Aston Villa had finished as the top Midlands club for nine successive seasons before their struggles in the last campaign, but normal order can be restored now that Paul Lambert has taken charge at Villa Park.
With only West Brom and Stoke as competition for the honour, Aston Villa’s odds of 1/1 to be top Midlands club look generous.
Lambert’s arrival has been greeted positively at Villa and he has already made some seemingly shrewd signings.
Ron Vlaar should strengthen a defence that looked iffy from set pieces last season, Karim El Ahmadi should provide some new protection to the back four, while Brett Holman has been scoring goals regularly in pre season.
Throw in that Darren Bent is back fit after missing a large chunk of last season and his goals will almost certainly ensure Villa finish higher than 16th and perhaps even back in the top half of the table.
Lambert’s style of attack-minded football will also suit Bent, along with Charles N’Zogbia and Stephen Ireland, with this trio in particular seeming starved by the more defensive approach of Alex McLeish.
West Brom took top Midlands honours last season by finishing tenth, but they will struggle to replicate this without current England manager Roy Hodgson.
This is Steve Clarke’s first managerial post and the general consensus is that Clarke will cause the Baggies to be nearer relegation than last season.
Stoke are another team tipped as outsiders for relegation after struggling for form towards the end of the last campaign and doing little to strengthen their squad in the close season.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.