Premier League: Can Everton, Aston Villa or Southampton finish top four?
There’s still a long way to go in this thrilling Premier League season, and the early results suggest we’re in for a campaign like no other. Could a limited pre-season, congested fixture schedule and empty stadiums mean we end up with a new-look top four?
The Premier League has become accustomed to having the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham challenging for Champions League places. Not to mention Leicester, Arsenal and Manchester United fighting for the top six.
Will the bizarre results and inconsistent form of the top sides continue? Will that allow one of the new challengers to break the chain?
Heading into matchweek eight, Everton and Southampton both have a chance to go level on points at the top of the table, with both Manchester City and Manchester United adrift in midtable.
We take a further look at the surprise packages who have been flexing their muscles and discuss their credentials for a potential European adventure next season.
Spirits are high on the blue half of Merseyside under Carlo Ancelotti and whispers are already circulating that the Toffees could be ready to make a return to European football’s top table.
If any manager is going to get them there, Carlo Ancelotti certainly has the pedigree to do just that.
The Blues last qualified for the Champions League in 2005 under David Moyes but failed to make the group stage after losing to Villarreal in the third qualifying round. Fifteen years on, Everton are 4/1 to finish in the top four.
A new-look midfield with the arrivals of James Rodriguez, Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan has given fresh impetus, energy and flair behind Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin in attack.
Everton still have one of the smaller squads in the league and have struggled to maintain their early season form which saw them win the opening four matches. A couple of January transfer additions could be the difference between Champions League and Europa League this season for the Blues.
The Saints are by no means checking their passports or gearing up for trips to Nou Camp or Allianz Arena just yet. But, they’re certainly showing signs they can compete with the big guns this term.
Southampton have been a surprise package this season and have managed to tighten their defensive frailties of last season to build a resolute squad of players who are proving tough to beat both at home and on the road.
Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side have quietly gone about their business and it is worth noting that this is a side who have lost just three times since March.
Danny Ings may be injured, but he holds the key to any top four aspirations they may have in attack after notching five goals so far this campaign. He is 20/1 to win the Golden Boot this season.
Skipper James Ward-Prowse is also leading by example with his dead-ball delivery and goal-scoring threat from midfield. The pair combined to devastating effect at Aston Villa last weekend, but could their progress be curtailed with their star striker’s absence?
Realistically, the St. Mary’s outfit would have been pleased with a top half finish this season, and that may still be the case. But, right now they’re 20/1 to finish in the top four and 150/1 to be Premier League champions – Yes, it could just be one of those crazy seasons!
Wolves fans have been living the dream under Nuno Espirito Santo despite playing a mammoth 57 games last season, including a memorable debut season in the Europa League. Are they ready to take the next step in Europe? They’re 10/1 to finish in the top four.
The Molineux outfit epitomise how hard-work and togetherness can take a team far, having become one of the most attractive teams to watch domestically and on the European stage.
They already have a foreign influence with an influx of Portuguese talent, not to forget the formidable partnership of Raul Jimenez up front and Adama Traore on the wing.
Diogo Jota may have departed for Liverpool and hit the ground running, but Wolves have already proved they’re capable of filling the Jota-shaped void with the likes of Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence.
Their progress can only be admired but burnout could play a significant factor as Wolves head into a congested winter schedule with Leicester, Southampton, Arsenal and Liverpool next up.
What a turnaround! Aston Villa kicked off the season as one of the favourites for relegation having secured their Premier League status on the final day of last season.
However, Dean Smith has worked wonders at Villa Park and managed to retain his star assets as well as investing wisely in the transfer market during the summer.
The Villans have managed to build a side around their captain Jack Grealish, as the likes of Ross Barkley, Emiliano Martinez and Ollie Watkins share the burden to relieve the attacking pressure on their star player.
Villa stunned the world with their staggering 7-2 thrashing of Liverpool last month and have notched impressive wins against both Manchester United and Leicester City this season too.
They’re a club that share a proud history in the game and a return to European football in any capacity this season would be an unbelievable achievement.
Dean Smith and his side are 20/1 to finish in the top four, but despite their lofty standing in the table, they’re still 14/1 for relegation. Either way, its safe to say we could be in for a season like never before!
Elsewhere, Brendan Rodgers’ Leicester are 4/1 to finish in the top four and 33/1 to repeat their title winning success of 2016. The Foxes will be desperate to make amends for their decline at the end of last season which saw them miss out on Champions League football.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.