Battle for the top four is fiercer than ever

As we approach the halfway mark in the Premier League season, Manchester City have stormed to the top of the table and look unstoppable. 16 consecutive wins on the bounce has seen the Citizens firmly establish themselves as favourites for the title but there is other battles taking place.

Below them, a number of sides are fighting it out for the three remaining Champions League spots- which carry more significance this season as UEFA’s changes mean that all top-four clubs in the Premier League automatically qualify for the group stage, which means that we won’t see games like Liverpool’s victory over Hoffenheim.

That makes the passage on the continent for England’s top sides slightly easier but the battle for the three spots is fiercer than ever; with Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur going toe-to-toe, with at least two of those sides sides set for disappointment.

As it stands, United, Liverpool and Chelsea are in the driving seat but just seven points separate second-placed from seventh, which adds another twist to the exciting Premier League campaign and increases the importance of the weeks ahead.

Crucial Christmas

As is customary with English football, the Premier League calendar is rammed full of fixtures over the Christmas and New Year period, where the depth of the squad available to the sides within England’s top-tier is truly put to the test.

Each side has three games to play before the New Year, with another game then following in quick succession in 2018 before a week off from Premier League action for the FA Cup. Clearly, there is no room for mistakes and there is a number of huge clashes that could have quite an impact.

The first sees an in-form Arsenal tackle another side on top-form this season, Liverpool, in a showdown at the Emirates Stadium. Just a single point separates the two English giants and losing could open the door for those below them to take advantage, as well as handing a crucial boost to their opponents on Friday evening.

Chelsea also face a difficult final game before Christmas against a rejuvenated Everton side, whilst Manchester United and Tottenham could face challenges in their clashes against Leicester City and Burnley- the latter of whom are currently in the hunt for European football.

The early games of 2018 will also provide a huge impact, with Liverpool facing Burnley, Chelsea going head-to-head with Arsenal and Manchester United travelling to Everton. By mid-January, the battle for the top-four will be starting to take shape.

The leading men

What has made the Premier League most exciting this season is the array of talents across the division, with each top-side boasting players who could be in with a shout to be Player of the Year at the end of the campaign.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah has scored twenty goals across all competitions already this season, whilst Arsenal have seen Mesut Ozil enjoy a spectacular period of form. At Chelsea, Antonio Conte’s squad have found a leader of their attack in Alvaro Morata whilst Romelu Lukaku is getting back-on-track with Manchester United, having scored in each of his last two appearances.

Tottenham, meanwhile, still have England’s finest in the form of Harry Kane and there’s other players within Mauricio Pochettino’s side, and the rest of the teams in the top seven, who can provide a huge impact- including the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Sadio Mane, Dele Alli, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante.

Keeping these players fit and in-form is crucial, which is why the busy festive period is challenging as the games come thick and fast. Fortunately, the majority of the top sides have ready made replacements ready to step-in but finding a player capable of filling the void left by someone like Salah or Kane is a real challenge.

What to expect

The landscape at the top of the table can change in the blink of an eye but the likelihood is that Manchester United will finish in the top-four this season, as the Red Devils are enjoying their best campaign since the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

Defending champions Chelsea also look strong, although a Champions League double-header with Barcelona in the Spring could provide problems, whilst Liverpool and Tottenham could endure similar struggles- especially as, on paper at least, they seem to lack the depth that their rivals boast.

Arsenal will benefit from an absence of Champions League football and have repeatedly shown they’re capable of stringing a late run of results together to force their way into the top-four, although this year there’s far less room for mistakes and the Gunners will need to find consistency.

Overall, what we can expect is a thrilling battle for Champions League football and all the pointers suggest it will last for the entire season.

European Teams in the World Club Championship (1 more year on)

Two years ago we published this article about the World Club Championship and both bets were winners. Last year we published this follow up but was not so successful. We have updated the data to include those results and now we have all matches from 2009 to 2015 and the results are shown below

DateTeam 1ScoreTeam 2-2 AH-2.5AH
18.12.2016Kashima4-2 AETReal MadridLoseLose
15.12.2016Club America0-2Real MadridVoidLose
20.12.2015River Plate0-3BarcelonaWinWin
17.12.2015Barcelona3-0Guangzhou EvergrandeWinWin
20.12.2014Real Madrid2-0San LorenzoVoidLose
16.12.2014Cruz Azul0-4Real MadridWinWin
21.12.2013Bayern Munich2-0Raja CasablancaVoidLose
17.12.2013Guangzhou Evergrande0-3Bayern MunichWinWin
18.12.2011Santos0-4BarcelonaWinWin
15.12.2011Al-Sadd0-4BarcelonaWinWin
18.12.2010Mazembe0-3InterWinWin
15.12.2010Seongnam0-3InterWinWin
19.12.2009Estudiantes L.P.1-1*BarcelonaLoseLose
16.12.2009Atlante3-1BarcelonaVoidLose

The European team plays just 2 matches in this tournament nowadays and Real Madrid have already scraped through their first one. If we look at all 14 matches, not included the one played this year, the European teams have conceeded goals in only 3 of them. It still seems clear there is a big gulf in class between the European teams and the others in this and the -2 Asian Handicap looks an interesting bet as this has lost just twice in that time and that was in the finals in 2009 and 2016.

Real Madrid were poor in their opener and playe Gremio in the final who scraped through 1-0 after extra time.  Bet365 offer 1.82 on Real Madrid -1.5, 1.92 on Real Madrid -1.75 and 2.2 on Real Madrid -2 and all of these look to offer value.

The Premier League weekend of derbies

This weekend is set to be one of the most exciting in the 2017-18 Premier League season. Whilst the Merseyside derby is always an exciting fixture, the majority of people will be focused on Sunday’s Manchester derby instead. There are plenty of Betfair bets on Premier League you may want to consider placing this weekend, and the derbies are no

The Premier League action also kicks off with a London derby as David Moyes’ West Ham United take on defending champions Chelsea at the London

At the start of the season, most pundits and fans’ Premier League predictions had both Manchester City and Manchester United competing at the top of the table. While the two clubs occupy the top two positions in the table, Pep Guardiola’s side have already opened up an eight point lead at the top and have the opportunity go 11 points clear of their neighbours with a victory at Old Trafford this weekend. Manchester City have managed to gain this impressive advantage thanks to sensational performances from world class players such as Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane. United players such as Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku have performed well for their club, but their inability to pick up a win away at other ‘Big 6’ clubs has led to City gaining a huge lead at the top of the

Both clubs have managed to afford these players thanks to the large sums of money they have available to spend. Since the Abu Dhabi takeover of Manchester City in 2008, both clubs have been spending large sums of money. It’s only been in the last few seasons where both clubs have increased their spending by regularly spending over £100 million in new players every season. The infographic below looks at the transfer spending of both clubs and the players they have spent it on in the past decade.

The Best London Clubs

 

London is home to some of the biggest and best football clubs in England, with at least two London clubs finishing in the top 4 of the Premier League in the past 15 seasons.

The defending Premier League champions are Chelsea, although one look at the Paddy Power football odds will tell you that the trophy is unlikely to make a return to Stamford Bridge at the end of this season, with Manchester City’s dominating displays seeing them take an early lead at the top of the table.

The likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and West Ham all have a rich history in English football and each have been home to some legendary players, from Sir Geoff Hurst to John Terry.

While Chelsea, Tottenham and Chelsea will be having hopes of getting into the top 4 at the end of the season, West Ham, under new manager David Moyes will be hoping the Scotsman can turn their fortunes around and take them up the table into a more respectable position.

We have created the following infographic which takes a look at these four London clubs and some of the interesting statistics behind them.

 

Record Breaking Year for Manchester City?

What a start it’s been for Manchester City, who are currently sitting 8 points ahead of 2nd place Manchester United, despite being only 11 games in. They’ve won 10 of those matches, the only standout being a draw with Everton.

City have already been smashing records, for example,  their 13 game winning streak in all competitions (a new club best). In addition, they’ve also beaten their previous mark with 6 consecutive away wins. Their goal difference of +31 is a Premier League record through 11 games, and they also have a perfect Champions League resume to add to the list.

However, at some point the question has to be asked: Can City break the ultimate record – most points in a Premier League season. The current record is held by Chelsea, who notched 95 points in 2004-05 under Jose Mourinho.

A simple look at this says that if they have 31 points through 11 games, they’ll end with 107 points. That’s a pure linear model. However, the sporting world does not work that way. We have to take into account the idea that Manchester City will likely regress back slightly as the season wears on.

 


 

We can model this through the use of our “Pythagorean Theorem” (https://goo.gl/cUiccT). This model takes a team’s goals scored and goals allowed, and uses them to create an expected points per game for that team.

Given Manchester City’s current statistics (which of course will change over the course of the year), they have an expected 2.52 points per game. And with the 27 remaining games in the season, they are projected to obtain another 68 points, which would result in an expected 99 total points at the end of the season.

 

Given that these projections typically have a RMSE, or error, of 0.1226 points per game, we can expect a +/- error of about 6.6 points at the end of the season. This means we are 95% certain that City will finish with a points total between 92.4 and 105.6. Of course this isn’t great, however, it can also be said that there’s about a 70% chance they will finish between 95.7 and 102.3 points.

 


 

Now, we can’t take transfers, injuries, and other unforeseeable events into account, so this is solely based on how they’ve begun their campaign. And so, while nothing is guaranteed, it is likely that we will see Manchester City’s 2017-18 campaign end in a Premier League record. It will be really interesting to see whether the Citizens will achieve this feat, and maybe even go on to reach triple digits.

 

Author: Nikhil Mehta