Newcastle and Villa can Earn Top Half Finishes

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Aston Villa v Newcastle United - Villa Park

The Premier League title is already shaping up to be a battle between Chelsea and Manchester City, with no other teams looking capable of breaking their domination this season. There are plenty of other season-long markets to have an interest in, however, with most bookies offering odds on a top four, top six, and top ten finish.

The boxing day matches this week will take us within a game of the halfway point in the season, and it’s been a open league so far. Although the top two have dominated as expected, Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool have all had less-than-impressive starts to the campaign. That has left the door open for other sides, notably West Ham and Southampton, to stake a claim for European football. The second half of the season is shaping up to be very interesting, and it’s no foregone conclusion that the ‘Big Four’ will have it all their own way.

The second tier of the Premier League is just as tight, with just 5 points separating Swansea in 8th and Aston Villa in 12th. There are a clutch of teams in these positions and lower for which a top half finish would represent a good season, and it’s another league within the league. We’re looking for season-long bets outside of the usual league winner, and have found some lively contenders for a top six and a top ten finish.

West Ham to finish top six –  +300  with Skybet

Sam Allardyce and West Ham are having a remarkable season, and currently sit in 4th place with 31 points before Christmas. History is on their side, as teams in the top four at this stage have almost always gone on to finish in the top six by the end of the season over the last five years. That statistic may be slightly misleading, as it would usually be the ‘big’ sides in the top four by now, but nonetheless, it’s West Ham’s position to lose. They’ve only been beaten four times this season, and only once in their last 11, and confidence around the club is sky high. They have home games against seven of the bottom half to come, and they’ve already gained ‘bonus’ points this season by beating Man. City and Liverpool at Upton Park. There’s a couple of tough games over Christmas for them as they visit Chelsea then play host to Arsenal in the space of two days, but the start that they’ve had means they can go into those games with nothing to lose. It’ll be tough for anyone to get anything from Stamford Bridge this season, but the Hammers will fancy their chances of turning over the Gunners om home turf.

The bookies have Southampton at odds-on for a top six finish, but they are two points behind West Ham and arguably have a smaller squad. Liverpool are priced at around evens, but they have a nine-point gap to make up on West Ham, and on that basis, the Hammers represent a real value shot.

Newcastle to finish top ten –  +130  with Ladbrokes

Newcastle look a decent bet to finish in the top ten this season, and the bookies are offering a fair price on a side who are currently in 9th position. They had an awful start to the season and Alan Pardew’s job looked to be in question with the fans calling for his head, but a cracking run of five straight victories took them right up the table. They were within a whisker of the top four at one point, but a few bad results have seen them drop to 9th with 23 points. The sides around them include Swansea, Liverpool, Everton and Villa, and they’ll probably need to finish above one or two of those to get into the top half. There are enough question marks about those teams though, which makes Newcastle a reasonable bet.

Liverpool and Everton are heavily odds-on for a top ten finish, while Swansea are priced at -200

Liverpool have been struggling all season and currently occupy 10th, a point and a place behind the Magpies. Everton are finding it tough to compete in the Europa League alongside the Premier League, and although their home form will always stand them in good stead, they have been poor away. Swansea are punching above their weight in the top half, and they will also lose Bony to the African Cup of Nations in January, and he’ll be a big miss. At the current prices, Newcastle look a much better bet than any of the others.

Aston Villa to finish top ten –  +800  with Bet365

A good outsider for the same market is Aston Villa. We’ve already backed Villa to finish best of the Midlands clubs and they’re making a good fist of it, currently sitting top of their little group of Stoke, West Brom, and Leicester. They could go one better than that and make it into the top half at a decent price. They are another side who went through a terrible patch of form after a promising early start. Paul Lambert has been under pressure, and he hasn’t been helped by injury and suspension to main man, Christian Benteke. However, the big target man is back scoring goals, and they’ve risen to 12th with 20 points. They’ve lost just once in seven games, and with Vlaar, Delph and Benteke they have a good spine around which their youthful team is set up.

They’re just five points behind Swansea in 8th place, and they play the Swans on Boxing Day. Gary Monk’s men may not achieve as much this year as they have over the last couple of seasons, and Villa could easily take their place in the top half with a good run of form. Much will depend on their ability to keep Benteke fit and keep supplying him with the ammunition, but a goal scorer of that calibre is hard to come by, and he could be the difference between top and bottom half.

Tips Summary

West Ham to finish top six –  +300  with Skybet

Newcastle to finish top ten –  +130  with Ladbrokes

Aston Villa to finish top ten –  +800  with Bet365

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