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I'll be carrying on my personal virtual $100 Challenge, with the following modification as announced in last season's wrap-up post - $100 in capital each week, but I will allow myself an outlay of anywhere from $0 to $200 (if the monies are available). The objective is to garner as much in returns as possible, but breaking even would be welcome for a start.
Half of the first week's stakes will be reserved for Super Sunday and very likely a hat-trick of opening victories for Arsenal, Chelsea and my beloved Man Utd. Putting all eggs in one basket, or in this case three baskets, still doesn't hold an appeal to me though, and the other sides surely deserve a look-in. Here goes nothing:
$10 on Aston Villa (+1.5) vs. Liverpool (at 1.30)
$10 on one goal in the above match (4.20)
$10 on Everton to beat Wigan (1.55)
$20 on Blackburn to beat Boro (2.77)
As I've promised to try and let sentiment out of it, an explanation of how I came out with these should be in order. There will be seven matches on opening day, namely:
1. Sunderland vs. Tottenham
2. Everton vs. Wigan
3. Derby vs. Portsmouth
4. Bolton vs. Newcastle
5. West Ham vs. Man City
6. Middlesbrough vs. Blackburn
7. Aston Villa vs. Liverpool
as listed in The New Paper. Ah, might as well have some words on all of them, no?
Sunderland vs. Tottenham
I'll be rooting for Sunderland due to Keane, but it's too dicey for me. Interestingly, the odds are a paltry 1.18 for Sunderland to win, draw or lose by a single goal, and a two-goal (or more) win by Spurs is worth four times one's original bet. Much as I support the plausible future United manager, I have a nagging suspicion that the media are shooing in Sunderland to survive without breaking a sweat quite prematurely.
But why not? (Source)
Taking a club from almost rock-bottom to the very top in a single season demonstrates how effective an old-fashioned blood-and-guts hairdryer treatment can be. Or does it? Sunderland were a Premiership side the season before that, though admittedly an absolutely crappy one. On that alone, ping-ponging back into the big time wasn't exactly unexpected, since it seems to get trickier the longer a side lingers, e.g. Q.P.R., Leicester, Palace, etc.
Even the Fink Tank seems to support this view with their sophisticated analysis, though, as they give Sunderland a roughly two-thirds chance of finishing above the bottom quartile, and even a one per cent chance of ending up fifth. Now that would be something.
If pressed, I would still go for Spurs pushing their far more convincing case to join the Big Five with a tight away win, maybe through the classy Berbatov. Smells like 0-1 or 1-1 to me.
Everton vs. Wigan
Everton are the better side, Everton are at home, and Everton have relatively good payoffs for a win. Everton, I choose you!
Oh, and Wigan signed Bramble. For that alone, they deserve a lesson.
I would go for 2-0, but despite the generous 2.65 for Everton (-1.5), I'll settle for the vanilla victory.
Derby vs. Portsmouth
Derby have been cast as the new whipping boys before a ball has been kicked, and the Fink Tank obligingly gives them a 73% chance of relegation. More tellingly, they are also presented with a 43% chance of finishing dead last, with the second most likely candidates, Wigan, granted a distant 13%. So the consensus appears to be that the other sides would love to play them every week.
Portsmouth haven't been a model of consistency, though, and they have won just three away games out of 19 last season. Couple that with a total ignorance about how much heart Derby might bring into their first EPL match in five years, and I see a clash to keep well clear of. If pressed, I would say Portsmouth, by two, but I wouldn't put anything on it.
Bolton vs. Newcastle
This is all about manager Sam Allardyce, who jumped from the former to the latter in the close season. Surely a recent ex-manager is the best person to have at the helm, but the barcodes have a long injury list including some of their best. Bolton are no mugs, and it seems drawish.
West Ham vs. Man City
These two sides should be relieved to get back onto the grass, after their boardroom troubles with Tevez and Thaksin respectively. Then again, it could get nasty on the pitch for the Hammers as well, after adding the extremely combustible Bowyer and Bellamy.
City have what appears to be a spanking new team, assembled by ladies' man Sven. I'll be the first to admit that I can't make head or tail of this fixture, but somehow I see the home team edging this.
Middlesbrough vs. Blackburn
Blackburn have won the last five editions of this matchup, and are, I daresay, an outside bet for Europe. McCarthy looks a solid buy, and Viduka a bad sell. That said, Boro are somehow the favourites, and 2.77 for the Blackburn win looks awfully generous. I'll take it.
Aston Villa vs. Liverpool
Benitez has finally gotten his cash, and Liverpool are running out of excuses, so the papers say. However, while the purchase of Torres is clearly aimed towards fixing their errant attack, offensive partnerships seem to take time to gel, time which Liverpool may not have if they want some domestic glory for a change.
I can't see them suddenly overhauling their (staid) style and sweeping through Villa, especially away from Anfield, though they probably have enough to take the points. A solitary goal should decide this. 1-0 to Pool or 0-0.
Next: Things In Threes
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