After many weeks and 16 matches of see-sawing in the Premier League, we now have a clear favourite for the title for the first time this season. Having bounced around at odds of 2s and 3s in weeks previous, Manchester United are now odds-on at 1.61 to win the title, having pulled 6 points clear after Sunday's derby. Manchester City are yet to go below evens this season, while Chelsea were only matched as low as 3.35, despite their electrifying start.
To suggest the title race is over however is preposterous, and anyone uttering those words really knows little about football, particularly English football. Laying United at 1.61 is almost definite to see a return at some point in the campaign, but a more appealing lay looks to be the EVENS on United 1st/City 2nd in the straight forecast, as it allows for more variables to affect the bet. This means that even in the unlikely event that City do not put up a fight for their crown, the bet will still prosper if City are pressured for 2nd place by Chelsea or another contender. Odds of 3.5 on City 1st/United 2nd are also worth considering, although liquidity is currently an issue in that market.
At the other end of the table the boys are beginning to be sorted from the men, and both QPR (1.61) and Reading (1.34) remain odds-on for relegation, though all could change tonight with the 6-pointer between Sunderland and Reading. At present, QPR's price appears to be being maintained at a higher point than it perhaps should be, with the side currently 8 points from safety, which is presumably due to the Redknapp effect. Every winless week however sees them slip that little bit lower, and if there is no win very soon, then it won't be long before their price slips sub 1.5. Further up, we have Sunderland at 3.75, Aston Villa at 3.75 and Wigan at 3.15, which are particularly generous prices considering the form of these teams thus far. The trick is however picking the team which will continue to plummet. At this stage last year, Wigan were only two points worse off than this season, and found themselves bottom of the table by match week 22, six games from now. Paradoxically, Sunderland surged up the table, while Villa maintained a steady pace in mid-table. Although these stats are hardly foolproof, especially considering Sunderland's surge was largely due to a managerial change around this stage last season, it is a decent guide and is certainly worth considering.
The next 5 fixtures for each team are as follows:
WIGAN- Norwich (A), Arsenal (H), Everton (A), Villa (A), Man Utd (H).
SUNDERLAND - Reading (H), Man Utd (A), Southampton (A), Man City (H), Spurs (H).
ASTON VILLA - Liverpool (A), Chelsea (A), Spurs (H), Wigan (H), Swansea (A).
Each of the three appear to have a tricky Christmas period in store, and there isn't really a great deal of difference between any of the lists. Although Sunderland have the most home matches, they are against top 6 teams (tonight's match excluded) and if they were to win tonight, it would certainly be worth looking at their relegation price as a back-to-lay option. Villa likewise could see themselves further in the cesspit after their next three games, but the match at home to Wigan will be a crucial 6 pointer.
That's all from me, I hope you enjoy your week.