There are just ten rounds of Premier League fixtures to go, and while Chelsea appear to have the title all but wrapped up after a phenomenal turnaround under Antonio Conte since November. They are fully deserving of their prize.
Elsewhere there is still plenty to be played for, both in the hunt for a top four finish and the avoidance of relegation, while outside of the top flight there are stacks of opportunities available in the Championship, League One and League Two for a bad season to be turned around and vice versa.
As punters, that all we want: opportunities. So where does the smart money lie ahead of the frantic run-in to the end of the campaign?
Premier League Betting Tips
As Chelsea coast to the title the race for the Champions League places hots up; with 30 points available, just nine separate Tottenham in second and Everton in seventh.
Liverpool look vulnerable in fourth; they simply drop too many points against the fair-to-middling sides in English football’s top flight. Jordan Henderson will return soon from injury and play a huge part in the rest of the season, but the Reds – particularly defensively – appear rather fragile.
Could Arsenal take advantage? It would be a fitting swansong to Arsene Wenger’s tenure if a top four finish is secured, and just six points behind Liverpool with two games in hand it isn’t as daft a concept as it sounds.
There is no Champions League to distract their attention, and they still have to play Manchester United at home; who could become their main rival for fourth. It’s a punt fraught with unknowns, but 3/1 on a top four finish is fair value for a side that always, by hook or by crook, seems to finish in the upper echelons of the Premier League.
At the other end of the table the die already looks cast for the present bottom three: Sunderland, Hull and Middlesbrough. Unless Boro’s new manager is a miracle worker, this trio looks doomed for the drop; that treble is available at a handsome enough 6/5.
Championship Betting Tips
How close is the Championship promotion picture looking! Newcastle, with just two wins in their last six, are a solitary point clear of Brighton in second and seven ahead of Huddersfield, who have a game in hand on the Magpies.
The problem for the chasing pair is that they keep losing; Brighton going down 0-2 at Leeds on Saturday evening and Huddersfield bizarrely getting thumped 0-4 at Bristol City. Are both starting to feel the heat?
They have tricky run-ins to the end of the season, so perhaps leaving the promotion market alone in the Championship is wise.
You wonder if Norwich City have timed the sacking of Alex Neil to absolute perfection. Their home form is good (W12 D4 L3) and if the new manager – or caretaker Alan Irvine – is able to build up some momentum, then they should accumulate plenty of points in the next eight weeks. That five-point deficit to Sheffield Wednesday (who have lost four of their last six) in sixth will look very slim soon, and so the 10/1 on the Canaries achieving a top-six finish looks excellent value.
League One Betting Tips
League One is notoriously tough to get out of, and it is at this time of year when the strong will show their hand and the weak will crumble.
That theme has already started with former leaders Scunthorpe losing five of their last six matches, and being replaced in the top two by Bolton, who are unbeaten since January. They and Sheffield United should hang on to their supremacy from here.
A speculative punt would be Millwall, who have been one of League One’s most consistent sides since Christmas (W7 D7 L0). They are ten points behind Bolton so a play-off place is likely for the Lions, and they are available at 7/2 to win promotion via this method. That’s value enough compared to those around them.
As for relegation, that appears almost done-and-dusted with Coventry, Chesterfield and Swindon showing very little. The final reckoning will be decided between Port Vale and Shrewsbury, and in truth there is nothing between them at this stage.
League Two Betting Tips
The League Two table has flip-flopped all too readily this term, although Doncaster finally have taken control and at 1/10 to win the title appear to have one hand on the trophy.
Three go up automatically and the current incumbents aside from Donny, Plymouth and Portsmouth, aren’t particularly inspiring at present. Stevenage, with eight wins in their last ten, could yet poop the party but with an eleven point deficit to Plymouth they may have left their charge too late.
They are certainly in better health than those around in the play-off spots, and you have to worry about Carlisle, who have barely been out of the top three since the start of the season. They sold key striker Charlie Wyke in January, and have now failed to score in their last six games; losing five of them. The Cumbrians may have to face another campaign in League Two as punishment.
So a wager on Stevenage to get promoted at 5/1 makes sense; they could yet catch Pompey, and if they don’t then they will surely fancy the job in the play-offs.