It may be a surprise to many people but the English Premier League season begins in just over two weeks time. The World Cup was an amazing few weeks of football but the week in week out drama of the Premier League is just as exciting. The great thing about the recent EPL seasons has been the unpredictability. We now have six teams who could all conceivably win the league if things fall their way. However, we also have the excitement of the potential shock result, such as Leicester’s dramatic triumph three years ago. Betting on who is going to win the league adds another level of excitement no matter who your team is. Therefore, let’s take a look at this seasons odds and see if there are any good values.
Manchester City @ 8/11
There was never any doubt that Pep Guardiola’s squad would be the favorites entering the season. However, history is not on their side. It has now been 10 seasons since a team won back-to-back Premier League titles. It is hard to remain on top year-after-year. During the season it can be hard for teams to adjust to what other clubs are doing as games come thick and fast. However, over the summer managers have time to watch a ton of game tape and work out just what each clubs weaknesses are. Another element that makes repeating difficult is that when you are at that level it is hard to add players who improve your team. In many cases you are simply adding depth, which is still important, but your regular starting lineup often does not vary greatly.
This season, City have added Riyad Mahrez from Leicester. Mahrez is a great player but his addition will not radically alter the way City play. Now if any manager can stay ahead of the curve you would think Guardiola has a good shot to do it. However, this is the first major challenge for Guardiola. Winning the German and Spanish leagues is great but they do not provide the same week-in week-out test that the EPL does. If you are thinking about how dominant this team looked last year just remember how dominant Chelsea and Manchester United looked winning the titles recently, only to fail to repeat the feat the following year.
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Liverpool @ 9/2
Liverpool have done everything they can to improve their squad this season. They have added starting level talent in Alisson (GK), Naby Keita (MID) and Fabinho (DEF/MID) as well as adding an impact player in Xherdan Shaqiri (MID). However, for Liverpool to really challenge this year they need their impact three of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino to fire once again. Salah had a season for the ages in the 2017/18 season but if Liverpool are to push City he will need to do that all over again. Much like repeating as Champions, repeating as that much of a dominant player is really tough. Take Eden Hazard for example, he has looked unstoppable in some seasons but the league catches up to him and learns how to make him less effective. Salah will need to avoid that happening to him in 2018/19.
The other big concern for Liverpool is their defense. They certainly have talented players but they have been prone to give up goals at terrible moments that have cost them. It is extremely hard to consistently outscore opponents in the EPL and Liverpool will need to show their defense is capable of helping them win those tricky 1-0 games when the attack is not quite firing.
Manchester United @15/2
Long ago feel the days that Manchester United dominated English football. Now they are one of a group of really good teams but they have struggled to really stand out since winning the league in 2012-13. There only real addition of note is the signing of Brazilian Fred from Shaktar Donetsk. I have a few concerns about Fred adjusting to the EPL coming from the Ukranian league and he may not be the impact player United expect in 2018.
The man that United need to get the most from is Paul Pogba. Pogba was great in the World Cup and Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho needs to work out how he can get the most from Pogba in his system. If Pogba clicks and striker Romelu Lukaku hits his straps then United could have a very good team. If they can also get other key players like Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard playing consistently well then they have a real chance to surprise.
Much like Liverpool their defense has been an issue at times but if anyone can sort that out it is Mourinho. He has made a name for himself as a tactical magician and I am sure he can find the right combination to make United tough at the back on a regular basis. Writing off Manchester United or Jose Mourinho is a silly thing to do and when you combine the two it becomes almost impossible to completely dismiss them. These odds are worth a punt.