With a hugely-frustrating two-week gap now until the next round of fixtures (there’s an international break and chocolatey-Jesusy type things in-between), the various battles that are currently being waged in the Premier League will have to hold fire for a while.
With title, relegation and European qualification matters still very much in hand, this will surely go down as one of the most exciting conclusions to a season in years. What an annoying time for an enforced break then….
In the meantime, here are some betting tips to help whet the appetite:
The Premier League title race is, to all intents and purposes, a two-horse race now….that’s according to the bookmakers anyway. Man City’s crushing defeat to United in the Manchester derby on Sunday has witnessed their price lengthen to a whopping 100/1, so they are now considered no-hopers with a 15 point gap to make up and just eight fixtures in which to do it.
Incidentally, they remain 6/4 favourites to win the league next season under Pep Guardiola, although judging by the sorry state of the squad he will inherit the Spaniard clearly has much work to do.
Arsenal remain in the hunt – ish – after a morale-boosting 2-0 win at Everton on Saturday. They have an 11-point margin separating them and Leicester, so a price of 13/2 is reflective of the task they face. North London doom-mongerers note that Arsene Wenger is available at 33/1 to be the next Premier League manager to leave their post.
And that leaves odds-on favourite Leicester City (8/13) to duke it out with outsider Tottenham for the right to lift that silver trophy for the first time in their respective histories. The Foxes keep winning – not a bad trait for a prospective champion – with the 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace being their fourth in five games. Timing is everything in this sport, and Claudio Ranieri’s side are saving some of their best football ‘til last.
Spurs won’t be giving up any time soon, and at 11/4 they will still be heavily invested in with seven games to play. Will Leicester’s nerve hold? That’s what many punters will be asking.
Three of the Midlanders’ next four fixtures will be played at the KP Stadium, although Southampton, West Ham and Swansea will prove tough adversaries in amongst an away trip to Sunderland. Meanwhile Spurs face Liverpool, Man Utd and Stoke in their next three, so Leicester’s position as favourites looks justified.
Defeat in the North East derby would have been catastrophic for either Newcastle or Sunderland from both an emotional and a mathematical perspective, so it is perhaps fitting that Sunday’s humdinger finished one apiece.
Crystal Palace and Swansea fans may argue differently of course, but the relegation battle – with Aston Villa doomed – sees the Magpies and the Mackems battling it out with Norwich City for the two remaining places in the dropzone. The Canaries recorded their first win in fourteen matches on Saturday, although you get the feeling that this war still has plenty of twists and turns to go.
Norwich are available at 4/5 to be relegated, and that still looks great value despite their two-point cushion over their nearest rivals. Mind you, they still have to play both Newcastle and Sunderland at Carrow Road, and ultimately it will be the outcome of those two fixtures that determines who stays and who goes.
Top Four Finish
With Leicester’s antics taking the majority of the headlines, a rather intriguing sub-plot has largely been missed regarding who will finish fourth in the table this term.
Man City currently hold that position, but with Raheem Sterling and Joe Hart joining Kevin de Bruyne on the treatment table, and a run of one win in six in the league to consider, there is an argument building that any one of West Ham, Manchester United or even Southampton could steal their thunder.
The Hammers are going great guns in fifth (one point behind City), with home fixtures against Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Watford in amongst their next four. Their price of 15/2 isn’t as fanciful as it looks.
Manchester United are the bookies’ choice to usurp their city neighbours at 2/1. Despite facing Spurs away in a few weeks time they also welcome Everton, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace to Old Trafford; three obviously winnable fixtures. That one point gap separating the two Manchester rivals looks paper-thin right now.
And what about a cheeky punt on Southampton at 80/1? They have poked and prodded their way into a position where they are just four points behind Man City having lost twice in their last ten outings. Alas, trips to Leicester, Tottenham and Everton *may* prove to be their undoing.