season progresses and if they start winning games comfortably they will be difficult to stop once they get on a roll.
After finishing second in the Premier League Top Scorer table last season on 24 goals, one behind Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero (7/2) is my idea of the best bet for the Premier League Golden Boot award this season, as I expect City to improve considerably on the home front with new Manager Pep Guardiola at the helm.
In the Championship Newcastle United (19/10) are not surprisingly clear favourites to win the league after manager Rafa Benitez committed his future to the club. They've understandably off loaded some of their big wages and signings from last season like Cisse, Townsend and Wijnaldum, and it's likely Sissoko will also leave given his extensive Premier League experience and more so after impressing during Euro 2016 for France.
However, it looks like they'll hold on to the majority of their talented squad and the likes of keepers Krul and Elliot will find life much easier in the Championship, as will defenders Williamson, Lascalles, Perch, Mbemba, Haidara, Janmaat and Dummett and new signing Grant Hanley from Blackburn. Jack Colback and Cheick Tiote will excel in the Championship if they decide to stay and provide plenty of bite and competitiveness in midfield, which will be needed, as life is usually much tougher and unforgiving in the EFL compared to the Premier League.
Newcastle also have plenty of talent and attacking options in midfield and upfront and I feel this is where they have a clear advantage over their less illustrious rivals. They have the experience and talent in midfield with the likes of Shelvey, de Jong, Vuckic, Gouffran, Gosling and Aarons to dominate games and create chances for their forwards Mitrovic, Perez and new signing Dwight Gale, who are all sure to excel at this level and score plenty of goals.
With that in mind I think Mitrovic (16/1 4 places ¼ odds) is worth a shot for the Championship Top Goalscorer as he gained plenty of experience of English football in his first season and if he gets off to a positive start, scores goals his confidence will soar and he’s more than capable of bagging 20 plus goals this season, which should put him in contention come the end of the season.
In terms of winning the Championship it’s hard to look past Newcastle, but there odds are too restrictive for me to get involved. Norwich (10/1 3 places ¼ odds) however, are a more attractive bet considering they usually excel at this level, they’ve kept hold of manager Alex Neill, who got them promoted to the Premier League prior to their relegation last season, and with the bulk of their Premier League squad remaining they should prove too good for this level again and gain automatic promotion.
From a Championship relegation perspective I think Burton will hold their own well in their first season and are too short for the drop, but Rotherham (12/5) and Fulham (12/1) are likely to struggle again as they finished in the bottom six last season, and there’s no signs either side has made any major improvements for the up-coming season.