WITH the new season now just days away, expert analyst Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) shares his favourite ante-post fancies.
WLB Season Preview 2020/21 | Jack Lambden's best ante-post bets
Che Adams Over 6.5 Goals (11/10 Unibet) and Che Adams 10+ Goals (4/1 Betfair)
Birmingham boy Che Adams had a tough start to life on the South Coast, not bagging his first Southampton goal until a glorious long-distance strike against Manchester City won the game for him and his teammates.
One he got the monkey off his back though, his confidence grew and the striker finished ‘project restart' with four goals in six games. Saints fans will be hoping that there are parallels in Adams' form as there was with Danny Ings who, once he got going after a slow start to last season, went on to finish one behind eventual golden boot winner Jamie Vardy.
Adams was unlucky at the start of last season, almost too desperate to find that crucial first strike at the top level as he snatched at some big chances but was also blighted but strikes hitting the woodwork or stopped by some top saves.
One Saints were confirmed as safe, Adams began to feature more regularly up front alongside Ings and there was some quality build-up play between the two which will give supporters confidence that the pair will form a strong partnership in the season to come.
His Expected Goals (xG) return per 90 minutes in 2019/20 was higher than the likes of Harry Kane, Raul Jiminez, Bruno Fernandes and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to name just a few quality forwards so with more game time in the upcoming campaign, I'd be confident of him adding to his tally in a Saints shirt with a much better season this time around.
Southampton Over 49 Points, Leicester Under 58 Points, Brentford to Finish in Top 6, Peterborough to Finish in Top 6, Benfica to Win Primeira Liga, Bayern Munich to Win Bundesliga (25.4/1 Bet365)
There's some great single prices available amongst this ante-post accumulator so I wouldn't turn anyone off backing them each individually but to get a big multi-price, I'm happy to combine them with a good deal of confidence. Taking each selection one-by-one:
Southampton Over 49 Points
Considering that Saints finished on 52 points last season, this is overpriced at 6/5 and I don't expect those odds to last come Saturday's big kick-off.
Southampton were woeful in the first half of last season but it's credit to the relatively new boardroom structure at St Mary's that they kept faith in manager Ralph Hassenhuttl through some tough defeats, believing in the long-term project he is developing at the club.
The team came on leaps and bounds after that Leicester humiliation in October, playing high-intensity football, aided by a switch of system to 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 where everyone in the first eleven knows their role clearly. Deserved wins over Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea followed which shows the level that this squad of players can produce.
Mohammed Salisu and Kyle Walker-Peters, signed this summer, will strengthen the defensive resolve across the campaign and with a top half finish looking realistic, the Saints can look to 50 points as a bare minimum, particularly if they start better this time around
Leicester Under 58 Points
Despite a flying start to last season and securing European football, Leicester's post-lockdown drop off in form was alarming but in truth, the decline was slow since a couple of festive period defeats to title-chasing Liverpool and Manchester City.
Leicester seemed to lose belief from that point and were less aggressive in their approach as a result, becoming too easy to play against and crucially, after such a strong start to the season defensively, too easy to score against. The final 20 minute collapse away to Bournemouth typified that, leading 1-0 for so much of the game only for individual errors to creep into their game and four home goals followed as the back three experimentation back-fired.
Ricardo Pereira is still recovering from a long-term injury lay-off and with Ben Chilwell moving to Chelsea, the two most crucial positions in a Brendan Rodgers set-up have question marks around them with only a few weeks left of the transfer window, despite Timothy Castagne's arrival from Atalanta.
Can Leicester find their swagger again to produce the consistency of the first half of last season? I have my doubts. There's still sufficient quality in the squad for a top half finish but I think five or less points than last season's 62 looks a distinct possibility at this moment in time
Brentford to Finish Top-Six
Brentford are my tip to win the Championship after such an impressive 2019/20 where they ultimately fell short of promotion due to fatigue and a couple of poor results at the end of the longest season of all-time.
Thomas Frank has his team playing free-flowing, attacking football and although Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma could well depart, the recruitment at the club is a benchmark for most professional clubs and they have already taken the step to sign in-demand Ivan Toney after a successful couple of years in League One with Peterborough where he has been scoring regularly.
The squad still looks strong and if they can quickly shake off the play-off heartache from just a few weeks ago and start strongly at their shiny new stadium, the Bees should be there or there abouts come May and I'd back them to at least finish in a play-off spot again considering their relative strength to their rivals
Peterborough to Finish Top-Six
League One's top goalscorers from the abruptly-ended 2019/20 season have given all the indications that they mean business to right, in their view, the wrongs of the points-per-game finish to the last campaign which saw them fall agonisingly short of a play-off spot despite being the most in-form team in the division at the time.
Some of the money brought in from Ivan Toney's sale to Brentford has been re-invested into the side with Jonson Clarke-Harris moving East from Bristol Rovers with an impressive record at a mid-table team. His hold-up play and finishing in the box should negate Toney's departure to some degree and manager Darren Ferguson will be hoping his new striker can combine well with Siriki Dembele and Mo Eisa to get the required goals needed to win promotion to the Championship.
Their big squad can cope with the demands of a compact schedule and with a talented group of youngsters supported the most senior pros, there's a good balance in the squad. A top two finish is the aim but in a competitive looking promotion race, a ‘to finish in the top 6' selection gives us a bit more insurance
Benfica to win the Primeira Liga
I'll be backing this selection as a single too considering the 10/11 odds, a big looking price with the additions the Portuguese giants have made this summer. Despite never really being out of last season's title race with arch rivals Porto, Benfica were far from convincing all year long, shooting themselves in the foot towards the end of the season with one win in seven from the beginning of March to the end of June.
The board have responded to that weak showing by sanctioning a spending spree to help them become dominant on the domestic front again and aid progression in the Champions League.
Managerial legend Jorge Jesus has returned to the club and has not messed about in his opening period back at the Estadio da Luz, signing Jan Vertonghen on a free – a real coup for this level – as well as highly rated wide men Everton and Pedrinho from Brazil, versatile forward Luca Wildschmidt from Freiburg and highly sought-after Darwin Nunez from Almeria after a 16-goal haul in the Spanish Segunda last season.
The squad therefore have the ingredients to be more clinical in those tight encounters and with a new sense of optimism in the red half of Lisbon, this price should be a lot shorter (as it is with other bookies) and makes up one of my most confident picks of this 6 fold
Bayern Munich to win the Bundesliga
Unsurprisingly the shortest of the six selections but it's one that boosts the returns quite nicely. Bayern simply dominated European football from start to finish last season, winning the Bundesliga at a canter again and following that up with a 100% record in the Champions League to win August's final in Lisbon against PSG.
It was just rewards for the team re-discovering their identity under Hans-Dieter Flick, winning 30 of his 33 matches in charge and scoring an incredible 116 goals in the process. The winning mentality within the squad is unmatched in football and with the world-class quality that stems throughout the squad, a ninth title in a row is surely a formality
Southend to be relegated (6/1 BetVictor)
Southend, like an increasing number of Football League clubs, are experiencing difficult financial times, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The club suffered relegation into League Two after finishing the last campaign in the relegation zone and were therefore demoted based on the points-per-game model. It came at the end of a wretched season where, despite Sol Campbell's best efforts, he was working with one hand tied behind his back because of the perilous off-field situation at the club and the team took just 19 points from their 35 matches.
The Shrimpers received a fine and suspended points deduction from the Football League in June for paying player wages late on two occasions during the season, a result of debts incurred over a number of years as the ownership pushed to bring back the glory days of the mid 200s.
HMRC were also knocking at the door for some time to recoup some unpaid fees and the proposed move away from their current Roots Hall home has been an ongoing saga for a very long time now which has distracted away from the on-pitch development.
Although there are some good players in the squad – forwards Stephen Humphrys and youngster Charlie Kelman the standouts – new manager Mark Moseley will need to translate his success at non-league for Weymouth, a club on the up, to his new surroundings where the mood is not one of optimism and that will be a real challenge.
There's been little to nothing in the way of a transfer budget in the off-season for Moseley to add any experience to a very young squad after seven players were released in the summer, something that can only spell trouble with almost all of the teams in-and-around the Seasiders adding to their numbers.
We so often seen clubs in financial turmoil suffer a second relegation so quickly after the first in the struggle to shake off such a downward spiral and I fear for Southend that that situation could be repeating here. Unless fans are allowed through the turnstiles quickly, there isn't going to much in the way of revenue to improve the squad this side of the summer transfer window closing or in January and an inexperienced group look too big at 6/1 for the drop.
It has been backed in from the initial 10/1 which was a superb price, but I'd still make it a bit of value.
Premier League 2020/21 – Che Adams 10+ Goals (4/1 Betfair)
Premier League 2020/21 – Southampton Over 49 Points, Leicester Under 58 Points, Brentford to Finish in Top-Six, Peterborough to Finish in Top-Six, Benfica to Win Primeira Liga, Bayern Munich to Win Bundesliga (25.4/1 Bet365)
Premier League 2020/21 – Southend to be relegated (6/1 BetVictor)