CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) returns with his opening Premier League column of the new season.
Hull v Leicester | Saturday 12:45 | Sky Sports 1
Well, here we are again…a brand new season. 2015/16 provided us with an upset like no other as 5000/1 pokes Leicester romped the league by 10 points in sports betting’s biggest ever shock. This season? Well alongside all the managerial heavyweights in the division it will be intriguing to see how the champions fare.
Leicester kick off their title defence against Hull on Saturday afternoon. It’s the defending champions against the rank outsiders for the division and the champs are odds-against at the time of writing. Unthinkable under any other circumstances!
I, like many others have spent the summer thinking about how Leicester will fare this campaign and as mentioned in my Outright preview earlier in the week I think they’ll be flirting with either side of the mid-table.
A no doubt exhausting Champions League campaign coupled with (perhaps) a lesser level of hunger domestically could peter out to an unspectacular Premier League campaign. However on Saturday it’s hard not to be right behind them at the KCOM stadium – especially at those odds.
The Foxes have avoided a mass exodus amongst their playing staff and it’s only the industrious N’Golo Kante who’s gone elsewhere, the other major players have (so far) stayed put.
There’s nothing steady about their opponents on Saturday though. Hull have had a torrid summer with no major acquisitions worsened further by their manager Steve Bruce running out of patience with the club and Mo Diame dropping a division to hang out with Newcastle. All is not good in Humberside.
I’m generally against taking on promoted clubs on the opening day of the Premier League season but Hull have to be opposed here at odds-against.
If you consider the Foxes may be even stronger on paper this time around (a wealth of new signings cancelling out the Kante loss) along with the concept that Hull are weaker than when they finished in fourth place in the second tier in May then 19/20 is a very fine price.
Leicester matched Manchester United for most of Sunday’s Community Shield and should sense blood here against a Hull side woefully under-prepared for the new campaign.
Everton v Tottenham | Saturday 15:00
I’m excited about Everton this year and indeed in the medium term. Ronald Koeman must like what he sees to depart a cosy position as Southampton manager to move here and the new owner clearly means business with a surfeit of rumours about big price buys. While the project might take time, the club look to be heading in the right direction.
The Toffees have purchased Yannick Bolasie and Ashley Williams from Crystal Palace and Swansea respectively, two players who were integral to their clubs last season and they still retain the services of Romelu Lukaku.
There’s no doubt they underachieved under Roberto Martinez and if it all clicks under Koeman this term a Top 4 finish isn’t as absurd as you might think.
Tottenham certainly didn’t underachieve last season. Maurico Pochettino’s men finished third and challenged for the title for most of the season. Poch has decided to stick with his young charges this time round instead of bringing in a new bunch of recruits. While the circumstances are different a similar approach by Newcastle in 2012/13 after their Top 5 finish didn’t work. Let’s see how it unravels for Spurs.
It was a sober May and June for the club with them surrendering second place to Arsenal in May and their stars involved in a disappointing Euro 2016 campaign for England in June. How will they be feeling going into this game? Perhaps it’s fanciful to suggest they’ll be under a cloud but one’s thing for sure the club generally struggle in August.
Tottenham have won just five of their 16 August league games this decade and have lost on opening day in three of the last five seasons. They had to wait till September before they got off the mark last season.
Whether those figures have any impact on your strategy is up to you but at the prices I’m happy to have a pop on Everton here at Goodison. 9/4 to win the game, I’l take them at 25/19 Draw No Bet with Marathonbet.
Manchester City v Sunderland | Saturday 17:30 | BT Sport 1
All eyes will be on Pep Guardiola on Saturday as he takes charge of Manchester City for the first time in a competitive fixture but it might not be a walk in the park for his side.
The Spaniard has brought in a youthful verve to the Manchester side with John Stones, Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gundogan joining the heavyweight older players at the club. This looks a medium/long-term project for him.
Sunderland have always started the season appallingly but for the first time in a long while they go to post with a good man at the helm. This season offers David Moyes a real chance to rehabilitate his reputation and I think he’ll achieve that.
There’s lots of work to do before the transfer window closes at the end of this month but he’s made a fair start with the additions of Papy Djilobodji, Paddy McNair, Donald Love and Adnan Januzaj.
From the turn of the year onwards Sunderland were fairly solid last season under Sam Allardyce. They lost just four of their last 19 league matches and chinned Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton. If they can maintain that momentum then it bodes well for Moyes.
They go into this game as 14/1 no-hopers but they may be able to be competitive as Guardiola gets to grips about what this English game is all about.
I can’t see Sunderland getting a hammering so I’m happy to get involved with 2-3 Total Goals at odds of 5/4. At odds-against I think that covers a lot of possibilities.
Hull v Leicester – Leicester to win (19/20 Marathon)
Everton v Tottenham – Everton Draw No Bet (25/19 Marathon)
Manchester City v Sunderland – Exactly 2-3 Goals (5/4 Marathon)
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