The 2016-17 English Premier League season has a lot to live up to.
A handful of very lucky punters cashed in big last term as Leicester City, among the favourites for relegation, romped to the most remarkable of title triumphs.
The Foxes are paying $34 outright odds at Sportsbet to do it all again, but the big boys have beefed up their squads since May.
Both Manchester clubs have installed high-profile managers and spent heavily on new recruits, so it’s no surprise to see City ($3.10) and United ($4.50) favoured in EPL title betting.
The Red Devils’ chances received a big boost this week as they confirmed the signing of French star Paul Pogba from Juventus in a record £89 million deal.
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea ($7.50) are expected to improve significantly on their disastrous 2015-16 title defence, while there is an air of optimism around Liverpool ($8.50) after their first pre-season under Jurgen Klopp.
At the other end of the scale, promoted sides Burnley, Hull City and Middlesbrough may be dreaming of more than mere survival after Leicester’s exploits.
Our trusted online bookmakers are running dozens of enticing soccer futures markets for the EPL 2016-17 season, which kicks off this Saturday, August 13, as the defending champs travel to Humberside.
Here are our top 10 Premier League outrights and future bets for the campaign ahead.
Manchester United to win the title
$4.50 at Sportsbet
We all know what Jose Mourinho can do with a bit of spending money, and the signings of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and now Pogba certainly seem like statements of intent.
Manchester City also look dangerous with Pep Guardiola in charge and the dynamic Ilkay Gundogan added to the midfield, but have they done enough to shake their apparent reliance on Sergio Aguero?
Arsenal haven’t changed much, Tottenham Hotspur will be hard pressed to bounce back after coming so close last term, and it might be a season too soon for Klopp’s Liverpool revolution.
There’s value to be had in backing a shock repeat from Leicester, but United’s newfound star-power is hard to ignore.
Man United/Man City exacta
$10 at Sportsbet
Mourinho vs. Guardiola — is there a bigger coaching rivalry in world football?
We’re already itching for the first Manchester derby of the season, not least because it could have a serious impact on the title fight.
City are favourites to knock Leicester off their perch, and it’s hard to argue when you look at the abundance of talent at Pep’s disposal.
That’s why we are backing the Citizens to push United all the way and make it a one-two finish for the Mancunian clubs, with the red half claiming ultimate bragging rights.
Sergio Aguero for top goalscorer
$4.50 at William Hill
There are plenty of capable strikers in the Premier League right now.
Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy led the way last season, with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku hot on their heels.
This term there is a new addition to the mix in Ibrahimovic, while a fit Daniel Sturridge (if there is such a thing) could also be in with a shout.
When it comes down to it, however, there is no better forward in the EPL than Kun Aguero.
The Argentine star managed 24 goals last term despite a number of injury interruptions, finishing only one behind Kane in the EPL Golden Boot race.
Regardless of how well or how poorly City do, you can bet Aguero will be banging in goals week after week.
Eden Hazard top Chelsea goalscorer
$7 at Bet365
Eden Hazard had a bit of a stinker last season.
Mourinho notwithstanding, the Belgian copped as much flack as anyone for Chelsea’s utter ineptitude in the first half of the campaign.
But class is permanent, as they say, and that shone through in the latter stages of 2015-16 and in Hazard’s superb performances at the Euro finals.
Most importantly, he’s scoring goals again.
Chelsea have other options forward, but Michy Batshuayi is a raw prospect and Diego Costa — well, who knows what we’re going to get from him?
Liverpool to finish top four
$2.40 at CrownBet
After a mixed 2015-16 that ended with a disappointing performance in the Europa League final, things are looking up at Anfield.
Klopp’s charges have shown plenty of promise in pre-season, not least in the 4-0 drubbing of a Barcelona side that featured Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and many other first-team stars.
There is a lot to like about the club’s new signings, especially ex-Southampton star Sadio Mane and Serbian recruit Marko Grujic.
The battle for Champions League qualification will be fierce this season, with Chelsea and Man United also looking to squeeze out at least one of Man City, Tottenham, Arsenal and Leicester.
But with no European fixtures to worry about, and with a few bits of transfer business still on the cards, Liverpool look decent value for a top-four finish.
Arsenal to finish outside the top four
$2.20 at Sportsbet
It’s the same old story for Arsenal.
As another summer transfer window draws toward a close, the Gunners have completed only one significant signing – that of Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka.
One wonders how Arsene Wenger can expect things to improve when he makes so few changes to the roster.
Will Olivier Giroud suddenly become a 20-goal striker? Will Alexis Sanchez discover a level of consistency we’ve yet to witness? How about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck and all the other ‘nearly’ players?
While other teams look to blast their way back into the top bracket, Arsenal seem content to tread water and hope for the best.
That’s been good enough for top four in years past, but it might not be the case this time around.
West Ham United to finish top six
$3.85 at CrownBet
If not for Leicester’s stunning achievements last term, everyone would be talking about West Ham.
Although they finished in seventh behind Southampton, the Irons were in the fight for a top-four spot all season long.
Dimitri Payet was a revelation in his first Premier League campaign, and his performances at Euro 2016 for France suggest we can expect more of the same this season.
It was also a good year for the enigmatic Andy Carroll, who found something resembling career-best form in the latter stages.
With the likes of Andre Ayew, Sofiane Feghouli, Havard Nortveidt and Gokhan Tore joining this summer, coach Slaven Bilic has plenty of fresh talent to work with.
If they build on the foundation they laid down last season, the Hammers’ first year at the Olympic Stadium could be a special one indeed.
Hull City top promoted team
$3.75 at Sportsbet
Most are tipping the Tigers to go straight back where they came from, but a closer look at their squad reveals a surprising wealth of top-flight experience.
Michael Dawson, Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore played plenty of Premier League football at Spurs, while Alex Bruce, Curtis Davies, Ahmed Elmohamedy, Shaun Maloney, David Meyler and Robert Snodgrass are all familiar with the division.
Mohamed Diame’s move to Newcastle United hurts, but they still have the very talented Abel Hernandez – a regular in the Uruguay national team.
The big question right now is who will be in charge this weekend, with Mike Phelan the current caretaker as Wales coach Chris Coleman ponders whether or not to fill Steve Bruce’s empty boots.
Whomever takes the reins, we think Hull ($2.35 at William Hill to avoid relegation) have enough there to push through the present dramas and pip both Burnley and Middlesbrough.
Middlesbrough to finish bottom
$8 at William Hill
There’s been much chatter about Middlesbrough’s aggressive work in the transfer market this summer.
The Boro have signed several well-known players from abroad, most notably the Spanish trio of Antonio Barragan, Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes.
But will those guys make much of a difference?
Valdes was often viewed as a weak link in a world-class Barcelona side, Negredo has scored a grand total of 10 league goals since leaving Man City on loan in 2014, and Barragan is nothing more than a solid full-back.
It is more than a little reminiscent of Queens Park Rangers in 2012, when the club’s cash-splashing owners lured the likes of Jose Bosingwa, Julio Cesar, Esteban Granero, Stephane Mbia, Park Ji-sung, Loic Remy and Christopher Samba to Loftus Road.
QPR finished dead last that season.
Burnley, Middlesbrough and Watford relegated
$41 at Sportsbet
Picking the bottom three is never as easy as it seems.
The likes of Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Swansea City flirted with the fall last season, but they could just as easily be pushing for a top 10 finish this time around.
And while perennial escape artists Sunderland are always in the mix, new manager David Moyes looks like a good fit and could bring some stability to Wearside at long last.
West Brom should wind up in the bottom half again, but Watford are perhaps the biggest worry of last season’s survivors.
After a strong start to 2015-16, their heavy reliance on Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo was exposed when the latter’s shooting boots deserted him after Christmas.
If the Hornets can’t find new avenues to goal, they may well follow Boro and Burnley back to the Championship.
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