The business end of the football season is here. And, as you might expect, both fans and bettors have a lot to be excited about.
Of course, since they only require three points from three games, there’s little doubt that Chelsea will win the 2016-17 Premiership. But while Antonio Conte and Co. can – almost – rest on their laurels, the fight for European places has captured the imagination of Britain’s bookmakers.
So, who’ll be joining Chelsea and Spurs in the Champions League? According to Bet 365, it’s all but guaranteed that Manchester City (1/50) will qualify. Likewise, BetFred, William Hill and Coral are confident that Liverpool (1/4) will be playing top flight European football next season.
However, if you like a punt, Arsene Wenger’s resurgent Arsenal offer pretty good value at 5/2 (Betfair, BetVictor and Paddy Power). And there there are those people that believe Jose Mourinho can pull off a miracle at Old Trafford. If you’re among that number, NetBet and Paddy Power are offering 18/1 on Manchester United playing Champions League football for the first time since 2014.
But what about at the bottom of the table? Who will join Sunderland and Middlesbrough in the Championship? According to the bookies, Hull look most likely for the drop – Ladbrokes and Betfair are both offering odds of 1/6. However, Swansea are generously priced at 5/1 (Bet365). And then there’s Crystal Palace who Betfred and Boylesports have at 12/1 to go down.
There’s also plenty of action to be found on the Championship promotion front. With Newcastle and Brighton assured top flight football, attention now turns to the playoffs.
Of the four sides likely to qualify, Fulham are the bookies’ favourites (32Red has them at 8/5). Sheffield Wednesday, on the other hand, are priced at 5/2 (BetFred).
But since the bookmakers are offering short odds on the ‘outsiders’ – Huddersfield Town (3/1, Sky Bet) and Reading (5/1, William Hill) – a close-fought contest seems guaranteed.