Premier League returns after three months to tight relegation battle
It had been exactly 100 days since the Premier League last played a game, way back on Monday, March 9, when Aston Villa hosted Sheffield United Wednesday to finally end the COVID-19 break.
It was a long time, but fans around the world, including New Jersey, finally had some English soccer to watch.
The first two games back came with some controversy (a “ghost goal” that cost Sheffield United a victory in a 0-0 draw) and a straight red card (David Luiz, after he tanked Arsenal’s chances in the first half with an awful mistake; Manchester City won 3-0), to give everyone some talking points.
Not that it would be needed, as the return of the Premier League dominated the headlines around the world of sport.
Those two games Wednesday kicked off 35 days of action over the next six weeks which will decide everything but the title; Liverpool has long since had that effectively wrapped up, and can win it for real with two wins.
But the race for a top four (which could turn into top five depending on Manchester City’s CAS appeal) UEFA Champions League place, as well as the next three places in the table (which will be UEFA Europa League positions) should come down to the final weekend of play on July 26, reports Dailystoke.
Those, as well as the battle at the other end of the table to stay out of the bottom three relegation spots, should make for one of the more dramatic finishes to a season in a long time, even without fans in attendance. With the uncertainty surrounding the global economy due to COVID-19, it would be imperative to stay in the Premier League, and not the EFL Championship, for 2020-21.
Taking a look at the odds for relegation on NJ betting sites, even with nine matches to go, there are really just six teams battling to stay outside the bottom three. Norwich City, which dead last on 21 points, is currently -1250 to be relegated. Aston Villa (19th, 26 points) is -278 and Bournemouth (18th, 27 points) is -125.
But the teams just outside the bottom three, Watford (17th) and West Ham (16th) have the same amount of points as Bournemouth, and nearly the same goal difference. Where they differ is in the odds: West Ham is +200, while Watford is +250, according to some NY sportsbooks.
For the value, those are some decent odds. West Ham in particular has a brutal schedule, and could be worth it to take with Bournemouth.
As for the top four battle, Leicester City is -625, and look set to finish third. The real battle comes down to fourth, with Chelsea (fourth) three points ahead of Manchester United, four ahead of Sheffield United, and five in front of Wolverhampton. Chelsea is the favorite at -162, but with a tough schedule ahead, there is some value in the teams behind the Blues. Manchester United is +150, Wolverhampton is +700, but Sheffield United is a distant +1400, behind eighth place Tottenham at +1000.
Can Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s now healthy Red Devils pip Chelsea to the Champions League?
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About the Author: Sean has been covering the Premier League since 2013 for various outlets, including NJ.com and the Trenton Times, where he is also the current Trenton Thunder beat writer. His podcast, Box to Box Football, can be heard on iTunes and other streaming platforms.