As part of bwin.com’s extensive seasonal head-to-head market, the firm are very generously offering even money about Southampton ending 2015/16 in a loftier position than Stoke (7/4) and Newcastle (16/5).
Of all of the three-team wagers of this ilk available, the Saints are arguably the most assured to best those they’ve been grouped with, rendering their price to do so extra appetising.
It would’ve paid out in each of the previous two seasons and nothing has happened in the time that’s elapsed to suggest either the Potters or Magpies are poised to overhaul the south coast side.
Last term no team in the Premier League was as defensively sound as Ronald Koeman’s men, whose 33 divisional best tally was some 12 concessions superior to Stoke’s and 30 better than Newcastle’s.
That defence has been shorn of two key players in Toby Alderweireld and Nathaniel Clyne, but those sought to replace the pair shouldn’t weaken the rearguard especially.
Cedric Soares is a Portugese international right-back, while England-capped Steven Caulker is a proven top-flight practitioner, even if he’s had to be rescued from sinking ships in each of the previous two summers.
With his wealth of upper echelon experience, the latter represents less of a risk than the previously untried Alderweireld was when he was signed from Atletico Madrid 12 months ago.
While their backline shouldn’t wobble too much, their attacking output is surely set to increase.
Jay Rodriguez’s return from a serious knee injury is the reason for this expected spike in fortunes.
The lightning Lancastrian forward scored 15 times in 33 league outings in the 2013/14 season before being sidelined long term.
Add his net-bulging knowhow to that of Graziano Pelle (12 in 38 last time) and Sadio Mane (ten in 30) as well as ancillary striker Shane Long and the Saints shape up as quite an impressive attacking outfit.
Newcastle, who finished some 21 points adrift of Southampton in the previous season, face at least half a year of acclimatisation under recently-appointed manager Steve McClaren, who is also depending on a raft of new recruits who lack a modicum of Premier League experience to call upon.
They can be completely disregarded from this equation.
With Southampton sure to be juggling Europa League football with their domestic commitments this term, the opportunity is there for Stoke to overhaul their candy cane-coloured brethren.
However, in order to do so, they’ll have to markedly improve upon a best ever Premier League finish of ninth, as regardless of the Saint’s extra-curricular activities, it’s tough to envisage them slipping out of the top half this term.