O’Neill factor can see Sunderland trouble top six contenders

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As Martin O’Neill prepares to take charge of his first full season at Sunderland, his side must be fancied in Ladbrokes’ betting without the top six market at 7/1.

Sunderland, whose best ever Premier League finish was seventh place in both 2000 and 2001, made a marked improvement since O’Neill’s arrival last December.

The Black Cats were languishing in the relegation zone under Steve Bruce, before O’Neill’s stewardship became the catalyst for a 13th-place finish, a standing that the club has bettered only once in the past 11 years.

Meanwhile, O’Neill’s spell in charge at Aston Villa must be a point of encouragement for punters siding with the Mackems in this market.

After finishing in tenth place after his first campaign at the Villa Park helm, O’Neill steered the Villains to three consecutive sixth-place finishes, ensuring Europa League qualification on each occasion.

Now, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea listed as the ‘top six,’ many will fancy Sunderland to place just behind these at that 7/1.

Only these aforementioned sides, barring Liverpool, and Newcastle, had a better record against bottom-half clubs last term, and that undoubtedly bodes well for the Wearside outfit.

Among the main competitors in this market meanwhile, Sunderland’s arch rivals Newcastle are 6/4 favourites following a surprise fifth-place finish last season.

However, many will be concerned by that performance being Newcastle’s first top-half Premier League finish for six years, whilst they have achieved a top-seven standing only twice since 2004.

Other contenders come in the form of 7/2 Everton, but the slow start they tend to make to their campaigns could hamper their chances.

The Toffees garnered just 21 of their eventual 56 points before the new year last term, and they likely must improve their early-season form if they are to have any chance of repeating their seventh-place finish of 2011/2012.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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