IN a little over a week the most competitive and watchable soccer league in the world will kick off as the English Premier League finally returns to our screens.
And the champions Chelsea are again the team to beat, according to punters at CrownBet.com.au.
The Londoners are a skinny $2.50 to win the title before a ball has even been kicked.
It helps having one of the best managers in the world in ‘The Special One’ Jose Mourinho and some of the deepest pockets of any soccer team in the world, which has helped them assemble a side that is almost peerless in world football.
While their biggest out was legendary goal keeper Petr Cech, they’ve welcomed Stoke City’s tender Asmir Begovic to play second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois.
Fiorentina midfielder Juan Cuadrado was the club’s big money signing, completing a $56 million move, while defender Danilo Pantic also crossed from Partizan Belgrade.
Mourinho has also taken a chance on Radamel Falcao, after a disastrous season at Manchester United.
They will join a stacked midfield that features the likes of PFA Player of the Year Eden Hazard, Oscar, Willian and assist machine Cesc Fabregas, as well as 20 goal hero striker Diego Costa.
Combine that with a back line of star John Terry and Gary Cahill, with Rock of Gibralter Nemanja Matic in front of them and you have a side that is going to be very hard to stop.
The punters think Manchester City are the best chance of doing that, the Crownbet crew rating them a $3.75 second favourite, despite their disgusting performance at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of 99,000 fans, falling 4-1 to Real Madrid in an exhibition match.
City has put its faith in petulant Liverpool youngster Raheem Sterling, forking out almost $105 million for the talented, but notoriously difficult youngster. If he fires, he could be the missing piece of a puzzle that features the likes of last year’s Golden Boot winner Sergio Aguero, uber talented David Silva and the rock solid Yaya Toure. Aston Villa captain Fabian Delph has also crossed, along with Patrick Roberts from Fulham, while they welcomed back Bruno Zuculini from Valencia as his loan had expired. James Milner is the only out of note, moving to Liverpool.
Second last year, they were a long way off Chelsea, eight points back. Have they done enough to bridge the gap?
One side that hasn’t been very active in the transfer window, despite being linked with every half talented striker in the land is Arsenal, which is third on the line of betting at $5.50 for the title.
The aforementioned Cech is the only in and, while he is a massive in, the fans will want to see some more action before the window closes later this week.
Fortunately, Arsene Wenger has money at his disposal and it’s understood they’ve put in a $75 million offer for Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema.
There’s also talk Juventus striker Fernando Llorente could be on the way. Those two would complete a very nice bag of signings for an Arsenal side that already features quality across all lines, headlined by attacking ace Alexis Sanchez and the supreme Mesut Ozil.
Gunners legend Ray Parlour reckons this is the best Gunners side since The Invincibles and it’s hard to argue with that. The back to back FA Cup winners will be primed to add Premier League silverware to their cabinet in 2016.
Completing the big four is the big spending Manchester United, rated a $6 chance by the Crownbet.com.au mob.
Bayern Munich superstar Bastian Schweinsteiger is a monster signing for the Red Devils, he brings power, skill and poise to a midfield that lacked all of that last season. He will be joined by Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin, the gorgeous Memphis Depay from PSV Endhoven, along with Torino’s Matteo Darmian and Sampdoria goal keeper Sergio Romero – on a free transfer, no less.
It’s a lovely bag of signings for United, but the jury is still out on Louis Van Gaal as he tries to atone for last season’s fourth place finish. The fans won’t have it if there isn’t genuine improvement, and you’d think it would have to happen early on in the piece.
Spare a thought for Liverpool.
The Reds have made seven signings, the second year in a row they’ve gone out and spent big, but that hasn’t changed the punters’ opinion on them, with only hardcore fans picking up the $26 available on them winning the title.
Aston Villa beast Christian Benteke is the big one, the towering striker a $70 million move that may or may not work out – the Reds don’t have a great track record with big money strikers.
Gun Southamptain wing back Nathaniel Clyne is a great signing, as is the talented Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim, while Milner is a like for like replacement for departed legend Steven Gerard (LA Galaxy). Bolton’s Adam Bogdan and Charlton’s Joe Gomez were lesser lights, while, unbelievably, they managed to pry Danny Ings away from the relegated Burnley, after he slotted 11 goals last season.
Newly promoted Watford ($1.67) is the odds on favourite to go down, with fellow league jumpers Norwich ($2.05) and Bournemouth ($2.20) right there with them. Sunderland ($2), which only just survived last campaign, is the outright second favourite to be one of the three sides to make the drop at the end of the season.
2015/16 English Premier League markets
Manchester City ($3.75)
Arsenal ($5.50 with CrownBet.com.au)
Manchester United ($6)
Crystal Palace ($1501)
West Ham ($1501)
Aston Villa ($2001)
West Brom ($2001)
Top four finish:
Manchester City ($1.06)
Manchester United ($1.33)
Tottenham ($5 with CrownBet.com.au)
Aston Villa ($126)
Crystal Palace ($126)
West Ham ($126)
West Brom ($201)
Aston Villa ($4)
West Brom ($5)
Newcastle ($6 with CrownBet.com.au)
West Ham ($6)
Crystal Palace ($8)
Manchester United ($2001)
Manchester City ($5001)
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