category: England
tags:
Van Gaal

Caption: Van Gaal probably won’t find a new striker amongst this lot

After many great seasons in the Premier League, Robin van Persie was once widely considered as one of the best strikers in the world. Things change rapidly in football, though, and Manchester United fans will be glad to see the back of him. He is set to leave for Turkey outfit Fenerbahce on an all-expenses paid, one-way ticket. Another player who they have gladly said good riddance to is Radamel Falcao, as he completes his loan move to Chelsea. Also a striker who was once held in such high esteem amongst the world’s elite, this is a move that could come back to bite United. Or when Jose Mourinho fails to reinvigorate the striker Louis van Gaal can say he told him so. Anyhow, with two strikers on the way out, it’s looking like the Dutchman will be in the market for a new goal threat and he will be praying that he gets it right this time.

Last time out in the Premier League the two strikers leaving Old Trafford with their tails between their legs, only managed 14 goals between them. Wayne Rooney put away a measly 12, partly because Van Gaal didn’t know where to play him when he was trying to fit his other big names into the team. So that’s 26 goals between the three of them. That is a total that Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero managed on his own. Even so, United managed to finish fourth in the league. If they can bring in a world-class striker this season, or play Rooney up front in his rightful position, they could challenge for the title. So what players are on the radar for United?

It seems as though Van Gaal is looking to bolster up his midfield with a couple of big names next season ahead of a title challenge for which they are priced in the region of 5/1 with betfair and other bookmakers. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Morgan Schneiderlin have both been linked with a move to Manchester. If United were able to acquire one or both of these it would provide a lot more strength in the middle of the park that they were lacking last season. A lot of the time Rooney had to track back and play in a central position, giving him fewer opportunities on goal. If Van Gaal brings in strong midfield reinforcements it will enable Rooney to enjoy a lot more freedom and maximize his high-scoring potential. Schneiderlin has attracted a lot of interest from big clubs after proving his worth at Southampton, but Manchester United are reportedly keen to sign him and they’ll be hoping to do so before their pre-season tour.

If the midfield gets a reshuffle, it’s going to allow Rooney a lot more freedom to be the fearsome strike force he has been in the past, but he’s still going to need to form some good partnerships with other attacking players. Juan Mata was looking good towards the latter stage of last season, and it seems as though he will be an integral part of Van Gaal’s plans from now on. The future of Angel Di Maria is still a little unclear, although he did show some of his former brilliance during the Copa America. And now United are back in the Champions League they are going to need some players with experience in Europe. A couple of names being thrown about who could help add to that experience are Gonzalo Higuain and Edinson Cavani.

Rumour has it that Cavani doesn’t like playing second fiddle to the brilliant Zlatan Ibrahimovic at PSG, as he is often deployed out wide. He claims he would score a lot more if he was playing in his most comfortable role in the centre. Even so, he managed 31 goals in all competitions last season, which isn’t a bad haul. Van Gaal has supposedly had his eye on Cavani for a while now, and he is certainly a player who could add something new to the squad. With United already having some good attacking threat down the wings, they may be able to offer him his preferred central position as well. This is something that could help persuade him to sign with them should it come down to discussions with the player. The general consensus amongst bookies at the time of writing, though, is that he will be staying put during this transfer window.

Higuain’s future always seems to be shrouded in speculation every time a transfer window rolls around. The odds on him making a move to United are shorter than those on Cavani, but pundits always like to speculate on him moving to Arsenal, with Atletico Madrid’s name being thrown into the hat as well. So he’ll probably just end up staying at Napoli again. If he does move, there is no doubt that Higuain would add some serious fire power to any team and he could be exactly what United are looking for. After a bad miss in the Copa America last week, though (see below), it would be wise to remember that he has a history of bottling it in the big games. So if they do sign him, it may be better to leave him out if they make it to a cup final.

Christian Benteke has stated that he is desperate to move away from Aston Villa, and join a club who are pushing for trophies rather than battling relegation each year. Liverpool are the favourites to sign him at the moment but seem unwilling to activate the massive release clause in his contract. Could United sweep in to snub their Merseyside rivals? Whoever ends up signing Benteke won’t regret it, as his form towards the end of last season proved what a deadly strike force he can be. If he were to join Rooney at United, they could spark a seriously fearsome partnership.

Anyway. It’s all still just speculation. Only time will tell. So go about your everyday business and try to contain your excitement about all the massive things that may or may not happen in this transfer window.

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category: Copa America
tags:

Neymar

 

The Copa America is set to be one of 2015’s greatest sporting events and some of the best footballers in world football shall feature throughout the tournament. Chile are hosting this year’s competition and they will get the tournament underway as they face Ecuador in the opening clash of the event on June 11th. The likes of Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez – who are all set to feature for Barcelona in Saturday’s Champions League final – are all due to meet up with their international team-mates as they bid to be crowned as the greatest team in South America.

Uruguay – who have won a record 15 Copa America titles – won the last competition in 2011 and will be looking to defend their crown, but will face stiff competition from the likes of Brazil, Argentina and hosts Chile. We take a look at a few of the leading candidates, while also discussing some of the players on show, and give our thoughts on who could emerge victorious at the end of the competition. For more information regarding the tournament and key dates to watch out for, you can visit Bookies’ website.

Dunga’s Brazil side will fancy their chances

After a disappointing home World Cup, Brazil will look to respond in the best possible way and win their ninth Copa America crown. With the sensational Neymar in attack and the improving David Luiz and Thiago Silva in defence, Brazil have match winners all over the field and are more than capable of winning the tournament. With a bit of luck, they stand an excellent chance of achieving their goal of success – despite legend Rinaldi claiming that they are not obliged to lift the trophy.

Chile have a strong squad

Chile

The hosts have announced an incredibly talented 23 man squad for the tournament that includes the likes of Juventus’ Arturo Vidal and Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez. Coach Jorge Sampaoli gave a surprise call-up to Edson Punch – who has been playing his football in Argentina’s First Division this season. Chile will hope that home advantage can see them reach the latter stages and they will be targeting a quarter-final spot at the very least.

 

Argentina are favourites… and have Messi

Gerardo Martini’s side is the strongest in the competition and they will fancy their chances of winning South America’s major tournament. Furthermore, they also have the greatest player on the planet – and possibly of all-time – in their ranks and Messi alone will give them the edge over their near rivals. Argentina will be aiming for nothing less than the title and it would take a brave man to back against them as they hunt a record-equalling 15th crown.

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category: Spain
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ancelotti_26It is a long-held belief that Real Madrid has struggled to compete with Barcelona in terms of the number of trophies won over the last decade primarily due to the lack of continuity. Since 2003, Barcelona have sacked two managers – Frank Rijkaard and Gerardo Martino – whereas Madrid have sacked an astonishing 11 during the same period. It is the continuity that could hand Barcelona a fifth European Cup, which will move them level with Liverpool in terms of overall trophies. Barcelona are backed at odds of 6/10 in the Champions League final 2015 odds from Betfair.

Madrid were celebrating the La Decima or the 10th European Cup only 12 months ago, but the manager merry-go-round at Real Madrid has begun once again. The club are extremely close to appointing Rafa Benitez as the manager of the first-team. Rafael Benítez Maudes is no stranger to life at the Santiago Bernebeu after having started his playing and managerial career at this club. Benitez represented the Real Madrid Castilla or the ‘B team’ in almost 250 appearances before concluding a relatively unsuccessful playing career.

However, the 55-year-old has enjoyed a much better time as a manager after winning numerous accolades like the UEFA Champions League, Europa League, and la Liga. Benitez has been in charge of top clubs like Liverpool, Chelsea, and Valencia. He is currently in charge of Napoli, who are expected to announce his departure in the coming days even though the Italian Serie A season is yet to conclude. After a decent start to this life at Naples, Benitez will leave the club on a disappointing note as they are unlikely to secure Champions League football for next season.

Carlo Ancelotti was sacked a few days ago after a disappointing season in which Real failed to win any major honour in the second half of the campaign. Following the Champions League success last season, Ancelotti led the club to a UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2014. However, a horrible run of form since the start of the year sees them finish second best in Europe and domestic competitions.

Extremely well loved by the team, Ancelotti can leave with his head held high. After all, he was the manager who led the club to the famous 10th European title when several other top managers like Fabio Capello and Jose Mourinho failed before him. Even Real Madrid president Florentino Perez admitted after sacking the Italian that he did not know what went wrong this campaign. Only towards the end of 2014, Madrid had set a record for the most number of consecutive victories in all competitions.

There have been signs that Cristiano Ronaldo’s desire to break all records when it comes to scoring goals played a huge role in Madrid’s downfall. For much of the campaign, Ronaldo played almost on his own with a burning personal ambition. There have even been times when the Portuguese was visibly annoyed on seeing his teammates score from opportunities that were on a plate for him. Ronaldo ended the season with 56 goals, but more crucially, without any titles like the la Liga or the Champions League. His main rival Lionel Messi may have scored a couple of goals fewer, but he is edging closer towards a treble.

Betfair places Barcelona as 1/6 to win the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao, who have conceded seven goals against the Catalan club in two matches this season.

Another big-name signing who appears to need help is record signing Gareth Bale. Despite having played an integral role in the club’s Champions League and Copa del Rey success in his first season, Bale has found himself being increasingly compared to Ronaldo. Whereas the Portuguese has only been about goals and more goals, Bale has struggled to keep pace. A new manager will have to get the best out of Bale if he is to keep his own job. After all, Bale is president Florentino Perez’ own signing whereas Ronaldo’s transfer was effectively sealed when Ramon Calderon was in charge of the club.

Benitez has shown in recent years that he appears to be getting better at the art of winning cup competitions. He was already successful during his early years at Liverpool in this regard, but his recent successes with the likes of Chelsea and Napoli are likely to have been a major factor in convincing Perez to bring back the 55-year-old to the Santiago Bernebeu. Despite this long connections with Madrid in one form or the other, Benitez will be aware that the club will not think twice about sacking him if he does not win either the league or the European cup in his first season.

Other options that Madrid have include the likes of Jurgen Klopp, who is now free to join any club after having left Borussia Dortmund. The way Klopp transformed Dortmund – on a limited budget – into a real competitor for Bayern Munich is quite amazing and a number of clubs are in the queue to sign him as their next manager.

Madrid may not have to make wholesale changes to the squad that finished only two points off Barcelona in the league and knocked out in the semi-final of a European tie against reigning Italian champions Juventus. Just a few tweaks can see them becomes successful once again.

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Crystal Palace announced the signings of Jordan Mutch and Shola Ameobi on Thursday and it looks like Alan Pardew is close to adding a third new face this week. Lille defender Pape Souare should complete has medical before the weekend and the Senegalese left-back should complete a deal worth £3.5 million this week.

It has been reported earlier in the week by French newspaper L’Equipe, that the London club has made an offer of €4.6 million for the 24-year-old Senegalese defender.

Selling Souaré should allow Lille to sign a striker before the window closes shut, and there is a small possibility that it could re-open the window for Divock Origi to move to Liverpool.

Souaré is currently with Senegal at the African Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea, so he hasn’t played since the Week 19 2-1 loss away at Marseille. However, over the last two seasons, he has established himself as Lille’s starting left-back, scoring three goals and making 33 appearances as Les Dogues kept 21 clean sheets in the league last campaign.

He is definitely more accustomed to the attacking side of the game, rather than concentrating on his defensive duties, and his crossing ability can leave a lot to be desired.

You will also get 100% effort from Souaré, no one can question his determination or desire when he pulls on the Lille shirt. Any offer of the reported amount may be too good for Lille to reject.

With the injury to Swiss striker Michael Frey, Coach René Girard is lacking options in attack. The sale of Souaré would give the club necessary funds to buy Benfica’s want away forward Derley.

Souaré was an important part of the Lille defence last season, but his performances have been far from impressive this season and the feeling around the club is that they have enough options to cover his exit.

Pardew won’t be able to call on Souaré for this weekend’s game against Everton at Selhurst Park. The Eagles, according to TonyBet football betting, are slight underdogs against the Toffees, but having Mutch and Ameobi in the squad could be enough to sway the game in Pardew’s favour.

Souaré, once the deal is done, will join his new club for next week’s game. Senegal finished in third place in their group at the African Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea.

The 24-year-old will give Pardew some extra width on the left, but it wil remain to be seen how he adapts to the English game.

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Ally McCoist’s untidy exit from Rangers, when it is finally realised, will bring a disappointing end to the former striker’s time in charge of the Glasgow giants.

McCoist has handled the difficult position with all the grace, dignity and winning mentality you would expect from a club legend. He has been far more than the ‘safe pair of hands’ some thought he would only turn out to be when he stepped in to the breach back in 2011, charged with helping Rangers get back on their feet following the financial meltdown.

McCoist has generally been able to justify the Scottish football betting odds, as he’s managed to successfully guide Rangers from the bottom up to the second tier in the last three years. He’s done it without too much moaning and groaning despite having his hands tied in the transfer market. He’s also usually had to work with ongoing internal disputes, power struggles, yet more allegations of financial mismanagement and then, belatedly, poorer-than-expected results on the pitch, such as losing to Queen of the South.

But the way he is now making what could be a drawn-out exit from Ibrox leaves a bad taste. Some are even calling it an undignified departure for a man who should be held up as a beacon of hope and a stellar club legend who has given his all, both professionally and personally, to try and help get Rangers back to where they belong.

The fact that some Rangers fans have voiced their opposition to McCoist’s team selection and some of the tactics he has adopted in recent weeks is disappointing, as he continues to try his best in what is clearly a difficult environment for the manager to be working on a daily basis.

Rangers have relied on the 52-year-old in their time in need and it will rank as a shame when he does eventually depart, whether that is at the end of the season or at some point over the next weeks and months after it emerged he had tendered his resignation. 

Just why exactly the man who scored more than 250 league goals for Rangers is now on the verge of leaving Ibrox remains somewhat of a mystery, although it is no surprise that a club that has had such a complicated recent past off the pitch should see their manager depart in less than straightforward circumstances.

McCoist has reportedly lost the support of the Rangers board due to this season’s less-than-impressive form. But they have also admitted they do not have the funds to pay the manager off in full so he is more than likely set to stay on for the rest of the season. Although, the way things have developed at Ibrox over the year it wouldn’t be a major shock if there are more twists to come and McCoist does go earlier.

The problem Rangers have – if they needed any more – is that it is unlikely anyone new coming in would do a better job than McCoist and, while up-and-coming coaches may fancy a spell in the spotlight in trying to prove themselves, experienced managers are not expected to be banging down the Ibrox door in the search of taking over.

McCoist’s exit is on the cards, even if it could be prolonged. But it will be a sad day when he does depart.

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category: England
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For all the glory and the grandeur that goes with winning the Premier League, there is a growing consensus that what happens at the other end of the table is where the real drama lies. Whilst the title race can at times feel like watching a couple of millionaires squabbling over the price of a hot dog, the relegation battle has a lot more bite to it.

If the cost of missing out on the title is a place in the Champions League – in the style of Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal – then the difference between coming first and fourth is arguably not that great.

Compare that with what happens when sides are relegated. The salutary lessons of Portsmouth and Blackburn, who have suffered all the agonies of the damned since they slipped out of the top flight, suggest that there is far more at stake at the foot of the table than the top.

What’s more, it’s a much more dramatic and dynamic contest. Watching Chelsea and Manchester City serially steamroller their way through the season is not what the Premier League is meant to be about. We’ve scoffed at the serial domestic successes of the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid and, in years gone by, at the way Celtic and Rangers similarly dominated in Scotland. The drama of uneven contests is only occasionally even vaguely dramatic.

If Chelsea’s defeat at Newcastle is only interesting because it’s a break from the norm, we might as well just watch the traffic and wait for a yellow car to pass by. As impressive as unremitting excellence might be, it’s the human business of grappling with limited resources and the fear of failure that are what makes sport worth watching.

It also makes for a much more dynamic betting market. With more teams involved and continually fluctuating league standings, there is greater scope for punters to cash in on their insight. Comparing different bookmakers’ odds at somewhere like www.britishbookmakers.co.uk is a way to win twice over. The dynamism at this end of the table makes for a much more uneven marketplace.

Pinpointing sides’ weaknesses as well as their strengths requires a keener appreciation than is routinely offered by the media’s pampered pundits. It takes a more fully developed football intelligence to dig beneath the superlatives of individual brilliance and to get to grips with the real mechanics of team building. The bottom half of the table is football for grown-ups.

14076522643_15b1f38d26_z   by  wonker 

Watching a master craftsman at work is only one-part instructive. It is watching someone more like ourselves that we can learn something. Watching Cesc Fabregas will not teach me how to see a pass, but seeing how Burnley’s willing but limited Adrian Barnes strives to work around his limitations offers a template that I can begin to understand. And remember, the likes of Barnes are to all intents and purposes performing on a high wire with no safety net. There is no room for error at the foot of the table. It makes for a truly gripping drama irrespective of allegiance.

Year-on-year the backs-to-the-wall intensity of the relegation battle makes for far more gripping fare than the inevitable fading away of title contenders. We should give those struggling sides far more credit than that routinely offered by the media. It is them rather than the runaway millionaires at the top who make the Premier League the greatest league in the world.

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Having come so close to winning the Premier League last season,Liverpool’s qualification for the Champions League for the first time in five years constituted something of a consolation prize for their fans.

With the financial windfall that qualification for Europe’s premier club competition brings, and the increased exposure, Liverpool will have seen their Champions League return as a way to cement their position back at the top of the English game.

As things have turned out, however, the Reds have fallen at the first hurdle, and qualification for the Champions League has done nothing but raise questions about their credentials.

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Difficult To Comprehend

Heading into last night’s game with Basel, which they ultimately drew 1-1, Liverpool knew that a win would be enough to see them into the knockout stages of the competition. Despite this, the home side looked timid and seemed to lack the cutting edge needed to break down their Swiss opponents.

Needing a win, the decision to start with Lucas Leiva alongside Joe Allen in the middle of the park seemed difficult to comprehend, particularly given that one of Liverpool’s few creative talents, Philippe Coutinho, was left on the bench until the middle of the second half.

Lacking Tempo

Having conceded a goal to Fabian Frei in the first half, Liverpool needed to up the tempo quickly but they lacked ideas and were made to wait until the 81st minute before Steven Gerrard bagged an outstanding,free-kick equaliser.

By this time, Rickie Lambert had already been replaced in attack by Lazar Markovic, who had added a bit of pace and dynamism to the attack before his sending off for lashing out at Behrang Safari. The red card left Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers less than impressed with the match officials after the final whistle.

Damage Long Since Done

Liverpool could have saved themselves late on, with the Basel goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik saving well from Jordan Henderson while Gerrard had a penalty claim. But, in truth, the damage to this season’s European campaign was long since done. Going into the game, the Reds had won just once in their previous five Group B matches – a very late 2-1 victory over Ludogorets in the opening round of fixtures.

Even if they had won last night, their two defeats to Real Madrid in the group campaign indicate that they would probably soon have exited the competition had they come up against any of the other big boys, and Rodgers knows they are not up to the standard required to compete at the top level.

Into the Europa League Hat

So now Liverpool find themselves into the hat for the knockout stages of the Europa League, but will Rodgers take the Thursday night competition seriously?

It is to be hoped he does, and he has said he will do, as winning it could be Liverpool’s only route back into the Champions League next season. Currently sat ninth in the Premier League table, the Reds have endured an indifferent start to the season and they look unlikely to mount any real challenge for the upper reaches of the league this campaign.

A good run in the Europa League could salvage Rodgers’ season and, particularly given the seriousness with which Everton are taking the competition, having qualified for the knockout stages with a game to spare, it will be expected by the Anfield faithful.

As for the punters, they have given their backing to Liverpool. A quick look around the bookies suggests Rodgers’ men are amongst the favourites with betfair at around 14/1 while others such as skybet and totesport also have the Merseysiders among the front-runners to lift the Europa League trophy in Poland in May.

Signings Required

It is clear for all to see the signings Liverpool made in the summer have not come close to matching the men they have replaced. Rodgers has come in for criticism but it seems his only way out of the current rut is more spending.

Firstly,Rodgers must buy a reliable goalkeeper. As good a shot-stopper as Simon Mignolet is, he is prone to errors and is not decisive enough to give his back four confidence. Someone like Chelsea’s Petr Cech could be just the ticket for the Anfield fans.

Defensive Frailty

Liverpool’s defence also needs tightening up. The likes of Glen Johnson and Dejan Lovren have underperformed this season and the club needs more competition for places.A man like Winston Reid, who has had an exceptional few seasons for West Ham United but is reportedly making wage demands which could see him leave Upton Park, could really help to improve the defence.

Lastly, upfront, Daniel Sturridge cannot return soon enough for Rodgers but he needs support and he cannot be expected to spearhead Liverpool’s attack on his own. Lambert is a willing worker and will do a job but Mario Balotelli has proved that he is not up to the task.

At £16m, Balotelli was a risk worth taking but it could now be time for Liverpool to cut their losses. Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony has seven league goals to his name this season and wouldn’t come cheaply but he is a proven goalscorer and could be a great option for Rodgers if he could prise him away from his old club.

Next Up -Old Trafford

Next up for Liverpool are bitter rivals Manchester United, who they meet at Old Trafford on Sunday. With Luis van Gaal’s men flying high, it will be a very tough assignment but it could come at just the right time for Liverpool as they seek to prove that they can still cope with Europe’s best.

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Manchester United’s run of four Premier League wins on the bounce might have lifted them into the top four in the table and might also have restored some confidence around Old Trafford but they are still a long way from being the finished article.

Time for Acceptance

Midfield enforcer Marouane Fellaini is backing United to be ready and waiting for Chelsea to make a mistake and insists they are still in the title race but they should accept that a return to the Champions League would be a great result following last season’s dismal ending. With the form of Chelsea and Manchester City, those in the know around football and at Blue Sq have long since accepted the title will not be returning to Old Trafford any time soon. It is perhaps time Fellaini and his team-mates, including Chris Smalling – who claims belief is back at United – also recognised that scenario.

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United manager Luis van Gaal – Image by: Calciomercato24 

Need for Consistency

United’s run of four straight wins, the latest of which came over Stoke City on Tuesday night, followed a record of one victory in the previous four games. Given the fact Chelsea remain unbeaten in the league this season, and that City have lost just twice, United will need to show consistency over a much longer period of time if they are to be considered as genuine title shots.

Too Late

In manager Luis van Gaal’s favour is the freshness of his squad. With no European football to worry about, the Dutchman has less cause to rotate his players and keep them fresh. Later in the season, Chelsea and City may tire as the various competitions progress and their players may take their eye off the ball in the Premier League. If this happens, then United will be there to pounce. But, at the moment, it looks as though they have far too big a mountain to climb and, with the proven title-winning experience in both the Chelsea and City camps, they have left it too late to challenge this season.

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category: England
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daniel-sturridge-liverpool

The opening exchanges in the English Premier league produced some fairly predictable results along with a familiar, if extremely early league table. The likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool were all guided to victory by their main strikers and there are a number of forwards in the division who have made an early claim on the Golden Boot trophy as the Premiership’s leading goal scorer.

Attempting to fill a void

In the absence of his former club mate Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge is the new favourite with Betfair to win the award at the end of 2014-15 and the England international opened his account with the winner over Southampton.

Suarez grabbed all the headlines, both good and bad, last season but his admittedly phenomenal record of 31 goals in 37 league games masks the fact that his strike partner managed a more than respectable 21 in 29.

With Rickie Lambert left on the bench for the opener, Sturridge is the lone centre forward in Brendan Rodgers’ new formation and even at this early stage he could be the man to beat.

City stroll

Defending champions Manchester City enjoyed a relatively comfortable away win at Newcastle with Sergio Aguero sealing the victory in second half injury time. At one stage in the previous campaign, the Argentinian was ahead of Suarez in the race for the trophy until injury derailed his domestic season.

Aguero may not be 100% fit as yet but he will remain a contender for the Golden Boot and at least he has a head start over team mate Alvaro Negredo who is yet to return after suffering a broken foot in pre-season.

The new boys

In 2013-14, Jose Mourinho was quick to rule out his team’s chances of landing the title, claiming that his Chelsea side was without a striker. Since then, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o have gone with Diego Costa and Didier Drogba coming in and their side already look to be a more potent force.

Spanish international Costa scored the first goal in a 3-1 win over Burnley and after netting 36 times in 52 games for Atletico Madrid last season, the 25 year old must be a leading contender for English football’s top goal scorer award. Meanwhile, Drogba was only given seven minutes as a second half substitute while Fernando Torres – a very remote candidate – was left on the bench.

Lagging behind

Robin Van Persie’s absence from the Manchester United team that lost to Swansea may have an effect on his chances of taking an accolade that he won for two consecutive seasons prior to Suarez’s triumph in the previous campaign.

The Dutchman was in superb form in the 2014 World Cup but he simply needs to get onto the pitch to stand a chance here.

While Van Persie sat out United’s opener, Wayne Rooney opened his own account and if the new club captain is pushed further forward under Louis van Gaal, he can’t be ruled out.

Elsewhere, there has been some interest in new Arsenal signing Alexis Sanchez after the Chilean scored 19 goals in 34 league matches for Barcelona last season. Sanchez failed to find the net in a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace but both he and Olivier Giroud are clear contenders for Arsenal in this campaign.

Outside of these five clubs, you may have to take a leap of faith to find another suitable candidate. Emmanuel Adebayor at Spurs and Everton’s Romelu Lukaku would both argue that they have a chance but the main contenders for the Golden Boot seem to have already found the net in their opening round of league games.

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category: England
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EPL

With the return of the Premier League this weekend, all bets are open on who will take home the 2014-2015 title. Chelsea are favourites to claim the league, but contenders are closely behind in bookies’ odds, suggesting another season full of drama and excitement in the English top flight.

The following table offers a recap of this season’s favourites and their odds to win the title.

Team Odds to win
Chelsea 15/8
Manchester City 9/4
Manchester United 9/2
Arsenal 6/1
Liverpool 10/1

 

Bet365 supplies these odds and the  bonus code available for new membership promotions in all of 2014.

Chelsea, for Mourinho’s second year back at Stamford Bridge, are looking like strong candidates for a league title. The squad was tailored to fit the Special One’s demands and is also the favourite English club in the odds to win the Champions League, with a promising 9/1 to win the completion outright.

Manchester City, the title holders, are still in the bookmakers’ good books. Their rivals, Manchester United, after a disappointing last season failing to qualify for the UEFA Champions League are hoping to rebuild this year with the arrival of Luis Van Gaal on the bench at Old Trafford. Moreover the Red Devils will not have the Champions League draining the team’s energies as they set to fight to regain their rank. However, despite defeating Liverpool, AS Roma, and Champion’s League title holders Real Madrid the team very much still looks like a work in progress.

Arsenal are looking particularly strong. Their outstanding win in the Community Shield, the coming of age of a young generation of promising players and the arrival of top class recruits like Alexis Sanchez – formerly of FC Barcelona and one of the artisans of Chile’s successes in the World Cup in Brazil – will no doubt aim to live up to the ambitions displayed by the club in the transfer period.

Liverpool, very close seconds in last year’s race, are looking a bit behind. Suarez’s departure has yet to be compensated and Gerard’s poor performance in the Brazil both indicate that the Reds might not have the strength and the bench to repeat last season’s performance.

Although the odds for the season are in no way representative of the reality of a season, which has yet to commence, the trends represent the expectations at this early stage but will require confirmation on the pitch. One thing is clear however, the Barclays Premier League will once again prove one of the hardest leagues to predict with no less than five strong candidates for the final victory.

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