With just over two months to go before the start of the 2013-14 Premier League season, the odds for the title race have never been closer.
Manchester United, who will be heading into a Premier League season with only their second different manager are the narrow favourites, with odds of 21/10. David Moyes has made the big step up from Everton to head into next season in charge of the defending champions.
Freespending Manchester City look set to hire Manuel Pellegrini from Malaga as a replacement for Roberto Mancini who was dismissed from his duties before the end of last season. The Italian failed to put up any sort of title fight in 2012-13 – finishing the season 11 points behind their city rivals. 9/4 second favourites.
Chelsea’s odds have been dropping ever since José Mourinho began hinting he would be back at Stamford Bridge for the 2013-14 season. The Champions League winner with FC Porto and Internazionale was officially appointed on Monday and has the power to attract just about any player in the world to the 2012 Champions League winners. Currently 5/2 – could drop a little more before the start of the season depending on signings made by all three teams.
There was a 14-point gap between Manchester United and Chelsea during the 2012-13 season. Both teams shared 3 points head-to-head. After winning 7 of their first 8 league games under Roberto Di Matteo last season, a 3-2 home loss that saw both Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres sent off.
That started a 7-game winless streak followed, including a change of manager. Points dropped in January too ensured no title race would take place.
Chelsea competed in 69 total games last season – winning the Europa League having competed in 8 different competitions (Community Shield, Premier League, UEFA Super Cup, Champions League, League Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, FA Cup, Europa League). I’m a firm believer this excess number of games took their toll, despite winning 7 of their last 8 competitive fixtures.
There will be no Community Shield, UEFA Super Cup or FIFA Club World Cup in Japan distractions for Mourinho in his first season back at Stamford Bridge.
Manchester City are a tough team to predict. Assuming Manuel Pellegrini takes charge at the Etihad to become the first Chilean manager in Premier League history, the former Real Madrid manager has only ever coached in Spain in Europe.
Pellegrini failed to win a single trophy with either Villarreal, Real Madrid or Málaga after having success in South America.
However, the Chilean manager improved all three club’s points tallies in his debut season – taking Villarreal from 54 points (8th) to 65 points (3rd) in 2004-05, Real Madrid from 78 points (2nd) to 96 (2nd) in 2009-10 and Málaga from 37 points (17th) to 46 (11th).
His record in the Champions League has been impressive too, at least with the debutants – taking Villarreal to the semi-finals in their debut season, Real Madrid to the round of 16 and Malaga to the quarter-finals in their first Champions League campaign. Manchester City have failed to make it past the group stage in each of their two campaigns.
Pressure on David Moyes will be immense in his first season at Old Trafford. How much, if any guidance he will get from Sir Alex Ferguson will be interesting to see. The United and Premier League legend had a massive say in the appointment of Moyes so in all likelihood, Ferguson will be there to put his arm around Moyes in training him up to be the long-term future of Manchester United.