In theory, the schedule of the English Premier League (EPL) shouldn’t matter much. At the end of the day, each team will face the rest twice, once at home and once away.
However, we all know that the fixture list often impacts the final standings.
A rough start could be the end of the title hunt for some teams or the beginning of the end for the smaller clubs.
This is why it’s always a good idea to consider the schedule when making a bet. And since it’s out, this seems like a good moment to check some early prices and try to find out if any of them offer any value.
Key Moments of the Season
Let’s start by looking at the moments that are the most important and often decide the future of the clubs.
Start of the Season
The early days of the season often set the tone and play a role later on. Especially for teams with new managers, you could often see a couple of wins lift the supporters and improve the confidence of the team.
At the same time, if the results are not there, pressure starts building. We’ve seen it time and time again, so I believe the first couple of games could be very important.
A lot of players will receive an extended break after the tournament in Russia, meaning many of the squads in the EPL won’t be full at the start of the campaign.
This is especially true for the top teams that are full of international players, including guys who might reach the last stages of the World Cup and return just before the EPL seasons starts. A good example of this is the two clubs from Manchester.
Christmas and Boxing Day Matches
There will be a winter break at last, but the festive period will remain one of the most important times in the English Premier League.
This is when the depth of each club is tested, as there are plenty of games in a short period of time. If they are playing strong teams every other day, they may well crash.
The managers need to rotate and make use of pretty much any player that’s healthy in this crucial moment of the season.
Many title bids were decided around Boxing Day, and this will certainly happen again in the future.
The end of the season is obviously important for clubs on both ends of the table. Some have the last chance to fight for their place in the EPL, while others are giving everything to hold and win the title or get that lucrative spot in the Champions League.
Either way, all teams are exhausted after the long season, and it’s often more about mentality and desire than class.
Of course, a more favorable fixture list could help a lot, too.
Let’s take a look at the teams who have the ambition to fight for the title.
The obvious favorite after breaking a number of records last year is Manchester City. Pep Guardiola’s side has all the quality to once again top the EPL, and the bookies tend to agree with that point of view.
They have the best squad, and I’m pretty sure Pep will add at least a couple of solid players. The Blues also kept Mikel Arteta as an assistant manager, so this is another bonus.
A quick look at the start of City’s season shows one tough game against Arsenal, and the rest is pretty easy. They will face the likes of Newcastle, Wolves, and Huddersfield during the early stages.
Even if the champions lose against Arsenal on the first day of the EPL season, they should easily bounce back in the next couple of matches.
The Christmas period is a bit tricky. There are two away games against Leicester and Southampton, followed by a home match against Liverpool. While this is not the easiest schedule in the world, I think City has the depth to cope and earn a decent points tally.
Finally, the defending champs have a rather easy final month of the season. If it goes down the wire, they will face the likes of Crystal Palace, Burnley, Leicester, and Brighton. There is one home game against Tottenham, but once again, nothing too dangerous overall.
As we can see, Manchester City has a rather favorable schedule for the crucial parts of the season. Combine that with their exceptional squad, and it’s easy to see them grab the title once again in 2019.
You can find odds of around 1.60-1.65 for City to do so. They are perhaps a bit too short for my taste in an ideal world, but considering the EPL schedule, this might be the highest price available. And at this stage, it’s hard to see them not retaining their title.
The team from Merseyside showed enormous progress in this campaign and reached the Champions League final. Liverpool has a devastating front line and one of the best players in the world in Mohamed Salah.
However, I don’t think they have the strength in depth of other top teams, most notably Manchester City. The problems at the back were obvious all season long, and the pressing style requires a lot of rotation, which didn’t always work for Jurgen Klopp and his boys.
The German manager will certainly have to add some players to the squad and integrate them quickly. And, of course, Liverpool is in desperate need of a top goalie.
They will be stretched to the limit and will need a bit of luck with the fixture list if they are going to challenge to the title. Let’s see if they got it.
The start is good, as Liverpool will face West Ham and Brighton at home, as well as Palace and Leicester away. The Reds could easily get something like 10-12 points and instantly become involved in the title fight.
One of the other pieces of good news is that some of their best players, like Salah and Mane, are not part of strong international sides and could be knocked out of the World Cup early on, which will help Liverpool’s cause.
The Christmas period won’t be that easy, though, and this could be a problem if Klopp doesn’t add enough quality and quantity to the squad. It starts against Wolves away, then comes Newcastle at home. Both games are winnable.
However, the next two fixtures are against Arsenal at home and Manchester United away. Both matches are tricky and will force Klopp to rotate a lot. This is a potential trap for Liverpool. If they are already behind the likes of City at this point, it is possible that the gap will become much bigger around the end of the calendar year.
The final month of the English Premier League season is a mixed bag for the Reds. They have a couple of games that look easy on paper, but they also face Chelsea at home and some teams that might be fighting for their lives at this point. Overall, I can see a strong finish, but City has the better schedule in April and May.
All things considered, the schedule doesn’t help Liverpool. The start is decent, but the Christmas period will be tough and might end the team’s hopes to win the title. The price of 5.00 seems about right, and I don’t think there’s value up for grabs.
The other team that is considered among the favorites for the title is Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United. I would say that the Portuguese manager spent so much money in the past 2 years that he already should’ve been much closer to Manchester City.
He had the tools to fight them, but the inability to find the best balance between attack and defense has been haunting the Red Devils and the man leading them.
I expect much of the same this season, but United could surprise me if they keep the solid performance at the back and add a bit more cutting edge in front of goal, so let’s check if the fixture list will be kind to them.
The first game is against Leicester at home, followed by Brighton away, Tottenham at home, and Burnley away.
Both games away from Manchester are tricky, and Tottenham is a solid team, so I would say United’s schedule is tougher than what Man City and Liverpool will face.
Man United does have a more favorable draw when it comes to the Christmas period. The Red Devils will play Cardiff, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, and Newcastle. All of them should be beatable, which could provide a boost to Manchester United’s chances to win the EPL.
If United is in the mix at the end, they will have to face Everton away, Chelsea at home, Huddersfield away, and Cardiff at home. I would say this is comparable to the other two teams in the title race.
Since the start of Manchester United looks the worst on paper, I wouldn’t bet on them to win the championship right now. The price on the Red Devils currently is around the 7-8.00 mark and could easily hit double digits after just 4-5 games.
The Relegation Battle
Often, the fight to stay in the English Premier League can be even more exciting than the one between the clubs hoping to lift the trophy. Let’s take a look at this year’s top candidates for relegation.
Before I proceed with that, though, I want to clarify that I won’t be looking at the Christmas schedule in this part of the post. I believe it affects the title fight more, while the start and the end are what matters the most for the clubs fighting for the lives.
The Welsh team is considered by many as the top contender to instantly return to the Championship. We often see at least 1 or 2 of the new teams in the EPL follow such a fate, so it won’t be the biggest surprise.
Still, the final standings at the bottom of the table can be hugely affected by just a few games. Since you only need about 37-38 points to stay in the competition, a good run at some point of the season could make the difference.
An opening away game against Bournemouth will be tough for the Welsh team, and their first home match against Newcastle is not easy, either.
The next two games are against Huddersfield away and Arsenal at home. Both are tricky, and I could easily see the pressure start building in Cardiff.
The end of the season is a mixed bag, as there are two winnable games against Fulham and Crystal Palace. In the other two fixtures, Cardiff will have to face Liverpool and Manchester United.
In my opinion, the Welsh club might go down. Still, the price of 1.80 or so is too low. I would prefer to find better value.
If you trust the bookies, Huddersfield is another team in trouble. The Terriers barely beat the drop last time around by finishing 16th.
I don’t see them adding a lot of quality players this summer, so I would be nervous if I was a Huddersfield right now. This season will be again a tough battle to stay up, and it might not end happily as in 2018.
Especially if you look at the start of the campaign. The first two games are against Chelsea and Manchester City. The 4th one is against Everton away. I can’t see Huddersfield taking anything, so the 3rd-round match against Cardiff at home is the only chance to prevent a disaster early in the season.
The end of the season is not much better. There’s a winnable game against Watford at home, but the rest is a nightmare. Liverpool away, Man United at home, and Southampton away is hardly the ideal end of the season.
If you consider the lack of quality in the Huddersfield squad and the horrible schedule both at the start and at the end of the season, the Terriers are my favorite to go down. The price is around 2.25, which is decent enough for my taste.
The third team I will be looking at is Fulham. The London-based club is back in the elite and will be hoping to stay for good.
I don’t think they have the squad currently, but some transfers by the start of the campaign might change that.
The first game for Fulham will be a London derby against Crystal Palace at home. This seems like a winnable game, as well as the 3rd-round clash against Burnley at home. The two away games are against Tottenham and Brighton.
Spurs will surely be too strong for Fulham, but they snatch something against the latter. I feel that the Cottagers could gain some points at the start, which will bring much-needed confidence.
The final part of the season also looks better for Fulham compared to the other teams that are expected to be in the relegation battle.
They play Bournemouth away, which is a hard game, but there’s a home clash against Cardiff, away game against Wolves, and a home match against Newcastle to finish things off. If Fulham is in need of points, the club will have the chance to get them.
Considering the schedule, I can’t see any value in the price of 3.00 for Fulham to go down. The club has a decent start and a favorable fixture list at the end, which will help their campaign immensely.
I want to conclude this post with a reminder that it’s still the early days of the season. A lot could happen, especially since the transfer market is open.
Make sure to follow all major transfers, as they will certainly impact both ends of the table.
Also, please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments section below. I’d love to know what you think about your team’s schedule or how you see the EPL panning out next season.
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