Cheeky Punt is back…and backing City, Liverpool, Sturridge

Date published: Saturday 5th August 2017 10:40

The countdown is well and truly on. Just a few more sleeps until the 2017/18 season starts and I’ll level with you – I’m more excited than Darron Gibson in a Wetherspoons. Top-flight bosses have been spending crazy cheddar over the summer bringing in new faces and when you look at the talent kicking about in the Premier League right now it’s absolutely mouthwatering. Who is going to win it though?

Last season Chelsea recovered from a very ordinary start to grind their way to an emphatic title win by seven points. It really was as easy as 3-4-3. Since then Nemanja Matic has gone to Manchester United and Diego Costa is on his way out of Stamford Bridge, while Eden Hazard has a dodgy ankle and depending on who you believe is also being pursued by Barcelona. They’ve brought in Alvaro Morata, Antonio Rudiger and Tiemoue Bakayoko but given they’ll also be battling it out in the Champions League this season, they look plenty short at 7/2.

Liverpool look to be heading in the right direction and their record against the top clubs last season was impressive. They did the double over Arsenal and Everton and also claimed four points against Manchester City, Tottenham and Chelsea (as well as posting two draws against bitter rivals Manchester United). The arrival of Mohamed Salah from AS Roma has certainly strengthened them if his pre-season form is anything to go by. Dominic Solanke is another interesting acquisition but much will depend on what happens with Philippe Coutinho, or more accurately the Philippe Coutinho money. The Brazilian’s move to the Nou Camp now looks inevitable, despite the protestations of Reds fans on Twitter. When he goes he will naturally go for a huge fee, but can Liverpool reinvest the cash in a player or players of similar quality before the window closes? That’s the big question and the main reason I don’t fancy them as an each-way proposition at 12/1 (though I make them an absolute lock for another top-four finish).

Arsenal start the season not in the Champions League for the first time since 1997/98 and even though they have brought in the brilliant Alexandre Lacazette (20+ goals in his last three Ligue 1 campaigns), the contractual issues surrounding Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are an absolute mess and could ultimately derail the Gunners’ season if not resolved soon. They remain defensively fragile and look a few players short of a title-winning team. Indeed, don’t be surprised to see cash-rich Everton finish above them this time round.

And what of Tottenham? If you’d asked me in March who would win the league next season, chances are I might have said Spurs. A young, slick powerful side full of goals. They looked like they only needed one or two signings to be absolute ballers. However while their rivals have splashed the cash Tottenham have done precisely zero serious business and when you factor in they’ll be playing for a season at Wembley, a ground where they have only won two of their last 10 matches, they can also be discounted.

Manchester United were a million f**king miles away in the league last season, but have brought in Matic, Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof and will give the others a real argument if the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard continue to improve. Paul Pogba is only going to get better while Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been on fire in pre-season. Then there’s Jose Mourinho’s scarily good record in his second season as manager of a club. He’s won the league in his second season at Porto, Chelsea (twice), Real Madrid and Inter. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

However the Premier League champions this season will be Manchester City. Their summer spending is already north of £200million, they’ve completely upgraded their defence, have ridiculous options in midfield and continue to look sexy up front. What’s not to like? Pep Guardiola has identified the weak spots and their squad looks by far and away the strongest on paper. Having Ilkay Gundogan back in the middle of the park is also a huge plus for the Blues, who punters should get stuck into at 15/8.

City flew out of the traps last season, winning their first 10 matches (and averaging three goals a game in doing so). They looked like champions elect until Chelsea got their s**t together and began turning the screw. Then it all began to unravel of course but Guardiola will be stronger for the experience and it’s also worth remembering that they only lost one of their last 17 Premier League matches. Defensively they should be much better this time round having brought in some real quality and if Pep can keep all of his superstars happy then they can deliver his first Premier League title.

One other bet that stands out, like a wart on a flaccid penis, is the 9/1 bet365 are offering about Daniel Sturridge to be top Liverpool goalscorer in the Premier League. Granted Sturridge scoring a worldy against Bayern Munich recently then injuring himself in the process might just be the most Daniel Sturridge thing ever to happen, but if by some miracle Liverpool can keep him fit that 9/1 could represent outrageous value. He is such a talented, talented player. Pace, skill, finishing. He can do it all. Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi are all ahead of him in the betting and that is obviously down to the fact Sturridge started just seven Premier League games after an injury-ravaged 2016/17 campaign. But Adam Lallana is in no doubt that his star could shine this season, saying recently “He is a world class player. He has come back from the summer looking absolutely brilliant, so fit. He is going to be a massive player for us this season. I can just feel it.” The floor is all yours then, Daniel-san.

Betting: Manchester City to win the Premier League at 15/8 (bet365/Paddy Power/Stan James)

Betting: Liverpool to finish in the top four at 11/10 (Bet Victor)

Betting: Daniel Sturridge to be top Liverpool Premier League scorer at 9/1 (bet365).

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