With the new Premier League season fast approaching, we turn our heads to the less glamorous end of the table and access the relegation chances of the three promoted sides, along with some potential strugglers from last year's crop. Here's to another great season, and as always, we have some free football betting tips for you.
Leicester 13/5 with Coral
Nigel Pearson's Leicester City coasted to The Championship title last term finishing nine points clear of second place Burnley. Breaking the 100 point barrier and boasting an exceptional goal difference, much of The Foxes' success was down to a solid spine throughout the team and terrific spread in terms of goal contribution. The strike partnership of David Nugent and Jamie Vardy yielded an impressive 36 goals, however the rest of the team chipped in with a further 47 between them. This combined with Kasper Schmeichel's imperious 18 clean sheets between the sticks, proves Leicester City were quite the force at both ends of the pitch.
Heading into the Premiership season, two aspects worry me when accessing Leicester's chances. Firstly, they will no longer dominate games the way they did in the Championship last year. Against sides like Arsenal and Manchester City, Nigel Pearson's men will face long periods without possession and will inevitably spend a lot of the game chasing shadows. Heading into the last quarter of these type of encounters I would expect them to tire and get picked off. My second concern is a distinct lack of Premier League experience within the Leicester squad right through to the manager himself. Although they have addressed this somewhat with signings like Matthew Upson and Marc Albrighton. Are these players really going to make a significant difference? For me, Leicester's chances hinge on how quickly they can adapt to playing a different brand of football. We saw a similar scenario with Cardiff City last year and unfortunately I feel Leicester's fate will be the same as the Welsh sides.
Burnley 8/13 with Coral
Championship runners-up Burnley also clinched promotion comfortably last season. With the best defence in the division Sean Dyche's men proved a real tough nut to crack on many occasions, but for drawing 15 of their matches, they might have pushed Leicester a lot closer at the top of the table. Standout performer Danny Ings finished the clubs top scorer with 22 goals, and lot of pressure rests on his shoulders as he makes the step-up in class to the Premier League.
Favourites to tumble back to The Championship and with a shoestring budget to work with, I can't imagine many give Burnley much of a hope in this coming season. However, as we saw with Costa Rica in World Cup recently, a good team will always have a chance to win games, regardless of having some star names. Similarly to Leicester City, The Clarets have also signed some Premier league experience to bolster their ranks. Steven Reid could be a big player at Turf Moor this year if he can keep himself clear of injuries. The former Irish international has had some rotten luck in the past and deserves another decent season in the top-flight. As well as Reid, Matt Taylor has also joined from West Ham and could also be a crucial addition to the first team having plied his trade in many a relegation battle in the past. Although, I can see Burnley frustrating many a team this year – their games will be a great candidate for draw HT/Lose FT – I just cannot see them winning enough matches to stay in the division.
QPR 2/1 with William Hill
Harry Redknapp's QPR got off to a flyer last season and sat top of the table thanks to an eleven game unbeaten run in which they only conceded two goals. However, Harry's fortunes took a turn for the worst at Christmas and QPR went on an alarming slump, dropping points to several of their main rivals. Whilst their defence was excellent for most of the season, without the efforts of top scorer Charlie Austin, Rangers wouldn't have made the playoffs. As it was, The Hoops bumbled past Wigan, before somehow overcoming Derby in one of the most one-sided matches you'll ever likely to see. It may not have been convincing, but QPR were back in the Premier League.
Watching QPR last year immediately reminded me of West Ham's journey over the last few seasons. Both sides were relegated and then bounced straight back up thanks to playoff wins. As you all know, West Ham are still in the Premier League, albeit despite dicing with death on several occasions. The main reason for this, experience. Like the Hammers, QPR have been there, done it and got the t-shirt. Their squad might not be the most talented to grace the Premier League, but the experience between the players and manager is vast. As well as this – in Tony Fernandez – The Hoops have an owner who isn't afraid to open his wallet. Having already splashed out Steven Caulker and Rio Ferdinand – Who's wages are likely to be hefty. Harry Redknapp is unlikely to be finished with his wheeling and dealing just yet, and I fully expect to see more new faces at Loftus Road before the September 1st deadline. For the simple reasons of money and experience, I can see QPR avoiding relegation.
Aston Villa 3/1 with Bet365
15th place and five points clear of the drop last season, Aston Villa ensured more Premier League football a lot less comfortably than it looked. Were it not for the teams around them failing to pick up crucial wins, Paul Lambert may well have found himself in the second-tier this season. Scoring only 39 goals all term, it doesn't take a genius to see where The Villians struggled last year. With four goals in four starts, the free-scoring Christian Benteke picked up where he left off the season before and few would have expected him to go on a twelve match, mid-season stinker, before picking up an unfortunate knee injury which curtailed his season and any chance of a summer in Brazil. One huge positive from Villa's season, though, was their performances against the league's top teams. Picking up wins against Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. Villa were also one of only three teams to take points off Liverpool at Anfield. If Paul Lambert could have got his team playing like this with any level of consistency, Villa could have been pushing for Europe and not relegation.
The largest factor that could play a part with Aston Villa this year is the off field uncertainly surrounding the club's future. Randy Lerner has made no disguises of his intentions to sell the club and his lack of investment recently has plunged the Midlands side closer and closer to the Premier League abyss. Although Lerner has hinted that some funds will be available for Paul Lambert, these are unlikely to be sizeable. Having already brought in some experienced players such as Joe Cole and Kieran Richardson, there will be a few new faces. However, once again Lambert and now Roy Keane will have to try and get their best out of the current crop at Villa park. Of these players – many of them youngsters – captain Ron Vlaar will be crucial to their chances. The Dutch international had a superb World Cup – his performance against Argentina was truly world class. Although the Dutchman won't be first choice for taking penalties this year, if he can strike up a solid partnership with the fit again Jores Okore, then Villa will be a much harder team to beat. Further forward Ashley Westwood is quickly becoming a very influential player in midfield and the return of Christian Benteke would strengthen any team in the world. All in all I feel Aston Villa will have enough quality and experience to stay up this year.
Southampton 11/2 with Coral
Having sold five of their best players this summer and with further doubts over the futures of Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlain, new manager Ronald Koeman will certainly have his work cut out if The Saints are to improve on their excellent 8th place finish last season. Trying to judge their upcoming campaign is tricky due to such a wholesale change in personnel, Southampton really could finish anywhere this year.
With over £100m sat in their bank from their summer sales, it's clear the South Coast side are not short of a few quid. However, with limited movement in the other direction it's unclear how much money Ronald Koeman has at his disposal. Whilst the Dutchman has signed up Ryan Bertrand and Dusan Tadic, the burning question is how well these new, and old players at Southampton will adapt to playing for a new manager with no Premier League experience. Although I wouldn't be surprised if Southampton carried on last season's good form, I would be equally unmoved if Ronald Koeman was picking his P45 up before Christmas, with The Saints sat in the bottom three. An 11/2 shot for relegation, they may be worth a punt but I feel there's still enough quality to avoid such a fall from grace.
West Brom 11/4 with Bet365
Last season's lucky 17th place escape saw The Baggies avoid the drop by the skin of their teeth. After sacking the unfortunate Steve Clarke mid-season, Pepe Mel's new brand of football at The Hawthorns was far from effective, as it quickly became clear the former Betis man had neither the time nor the players to implement such a style. In a nutshell, West Brom's problem was not winning enough games. They only managed seven victories all season – the joint least with Cardiff. In addition to this, they also drew more times (15) than any other side in the Premier League. Although they were unlucky to not win some of those matches, they were also very fortunate to pick up a point as well.
Moving into the new term, the West Brom hierarchy didn't waste time and quickly disposed of Pepe Mel in the post-season. Although Mel did achieve what he was tasked with, and steered the club away from relegation, his expertise was deemed surplus to requirements and as is the way with the Premier League in this modern era. His replacement Alan Irvine, was about as popular with the fans as breaking-wind in a lift. The Scotsman then did little to enhance his appeal after claiming only to have seen £10m record signing Brown Ideye in a few DVD's. Although the Nigerian international is a class performer, he will clearly take some time to adapt to the English game. Fellow signing Joleon Lescott will be an important addition in the West Brom back four, as could loanee Andre Wisdom. All in all The Baggies do have quality in their squad, but like Fulham last year, I feel the constant changes in management may finally come back to haunt them. I wish Alan Irvine well and I'd like to see West Brom stay in the top-flight, unfortunately though, I think their number's up.
Premier League Relegation Betting Tips
Relegation treble : Leicester, Burnley, West Brom – Bet Here at 18/1 with William Hill
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