City to emerge from the shadows of bitter rivals

THE city of Manchester dominated English football last season with Manchester United winning the Premier League and making the final of the Champions League, while MANCHESTER CITY collected the FA Cup, their first trophy in 35 years. The gap is narrowing between the two clubs and although United are the favourites to win a 13th Premier League title at 2/1 with William Hill, the value lies with City at 9/2.

Roberto Mancini looked in trouble at one stage last season, but he was always going to be judged on securing Champions League football. He can still be negative in the big matches, but the defence has been strengthened with the arrival of Gael Clichy and Sergio Aguero has the potential to take the Premier League by storm. Carlos Tevez will clearly be missed if he leaves, but Aguero is the perfect replacement and City’s side is dripping with quality in every department.

My main concern is that the Champions League will demand even more from the squad, but they were starting to look settled at the back-end of last season and they should only get better. Chelsea need to improve under Andre Villas-Boas, which is certainly not impossible, but it looks like it could be another fruitless season for Arsenal.

United are obviously a massive danger and they have brought in Ashley Young, David de Gea and Phil Jones so far this summer. They were consistent last campaign, without being spectacular, but their away form was patchy. Wayne Rooney could be set for a huge season after a long summer break and his partnership with Javier Hernandez will be crucial. I can’t see them being out of the first two and the CITY-UNITED straight forecast is worth backing at 11/1 with 888sport.

The Championship looks as open as ever, but it’s still hard to get away from the two favourites, LEICESTER and West Ham. Both have top-class managers for this division and Sven-Goran Eriksson has been active in the transfer market. The Foxes’ main problem last season was their defence and that seems to have been addressed with the arrivals of Kaspar Schmeichel, Matt Mills, Sean St Ledger, John Paintsil and Paul Konchesky. David Nugent should do well up front and they are going to be hard to beat at 5/1 with William Hill.

Sam Allardyce has had a break from football management, but his no-nonsense style should mean West Ham don’t have to wait too long before getting back into the top flight. Kevin Nolan could prove an inspired buy and if they can hold on to some of their best players before the end of the window, they will be extremely hard to beat. Norwich secured back-to-back promotions last season and it wouldn’t be the biggest shock to see either Brighton or Southampton launch a serious promotion challenge having come up from League One.

We made money selling BIRMINGHAM’s points with Sporting Index in the Premier League last season and there’s every reason to do the same again this year in the Championship. Blues’ finances are a mess and although Chris Hughton won the second tier title with Newcastle two seasons ago, he may have his work cut out this time. Sporting Index offer a points spread of 65.5-67.5 and I’d definitely be a seller at that price.

If the Championship is open, then League One is positively gaping. Favourites don’t have a great record in this division and although Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday and Preston are accorded respect, I’d prefer to take a chance on CHARLTON at 9/1 with William Hill. Bradley Wright-Phillips is a very decent striker at this level and although Chris Powell is inexperienced as a manager, he has brought in plenty of fresh faces.

CRAWLEY landed a monster punt in last year’s Blue Square Premier League and they have been smashed into a best-price 10/3 in this year’s League Two market. They’re odds-on to get promoted and after bringing in another batch of top quality players for this level, the Red Devils look like good things to bash the bookies again.

Throughout the season, many of the tips will be informed by Football Form Lab, the most effective betting tool on the market. You can find out more at

www.footballformlabs.com or for free tips and trends on the Premier League and other matches follow @Footballformlab on Twitter.

POINTERS...

Man City at 9/2 with William Hill

City-United straight forecast at 11/1 with 888sport

Leicester at 5/1 with William Hill

Sell Birmingham points at 65.5 with Sporting Index

Charlton at 9/1 with William Hill

Crawley at 10/3 with William Hill