By Kasey Weldon
Heading into week seven of the 2018-19 Premier League season, a lot of what has transpired has been expected, but we’ve seen plenty of surprises as well. Manchester City and Liverpool were considered the league title front-runners, and sure enough those are the two teams that currently sit first and second in the table.
Third place Chelsea, undergoing yet another managerial regime change (which have become exceedingly common under the Roman Abramovich era) were a wild card entering the season, but they have silenced their doubters by conveying true title bonafides. Fourth place Watford have been the biggest surprises of all, as they’re a side who were promoted to the top flight only a couple of seasons ago.
Underdogs and Favorites for a Top Four Finish
Many a betting company may have had the Blues as outsiders for the top four, but right now they look like a team that’s destined to finish in a position that returns them to the UEFA Champions League next term. Under Maurizio Sarri, they are playing a style that is much more suited to their talisman Eden Hazard than we ever saw under Antonio Conte and/or Jose Mourinho.
Speaking of Mourinho, he led Manchester United to a second place finish last season, and thus his side came into this campaign with the third best overall odds of finishing in the top four. However, they are languishing in eighth place right now amidst reports of players disgruntled and unhappy with their boss.
Your best bets for the top four are City, Liverpool and Chelsea, with the fourth spot very much up for grabs. It figures to be a race between United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Watford and another surprising side, Bournemouth.
Best of the Rest Market
We mentioned five sides battling for that fourth place spot, meaning four will be on the outside looking in. Two of those four are likely to land in the fifth and sixth place slots, meaning they’ll be in the UEFA Europa League, i.e. the consolation bracket. Below that in the table, you’ll see that many online bookmakers now offer a “best of the rest” market on the Premier League, effectively removing the top six teams so that you can predict who will come seventh.
It’s the pride of the mid-table, and contenders here include 2015-16 league champions Leicester City and newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Race to Escape the Bottom
The race not get dropped is just as fierce as the battle at the top, if not more so. One could argue that the stakes are even higher here given the financial implications that come with being relegated from the top flight. Huddersfield Town are the current basement dwellers, and despite the prowess of their manager, entered the season as leading contenders to get the drop.
Joining them in the drop zone right now are newly promoted Cardiff City (so it would be a shame for them to go right back down) and Newcastle United, who themselves just felt the string of relegation a couple of seasons ago.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, is currently a regular contributor to SB Nation, WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.