Stoke Overpriced to Win Battle of the Midlands


The new Premier League season is on the horizon and there are plenty of preseason betting markets to get our teeth into. The most common bet is on the winner of the league, but as we all know, there is such disparity that there are only a handful of teams that can realistically win it.

Another way of approaching the season is to look at the markets for the top regional team, where there is much more competition. The bookies split the country into four sections: London, the Midlands, the North West and the North East. The likes of Norwich, Southampton, Bournemouth and Swansea are left out in the cold, but the rest of the teams are split into four convenient ‘mini-leagues’. The two clubs that stand out in their sections are Stoke City and Manchester City.

Top Midlands Club

Stoke City –  +115  with BoyleSports

Leicester City –  +550  with Bet365

West Bromwich Albion –  +450  with BetVictor

Aston Villa –  +500  with Bet365

Stoke City look an absolute stand out price to finish top of this particular pile, which is exactly what they did last season by a huge-ten point margin. Mark Hughes’ men finished the season in 9th place with 54 points and earned plenty of plaudits along the way for a renewed style of football. West Brom were the closest side – under former Stoke boss Tony Pulis – with 44 points, finishing back in 13th. Leicester were a further three points back on 41, although much of that total was owed to their incredible end-of-season form; while Villa were avoiding relegation by the skin of their teeth in 17th with 38 points – a full 16 behind Stoke.

West Brom have failed to do any business yet this summer apart from bringing in winger James McClean from Wigan, while several players have left the club. The lack of activity may well be due to the fact that the club is in negotiations with Chinese investors over a buy out, but they will have to get busy by the end of the transfer window if the sale goes through.

Leicester have very little in their favour at this stage after parting company with Nigel Pearson and bringing in Claudio Ranieri. The club has been shrouded in controversy over the summer, and faces its difficult second season, so it’s hard to see them finishing above an accomplished Premier League outfit like Stoke.

It also looks like being another topsy turvy season at Aston Villa with Tim Sherwood in the driving seat for a full season this time around. They’ve lost the services of captain Ron Vlaar and star striker Christian Benteke, so it looks like a summer of rebuilding for Sherwood. Villa fans will be worried about the lack of investment over recent seasons, and they surely have to spend the bulk of the £32.5 million they received for Benteke if they’re going to compete this term.

There have been quite a few ins and outs already this summer at Stoke, but with the exception of Begovic (Chelsea) and Nzonzi (Sevilla), they have kept the bulk of the first team intact. They’ve added some exciting players like El Ouraichi from Barcelona, and some steel at the back with Glenn Johnson. They can finish top of this little foursome and the price is good value.

Top North West Club

Chelsea and Newcastle are short prices to finish top of the London section and top of the North East section respectively, but neither look particularly vulnerable. There is a bit more competition in the North West group, and Manchester City stand out to finish above United, Liverpool and Everton.

Manchester City –  -163  with Bet365 and BoyleSports

Manchester United –  +200  with BetVictor and Ladbrokes

Liverpool –  +1200  with BoyleSports and BetVictor

Everton –  +10000  with Ladbrokes

Manchester City haven’t finished outside the top two in the league for four seasons. They’ve won the title twice and finished runner-up twice – behind Manchester United in 2012/13 and behind Chelsea last season. It seems that to win the league you have to finish above City, and Manchester United or Liverpool will probably need to take the title if they are going to come out on top in this particular market as well.

Manchester United have spent big bucks since the arrival of Louis van Gaal in a desperate bid to return to the glory days of Alex Ferguson, but its been two seasons of disappointment since his departure. Despite the huge outlay United still look short at the back, and at the time of writing, Rooney and Hernandez are the only senior strikers in the squad. There are bound to be more in-comings over the next few weeks, but the new-look team will have to gel very quickly to remain competitive.

Liverpool have also made some notable signings, with Benteke, Firmino and Ings making them top-heavy on strikers, and James Milner brought in to try and help fill the void left by Steven Gerrard. Brendan Rodgers has had his work cut out after losing Suarez and Gerrard in successive seasons, and they are another side in something of a transitional period. It’s hard to make a case for them finishing above Man. City, especially when they have just sold their brightest young talent to the Citizens.

Raheem Sterling has been joined by Fabian Delph to add some young English talent to their burgeoning squad of world class players, and both will hope to thrive in that sort of company. It took Sterling just three minutes of his debut to get on the score sheet for his new club, and if that’s a sign of things to come, it could be an exciting season for the gifted youngster. Manchester City have by far the most talented and settled squad of this little quartet, and are worth backing to finish top of this group for the third season running.

Tips Summary

To finish Top Midlands Team:

Stoke City –  +115  with BoyleSports

To finish Top North West Team:

Manchester City –  -163  with Bet365 and BoyleSports

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FA Premier League
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