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Premiership Predictions: EPL Roundup

Since it’s my last week here in London, I think it’s fitting to take an in-depth look at the English Premier League. I’ll recap some of this season’s major stories, its winners and losers, and throw in a generous helping of sex and drugs scandals for good measure. But first let’s cover the basics. The English Premier League is made up of twenty teams. Each team plays two games against every other team: one game at home, one game away. Three points are awarded for a win, one point for a draw. After thirty-eight games have been played, the team with the most points is declared the league champion. It’s a bit anticlimactic to crown the winner just based on the standings, without any type of postseason playoffs. But in soccer that’s just the way it’s done. Over the past decade, the team most often declared league champion has been Manchester United.

On the other side of the equation, the bottom three teams are relegated - that is, they’re kicked out of the Premiership and put in the First Division, which is the next-lower league. In turn, the top three First Division teams are promoted to the Premier League. Likewise, the bottom teams in the First Division are relegated to the Second Division, and the bottom teams in the Second Division are relegated to the Third Division. It’s a wonderfully hierarchical system where the strong are rewarded and the weak are punished. Rewards and punishments give teams and incentive to play their best. Wouldn’t it be more fun if the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Penguins were booted from their respective leagues?

Throughout the season there are various other national cup competitions, the most important being the Football Association Cup. For the FA Cup, all of the teams in English professional soccer are placed in a pool and paired for matches. In the first round mismatches are commonplace; a Third Division side might face Manchester United, for example. The winners in each round advance to the next. It’s the closest thing to a playoff season in English soccer, but the top teams usually care a lot more about winning the Premiership title than the FA Cup.

This season Arsenal tops the Premier League with a nine-point lead over second-placed Chelsea. Arsenal was in a similar position last year, only to blow their lead in the final stages to Manchester United. They won’t let that happen again this year, and the bookies know it. The odds for Arsenal to win the title are currently 1:10.

Chelsea has been on the biggest stories of the season since the team was purchased by Russian oil tycoon Roman Abramovich. After buying nearly $300 million worth of players, it looks like the highest Chelski will finish is second place. They’ve got a first-class midfield, defense and goalkeeper but are missing a star-quality striker. You need to score goals to win games, and while Chelsea has relied on its defense to eke out several 1-0 wins this year, they need to score more often to challenge Arsenal for the title next year. It will be interesting to see if they pick up a star goal-scorer in the off-season. Ironically, the surplus of talented players at Chelsea has been a hindrance for the team this year. The depth of their bench has meant they don’t have a regular lineup, and they haven’t been able to gel as a team. Chelsea’s players seem to care more about impressing the coach with their individual performances to get more playing time. Contrast this to the well oiled machines that is Arsenal (and even Man United) and it becomes clear this is not a championship team. Expect coach Claudio "Tinker man" Ranieri to be sacked at the end of this season and replaced by current England coach Sven Goran Eriksson.

Manchester United has had an awful year by their standards and they’ve been dogged by one scandal after another. In September United’s top defender Rio Ferdinand received an eight-month suspension for failing to take a drug test. Despite passing the test a few days later he was unable to get the sentence reduced. The impact on the team’s performance has been huge. They’ve hemorrhaged goals at an amazing rate, and are winless in their last four games - unheard of for a team of Man United’s caliber. Also distracting has been a very public dispute between coach Alex Ferguson and John Magnier, who owns 29% of Manchester United. Both are part owners of a record-breaking racehorse, Rock of Gibraltar, and they’ve been unable to agree on his stud rights. Pretty silly, you might think -- but the horse is worth $200 million. The club has grown so wealthy that this year Manchester United has surpassed the New York Yankees as the richest sports team in the world (with $320 million versus the Yankees $310 million).

Contrast that with Leeds, who have experienced a spectacular collapse this year and are likely to be relegated. Leeds United has accumulated around $160 million of debt, and lost almost $100 million this year. The problems date back to a spending spree on players a couple of years ago that failed to pay dividends. This year they’ve been forced to cut player’s wages, and currently Leeds sit at the bottom of the standings with 22 points in 28 games. It’s hard to believe this was a top-table team throughout much of the 1990s, even winning the Premiership in 1992.

But the top story has got to be the Leicester City players’ antics during a 'training session' in Spain. Three women have alleged that nine of the team’s players forced their way into a hotel room and sexually assaulted them. In a scandal that has become affectionately known as the 'La Manga Ganga Banga,' the three players were shown on TV being thrown into a police van, and spent six days in a Spanish jail before finally being released on bail. The trial continues.

Alcohol-fuelled frenzies like these are becoming quite common at the bottom ranked clubs, with players who show up to team practices drunk. What a contrast to a team like Arsenal where alcohol is banned. But the players don’t seem to mind, happily sipping lattes on a Saturday night. They’ll need to stay sharp this Wednesday for a Champions League match against Chelsea. But things look good for Arsenal who are 5-0 against Chelsea over the past 15 months. In fact, Chelsea has not beaten Arsenal since 1995.

Last week: Two wins and one loss, but frustratingly in our 'banker' of the weekend Real Madrid only managed a draw with Zaragoza. We lost 100 units.

Liverpool vs. Wolverhampton: 2004-03-20 10:00 ET
Wolves remain the worst road team in the league with an 0-4-10 record. They’ve only scored 7 goals in 14 road games, by far the league’s worst. Liverpool, conversely, average nearly 2.5 goals per home game and own a solid home record. Liverpool are only one point shy of a crucial Champions League spot, so they’ll want nothing less than three points from this match. Striker Michael Owen scored twice last week, which is significant because he’s a streaky player. Don’t be surprised if he nets another two against Wolves on Saturday. Play on Liverpool

Aston Villa vs. Blackburn: 2004-03-20 10:00 ET
Aston Villa have only lost twice at home all season, and one of those was to Arsenal. With a win this weekend Villa can inch closer to an important European qualifying spot. They are one of the best teams in the Premiership this year, even though on paper they don’t appear that way because of a poor start to the season. Blackburn’s defense is one of the worst in the league, and will not be able to cope with a sustained barrage from Villa. Play on Aston Villa

Modena vs Reggina: 2004-03-21 09:00 ET
This game has drawn written all over it. Modena has drawn in 6 out of their last 10 games, and 3 of their last 4 home games. Reggina has drawn in their last 3 straight games. Both teams have drawn in 4 of their last 6 games. Any way you look at it points to a draw. These are bottom-table teams who can’t score, and their main motivation is to not lose, rather than to win. I’d put the chance of a draw at 55-60% so these odds are excellent value. Play on the Draw

Other Articles About Soccer Betting:

» Soccer Wagering: Point Spread or Money Line?
» UEFA Champions League Prediction: Group Stage
» World Cup Qualifiers 2006: European Zone
» Carling Cup Prediction: Second Round Preview
» Italian Soccer Prediction: Serie A Preview 2004/2005
» French Soccer Prediction: Singing Les Bleus
» Spanish Soccer Prediction: Primera Liga Preview 2004
» German Soccer Prediction: Bundesliga Preview 2004
» English Premier League Prediction 2004/2005
» Olympics Soccer: Redemption Time
» Copa America Prediction: Samba or Last Tango in Peru?
» Asian Cup Prediction: Here We Go Again
» Copa America Betting: At the Copa...
» Betting Euro 2004: The Final Four
» Euro 2004 Gambling: Propaholics and Rooney-Mania
» Euro 2004 Predictions: Handicapping Secrets Revealed
» Euro 2004 Tips: Props - Part 1
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» International Friendlies: How to Cash In
» Road Dogs and Big Profits: How to Find Both
» Uefa Champions League Betting Tips: The Final Four
» Man Utd v Arsenal Prediction: Clash of the Titans
» Premiership Predictions: EPL Roundup
» UK Bookmakers: Where the Action Is
» Legal Betting: A Gambler's Paradise
» Cup Competitions: Where the Money is
» Profit from Home Field Advantage

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