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2014-15 English Premier League season preview – The pretenders

Tue, Aug 12, 12:15pm by Dominic Ciconte

EPLWELCOME to the ‘write your own ticket’ club.

The ‘world would have to start spinning in the opposite direction for them to win’ club.

The ‘only if hell freezes over’ club.

No, I’m not describing the majority of my interactions with women, I’m talking about the English Premier League’s battlers.

The club’s that aren’t given a monkey’s chance by the bookies. The perennial relegation strugglers and mid-table staples that simply cannot compete with the big guns.

If you fancy a club like Queens Park Rangers’ chances of pulling a Steve Bradbury or a club like Sunderland’s chances of turning water into wine, then Sportingbet.com.au is the bookie for you. The odds it has on offer for a struggler to nick the Premier League dwarf the competition.

For example, newly promoted Burnley is $5001 with Sportingbet to pull off a David over Goliath effort and win the Barclays Premiership Trophy. By comparison, Sportsbet.com.au has the Clarets at $501.

Let’s take a look at the Premier League’s “pretenders” and see if we can’t dig out a bet that has a chance of getting home.

Newcastle – $751 with Sportingbet.com.au

Newcastle UnitedThe rub – The Newcastle mascot Shola Ameobi is gone. The Toon’s top goalscorer Loic Remy has returned to QPR after his loan period expired. Its best player Yohan Cabaye was gone in the middle of last year. But there’s a sneaky optimism about Newcastle – a sneaky optimism that the signings of Jack Colback, Siem de Jong and Remy Cabella can help them at least avoid the drop.

Predicted finish – 11th

Bet – You can get plus odds on Newcastle to finish in the top-10 ($2.10 with Sportsbet.com.au). Despite the losses, the new signings should have them thereabouts, but, if you think they will get slaughtered, you can get a healthy $9.50 for them being relegated.

Southampton – $751 with Sportingbet.com.au

Southampton FCThe rub – Southampton has had its heart and soul ripped out and its arms and legs torn off. Half the squad that managed an eighth place finish on last years table is gone. Stars Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren are at Liverpool. Emerging defender Luke Shaw is at Man United. Young gun Calum Chambers will wear an Arsenal shirt this season. And rumour has it England international Jay Rodriguez wants out. Even manager Mauricio Pochettino has moved on to the Spurs. The Saints have been decimated and may struggle to avoid relegation this year.

Predicted finish – 16th

Bet – Hear me out: After all the doom and gloom I just mentioned, the silver lining is there is about $50 million in the kitty out of all those sales. If they’re getting hammered early on, you can expect (or hope) new(ish) owner Katharina Liebherr to spend up big and avoid the drop. They’re $2.25 to get a top 10 finish. Take that and hope they buy a gun (or two).

Swansea – $1501 with TomWaterhouse.com.au

Swansea FCThe rub – It’s just sad that the enigmatic Michu won’t be in the Premier League next season, while Gylfi Sigurdsson is a very under-rated signing for the Swans. But Lyon’s Bafetimbi Gomis could be their ace in the hole, taking the pressure off bullish star striker Wilfried Bony and giving them a much-needed second avenue to goal.

Predicted finish – 8th

Bet – A top-10 finish is a must for the Swans to continue their development this season. They look strong enough to do it and you can get $3.25 for that with Sportsbet.com.au. Bony is $23 to win the golden boot. He bagged 16 goals last year and will hope to improve on that. With Suarez gone, the boot race is wide open (unless Van Persie goes bang).

Aston Villa – $1501 with Sportingbet.com.au

Aston Villa FCThe rub – Villa will continue to meander in the lower half of the table. Roy Keane’s arrival as assistant should help at least instill a bit of defensive toughness and they do have exciting attackers in Christian Benteke, Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann, who should be able to supply enough goals to keep them in the top flight. Philipe Senderos gets another crack at the Premier League and Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson are proven performers.

Predicted finish – 12th

Bet – Not much here. $1.20 to finish in the bottom 10. Can they make it into the top 10? If you think so, you can get $3.75 at Sportsbet.com.au

Stoke – $2501 with Sportingbet.com.au

Stoke FCThe rub – Ninth last year, there’s nothing to suggest they won’t be thereabouts again. Mark Hughes proved a revelation for the Potters when he took over from Tony pulis. Stoke always play tough, hard football and while it struggled to score goals last season, signings like Mame Biram Diouf and Bojan Krkic should add some flexibility to the frontline. Steve Sidwell from Fulham adds some midfield grunt and Phil Bardsley adds defensive nous.

Predicted finish – 10th

Bet – Stoke in the bottom 10 – $1.45 with Sportsbet.com.au. In the top 10? $2.63. Take your pick.

West Bromwich – $3001 with Sportingbet.com.au

West Brom FCThe rub – Tough as nails Joleon Lescott is the marquee signing for the Baggies, but they also welcome Socceroos defender Jason Davidson. Sunderland’s Craig Gardner is also a good in, but can they overcome the mass exodus of players and avoid the drop?

Predicted finish – 19th

Bet – Massive chance to make the drop, even with Lescott. Only just avoided it last year and you can bet they will be struggling again at the Hawthorns – $3.30 with Sportsbet.com.au

Sunderland – $3001 with Sportingbet.com.au

Sunderland FCThe rub – Have said goodbye to plenty with Jack Colback, Phil Bardsley, Carlos Cueller and Craig Gardner the most notable, but do welcome Wigan’s Jordi Gomez and Manchester City goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon to bolster its side.

Predicted finish – 13th

Bet – Can’t see Gus Poyet’s men making too much noise this season. While I don’t think it’s probable, it’s not entirely impossible that they could make the slip – $5 with Sportsbet.com.au

West Ham – $4001 with Sportingbet.com.au

West Ham FCThe rub – Much-maligned Gunner Carl Jenkinson should see regular first-team time and that could spell disaster for West Ham (if you ask an Arsenal fan). The $21 million man Enner Valencia looks the pick of the signings here, although the striker will miss the start of the season. West Ham Has been rocked by news of striker Andy Carroll’s season-threatening ankle injury and even Samuel Eto-o’s name has been thrown around as a replacement. Whatever happens for the Hammers this year, you can guarantee Sam Allardyce’s scowl will get plenty of air time.

Predicted finish – 9th

Bet – If you agree with me and think they can scrape into the top 10, you can get $3.25 at TomWaterhouse.com. How about Valencia to win the golden boot ($67)? If they’re going to finish top 10, they need someone to score goals, right?

Hull – $4001 with Sportingbet.com.au

Hull FCThe rub – Europa League for Hull City, can you believe it? The problem with that is you need depth to play in Europe, simultaneously with the League. Jake Livermore makes the full move from Tottenham to continue his partnership with Tom Huddlestone, while Robert Snodgrass is a nice signing from Norwich City, but it’s a catch-22. They will want to go on a deep run in Europe, but will that be too much for them to sustain a Premier League place? Interesting note: last season’s captain, Robert Koren, has signed with Melbourne City as its marquee international in the A-League.

Predicted finish – 15th

Bet – Have picked them to finish 15th because there are worse teams out there, but it would not surprise to see them make the drop, just due to fatigue and lack of depth. $3.75 with Sportsbet.com.au looks the goods.

Crystal Palace – $4001 with Sportingbet.com.au

Crystal PalaceThe rub – Crystal Palace unbelievably finished 11th last year and you could probably chalk that up to manager Tony Pulis’ smarts. Brede Hangeland is a nice signing from Fulham on a free and you can bet Pulis will be doing his best to help them avoid the drop.

Predicted finish – 17th

Bet – If you’re feeling lucky and think they can go one better than last season, you can get $4.50 about a top 10 finish.

Who will win the battle of the newcomers?

Promoted clubs Leicester City, Burnley and QPR will all be hoping they can stay in the top flight. The odds say that all three will be locked in relegation battles, but there’s normally always one who manages to stay afloat at the end of the season.

Leicester City – $5001 with Sportingbet.com.au

Leicester City FCThe rub – Grabbed the experienced Matthew Upson and young United attacker Jack Barmby for its charge into the Premier League. Leo Ulloa’s goalscoring has headlined City’s sparkling pre-season form and despite it being one of the favourite’s to go down, Nigel Pearson’s men will be hoping to prove the critics wrong.

Predicted finish – 18th

Bet – Favourites to top QPR and Burnley among the newly promoted sides and for good reason – $2.10 with Sportsbet.com.au

Burnley – $5001 with Sportingbet.com.au

Burnley FCThe rub – Burnley has signed a who’s who of Premier League journeymen. Michael Kightly is the marquee name, but expect solid play from Matt Taylor and Steven Reid. Burnley are favoured to be a one and done side, falling back to the Championship.

Predicted Finish – 20th

Bet – Hard to recommend anything here. They’re $5 with Sportsbet.com.au to perform better than fellow promoted teams Leicester and QPR, or you can get $2.25 on them avoiding the drop.

Queens Park Rangers – $5001 with Sportingbet.com.au

QPR FCThe rub – Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand is a massive signing for Queens Park Rangers and the faithful at Loftus Road will be pinning all their hopes on him to help it avoid relegation. Well-respected Harry Redknapp has also grabbed hard nut defender Steven Caulker and goal sneak Jordan Mutch from Cardiff City in what has been a handy off-season for the Rangers.

Predicted finish – 14th

Bet – Should have the cattle to stay in the top flight. You can get $1.33 for them to avoid relegation, or take a bite of the $2.30 for them to finish with a better record than Burnley or Leicester.

Where you can watch English Premier League

You’ll catch all all 380 games in the world’s most popular football league on Foxtel.

Foxtel also has a nifty app where you can catch every game live on your smart phone or tablet. It offers live streaming – perfect for the train ride on those Monday morning 5.30am kick-offs, as well as in-game highlights, extended match highlights footage and weekly themed video packages including ‘Goals of the Week’.

The season kicks off at 9.30pm on Saturday, August 16, on Fox Sports 1, with Manchester United hosting Swansea at Old Trafford.


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