Just over three weeks separate bettors from the return of the major European domestic leagues, most notably the Premier League.
If the futures odds from PointsBet Sportsbook tell us anything, it’s that this campaign is shaping up to be….predictable.
Manchester City are odds-on favorites to lift the trophy for the second straight season, while City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United are heavy favorites to finish in the top four.
So unless you’re willing to lay a ton of juice, the first realistic futures section to examine is “to finish in the top six.”
With uncertainty surrounding both Arsenal and Tottenham, those two Europa League spots could be up for grabs to a relative newcomer (a la West Ham 2020-21).
Thus, here are the bets I’m willing to make to finish in the top six this Premier League season. Please note - all odds reflective of time of writing.
Top Six Play #1 - Leicester City (+100)
Not only did the Foxes manage to hang on to Brendan Rodgers for another season, but they’ve quietly built up their squad depth.
So long as Leicester hang on to James Maddison, I believe there’s enough squad depth to successfully co-manage a Premier League season and Europa League campaign.
The main reason I’m a fan of this play though? Leicester should be one of the main clubs bolstered by the return of fans to the stands.
Last season, the Foxes lost nine home games outright, their most home losses in a Premier League campaign since being promoted in 2014.
Even if there’s some negative regression away from the King Power Stadium - Leicester were the third best road team in the EPL last season - expect them to rise up the home EPL rankings from an eighth-place finish last season.
Finally, the last two seasons have produced some incredibly consistent results for Rodgers’ squad. All told, Leicester spent 567 days in a top four spot across the last two campaigns, the most of any Premier League side.
Plus, the way the schedule sets up, I trust Leicester to get early results to ensure they’re not chasing results late.
Despite back-to-back games against Liverpool and Man City over the festive period, Leicester’s first five matchups against Big Six clubs are all at home.
Plus, their finishing slate isn’t what you would call intimidating. Their last seven matches? Home games against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Everton, and Southampton with road fixtures at Newcastle, Spurs and Watford.
Top Six Play #2 - Wolverhampton Wanderers (10/1)
This is strictly a price play for me, because I believe the market is severely overreacting to the departures of manager Nuno Espirito Santo and goalkeeper Rui Patrício.
Plus, you’re really telling me that Brighton (+900), Aston Villa (+550) and Everton (+350) are more likely to finish in the top six than Wolves? Color me square, but I’m just not buying it.
Before I go any further, let me say this: I expect Tottenham to manage a top six spot...if they hang on to Harry Kane. But to lay -130 and hope that happens is simply too big an ask.
Back to Wolves though. The logical inflection point of last season’s campaign is Raúl Jiménez’s injury on Matchday 10 at Arsenal. Through those first 10 matches, Wolves were a point out of a top six spot. For the rest of the season, they were the fifth worst team in the entirety of the league.
Despite the two aforementioned departures, the return of Jimenez should provide a net positive for a side that finished 7th in their first two EPL campaigns after being promoted in 2018.
There’s no European competition to distract manager Bruno Lage in his first season at the helm. Further, I rate the Wolves Starting XI as having one of the highest ceilings amongst teams expected to finish mid-table.
We never really got to see it in action last season, but the prospect of watching a front three of Jimenez, Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto is exciting. Combine that with an experienced back three of Willy Boly, Conor Coady and Roman Saiss and you have a solid base structure.
It’s undeniably a difficult start to the season for Wolves, who open with a visit to Leicester followed by home games against Spurs and United. However, after that, their next match against a top six club doesn’t come until December 4th.
While it’s tough to foresee a clear path to anywhere but sixth in order to cash this ticket, the price is simply too good to ignore.
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