Big early tests for relegation-fancied Reading and Southampton

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As the two sides that achieved promotion via automatic means last season, it may surprise some to see Reading as 4/5 favourites and Southampton at 10/11 to be relegated.

The two outfits are each attributed far shorter prices than playoff winners West Ham, who are 9/4 to go down, though face more favourable early season fixtures, against a plethora of clubs who finished in the bottom half last season.

Reading meet Stoke at the Madejski Stadium on the opening day of next term, and whilst that is a winnable game for Brian McDermott’s men, the Potters will be fired up to get off to a good start and avenge a disappointing last campaign.

Trips to Sunderland and Champions League winners Chelsea come next for the Royals meanwhile, before they line up for home ties with top six sides Tottenham and Newcastle.

These matches sandwich a tricky trip to West Brom, who will be eager to impress under the stewardship of new manager Steve Clarke.

A late season clash with Manchester City will be unwelcome for McDermott’s side too, particularly if they are battling for survival by the time the champions visit.

Southampton won’t have to wait so long to face the Citizens in contrast, as they prepare to kick off their Premier League campaign away at Eastlands.

That game precedes a home tie with Wigan, before Manchester United visit St. Mary’s, and the Saints travel to Arsenal, meaning they will have faced three of last season’s top four by mid-September.

November in particular looks as though it could prove a fruitful month for Southampton though, as they face several sides that finished in the lower half of the table last term.

Wigan come next in the relegation betting meanwhile, as 11/8 shots to go down.

They may be forced to continue a trend of superb late season form too, as early fixtures with Chelsea and Man United look set to reap little reward.

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