EPL RELEGATION BETTING – WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
|Aston Villa||6/4||William Hill|
|Crystal Palace||11/2||Paddy Power|
IT takes some doing to be bottom of the Premier League and to have been thrashed 8-0 only 12 days ago – and still not be favourites for relegation.
Watford, however, have the Newcastle United factor on their side.
There can be no more miserable place in English football’s top flight just now than Tyneside, where a pitiful 5-0 thrashing at Leicester City last weekend has been followed by news of yet another attempt at a take-over which may again be a non-runner.
They are now rated as the club most likely to tumble into the Championship.
Nobody imagined that The Toon were going to tear up trees this season following the departure of manager Rafael Benitez and the arrival of Steve Bruce, who has been heavily backed in the sack race betting ever since.
The new boss knew he was entering a minefield. But back in the summer, the bookies still rated them only the joint-eighth side most vulnerable to the drop and Bruce was up for the challenge.
It has taken some nose-dive to now be fancied for survival less strongly than Aston Villa, Norwich City, Watford and Sheffield United. But then life at St James’s Park has been running as a dismal soap opera for a long time now.
It breeds a particular and enduring type of gloom which none of their rivals at the bottom end will have to contend with this season – and which could prove to be a fatal poison in the club’s DNA.
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Crucial Fixtures Ahead
This is a critical weekend at the wrong end of the table only seven weeks into the campaign.
Newcastle face Manchester United at home on Sunday afternoon. It is not the daunting task it would once have been. But it has its pitfalls and traps for Bruce precisely because Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fallen giants are performing so mundanely.
Meanwhile, bottom side Watford – subject of that 8-0 thrashing by Manchester City – meet Sheffield United and 17th placed Norwich host 18th placed Aston Villa.
It is the Toon who are seen as most at risk of relegation across the board, with Bet365 pricing them at 10/11 along with Betfair and PaddyPower.
Reflecting an inward shift in those odds, RedZone have moved them in to 10/13.
Ladbrokes made Newcastle 5/6 first pick for the drop. Back in August before kick-off, they were jointly-priced at 9/2 with Bournemouth and Southampton.
Brighton, Aston Villa, Burnley, Norwich and Sheffield United were all deemed more likely to tumble.
Steve Bruce Under Pressure
The slip downwards has made Newcastle boss Bruce the subject of a torrent of complaint from the supporters, although to be fair, he always knew this was going to be a tough mission and the protests began even before he started work.
Meanwhile, Andy Carroll, the Prodigal striker who has returned to the club and came on 27 minutes from the end of the hammering at the King Power Stadium, admitted the team “completely gave up,” adding that the performance was “a disgrace.”
In the background, the endless dissatisfaction with owner Mike Ashley rumbles on – although again to be fair, he says he wants to sell as long as anyone can meet his asking price, with football broker Peter Kenyon behind the latest plan for a buy-out.
It seems a long time ago when Bruce’s team won 1-0 at Tottenham’s glittering new stadium, although in fact it was only on August 25.
Now, another capitulation this weekend by Newcastle like the one at Leicester – against a United side far from their best – will prompt even more uproar around the home club.
The same sense of doom does not pervade the other struggling clubs.
Will Villa Go Down?
Aston Villa are second favourites across the board to make a quick exit after their return following three seasons in the Championships.
Ladbrokes and Betvictor make them 11/8 and at Betfred it’s 6/4.
But the fans adore boss Dean Smith. And there is an acceptance that the re-adjustment to the top flight will take time, even though the club spent £130 million in summer to cater precisely for the step-up.
At Norwich, rated third most likely for the drop across the board, the elation of the 3-2 win against Manchester City has been dimmed by successive defeats against Burnley and Crystal Palace.
That extra-ordinary win will live long in the supporters’ memories, however and it will breed long-term hopes of survival – along with manager Daniel Farke’s commitment to bold, attacking football.
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Watford’s Relegation Odds?
Watford’s axing of Javi Gracia and the return of Qique Sanches Flores at first prompted optimism following a battling 2-2 draw with Arsenal in his first game back.
Then came the humbling by City – okay, they are not the only team to suffer like that against Pep Guardiola’s men – and then a 2-0 defeat by Wolves.
Perhaps it simply won’t work for Flores second time around, which is an idea reflected in odds of 6/4 for the drop with Bet365.
That win, by the way, hoisted Wolves to 13th place after their early struggles. Their problems were attributed to the strain of competing in the Europa League and there were never any fears about relegation.
It is Sheffield United who are defying expectation most emphatically so far.
Newly-promoted and most analysts’ pre-season favourites to go down, they proudly sit in 12th place.
They made Liverpool battle for their 1-0 win last weekend. And the Blades have scored uplifting victories against Everton and Crystal Palace while also holding Chelsea and Bournemouth in the opening game.
Defeats by Southampton and Leicester City showed it will be a battle. But boss Chris Wilder always knew it would be.
The Steel City side are well up for it. It is a huge contrast with the pessimism at Newcastle just now. This is a weekend which could deliver an even more insightful glimpse into the shape of the dog-fight to come.