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Football Picks

by Ben, last updated 2007-08-03 00:41:44

 2007/08 Premiership Preview

 by betfred

Last year's campaign was one of the most enthralling and competitive seasons for a few years. Man Utd eventually won the title by 6 points with Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal making up the top quartet. Will this year be as interesting? My guess is without a doubt, yes. Teams have strengthened again this year but with some real quality signings, not just cheap foreign imports but players with pedigree and potential such as Liverpool's Fernando Torres and Chelsea's Florent Malouda. This piece will run you through the major players for the coveted title (with a few surprise inclusions) and the teams who may have to fight tooth and nail to stay up.

Manchester United - 5/4
Where better to start than with last seasons Champions. Sir Alex has been relatively busy in the transfer window this year with England midfielder Owen Hargreaves being the major signing. He is a player who will do all the leg work in the team, tracking back and protecting his defenders. This will allow Scholes, Carrick and the more centrally located Giggs to maraud forward and to add to an already impressive attack. Two fairly unknown quantities are the youngsters from Sporting and Porto, Nani and Anderson. These have cost Utd a combined fee somewhere in the region of £25m-£35m, so they must have a lot of potential. Utd assistant Carlos Quiroz will have no doubt watched these players on many occasions to splash out the sorts of figures that have been banded around. They are both attacking midfielders and although they may not be an instant hit, they may warm up to the Premierships fast pace and then take the league by storm ala Cristiano Ronaldo. Overall Man Utd have a huge chance of retaining their title, providing the main two players Rooney and Ronaldo have another relatively injury free campaign. This for me is my main concern. They are by no means a one man band but lets face it, the two R's made all the difference for Utd last season.

Liverpool - 6/1
It is probably best to start with saying that Liverpool are one of my strong fancies for a good title challenge this season, although 6/1 isn't massive - it is still a bet that I will be placing. Liverpool have made plenty of signings so far and quality ones at that. We all know Torres' pedigree and is potentially a special player. He literally carried Althletico Madrid for several seasons, taking the captains armband aged just 19. Ryan Babel is another quality signing. Anyone who saw this lad in the U21's European Championship knows what he can do, we mustn't forget that he also has 14 full international caps, netting 4 times. Benayoun and Ukrainian Vornin seem to have settled in well too, especially the latter, he has been named LFC man of the match twice out of his three pre season friendly appearances scoring twice. I think what is more important than the signings is the hunger shown by all of the players. They have been quoted as saying how important the opening weeks of the season are. This is where Liverpool have slipped up recently. The Premiership cannot be won in the first 10 fixtures but it can be lost. In summary - Liverpool are a good bet at better odds than Man Utd and Chelsea, with for me - similar potential.

Chelsea - 13/8
Jose Mourinho is never one to shy away from the media spotlight, even when the team is in L.A on their pre season tour he still manages to put his two penneth in. He recently said that all of the pressure is on Man Utd and Liverpool this season as they have been the "spending clubs". While this may be true I do not whole heartedly agree. Chelsea have the reputation of being up there with the "world's elite" and rightly so - after winning back to back League titles, but last season they lost their title and got knocked out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage yet again. Make no mistake they are under pressure too. The addition of Frenchman Florent Malouda will certainly help their cause, especially if Robben does leave "the bridge". Ex Reading midfielder Steve Sidwell has also been added to the squad, although I fail to see where he will fit in with Lampard, Ballack, Essien and Makele. Chelsea will be chomping at the bit to regain their title and this is what makes them so dangerous. Obviously they too have an excellent chance of regaining it and it will be up to the rest to stop them.

Arsenal - 9/1
Not many peoples fancy this season, but this can be such a huge advantage for the Gunners. After losing Henry and Ljungberg, many people have written of their chances of winning the league - this can be dangerous. Arsenal will be playing with little pressure this season, they have been quoted as being in a "transitional period" which will only push them on to be stronger and pressure free. Croatian International new boy Da Silva may or may not work out, but one man who will step up and be counted for is Van Persie. He was missing for a lot of the season last year and will be looking to make amends. He will be first choice up front in my opinion and is one for your Fantasy Football teams. The young players at Arsenal had a good shot in the first team last year with all of the injuries - this too is an advantage for the Gunners. Whilst they do have a chance at winning the league, I feel they MAY fall short. The squad is very thin with not too many new signings, an injury to Gilberto or Fabregas could be detrimental to their challenge.

Tottenham - 100/1
Spurs will not win the Premiership this season, BUT they are a cracking bet for "without the big 4" at 11/8. They have a very youthful and skilful squad, the addition of Darren Bent and Gareth Bale will be huge. Spurs' weakest position for quite a while has been left back. Bale who has gone to Spurs with a big reputation will make this position his own and do very well. Dimitar Berbatov was awesome last year, his first season at Spurs and in the Premiership and he scored 25 goals in all competitions. That is truly outstanding, now he is in his second season you would expect him to be even better. For me, worth a good punt for 5th place betting and if they do make 4th or 3rd which is likely - you will still win.

The relegation battle is often more exciting than the actual title race, we've seen plenty of last day survival games recently. Wigan were very lucky not to be relegated to the Championship last season, instead the plucky Sheffield Utd took the drop. It may be different this year, Paul Jewell has now left the JJB and he will be missed more so than if Heskey, Baines and Scharner were all to leave. He has proven in the past he is an excellent manager and you have to wonder whether Chris Hutchings can keep them up. At 5/4 to be relegated you'd have to be mad not to back it. Derby have to be an obvious choice to go back down, I can not see them having the ability or the squad to stay up, however 1/2 is hardly a price to be jumped upon. The final relegation place isn't so simple. It would have to be a toss up between Fulham (2/1) and Birmingham (5/6), only a minor preference for the former.

 Gerry's Picks

 by Gerry McDonnell

On reflection, my decision to take a couple of weeks off to 'rest' was flawed from the outset. The wife went completely 'Stefan Postma' on me; she was constantly on my back.

The evil one demanded that the bedroom receive a full makeover. As nothing has been done in there for a number of years, I wasn't overly upset with her having the decorators in.

Tidying up the garden was the hardest job. I was absolutely knackered at the end; the incessant drone of the lawnmower completely ruined my afternoon nap.

I did manage to wash the car myself. I say wash, but 'drove in the rain' would probably be a more accurate description. In my defence, I have been busy putting together a collection of ante-post football bets that are so tasty, Nordic babe-magnet Sven Goran Eriksson has been trying to get his hands on them.

Manchester United are a confident pick for Premiership glory. United were clearly the best team in the league last season, and their summer transfer dealings have been nothing short of exemplary. United are available at 7/5 in a two-horse race: I suspect foal play.

Liverpool are the betting equivalent of Lenny Henry: every year they receive massive support for no apparent reason. I like the look of Arsenal at 2/1 in the betting without Man U and Chelsea.

I've got a lot of time for 'let's do it again' Sven. England rose from 17th to 4th in the FIFA world rankings under the Swede's tutelage, and he managed to orchestrate this transformation while planting his pole more than Sergey Bubka. The 2/1 for Manchester City finishing the season in the top half of the table is the most surprising offer since Ulrika Johnson offered the ageing Lothario a little slice of Swedish fish pie.

I always try to gain an edge wherever possible, so I asked the wife's computer-savvy sister to run a series of simulations on the Premiership handicap. After a significant number of entries last Saturday night, she has reached the conclusion that Manchester City will finish on around the 100 point mark (they receive a 41 point start), making them an each-way steal at 15/1.

The Golden Boot is a tough market to crack under normal circumstances, but with Didier Drogba (the clear favourite) on African Nations Cup duty for up to two months, a little dabble may prove pleasantly prudent. Eduardo netted 71 goals in 100 games in Croatia; if he settles early at the Emirates, the 28/1 will prove the greatest gift since Cher's offering to a young Franck Ribery in the tear-jerking chick-flick 'Mask'.

There are a number of season match bets available where the probability of success is greater then the odds-makers have calculated. Man City to finish above West Ham at 11/8 is the standout, and Middlesbrough to finish above Sunderland at evens is a close runner-up. If bets were birds, these two would be on Sven's 'to do' list.

I love to have a pre-season accer on the four divisions, but it's normally about as successful as a Frank Skinner sitcom. There's always one team that lets me down; even when I just have a single.

This year, it's all about to change. I'm siding with Manchester United in the Premiership, Southampton in the Championship, Swansea in League 1 and the MK Dons in the basement. A £1 each way accer will return £2,206 if all prove successful, I've already entered the £46 return for all four to place on my spreadsheet.

It all kicks off in Scotland this weekend, and there will also be a few football matches. I can't be having Celtic at 1/4 without Boruc and Nakamura; I'll take Killy at evens with a 1 goal start.

Rangers will be oozing confidence after a pre-season victory over Chelsea and a Champions League qualifying stroll in midweek. I'll be celebrating like a true Scot if the Gers take the points against Inverness at 1/2; i've even bought the skirt.

As a spectacle, last season's FA Cup final was possibly the dullest piece of television ever, if we choose to ignore 'David Beckham's Soccer USA'. Manchester United have a chance to redeem themselves against Chelsea in the Community Shield, I'll happily play at 13/8.

United have quality throughout the pitch, but I'll put forward Wayne Rooney as the most likely first scorer at 7/1. I would have plumped for the outstanding Carlos Tevez if it wasn't for the delay in his transfer; he's still tied up filming 'Mask 2, it's got a whole lot worse'.

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