It’s nearly here, folks.
The 2015-16 English Premier League season will kick off on Saturday, August 8, as the top 20 teams in the country begin their campaigns for glory and survival in the world’s most-watched domestic football competition.
With just a matter of days to go, now is the time to get your EPL futures bets on at our trusted online sportsbooks.
Can Chelsea go back to back, or will Manchester City ascend to the throne once more?
Will we see improvement from the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United as they look to relive their glory days?
Or maybe we’ll see a surprise bolter kick one of the big boys out of the European spots?
Let’s look at the teams we expect to feature in the top half of the Premier League table this season, complete with value odds from our top-ranked EPL betting sites.
2014-15 position: Champions
Outright title odds: $2.50 to win at CrownBet.com
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny Jose Mourinho’s unique ability to get things done on the domestic scene.
Having returned to Stamford Bridge in 2013, it only took the Portuguese coach a year to transform a flagging Chelsea side from also-rans into league champions.
The west Londoners cruised to the 2014-15 EPL title – their first triumph since 2010 – and it’s hard to see them slowing down this season.
Online bookmaker Sportsbet has them at $3.60 to score the most goals for the season, while Bet365.com is offering tantalising $101 odds on Chelsea go unbeaten in 2015-16.
So far it’s been a case of don’t fix what ain’t broke in the transfer market.
Radamel Falcao comes in on loan to bolster the Blues’ striker stocks (and, he hopes, his own reputation) after a very poor season at Man United, filling the gap left by the departures of Fernando Torres and club legend Didier Drogba.
The Colombian striker is paying $34 at Bet365 to finish as the Premier League 2015-16 top goalscorer.
Also out is Brazilian defender Filipe Luis, who returns to Atletico Madrid after failing to dislodge Cesar Azpilicueta from the starting left-back slot during his solitary season at the Bridge.
Perhaps the most surprising and canny bit of business is the signing of Asmir Begovic from Stoke City. The highly regarded Bosnian goalkeeper replaces Petr Cech, now at Arsenal, and should provide handy competition for first-choice ‘keeper Thibaut Courtois.
Barring any big business over the next week, the starting XI will look much as it did last season when Chelsea commence their campaign against Swansea City on Saturday week.
And as six members of that side featured in the 2014-15 PFA Team of the Year, including Player of the Year winner Eden Hazard, you can see why Mourinho isn’t changing much as he looks to make it two in a row.
2014-15 position: Runners up
Outright title odds: $3.75 to win at Luxbet.com
Given the unfathomable resources at his disposal, some would say Manuel Pellegrini is lucky to still be in the hot seat at Eastlands.
Indeed, pundits began pondering last season whether the Sky Blues had too many superstars, as the likes of Edin Dzeko, Stevan Jovetic and Wilfried Bony struggled for form and game time in a forward line that was chopped and changed from week to week.
It didn’t help that the old guard of Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta, normally so dependable, endured their most disappointing campaigns for quite some time.
But the focus in the off season has all centred on Raheem Sterling, now the most expensive English player in EPL history after his £49 million move from Liverpool.
The young winger has starred in preseason, but it remains to be seen whether he can nail down a starting spot in a squad that currently contains the likes of David Silva, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas.
Sterling is an $81 long shot to top the season-end goalscoring tables in the Premier League futures betting at www.WilliamHill.com.
There’s plenty of time yet for more big signings at the Etihad, especially with Jovetic on his way to Inter Milan and the likes of Alvaro Negredo, James Milner, Scott Sinclair and Micah Richards already gone.
Rumours are flying around about a £53 million bid for former Chelsea man Kevin De Bruyne, whose spectacular form with Wolfsburg last season earned him the Bundesliga Player of the Year award.
Such a prolific creator could do wonders alongside star striker Sergio Aguero, who banged home 32 goals in all comps last term and is the $4 favourite at Sportsbet.com to win the EPL Golden Boot again.
If the one they call Kun stays fit, there’s no doubt that City have the firepower to knock Chelsea off their perch.
But the question is not about talent; it’s about whether this squad of superstars can become a champion team once more.
2014-15 position: 3rd
Outright title odds: $5.50 to win at www.Bet365.com
After years of stylishly scrapping for Champions League spots, the Gunners looked half a chance to sew up second place last season before losing out to Man City down the home stretch.
But despite finishing in third place, 12 points behind Chelsea, it was a much improved effort from Arsene Wenger and his charges on the whole.
Alexis Sanchez proved a very welcome addition, the former Barcelona forward bagging 16 Premier League goals in his maiden season at the Emirates.
The Chilean superstar is paying very healthy $21 odds to top the goalscoring for 2015-16 in the EPL outright markets at Bet365.
But perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the Londoners’ 2014-15 season was the emergence of youth product Francis Coquelin, who offered the kind of defensive presence the Gooners’ midfield had been missing for far too long.
And the Arsenal power-brokers may well have resolved another of the club’s long-standing issues with the signing of former Chelsea shot-stopper Petr Cech for a fee of around £10 million.
The Czech international won the league title four times with the Blues and may finally put an end (for now) to the search for a reliable number one goalkeeper – something Arsenal haven’t really had since David Seaman departed in 2003.
But there are other problems that must be addressed if the Gunners are to continue with the progress they made last season.
Getting more out of the creative types is the big one. Mesut Ozil is great when on, but anonymous when not, while the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and even Sanchez need to start producing the goods on a more consistent basis.
If they can do that and find balance in the forward line with Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck, there’s no reason Arsenal can’t compete at the top end once more in 2015-16.
2014-15 position: 4th
Outright title odds: $6 to win at CrownBet
After some awkward transitional years in the wake of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, we finally started to see shades of the old Man United as the 2014-15 Premier League season progressed.
It wasn’t without its hiccoughs. Falcao flopped hard on loan from Monaco, Robin van Persie endured another indifferent campaign, and record signing Angel di Maria never quite hit his stride.
The former two have since left for pastures new, while the latter is set to complete a move to French moneybags Paris Saint-Germain after just one season at Old Trafford.
But there were plenty of positives, too. Marouane Fellaini came good in a big way, Ander Herrera showed some much needed class in the midfield, and Chris Smalling made big strides as the leader of the defence.
All that wasn’t enough to seal automatic Champions League qualification, however, and the United board has responded with some huge moves in the transfer market.
Memphis Depay comes in after a stellar season in which he netted 28 times for PSV Eindhoven, the Dutch forward having also been targeted by fierce rivals Liverpool (or so the UK papers say).
Even bigger was the double swoop for Morgan Schneiderlin and World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, which gives United manager Louis van Gaal an embarrassment of top-shelf options in the middle of the park.
The Red Devils probably need another quality striker to compete with Wayne Rooney, and there is still the question of how guys like Juan Mata and Adnan Januzai fit into the picture, but it would be surprising if they didn’t match last year’s fourth-place finish at the very least.
If you think they might slip a spot or two, however, Sportsbet is paying $4 value odds on Man United to finish fifth or lower.
2014-15 position: 6th
Top four finish odds: $3.75 at Luxbet
The absence of Luis Suarez was felt bitterly at Anfield last season as the Reds – runners up the previous season – slumped down to sixth in 2014-15.
Liverpool’s inability to find the back of the net was compounded by the injury troubles of Daniel Sturridge, whose chronic hip problem restricted him to just 12 EPL appearances.
But the club’s transfer committee has gone some ways to remedying those scoring issues with the acquisition of Christian Benteke, who moves from Aston Villa for the princely sum of £32.5 million.
Online bookmaker Bet365.com is running a Premier League special on Benteke to score over/under 14.5 goals at $1.83 odds, as well as a $17 market on the Belgian striker to win the 2015-16 Golden Boot award.
The now-completed transfer of Raheem Sterling to Man City has also allowed the Merseysiders to splash cash on the likes of Brazil playmaker Roberto Firmino (£21.3m), young full-back Nathaniel Clyne (£10m) and Charlton Athletic product Joe Gomez (£3.5m).
They’ve also picked up England midfielder James Milner, under-21 striker Danny Ings and reserve goalkeeper Adam Bogdan for next to nothing, while rumours abound of imminent plays for Borussia Dortmund star Marco Reus and PSG’s Lucas Digne.
There’s no Steven Gerrard to bail them out of trouble now, of course, so these new arrivals and the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and captain Jordan Henderson will have to really step up and put their imprint on this team.
A top-four finish and a return to Champions League football has to be the goal for Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers, and www.Luxbet.com has the five-time European Cup winners at $3.75 odds to do just that.
2014-15 position: 5th
Top four finish odds: $7 at Bet365.com
There’s been a big cleanout at White Hart Lane this summer.
Spurs have dispensed with no less than 15 players so far, including Brazilian flop Paulinho, German prospect Lewis Holtby, and the French duo of Younes Kaboul and Etienne Capoue.
New signings have shown a decided focus on improving a defence which leaked more goals (53) than any other in the top 10 last season, with defenders Kurt Trippier, Kevin Wimmer and Belgian international Toby Alderweireld the only incoming transfers to date.
The Lilywhites will certainly be looking to improve their attacking stocks as well over the coming weeks, especially if ageing list-clogger Emmanuel Adebayor moves to Aston Villa on loan as expected.
Yannick Bolasie is a hot target on the heels of an impressive campaign with Crystal Palace, and Manchester United’s Ashley Young has also been mentioned, although Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino will also want a genuine goal threat to support star striker Harry Kane.
The England international scored 21 goals in the 2014-15 Premier League season – 31 in all competitions – and is paying $15 at Sportsbet.com to win the Golden Boot this time around.
But barring some very heavy action late in the transfer window, it’s tough to back Spurs to improve on last season’s fifth-place finish.
The bookies seem to agree, as Sportsbet.com has Tottenham at just $1.40 to finish sixth or lower in 2015-16.
However, if you fancy them to pull out a fairytale and upstage the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, Sportsbet is also offering $23 on Pochettino’s men to be the top London club in 2015-16.
2014-15 position: 7th
Top four finish odds: $15 at Bet365.com
Although they lost their gaffer and half their starting XI at the start of last season, the Saints managed to scare the living daylights out of the usual denizens of the Champions League places.
Southampton were in and around the top four for the majority of the 2014-15 English Premier League season and, although they slipped down to seventh in the end, did enough to secure a berth in the UEFA Europa League qualifiers.
Ronald Koeman and his side benefitted from shrewd pickups such as Dusan Tadic, Fraser Forster and especially Ryan Bertrand, who was named at left-back in the 2014-15 PFA Premier League Team of the Year.
They will need a little more of that magic after selling Nathaniel Clyne to Liverpool and losing their captain and midfield machine, Morgan Schneiderlin, to Manchester United.
Soton have reacted by signing up four senior internationals, albeit relatively obscure ones: Dutch midfielder Jordie Clasy, Spanish forward Juanmi, Portuguese full-back Cedric Soares and Curacao defender Cuco Martina.
They have also brought in Netherlands goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg on loan to cover for Forster, who is one his way back from a serious knee injury sustained in March 2015.
CL qualification might be a bridge too far for a side that keeps losing its star talent, but you can get $3.50 odds at www.Sportsbet.com for Southampton to finish in the top six.
2014-15 position: 11th
Top six finish odds: $4 at WilliamHill.com
The Toffees did not enjoy the 2014-15 EPL campaign.
The Liverpudlians spent all season flailing about helplessly in the bottom half of the Premier League table, and even a late revival couldn’t get them any higher than 11th place.
And yet there hasn’t been a whole lot of action at Goodison Park this summer – at least not yet.
Former loan star Gerard Deulofeu returns in a £4.2 million deal with Barcelona, while England midfielder Tom Cleverley joins on a free transfer from Manchester United.
Spanish forward Deulofeu will add a welcome spark alongside Belgian duo Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas in an Everton attack which seemed to lack ideas last term.
The Blues are also said to be battling Crystal Palace for the signature of Swansea centre-back Ashley Williams, who would replace the departed Sylvain Distain and Antolin Alcaraz.
There is plenty of ability in this squad already – it was little over a year ago that they finished fifth, after all.
The question is whether manager Roberto Martinez can reignite the devil-may-care flair that made Everton such a dangerous opponent during his first season on Merseyside.
Internet bookmaker Sportsbet.com certainly thinks they will improve, with a $1.36 market on the Toffees to finish 10th or higher.
If you reckon they might go even further and blow open the top four, as they have done in the not-too-distant past, you can get $17 at Bet365 on Everton to finish in the Champions League places.
2014-15 position: 8th
Top 10 finish odds: $2.37 for top 10 at Sportsbet
The Swans have looked right at home in the top flight since their 2011-12 Premier League debut, and last season saw them achieve an eighth-place finish – their highest to date.
Still, Garry Monk and his charges would have been disappointed to miss out on European football in the end, although it was always going to be a tough ask after Wilfried Bony jumped ship mid-season to warm the pine at Manchester City.
But French striker Bafetimbi Gomis should now have a bit more support in the final third with the addition of Ghanaian attacker Andre Ayew, while 190cm Portuguese hitman Eder will provide some healthy competition for the starting centre-forward role.
The key for Swansea will be to get the most out of the midfield triumvirate of Ki Sung-yueng, Jonjo Shelvey and Gylfi Sigurdsson, all of whom have the ability to control a game and hit the scoreboard when they get time on the ball.
They will also want to keep hold of stalwart defender Ashley William, who is allegedly courting interest from Everton and Crystal Palace.
Monk will certainly want to improve their performances against the lesser teams. They did the double over both Arsenal and Manchester United last season, but ruined it all by failing to put away the likes of Leicester City, Sunderland and Queens Park Rangers.
If they can embrace life without Bony and win the games they ought to, there’s no reason Swansea can’t make the top six this time around – which is paying $15 in the Premier League futures betting at William Hill.
2014-15 position: 10th
Top 10 finish odds: $2.75 at www.Sportsbet.com
There’s a whole cluster of clubs that could round out the Premier League top 10 come May 2016, but Crystal Palace are probably the most compelling of that bunch.
For one, they look a different team under Alan Pardew, who took them from a potential relegation scrap to a cozy mid-table finish after succeeding the sacked Neil Warnock in January 2015.
For another, they’ve landed a pretty big fish this summer in the form of French midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who starred under Pardew during their time together at Newcastle United.
Add him to a midfield that already features the likes of Jason Puncheon and captain Mile Jedinak – one of Europe’s most effective players over the last few years – and you have a side that looks capable of at least matching last term’s 10th-place result.
The key now will be keeping that core together over the remainder of the transfer period. Yannick Bolasie is supposedly high on Tottenham’s hit list, but recent reports claim Spurs may now look elsewhere after the Eagles slapped a £25 million price tag on their star winger.
Palace will also seek to add some potency up forward over the next few weeks. Charlie Austin’s name has been floated in the press after an excellent season with Queens Park Rangers, although the alleged £30 million required to get him may be beyond Pardew’s budget.
As things stand now, the leading Premier League betting sites have the south Londoners at short odds ($1.44 at Bet365.com) to slip into the bottom half of the table this season.
But there’s much better value in tipping them to improve, as top bookmaker Sportsbet has the Selhurst Park club at $4.33 to finish ninth or higher in 2015-16.
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