English Premier League

English Premier League

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EPL Premier League preview:
Jose and Pep renew rivalry in Manchester

Jose Mourinho Pep 
Guardiola

The Premier League is still regarded as the best league in the world and the arrival of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola in the English top-flight could take the division on to the next level.

Premier League clubs have struggled to make an impact in Europe in the last couple of seasons - although Liverpool reached the final of the Europa League in May - but the division itself has been as dramatic as ever.

Leicester City Leicester City caused one of football's biggest shocks by romping to the league title last year, with the Foxes having been available at odds of 5000/1 before the start of the season.

Claudio Ranieri's side have Champions League football to contend with this season, while the loss of N'Golo Kante could be crucial, especially if Riyad Mahrez also elects to leave the club.

As well as Guardiola at Manchester City and Mourinho at Manchester United, Chelsea have a new manager in the shape of the former Juventus and Italy coach Antonio Conte.

Considered a tactical master, Conte will be charged with turning around the fortunes of the Premier League's 2014-15 winners, whose title defence last season was one of the worst ever.

At the other end of the league, the promoted trio of Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull City are likely to face a relegation battle, with the Tigers particularly struggling even ahead of the big kick-off after manager Steve Bruce walked out over a row about investment in the first-team squad.

Recent history

Champions League Hopefuls

Leicester City were the most unlikely Premier League champions in recent memory, becoming only the sixth club to win the division since it was formed for the 1992–93 league season.

The Foxes ended up winning the league easily, finishing 10 points clear of their nearest rivals Arsenal, who managed to edge out local rivals Tottenham to claim second place. Manchester City finished limply but secured Champions League football for another year by finishing fourth, with city rivals United ending the campaign in fifth, leading to the departure of Louis van Gaal.

Prior to Leicester's win, Chelsea, United and City claimed a title apiece and all three clubs will be expected to be in the running with their new managers after badly underachieving last year.

Arsenal Arsenal have not won the Premier League since 2003–04 and their manager Arsene Wenger could be taking charge for the last season as his contract is set to expire, while Tottenham are hunting for their first ever Premier League crown after performing extremely well under Mauricio Pochettino last season, until the last few weeks of the season when their challenge fell apart.

Statistics

  • Chelsea
  • Arsenal
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester City
  • Everton
  • Tottenham

Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have never been relegated from the Premier League and none of the six founder members are likely to slip out of the top-flight this season either.

Middlesbrough - back in the Premier League after finishing runners-up in last year's Championship - have already been relegated from the division three times and despite heavy investment in the squad they are among the favourites for the drop again. Crystal Palace, who finished last season very poorly although they reached the FA Cup final, have been relegated from the Premier League on four occasions.

Gareth Barry Gareth Barry, the veteran former England midfielder who is still a key part of the team at Everton, could become the record appearance-maker in Premier League history this year, but only if he plays in every single game of the campaign.

United are the most successful club in terms of league titles, coming out on top a record 20 times, while Liverpool are two championships behind their rivals, their last win coming back in 1989–90. Almost half of the teams competing in the Premier League this year have never won England's top division, including Southampton, West Ham United, Bournemouth and Stoke City.

Premier League favourites

The title race looks wide open and the odds offered by the bookmakers have rarely been so spread out, with little difference between the top six favourites, which does not even include the defending champions Leicester City.

Sergio Aguero

Manchester City are the narrow favourites, offered at a price of around the 5/2 mark, as they seek to lift the title for the first time since 2013–14. Guardiola is regarded as the finest coach in world football and he will resume his rivalry with Mourinho, with the Manchester clubs likely to make headlines both on and off the field this season.

City have strengthened their squad with the arrivals of Ilkay Gundogan and Nolito, with John Stones reportedly a target and Guardiola keen to add support up front for Sergio Aguero.

Spending has been even heavier at United, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic heading to Old Trafford in a bid to win yet another different league title. As well as Ibrahimovic, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have been brought to United, with a proposed deal for Paul Pogba ongoing. United's squad looks arguably the strongest in the league, but Mourinho often takes a year to get his team up to speed, with odds of 7/2 looking a fair price on United reclaiming the title.

The value pick looks to be Chelsea at 6/1, despite their poor season last time out. Conte has signed Michy Batshuayi to add depth to the forward line, while the purchase of Kante from Leicester could be the key transfer of the summer so far.

Arsenal completed the signing of Switzerland international Granit Xhaka early in the summer but have not made any major moves since, suggesting they have stood still while others have taken big strides forward. Wenger's men can also be backed at 6/1.

Dark Horses

Liverpool Liverpool reached two cup finals last season following the arrival of Jurgen Klopp in the Anfield dugout, but the German is building a long-term project and they do not look ready for a title charge despite the signings of Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum to add more goals to the attack.

While the Reds are available at a price of 9/1 to win the Premier League title, champions Leicester are an even larger price to defend their crown, offered at odds of 30/1 with some bookmakers.

Leicester will have to balance European commitments with the Premier League this season and that could be their undoing, while losing Kante is sure to be a serious blow to their ambitions. However, Ranieri surprised everyone last season by leading Leicester to glory and the team spirit at the King Power Stadium is evidently second-to-none.

Pochettino Pochettino is regarded as one of the brightest young managers in the game - with Argentina targeting him for their national team vacancy - and Tottenham are offered at just 9/1. The signing of Vincent Janssen, prolific in the Eredivisie last season, adds a goal threat to compete with Harry Kane, but it is hard to see Spurs improving on their third-place finish last season given the strength of the other big boys this year.

For a real outside tip, how about West Ham United? Brilliant at times last season under their enthusiastic coach Slaven Bilic, the Hammers are poised to move into the elite as a result of their relocation to the Olympic Stadium. A price of 100/1 reflects the dominance of the opposition, but West Ham could certainly finish in the top four if they can bring in a top-level striker.

Relegation candidates

Hull are the clear favourites for the drop, no doubt as a result of Bruce quitting a short time before the start of the season. Without investment the Hull squad does not look cut out for the Premier League, with even a short price of 4/5 looking good value on the Tigers to be relegated.

Next in the betting is Championship winners Burnley, who have struggled to land major targets, a similar story to their last season in the Premier League. Their last two promotions have resulted in immediate relegations and they are available at evens to make it three in a row.

Aitor Karanka's Middlesbrough have signed more players than Hull and Burnley combined, but getting high-profile new arrivals such as Victor Valdes and Alvaro Negredo to gel with local lads could be a problem. Karanka walked out on Boro halfway through last season and there is a suspicion issues were brushed under the carpet on his return. The 15/8 on Boro to drop straight back down to the Championship looks to be a very juicy price indeed.

Away from the three Premier League new boys, Palace can be backed at 13/2 to be relegated from the division for a record fifth time. Teams that end seasons badly often continue their poor form into the new campaign and while manager Alan Pardew has bought well, there will still be work to do if they are to secure survival again.

Bournemouth (7/2 to be relegated) could succumb to second season syndrome. Like Palace, their results tailed off in the closing weeks of the season, but Eddie Howe has done a fantastic job at the club over two spells and will be confident of establishing the team as a Premier League side.

Watford took a risk by sacking Quique Sanchez Flores despite the enigmatic coach securing survival easily and leading them to the semi-finals of the FA Cup. The new man in the Vicarage Road dugout is Walter Mazzarri and the Hornets are 9/4 to return to the Championship.

players to watch

Ibrahimovic Ibrahimovic hit 50 goals for Paris Saint-Germain last season to say farewell to the French champions in style and he is likely to add sparkle and unpredictability to the United attack. Priced at 10/1 to claim the Golden Boot, the former Sweden international almost guarantees goals.

 

Kelechi Among Guardiola's skills are developing young players, so City striker Kelechi Iheanacho might well be one to look out for this season. The 19-year-old hit 16 goals for club and country last season and could break the 20 goals. barrier this time out, although he might well miss the opening weeks of the season as he is due to be on international duty with Nigeria at the Olympic Games.

 

John Terry Defenders rarely hog the spotlight, but John Terry is set for a final farewell with Chelsea after signing a one-year contract extension. Terry might well not play every week for new Stamford Bridge coach Conte, but his influence is vast and he will be desperate to go out on a high.

 

Petr Cech Petr Cech kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in the Premier League last season, taking his Premier League tally to 137 shutouts, which is also more than any of his top-flight rivals.

 

Premier League Betting Tips

Chelsea Chelsea look the best value tip for the title at odds of 6/1 to win the Premier League in Conte's first year in charge at the club , while 9/1 is a massive price for West Ham to finish in the top four. The Champions League places are going to be very competitive, so 2/3 on Liverpool to miss out on the top four looks to be good value, with Tottenham available at the same price.

The top goalscorer market is always popular but very hard to predict, with Harry Kane priced up as a 7/1 second favourite to defend his individual crown, while Aguero again starts as favourite. Iheanacho may provide each-way value at a price of 40/1, while Burnley's hotshot Andre Gray could surprise a few people at 100/1 - he was the top goalscorer in the Championship last year.

Palace's odds of 13/2 to be relegated are too big considering their disastrous second half of the season last year, while Pardew has a reputation for his teams failing after an initial upturn in their form following his appointment.

The straight forecast provides some tempting odds, with 18/1 a big price on Manchester City to finish second behind Chelsea, while a relegation treble of Hull, Watford and Palace pays 80/1.

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