NORMAL service resumes this weekend as Premier League 2015-16 returns from another FIFA-induced hiatus.
At least, it would be normal if the big boys of English football weren’t still clutching at Leicester City’s coat tails.
With a five-point buffer and seven games to go, Claudio Ranieri and his charges are but a few good weeks away from pulling off the most extraordinary title heist in EPL history.
Having started the season as a hot tip for relegation, Leicester are now $1.66 favourites in the Premier League outright betting at Sportsbet.com.
The international break won’t have done them any harm either, as the likes of Jamie Vardy, Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante showed some fine form for their respective national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur ($3.75 outright at William Hill) are Leicester’s chief challengers, although they will need to negotiate back-to-back clashes with Liverpool and Manchester United to stay in touch.
Those who expect the Foxes to falter and Spurs to salute must also remember that the Lilywhites, who haven’t won a league title since 1961, are no more accustomed to these dizzying heights than Ranieri’s underdogs.
Arsenal ($6.50 for the title at Sportsbet) aren’t entirely out of it, thanks to a game in hand, but 11 points is a lot of ground to make up in seven weeks.
And while they have a breezy run home on paper, meetings with Norwich City and Sunderland in the last two rounds could prove very testing if both are still fighting for survival.
Manchester City and Manchester United will have to settle for European qualification, but even that is no certainty with West Ham only one point outside the top four.
Southampton are also sniffing around, while Liverpool’s two games in hand could come into play if they can find any semblance of consistency.
It’s similarly tight in the nether regions of the table, although Aston Villa – now 12 points and 14 goals shy of safety – appear to have given up altogether after parting ways with manager Remi Garde this week.
Norwich have a two-point break on Sunderland and three on Newcastle United, but that could change this weekend when the Geordies visit East Anglia.
Norwich City vs. Newcastle United
3:00pm local time on Saturday, April 2, 2016 at Carrow Road
Norwich – $2.25 (WilliamHill.com)
Newcastle – $3.45 (CrownBet.com)
Draw – $3.30 (WilliamHill.com)
Results against Man City and West Brom have breathed life into a Norwich side which looked doomed to relegation after eight defeats in nine outings. Having conceded 25 goals since Christmas, the Canaries will be delighted with two clean sheets on the bounce. Newcastle managed to snap a four-game losing streak with the derby draw against Sunderland, and they will head to Norfolk with fond memories of their 6-2 win in the reverse fixtures at St. James’ Park. They are now down to their third-choice goalkeeper, however, after Rob Elliott became the second Toon shot-stopper this season to tear his ACL.
– Norwich to win 1-0 ($7 at Bet365)
– Jonny Howson to score first goal ($13 at Sportsbet)
Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur
5:30pm local time on Saturday, April 2, 2016 at Anfield
Liverpool – $2.60 (WilliamHill.com)
Tottenham – $2.87 (Sportsbet.com)
Draw – $3.30 (WilliamHill.com)
We saw the best and the worst of Jurgen Klopp’s Reds down at Southampton as they threw away three points after going two goals up in the first half. Now they face the indignity of trying to keep their faint European hopes alive while Tottenham come to Merseyside with the title in mind. This might be the truest test yet of Spurs’ premiership credentials, as they have lost five of their last six against Liverpool and have won at Anfield only once in their last 21 attempts.
– Liverpool half-time/draw full-time ($15 at William Hill)
– Adam Lallana to score first goal ($11 at William Hill)
Leicester City vs. Southampton
1:30pm local time on Sunday, April 3, 2016 at King Power Stadium
Leicester – $2.20 (WilliamHill.com)
Southampton – $3.55 (CrownBet.com)
Draw – $3.30 (Sportsbet.com)
This is the beginning of a difficult run home for Leicester, but there is nothing about their recent performances that suggests they can’t handle it. Goals might be harder to come by in 2016, but they’ve tightened up considerably at the back since Christmas and look as solid and well-organised as ever. Southampton are chasing their third straight win after big victories over Stoke City and Liverpool – two of their key rivals in the battle for a berth in Europe next season. The Saints have lost only two games out of 11 since the return of goalkeeper Fraser Forster, who earned his fifth England cap in midweek.
– Both teams to score second half ($3.65 at CrownBet)
– Riyad Mahrez to score first goal ($8 at Bet365)
Manchester United vs. Everton
4:00pm local time on Sunday, April 3, 2016 at Old Trafford
Man United – $2.07 (CrownBet.com)
Everton – $4 (Sportsbet.com)
Draw – $3.50 (Bet365.com)
United kept their Champions League hopes alive with a 1-0 derby win last time out. They’ve now won three and lost two in five EPL games, beating Man City, Arsenal and Watford but losing to West Brom and Sunderland. Everton started their international break earlier than most, forgetting to turn up as Arsenal ran out easy 2-0 winners at Goodison Park. But they have a not-so-secret weapon in Romelu Lukaku – one of only four players to have hit a hat-trick against the Red Devils in the English Premier League.
– Man United to win and both teams to score ($4.33 at William Hill)
– Marcus Rashford to score first goal ($7 at Sportsbet)
More 2015-16 Premier League match bets
Aston Villa $6 – Draw $4 – Chelsea $1.55
Arsenal $1.35 – Draw $4.80 – Watford $9
Bournemouth $3.75 – Draw $3.60 – Manchester City $1.95
Stoke City $2.15 – Draw $3.10 – Swansea City $3.60
Sunderland $2.05 – Draw $3.10 – West Bromwich Albion $4
West Ham United $1.90 – Draw $3.50 – Crystal Palace $3.80
EPL betting markets provided by www.WilliamHill.com
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