The football season is back! I’ll be here every Friday to preview the weekend’s action and find the best value bets around from the English Leagues.
Chelsea vs Manchester United
The big guns of the Premier League get the season underway with this ‘friendly’ at Wembley Stadium. It hardly stirs the blood for the season ahead, and in many eyes is just a frustrating money-making show for the FA bigwigs, but nevertheless, where there is a football match, there is money to be made for punters!
These games have a history of being dull, lifeless games, with players more concerned with avoiding injury (especially on Wembley’s much lamented pitch), and treating the match as a way of building up fitness for the long season ahead. With this in mind, the 8/1 @ Betfair on the game ending goalless appeals greatly as a good value bet.
Once the game gets to penalties, the match is left in the lap of the Gods. However, with Petr Cech being ruled out of the game, that must leave Manchester United as edgy favourites to win from the spot, with the giant Dutchman Ed Van Der Sar in goal (9/2 @ William Hill).
The second tier of English football kicks off this weekend, and as ever, there are a number of good value bets to be had.
Two home bankers seem nailed on in the forms of QPR and Coventry City on opening weekend. QPR (4/6 @ Bet365), at home to Barnsley, have invested in players over the summer, and go into the season as one of the favourites for a play-off place at least. For this to occur, they must turn Loftus Road into a fortress, and expect that to start this weekend at home to a poor Barnsley team. Similarly, Coventry (5/4 @ Totesport) seem too strong for free-falling Portsmouth, and can be expected to show the Fratton Park outfit that immediate promotion back to the Promised Land is, in all probability, a pipe dream.
Bristol City pulled off one of the shock signings of the pre-season in recruiting David James, and the odds on him keeping a clean sheet on his home debut (11/8 @ Paddy Power) against Millwall appear too big to leave alone.
Leeds United and Derby County meet on opening weekend at Elland Road, and the game seems set to be a goal feast. Leeds won promotion last season on the back of their goals, and will be keen to carry on, but will find the Championship a step up, and may well leak goals at the back. The 11/10 @ Stan James on there being more than 2.5 goals seems a very decent bet.
Sheffield Wednesday have pulled off one of the best signings in the lower leagues this summer in the form of Clinton Morrison. Having been released from Coventry, Morrison has been snapped up on a free transfer, and at the age of 31, has the experience and quality at this level to score a hatful of goals, starting at home to Dagenham and Redbridge this weekend. The 9/2 @ BetBubbles on him scoring first is excellent value for a real top quality striker in the lower leagues.
Southampton missed out on promotion last year, and will be looking for nothing less than a return to the Championship; all the ingredients are there for them to give it a right good go. In manager Alan Pardew, they possess a sharp footballing mind, and with goals galore from their attackers, and in particular Rickie Lambert, they will be there or thereabouts again this year. A banker home win against Plymouth Argyle (8/11 @ Bet365) will set them on their way nicely.
Burton Albion were involved on plenty of high scoring games last season, and this season seems set to start off on the same foot, with a home game against promoted Oxford United screaming ‘back of the net’. The 1/1 @ Sportingbet on there to be more than 2.5 goals, and the 11/8 @ Bet365 on a home win, both seem too big to ignore on opening weekend.
Bradford City will be hopeful of a more productive season this time round, especially with League Two promotion expert Peter Taylor in charge for his first full season. Their opening game may well be away to Shrewsbury Town, who are a fellow favourite for promotion, but the fancy is for an away win for the Bantams at striking odds of 2/1 @ Blue Square.