The 2015-16 English Premier League season is just around the corner, and now is a great time to get value odds on the biggest football futures markets.
We’ve already covered the contenders, so now we will look at the sides we expect to finish in the bottom half of the table – complete with value odds on relegation markets and more EPL betting specials.
2015-16 position: 9th
Top 10 finish odds:$2.25 at WilliamHill.com
The Potters enjoyed another rock solid season in 2014-15, but there was a little more flair about their football under the guidance of Mark Hughes.
While still pragmatic and workmanlike, Stoke actually played it around quite nicely at times as they locked down ninth place – their highest-ever finish in the English Premier League – for the second year running.
The question is whether they have the cattle and the ambition to go any higher this season.
Online bookmaker Sportsbet.com has Stoke at $7.50 odds to finish ninth once again, and at $4.50 to end up in eighth spot or better.
They’ve certainly had an active transfer window to date.
Irish veteran Shay Given comes in to replace Asmir Begovic in goal, after the star Bosnian shot-stopper completed a somewhat surprising £8 million move to Chelsea.
Germany international Philipp Wollscheid will sure up the defence after his loan from Bayer Leverkusen was made permanent, while Glen Johnson will add to the full-back stocks following his free transfer from Liverpool.
The most exciting pickups so far have to be Dutch midfielders Ibrahim Afellay and Marco van Ginkel, the latter of whom arrives on a season-long loan from Chelsea.
And Hughes will once more be able to call on Spanish playmaker Bojan Krkic, who was very influential behind the strikers before suffering a season-ending knee injury last January.
Whether they have what it takes to push for European qualification remains to be seen, but it would be no surprise at all to see the Potters finish either side of the midway line once more.
West Ham United
2014-15 position: 12th
Top 10 finish odds: $2.75 at www.Bet365.com
West Ham started oh so strong in 2013-14, spending several weeks in the top four prior to Christmas.
It all came crashing down after the turn of the year, however, as they slid into the bottom half of the table – much more familiar surrounds for the east London club.
That decline cost Sam Allardyce his job, with former Hammers defender Slaven Bilic coming in this summer to take the reigns at Upton Park.
The Croatian will almost certainly deploy a more adventurous and eye-catching playing style than Allardyce, whose long-ball game was never very popular with the Green Street faithful.
The West Ham movers and shakers have also made a few very handy additions to the playing list, with French playmaker Dmitri Payet and Italian defender Angelo Ogbonna bringing some real international class to the squad.
They have also signed up Spanish midfielder Pedro Obiang from Sampdoria, while full-back Carl Jenkinson returns on loan from Arsenal and former Birmingham City man Darren Randolph replaces the departing Jussi Jaaskelainen in goal.
The Irons will also have Andy Carroll back on the park, the England striker having missed the back end of 2014-15 after undergoing surgery for a torn knee ligament in February.
Just how the big targetman fits into Bilic’s plans remains to be seen, however, and the top online sportsbooks are instead touting Diafra Sakho ($67 at William Hill) as West Ham’s best bet to top the league goalscoring charts.
Top 10 is certainly not out of the question, but it’s hard to see the Hammers doing much better than another mid-table finish.
Sportsbet has West Ham at just $1.45 to wind up in the bottom 10, while CrownBet.com is paying $9 odds on Bilic to be the first manager to leave his post this season.
West Bromwich Albion
2014-15 position: 13th
Top 10 finish odds: $4.33 at Bet365
The 2014-15 EPL season was a rather rocky one for West Brom.
Alan Irvine got the chop at the end of December with the Baggies sitting 16th and staring at a relegation, but the incoming Tony Pulis steered them to the relative safety of 13th place.
The leading Premier League betting sites expect them to fill out the lower half of the table once again, with Sportsbet.com paying just $1.22 for the Midlands club to finish in the bottom 10.
A few key figures have departed, with midfielders Youssuf Mulumbu and Graham Dorrans moving to Norwich City and the experienced Chris Baird dropping down a division to Derby County.
Coming in are Welsh centre-back James Chester, an £8 million signing from Hull City, and former Sunderland winger James McClean.
We probably won’t see anything too exciting from Albion under Pulis, the man responsible for the unlovely but effective football that made Stoke such a difficult prospect during his time at the Britannia Stadium.
The Hawthorns could use that kind of fortification, but of even more importance will be improving on the mere 38 goals West Brom netted last season.
Wrapping up a deal for Rickie Lambert would certainly help, although they will have to act quickly now that Norwich, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough have all supposedly got the Liverpool striker in their sights.
Even with Lambert and a few more solid inclusions, top 10 would be a big stretch for a side which perpetually flirts with the foot of the table.
EPL sportsbook Bet365 has the Baggies at $6 odds to be relegated after six straight season in the top flight.
2014/15 position: 15th
Relegation odds: $6 at www.CrownBet.com
The Barcodes are a joke.
Having narrowly missed out on Champions League football a couple of years ago, Newcastle only barely avoided the drop last term after Alan Pardew left to take the reigns at Crystal Palace mid-season.
They have no clear direction under the ownership of Mike Ashley, whose presence has been central to United’s woes over the last eight years.
The Magpies have picked up some decent players this summer, headlined by the arrival Dutch international midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum in a £14.5 million deal with PSV Eindhoven.
They’ve also signed 20-year-old prospects Aleksander Mitrovic and Chancel Mbemba from Anderlecht in a £21.5 million double swoop.
But no amount of incoming talent alone can fix the serious culture problem at St James’ Park.
Look at the way the football department treated long-time players Ryan Taylor and Jonas Gutierrez, who were sacked over a phone call while out to dinner.
New head coach Steve McClaren will have a hell of a task turning this laughing stock of a club into the top-end competitor its passionate supporter base demands.
Even if things improve, you have to expect another bottom 10 finish for Newcastle ($1.28 at www.Sportsbet.com).
Relegation isn’t out of the equation either, and those expecting real trouble on Tyneside can get $17 at CrownBet on NUFC to be dead last at Christmas.
2014-15 position: 17th
Relegation odds: $5.50 at WilliamHill.com
At the start of February 2015, Aston Villa had scored fewer league goals (11) than any other side in England’s four professional divisions.
That unwanted record, compounded by a scoreless streak that stretched for nearly two months, eventually saw Paul Lambert lose his job – and many asked why the decision didn’t come sooner.
The Scot’s replacement, Tim Sherwood, quickly revitalised a team that had looked destined to suffer relegation for the first time since the Premier League’s inception in 1992.
They only just kept their heads above the waterline, finishing one spot and three points outside the drop zone.
Key to that revival was Christian Benteke, who scored 11 goals in nine matches following Sherwood’s appointment.
But now that the Belgian striker has joined Liverpool in a £32.5 million deal, Villa must look to new signings Jordan Ayew and Rudy Gestede for goals this season.
Benteke isn’t the only significant exit, with erstwhile captain Fabian Delph joining Manchester City just six days after announcing he would remain at Villa Park.
Also out are veteran goalkeeper Shay Given, Dutch international defender Ron Vlaar and former England striker Darren Bent, all on free transfers.
New additions include Scott Sinclair, whose loan from Man City has been made permanent, while versatile defender Micah Richards also moves from Eastlands after several years out in the cold.
It’s hard to say right now how this new-look Aston Villa side will fare, but one expects they would have to improve on the misery of last season.
Sportsbet is paying $1.30 for the Villains to finish 16th or higher, while Luxbet.com has them at value $5 odds to beat out Stoke, West Brom and Leicester City as the top Midlands club.
2014-15 position: 14th
Relegation odds: $5 at William Hill
That the Foxes are even on this list is nothing short of a miracle.
Leicester were just about dead and buried by Boxing Day last season, when they sat rock bottom after a 13-game winless streak in which they managed just two points.
They were still last by the end of March, but seven wins from their last nine games saw Leicester soar out of the drop zone as they completed one of the greatest escapes in Premier League history.
And yet the man at the head of that remarkable turnaround, Nigel Pearson, is now out of a job after the club’s Thai owners cited “fundamental differences in perspective”.
The new manager is Claudio Ranieri, who faces a very different challenge to those he encountered while chasing silverware at Chelsea, Valencia and Juventus.
Christian Fuchs, Robert Huth and Shinji Okazaki were already signed up when Ranieri arrived, while French midfielder N’Golo Kante has since come in on a €9 million transfer from SM Caen.
New Zealand striker Chris Wood has left for Championship side Leeds United, while Esteban Cambiasso, Matthew Upson and Gary Taylor-Fletcher are among a host of players to be shown the door.
The top Premier League betting sites are fairly optimistic about Leicester’s prospects for 2015-16, with Bet365 paying $1.28 best odds for City to avoid relegation.
You can also get $5.50 at www.WilliamHill.com on the Foxes to trump Aston Villa, West Brom and Stoke as the leading Midlands club at season’s end.
2014-15 position: 16th
Relegation odds: $3 at www.Luxbet.com
The Mackems somehow dodged the drop once again last May, staying up despite posting only seven wins for the entire Premier League season.
That makes it three years in a row now that they’ve failed to pass 40 points, and yet they haven’t left the top flight since bouncing back up for the 2007-08 campaign.
Bet365.com is offering $1.40 on Sunderland to avoid relegation once again under the stewardship of Dick Advocaat, who will have a few new names to work with this time around.
South American defenders Sebastian Coates and Santiago Vergini have turned their loan spells into permanent deals, although the latter has been shipped out to Getafe for the season.
French stopper Younes Kaboul and Wales international Adam Matthews have also moved to the Stadium of Light, showing a marked focus on defensive improvement.
But the biggest pickup so far is Netherlands winger Jeremain Lens, who arrives in an £8 million deal after two seasons with Dynamo Kiev.
Advocaat will also look to improve a Sunderland attack which scored only 31 goals last terms, with Blackburn Rovers star Jordan Rhodes widely believed to be the top target.
Such a deal would likely see Connor Wickham set sail from Wearside, with Crystal Palace said to be on the brink of sealing an £8 million move for the 22-year-old striker.
Even with reinforcements on the horizon, www.Sportsbet.com has Sunderland as $4.50 favourites to be the lowest scoring team in Premier League 2015-16.
2014-15 position: Championship winner
Relegation odds: $2.20 at Bet365
It’s always good to see a fresh face make the leap into the Premier League.
Bournemouth stormed home to pip Watford to the Championship title on the last day of the 2014-15 season, thus securing promotion to the top flight for the time in their 116-year history.
And despite their utter lack of experience at this level, the leading Premier League bookmakers have the Dorset-based side as the most likely of the promoted clubs to survive the chop.
Online sportsbook Bet365.com has Bournemouth as $2.50 favourites to finish as the top promoted side, and at $1.60 odds to avoid relegation.
The Cherries have made some solid signings already, picking up centre-back Sylvain Distain and experienced goalkeepers Artur Boruc and Adam Federici on free transfers from Everton, Southampton and Reading respectively.
They’ve also snared highly rated defender Tyrone Mings for £8 million from Ipswich Town, with Ryan Fraser moving the other way on a season-long loan, while Joshua King comes in from Blackburn Rovers to add some spark to the wings.
There’s a bit of Premier League experience throughout the squad with the likes of Andrew Surman, Dan Gosling, Junior Stanislas and Chelsea loanee Christian Atsu, but will it be enough to keep them up?
If you think the answer is no, you can get $6 odds at CrownBet.com on Bournemouth to finish bottom.
2014-15 position: Championship runners-up
Relegation odds: $1.72 at www.Bet365.com
There’s always one promoted team everyone expects to be miles off the pace, and this time it’s the Hornets.
It certainly doesn’t help that the laws of alphabetical listing mean Watford will start the season in the relegation zone by default.
They’ve done some serious business already this summer, drafting in familiar names such as Sebastian Prodl, Valon Behrami, Etienne Capoue, Jose Holebas and Miguel Britos.
The Hertfordshire club has also signed up Matej Vydra on a permanent deal, the 23-year-old striker having impressed during two previous loan spells at the Vicarage.
Still, the bookies are backing a swift return to the Championship for the Golden Boys, who are $4 favourites at CrownBet.com to be bottom of the 2015-16 EPL table at Christmas.
CB is also running a Premier League specials market on who will be the first manager to leave their post, with Watford head coach Quique Flores featuring prominently at $7 odds.
2014-15 position: Playoff winner
Relegation odds: $2.10 at Bet365
It didn’t take long for the Canaries to bounce back up to the top flight.
Having suffered the axe at the close of the 2013-14 Premier League campaign, Norwich made their way to the Championship playoffs the following season and bested Middlesbrough in the final to ensure promotion at the first attempt.
The bookies are tipping another yo-yo performance from the Norfolk club this season, with many EPL betting sites paying less than $2 for immediate relegation.
They’ve been less active in the transfer window than their fellow newcomers, with Robbie Brady, Youssuf Mulumbu and Graham Dorrans the only permanent signings thus far.
Andre Wisdom also comes in on loan from Liverpool to sure up the back line, making it three new arrivals who featured for West Brom last term.
One suspects Norwich will need a few more additions if manager Alex Neil is to have any real chance of keeping this side in the top tier.
As such, there is some decent money available on the Yellows to outplay the other promoted sides, with www.CrownBet.com paying $2.75 for Norwich to finish above both Bournemouth and Watford.
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