While a lengthy Europa League campaign is widely believed to have a negative impact on a club’s prospects towards the end of the season, involvement in the preliminary round of the much-derided tournament will surely help Fulham’s prospects in the opening matches of the 2011-12 Premier League campaign.
The Cottagers have already played six competitive games this season having progressed from the first Europa League qualifying round to within two matches of the group stages over the last six weeks.
With this in mind, they should be significantly ahead of Aston Villa, their opponents in tomorrow’s opening round of Premier League fixtures.
In Chelsea, Blackburn and Sporting Braga, Alex McLeish’s side have prepared for the new season against some quality opposition.
However, there is a big difference between friendly and competitive matches and Fulham’s players should be fitter and sharper than their opponents at Craven Cottage tomorrow.
When the benefits of home advantage are factored in, it should come as no surprise to the average football betting fan that Fulham are bwin’s 21/20 favourites to win the match, with a Villa victory priced at 49/20 and a draw available at 23/10.
Villa’s prospects also look bleak when their recent history is looked into.
The 1982 European Champions won just four times away from home last season.
McLeish’s old team, Birmingham, were also poor travellers, winning just twice on the road, suggesting Villa’s record is unlikely to change following the Scot’s summer appointment.
That said, Villa have a secret weapon in the form of Darren Bent, who is priced at 11/2 to score the opening goal.
The striker scored three goals in the Villans’ six pre-season games, suggesting he is well-placed to repeat his exploits of the last campaign, when he bagged 17 league goals.
A successful £25 free bet on Bent to score first, available to new customers who sign up for a bwin account, would return £162.50.
That said, the best bet remains on a Fulham win, and with the Lilywhites in good goalscoring form against their Europa League opposition a punt on a 2-1 success for the home team at odds of 17/2 could pay dividends.
New customers can register here to claim a free £25 bet or click here to see all our Premier League odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwinbetting.