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Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Hull City

Hull City were promoted to the Premier League for the third time at the end of the 2015/16 season, but have never stayed for more than two seasons and never finished higher than 16th.

Nevertheless, the Tigers’ have made a promising start to the new campaign, beating Leicester City 2-1 at the KCOM Stadium and Swansea City 2-0 at the Liberty Stadium before succumbing to an injury-time winner in a 1-0 defeat by Manchester United back at the KCOM Stadium. They face Arsenal and Chelsea at home, and Liverpool away, in their next four Premier League fixtures but, for the time being, fans have plenty of cause for optimism.

Caretaker manager Mike Phelan has been active in the transfer market, signing former Tottenham midfielder Ryan Mason for a club record £12.5 million, along with former Manchester United striker Will Keane for £1 million and former Cardiff City goalkeeper David Marshall for £1.5 million. Phelan failed in his effort to bring in Southampton striker Jay Rodriguez on a season-long loan, but is reportedly still keen to fill his two remaining loan spaces.

From a betting perspective, the Tigers are 10/11 to be playing Premier League football next season, 14/1 for a top ten finish and 1,000/1 to win the Premier League title.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Crystal Palace

Eagles’ boss Alan Pardew has invested heavily in attacking options during the summer but, with his side having taken just one point and scored just one goal in the first three Premier League fixtures of the 2016/17 season, he could soon come under pressure. Scott Dann’s injury-time equaliser gave his side their first point of the season against Bournemouth at Selhurst Park on their last Premier League outing, but Palace have now won just two games in the whole of 2016.

Record signing Christian Benteke, who joined the south London side from Liverpool for a reported £27 million, will need to make an immediate impact after the international break if Palace are to avoid being relegated from the Premier League for a record fifth time. At the time of writing, the Eagles are 1/4 to stay up and, with former Chelsea striker Loic Remy (loan) and former Newcastle team-mates Andros Townsend (£13 million) and Yohan Cabaye (£10 million) among the new faces at Selhurst Park, they look to have bright prospects of doing so.

The departure of winger Wilfried Zaha would be a blow, but a bid of £15million from Tottenham Hotspur was immediately rejected and now the England international looks set to stay at Selhurst Park. Crystal Palace have never finished higher than tenth in the Premier League, but anyone who fancies them to exceed expectations can back them at 5/1 for a top ten finish, or even 66/1 for a top six finish. Alan Pardew is, however, currently 4/1 favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave his post.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Chelsea

Chelsea have won the Premier League title four times, most recently in 2014/15, but a turbulent start to the 2015/16 – in which the Blues lost nine of the their opening 16 Premier League matches – saw the departure of Jose Mourinho. Guus Hiddink was appointed head coach in December, with the club teetering on the brink of the relegation zone, and subsequently steered them to mid-table stability, but was replaced by former Italy coach Antonio Conte at the conclusion of the 2016 European Championship.

In their opening fixtures of the 2016/17 Premier League season, Chelsea have beaten West Ham 2-1 at Stamford Bridge and Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road, but have relied on Diego Costa for a late winning goal on both occasions. Nevertheless, Eden Hazard has looked particularly sharp and creative, as have new signings Michy Batshauyi (from Marseille) and N’Golo Kante (from Leicester City).

Conte has spent £65 million, but is likely to pursue further signings, with Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, Real Madrid striker James Rodriguez and Juventus striker Mario Mandukic among those listed as potential transfer targets. Chelsea are currently 11/2 third favourites, behind the two Manchester clubs, to win their fifth Premier League title and, while the other new managers, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, will be keen to make their mark, Conte’s iron discipline could be just what’s needed at Stamford Bridge.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Liverpool

Liverpool have won the First Division of the English Football League 18 times but, since the formation of the Premier League in 1992/93, the Reds have managed three second-place finishes, in 2001/02, 2008/09 and 2013/14, but nothing better.

Nevertheless, Reds’ boss Jurgen Klopp must have been delighted with an Premier League impressive debut by Sadio Mane, who scored the winner during the 4-3 defeat of Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium on the opening day of the season. Arsenal were without experienced defenders Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker and Gabriel, but Liverpool took full advantage and are currently top-priced 17/2 to win their first Premier League title.

The blistering attacking play at one end was in complete contrast to the ‘Keystone Kops’ defending at the other, with beleaguered left-back Alberto Moreno the main, but far from the only, culprit. The Spaniard endured a woeful first half, in which he conceded a penalty and was again at fault when Theo Walcott scored moments later.

Liverpool face newly promoted Burnley at Turf Moor on their next Premier League outing and, while the Clarets’ lack of clinical finishing was ultimately punished by Swansea in their opening fixture, they did create chances. Klopp will be hoping to resolve the Reds’ defensive issues sooner rather than later, if they’re to become bona fide title challengers this time.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough last played Premier League football in 2008/09 and are just 9/4 to make an immediate return to the Championship next season. However, Boro boss Aitor Karanka has made a raft of new signings as he seeks to bolster his squad ahead of the new season.

Former Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan has signed a two-year deal with the Premier League newcomers and will be joined at the Riverside Stadium by former Manchester United goalkeeper Victor Valdes, who has has signed on a two-year deal after being released by United in June. Other recent additions include defenders Bernado Espinosa from Sporting and Antonio Barragan from Valencia, defensive midfielder Marten de Roon from Atalanta, winger Viktor Fischer from Ajax and striker Alvaro Negredo, also from Valencia, on season-long loan. Karanka has said he’s in no hurry to make further signings, but remains interested in Cardiff City defender Fabio Da Silva.

Captain Grant Leadbitter will miss the start of the Premier League season with a hernia problem and, in his absence, Karanka will do well to lick his new-look squad into shape, ready for the visit of Stoke City on the opening day, although pre-season results offer cause for optimism. Odds of 1,500/1 to win the Premier League title are probably not overgenerous but, more realistically, Boro are 9/1 to finish in the top ten and 66/1 to repeat their 2004 League Cup triumph.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Arsenal

Arsenal won the last of their three Premier League titles in 2003/04, when the so-called “Invincibles” played all 38 games without a single defeat. Nevertheless, despite enduring one of his most difficult seasons so far in 2015/16, Gunners’ boss Arsene Wenger, the longest serving manager in European football, remains at the helm and his side are a top-priced 15/2 for the Premier League title in 2016/17.

Last year, the Gunners’ title challenge faded rapidly amid mounting injuries and poor form, but they still pipped Tottenham Hotspur to second place and, in so doing, achieved their highest Premier League finish since 2004/05. In last year’s summer transfer window, Arsenal signed goalkeeper Peter Cech, but no outfield players and, once again, Wenger and the board of directors have been criticised for lack of transfer activity. The signing of Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka from Borussia Monchengladbach for a reported £35 million and defender Rob Holding from Bolton Wanderers for a fee believed to be about £2 million is unlikely to satisfy critics, especially with centre-half Per Mertesacker due to miss the start of the Premier League season with a knee injury.

Wenger appears to be facing another difficult season, but the Gunners have won the F.A. Cup twice in the last three seasons and anyone who fancies them to do so again may fancy a punt at 9/1.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Manchester United

The Red Devils last won the Premier League title in 2012/13 and, having finished seventh, four and fifth in the past three seasons, new boss Jose Mourinho has revealed that his main target for the season is to win it again.

The ‘Special One’ has already signed Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a free transfer from Paris Saint-German, Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a fee in the region of £26 million from Borussia Dortmund and Ivorian centre-back Eric Bailly for a fee that could rise to £40 million from Villareal and continues his pursuit of Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba. Pogba, 23, is reportedly keen to return to Old Trafford, but Juventus are seeking an additional €10 million after United submitted an increased bid of €110 million (£92 million).

Pre-season preparations have hardly gone according to plan, with a 2-0 defeat of Wigan at the DW Stadium followed by a 4-1 thrashing by Borussia Dortmund at the Shanghai Stadium and the cancellation of the game against Manchester City at the Beijing National Stadium after heavy rain made the pitch unplayable. United will fly back to Manchester to continue their preparations for matches with Galatasary in Gothenberg, Sweden on July 30 and Everton at Old Trafford on August 3.

Nevertheless, Mourinho has vowed to the club’s owners that it will take him just one season to win the Premier League title and, at a top-priced 7/2, it would take a brave man to argue with the Portuguese maestro. New signing Eric Bailly has made a promising start, Wayne Rooney has voiced his excitement at the prospect of playing alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the return of Luke Shaw, out for year after suffering a double break of his right leg last September, is excellent news for all concerned.