Manchester United kick-off their Premier League defence at home to Newcastle on Sunday afternoon and are just 1.32 on Betdaq to open up with a win.
However, punters got their fingers burnt steaming into the Red Devils at an even shorter price in their opening fixture last season and may be a little more reluctant 12 months on – particularly with no Wayne Rooney or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Yet, last season’s goalless draw with Reading was the first time United had failed to win their opening home fixture since Leicester held them in 1998/99. Amazingly, it was only the second time in 16 Premier League seasons that a defending champion hadn’t opened up with maximum points.
United also carry forward their best season home Premier League record from 2007/08, where they dropped points in only two of their 19 games. Even before last season, Old Trafford was a very tough proposition for non-Big Four teams. United have dropped points only three times in 31 such home games over the last two seasons (excluding the West Ham dead rubber at the end of 2006/7).
Newcastle have also become United’s whipping boys in recent times, losing 12 of the 14 league games since the Magpies last got the upper hand (at St James’ in 2001). Kevin Keegan’s men have a dismal record against the Big Four, taking just one point from their 16 visits over the last four seasons.
The fact that United failed to score only once at home last season – albeit in their season opener against Reading – and that Newcastle have kept only two clean sheets in their last 32 away league matches, makes a Magpies shut-out a very unlikely prospect.
If we also factor in that the last Newcastle clean-sheet at a Big Four ground was back in 2003/04, and that the Magpies conceded 14 times on their Big Four travels last season, there is surely only one outcome.
However, even though the case for backing Manchester United to win gets stronger and stronger, there may actually be more value in a small trade in the correct score market.
As defences take time to settle in, opening day matches tend to be slightly higher scoring than the norm. In six of the last eight seasons, the first set of fixtures produced more goals than the end of season average (opening day games average 2.80 goals per game and 56 per cent have produced over 2.5 goals during those eight seasons).
However, United’s own defensive solidity could mitigate against this. Few teams managed to break through United’s home defences last season, making it United’s best home defensive 38-game Premier League season.
When you consider that 12 of United’s 17 victories last season came to nil and given that eight of Newcastle’s last 12 trips to Big Four teams finished the same way, covering both of them at 6.6 and 9.0 respectively on Betdaq could prove a profitable strategy.