Punters' Guide: How to find those magic beans when sizing up footy market

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The Independent Football

The giant is coming down the beanstalk again – after a few months when tennis, golf and cricket have held sway, the Premier League returns, crushing all in its size 12 boots. And as far as betting is concerned, it has now swatted aside punters' more traditional pursuits – horse racing, greyhounds, golf. For in the nation's high-street bookies today, the bulk of the money going down will be football bets, and their ever-increasing "derivatives".

There are at least a hundred available for the new season. You can back a team for the worst disciplinary record with Skybet (Stoke City are 7-2 favourites); you can bet on an away side getting a penalty at Old Trafford (yes 4-7; no 5-4); you can guess who'll be bottom of the table at Christmas (11-4 Burnley).

But what most punters are interested in is who wins. Chelsea have edged ahead of Manchester United as market leaders – 21-10 with Boylesports and 5-2 at Ladbrokes respectively. Liverpool are 4-1 with Coral and Betfred, while Arsenal are a general 10-1.

And then it's big spenders Manchester City at 14-1 – next are Spurs, way out at 80-1. So City are in the top five as far as the bookies are concerned. Unfortunately, their manager, Mark Hughes (left), is second favourite to get the chop (11-2 behind Portsmouth's Paul Hart, 5-1) such is the pressure at City.

United have an easy start but may struggle with injuries; Chelsea have muscle but not age on their side; Arsenal will please the eye but fail again; take Liverpool to win (especially at United-supporting Betfred), but back Wayne Rooney, the ultimate pantomime "Jack", for the Golden Boot (12-1).