The 5 Best Squads Ever to Play in the Premier League

There can be no denying Manchester City were the deserved winners of the 2017/18 Premier League title.  Not only did they win the league, they did it in style, playing some fantastic football and ending the season on 100 points.

Pep Guardiola’s team finished with 106 goals to their name, 19 points ahead of 2nd placed Manchester United and with 22 more points than Liverpool, who have been praised this season for their excellent attacking play.  Not only that, Manchester City conceded fewer goals than any other team in the Premier League, finishing with a plus 79 goal difference.

Therefore, it is little wonder many fans of football, including the contributors of this recent article on the Betway blog, have lauded the 2017/18 Manchester City team as being up there with the best we have seen since the league was formed in 1992.

Statistically speaking, the newly crowned Premier League champions certainly seem to be the best ever to play in the league.  They won more points, scored more goals, had the best goal difference, won by the greatest margin and picked up the most wins of any title winning team to date.

Yes, this was a manager and group of players put together at huge cost but throwing money at a team does not guarantee success and the way Manchester City have played this season has been superb.

 

 

However, they have lost games, including a defeat at Anfield against Liverpool and at home to local rivals Manchester United.  This is perhaps their one main failing of the season and why the Arsenal team of 2003/04 is regarded by many as being the best to every play in the Premier League.

That was the only time since the turn of the 19th century a team has gone the whole season without tasting defeat.  The defence must take huge credit as this is where many long undefeated runs are based but Arsenal were an incredible attacking force, with Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp forging a great partnership up-front.  Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg also had major roles to play from wide midfield and Sol Campbell was the key man at the back.

To go a full Premier League season unbeaten, along with other commitments in the domestic cups and Europe, is a phenomenal achievement and one we may not see again for a very long time.

When assessing Manchester City’s point haul for this season, one cannot help but look back at the Chelsea squad of 2004/05.  This was Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge at Stamford Bridge and the defensive quality of the team was astounding as they went on to set the record for the highest points total of 95 prior to the 100 achieved by Manchester City this season.

Claude Makelele was the fulcrum of this team and allowed the forwards to break with freedom while providing cover to the defence when necessary. Chelsea conceded only 15 goals in winning the title that season, keeping 25 clean sheets in the process.  For those who enjoy the defensive side of the game, this Chelsea team was a masterclass.

When discussing the 5 best squads to every play in the Premier League, it is impossible to ignore Manchester United.  The Red Devils tasted great success under Sir Alex Ferguson and two squads in particular come to mind, starting with the 2007/08 team.

This is a team who had a bit of everything, a top goalkeeper in Edwin van der Sar, the central defensive partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic plus Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez further forward.

Ferguson came into his own with his tactical brilliance throughout the season and while Manchester United only finished 2 points clear of Chelsea, they went on to lift the Champions League.

Finally, we come to the 1998/99 Manchester United squad who swept all before them at home and abroad.  They finished above Arsenal to win the Premier League title on the final day of the season, coming from a goal behind to defeat Tottenham 2-1 on the final day of the campaign.  A 2-1 win over Newcastle United in the FA Cup followed before the dramatic injury time victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.

It was the first time in history an English team had completed the treble and with the level of competition so high in the Premier League and Champions League now, we may never see the likes of it again.

Chelsea fans may feel they have another squad who should be included in the list and Leicester City produced the biggest upset we have seen in years to win the title in 2016/16.  However, the 5 squads mentioned above must be considered the best ever to play in the Premier League.

All not Necessarily Lost for West Brom in Relegation Battle

The Premier League needs a final day relegation battle as it needs it for a dramatic narrative. Only fans of the sides involved are interested in what happens at the top of the table but the relegation battle is a soap opera that nearly always has its final meaningful act on the last day. It would be a shame if it didn’t this year.

Maybe, as a storyline, the Premier League will stagger over the end-line in bland fashion. The alternative though, is that potentially eight teams could still be in the mix for one final Battle Royale.

West Bromwich Albion’s recent victory over Manchester United has fueled hope of this being a possibility. With Alan Pardew parting ways with the club and seemingly ending his cycle of Premier League jobs, the Midlands club looked dead and at least half-buried. But their 1-0 win has given them a bounce and if ever there was a time to build on genuine momentum, it is now.

Next season could see the return of Tony Mowbray back at The Hawthorns. Currently proving something of a success at League One side Blackburn Rovers, Mowbray has grown as a manager since leaving the club following relegation in 2009. Fondly regarded, he could see his return to the club as a Premier League club, if things continue to make a dramatic turn for the better.

Image Credit: Facebook Coventry City FC 

The more likely scenario is that, if the former Celtic player and manager does return, it will be with the team plying their trade in the Championship.

West Brom’s remaining games will see them as unlikely to be favourites with the likes of Sportsbet based on the calibre of their opposition. If there is a game where they might see themselves as in with a chance of winning, it would be on the last day of the season in a potential crunch meeting with Crystal Palace but caretaker manager Darren Moore has his work cut out for him before that fixture.

The visit of Liverpool sees a team in unforgiving form in front of goal. However, Jurgen Klopp’s side have their Champion’s League run as a considerable distraction. An aggressive approach against Liverpool with caution thrown to the wind in attack, whilst remaining stoic in defence as they did at Old Trafford, is a must.

Image Credit: Facebook Bits N Sports Chat

If not, it will be an invitation for Liverpool to impose more of their adroit attacking game. With more to lose, West Brom will need to take bigger risks. The same is to be said for the visit to Newcastle. Rafa Benitez’s side secured their top-flight status in their recent 2-1 win over Arsenal. Regardless of their public statements of intent, this will be a very good time for the Baggies to play them.

How good a time though it is to face Tottenham Hotspur though, is another thing. Whilst Champions League football next season is practically sealed, the difference between third and fourth place is relevant, such is the way the qualifying process works. Mauricio Pochettino can still eye second place as a possibility and it’s unlikely his side will take their foot off the gas for the visit of West Brom.

Whether all is lost by the time they visit Palace, remains to be seen. The fact is though, hope remains and this season’s relegation battle may have one last piece of genuine drama.

Relegation riot: who will be playing Championship football next season?

While the battle for the Premier League title usually grabs the imagination of football fans, it is often the case that the fight to avoid relegation is equally compelling.

This year’s relegation fight promises to be particularly fascinating. Usually, the tussle at the bottom involves perhaps six or seven teams, but this time around, we can make a plausible case for as many as 12 sides to end up in the Championship. Part of the reason for this is the increasing dominance of the big teams. Over the last few seasons, the typical Big Four of Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea has expanded to include Liverpool and Tottenham, and these six are engaged in what is almost a separate league.

In the current season, Manchester City have been hoovering up all of the points on offer, while the chasing five have done their best to keep pace, and in the absence of one or two clearly inferior teams, the remaining points have been shared out more or less equally among the bottom 12. With 11 games to go, the gap between Watford in 11th and West Brom at the bottom is just ten points. How will this relegation battle develop? Here, we take a look at the main candidates to drop into the Championship.

 

The favourites

West Brom began the season with a couple of wins, but a run of six defeats in ten games saw the club act to remove manager Tony Pulis and replace him with Alan Pardew. Results, however, have not improved, and Albion’s problem is that they’ve already called on two men renowned for saving clubs from relegation – Pulis and Roy Hodgson. Meanwhile, they have continued to find goals hard to come by. In a typical year, they might be down already.

If anything is going to save West Brom, it could be the ineptitude of their rivals, the closest of which is another former Pulis side – Stoke City. Like Albion, the Potters pulled the plug on the incumbent manager, but Paul Lambert has not proven much more successful than Mark Hughes, though he has managed to make them a little stronger defensively. One thing in Stoke’s favour is that they have enough winnable fixtures remaining to survive.

If Stoke’s combative defensiveness under Lambert gives them a chance, the same cannot be said for Southampton. They secured a priceless 3-2 win at Albion last month, but that was their first win since November, and they’ve drawn too many games. Having stuck with manager Mauricio Pellegrino, it’s too late for the club to make a change now, and this inability to turn draws into victories could prove costly.

Southampton’s plight is made starker by the recent improvements at Huddersfield and Swansea. After a solid start to life in the Premiership, the Terriers appeared to be heading back to the Championship following a run of six straight defeats in 2018, but a stunning 4-1 home win over Bournemouth stopped the rot, and if David Wagner’s players can continue to show that level of spirit, they can yet survive.

The other bottom-five side who appear to be heading in the right direction are Swansea. Having dispensed with Paul Clement when the Swans were bottom of the table, they moved quickly for former Sheffield Wednesday boss Carlos Carvalhal, who has masterminded a stunning turnaround. Under his leadership, Swansea have lost one in seven, beaten Arsenal and Liverpool, and moved decisively out of the bottom three.

 

The other contenders

It has taken Roy Hodgson slightly longer than Carvalhal to turn around his relegation-threatened team, but he seems to have Crystal Palace well organised, and they will surely be too tough to get sucked back into the relegation mire – comments that also apply to West Ham, who under David Moyes have only lost once this year.

Brighton have proven to be a surprise package this season, and have managed to pull out enough good results to keep themselves clear of the relegation zone. What could count against them in a close-run battle is their fixture schedule, which pits them against Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United in their last four games. If they aren’t safe by then, things could be getting very tense on the South Coast.

Bournemouth’s shock 4-1 defeat at Huddersfield may have rattled the Cherries’ supporters, but they have enough in their squad to avoid slipping into the relegation zone, and the same can probably be said for Watford and Everton.

Newcastle’s safety, however, is very much up for grabs. The ongoing saga of the club’s sale and the lack of transfer investment has left the Magpies perilously close to the drop. What may count in their favour is the expertise of manager Rafa Benítez, who was able to engineer a crucial victory over Manchester United and is likely to have one or two more tricks up his sleeve that could keep them safe.

Even if your club isn’t involved in the struggle, the desperate tussle to avoid slipping out of the Premier League basement offers plenty of drama and spectacle, and those who like to play the sports betting markets at this time of year are well aware that the fight to avoid relegation can sometimes lead to surprising results at big odds as lowly teams find an extra gear or an extra level of effort as they scrap for every single point.

With so many teams potentially involved, almost every match from now to the end of the season will have relevance to the relegation picture, which should make for a thoroughly gripping and entertaining close to the season – unless, of course, your team is involved!

Is Harry Kane the Best Striker in World Football?

Source: Harry Kane via Facebook

Love him or hate him, Harry Kane is one of the most dangerous forwards in world football. The Tottenham Hotspur striker isn’t going to earn plaudits for audacity or skill but he is arguably the best in the business when it comes to putting the ball in the back of the net. With a number of Europe’s elite clubs now sniffing about for his signature, Spurs will be keen to tie the England international down to an extended deal.

Kane has scored 31 goals in 33 competitive games for Tottenham this season – a record that puts him at the forefront of European football. Only Mo Salah comes close to his Premier League goals tally and Spurs will hope that he can keep it up for the rest of the campaign. With a Champions League double header against Juventus approaching, Kane has the chance to send a timely reminder to any lingering doubters.

In order to enhance his status further, Kane must sparkle on the biggest stage of all. He could lead England to World Cup glory this summer; Gareth Southgate’s side were sensational during the qualifying campaign, avoiding defeat in all ten of their group stage fixtures. At the time of writing, England are priced at 20/1 to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy this summer and fans will be expecting Kane to make a positive impact.

In addition, the Spurs striker is priced at an industry best 25/1 to win the Golden Boot. Given his efforts so far this season, Kane deserves to be considered seriously and he could flourish against Tunisia and Panama in the group stages. The Three Lions have struggled at major tournaments in recent years but an in-form Kane may give Southgate’s men that added boost as they try to reach the latter stages of the competition.

Secondly, Kane could move to an elite club in the summer. Playing at the top level for a Real Madrid or a Manchester United would certainly cement his standing as the best striker on the planet. It would be hard to turn down a transfer to Santiago Bernabeu but a move to one of England’s biggest clubs may be preferable. He has Alan Shearer’s top-flight record of 260 goals well and truly in his sights and he is still just 24 years old.

Tottenham’s main man has already scored 22 Premier League goals this season and he will be looking to eclipse the 25-goal mark for the third year in a row. Plenty of punters will be tempted by Kane’s odds ahead of the World Cup and you can keep up with the latest betting news and odds via https://www.freebets.com in the build-up to, during and following, the 2018 World Cup.

Harry Kane is the ultimate goal scorer and Tottenham will be desperately trying to fend off any advances to sign the 24-year-old in the upcoming transfer window. If Kane shines at the World Cup this summer, Real Madrid may come knocking and shrewd operator Daniel Levy may enter negotiations. Is he the best in world football? You’d be hard-pressed to make a serious case against him at this moment in time.

Underdogs worth a punt on World Cup 2018

Picture Source: https://www.fifa.com

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is only a few months away and already millions of fans from across the world are beginning to experience the first effects of World Cup fever.

With all 8 groups determined last December in the official draw, fans are now spending their time speculating about their team’s road to the final, going over thousands of stats, filling out brackets, and dreaming of World Cup glory.

Meanwhile, bettors of every sort are also getting some action on the tournament. While for casino players that mainly means playing football themed slots offered by sites like www.ninjacasino.com such as ‘Football Star’, ‘Golden Goal’ and ‘Football Champions Cup’ in hopes of winning the jackpot, most gamblers rather win their big payout by placing bets on underdog teams that offer huge odds to lift the cup.

With teams like Costa Rica and Iceland having hugely defied expectations in the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Euros respectively – not to mention Leicester City’s absolutely unimaginable Premiere League title in 2016 – it’s worth having a look at some long shots to lift that title that might pay out a small fortune if they manage the heroic feat of lifting the cup.

Mexico

Perhaps the most perpetually promising side on this list, Mexico has been hailed as a hopeful for a deep World Cup run for the past 5 or 6 tournaments, but has been knocked out at the Round of 16 stages at every single one.

This time around, Juan Carlos Osorio’s squad consists of one of the most solid that Mexico has seen in a long time, including several Olympic gold medal winners and Under 17 World Champions. Having breezed through the CONCACAF qualifiers and produced a hugely encouraging display at last year’s Confederations Cup- until they were dressed down by Germany’s second team 4-1 that is – Mexico recently also proved they are a serious contender by drawing 3-3 in a friendly match against Belgium’s golden generation, as well as inflicting a rare loss at home to a strong Polish side.

While Mexico were dealt a tough hand by being drawn into a group containing the world champions and favorite team to lift the cup, as well as a Swedish side that left Italy out of the competition for the first time in 60 years, there is reasonably expectation that they will progress from their group and test their might against the winner of Group E.

With youngster Hirving Lozano in bright hot form at PSV since his move last summer, at odds of 125 to 1 to lift the trophy, Mexico is certainly seems worthy of a punt.

Iceland

Iceland were the sensation of the last European Championship after a dream run that saw them blasting their way into the Quarterfinals, defeating England along the way before ultimately succumbing to hosts France.

But their amazing performance at Euro 2016 was proven to be no fluke, as after the cup they went on to top a tricky World Cup qualification group that included Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey amongst others. Despite being drawn into the group that most are referring to as the “Group of Death” alongside Argentina, Nigeria and Croatia, Iceland cannot be counted out as a true contender to escape the group and go on another impressive run.

If that run were to take them all the way to lifting the cup, you can manage yourself a fantastic payout of 250 to 1.

Costa Rica

Speaking of escaping the “Group of Death”, very few people gave the tiny Central American nation of Costa Rica a chance after they were drawn into a group populated by former World Cup winners Italy, England and Uruguay four years ago. And yet Costa Rica didn’t only manage to qualify ahead of England and Uruguay, but they even topped the toughest group in the competition. From then, they went on to beat Greece before finally succumbing to Netherlands in a dramatic series of penalties in the Quarterfinals.

While Costa Rica has been experiencing a change in generations in the past few years, they managed to qualify in second place in the CONCACAF region, trailing only Mexico. Led by Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas at the back, Costa Rica are solid defensively and will pose a difficult challenge for any rival.

While few people would ever expect them to replicate their run from 2014 this time around, particularly after drawing a complicated group that includes Brazil, Serbia and Switzerland, Costa Rica has already shown its critics what it can do when everyone least expects it.

Costa Rica improving on their 2016 fairytale run and lifting the trophy pays out 500 to 1.

Croatia

Another team that found itself drawn into the “Group of Death”, Croatia has not fared well in the biggest stages in the past few years, being eliminated in the Group stage in the last World Cup and succumbing to eventual champions Portugal at Euro 2016. Not only that, but they were also forced to win their ticket to this year’s competition in a playoff against Greece, after failing to top their group and gain a direct ticket.

While all of that makes it seem like Croatia is not a viable candidate for a surprise run at the cup, that could not be further from the truth. Only a fool would rule out a Balkan team that boasts a fantastic squad which includes not only Mario Mandzukic up top, but one of the best midfield partnerships in the competition with Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic controlling the game.

Ranked as the 15th best team in the world by www.fifa.com, you can bet on Croatia to lift the cup at a juicy price of 41 to 1.

Sweden

Away from football’s greatest stage since the 2006 edition, Sweden made quite a splash after their famous playoff victory against Italy. In a hard fought couple of matches they managed to out-Italy Italy, scoring one goal and defending their slight lead with a solid defensive display.

But their famous victory doesn’t tell the full story of this Swedish team, who most ruled out the moment that Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced his retirement from the national side. In hindsight, that was exactly what the Swedes needed, as his departure forced them to find a completely different style that they quickly settled into, allowing them to come ahead of Netherlands and only a few points behind leaders France.

While most take it as a given that Germany will top Group F and Mexico is favorite to clasp the second spot, Sweden could easily manage to snag their entry into the next round and forward with solid tactics and fantastic teamwork. If you don’t believe it, just ask the Italians…

Sweden winning their first ever World Cup pay out at odds of 125 to 1.