The 2011-12 Champions League might still be in its formative stages but the race to be involved in next season’s competition is already coming nicely to the boil.
And simmering away near the head of the pack are Newcastle, this season’s surprise packages, who are just a point off second-placed Manchester United and three points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Priced at 66/1 by bwin to finish in the top four at the start of the season, Alan Pardew’s side are now 14/1 shots to end the campaign in a qualifying position for next season’s Champions League.
Their odds for a top four spot are considerably longer than those for their rivals, with Chelsea at 4/25, Spurs at 19/20, Arsenal at 7/5 and Liverpool at 8/5.
A £25 free bet on Newcastle to finish in the top four therefore offers far greater returns than you would get for backing Chelsea, for instance, but the big question is whether or not the wager has a chance of paying off.
The obvious answer to this is no, with the Magpies expected to be cut down to size over the course of the next month when they take on Manchester City (a), Manchester United (a) and Chelsea (h) in consecutive weekends.
But going 11 games unbeaten isn’t an accident and the Magpies could yet prove themselves to be excellent outside tips for a place in Europe’s elite club competition over the coming weeks.
This makes it an ideal time to place a bet on Newcastle while the odds are still at 14/1.
A successful £25 free bet on Newcastle to finish in the top four would return £375, with the free bet available to new customers who sign up for a bwin account.
For while Newcastle’s fixture list has been relatively kind in the early part of the season, they have survived two big tests without losing their unbeaten status.
Both Tottenham and Arsenal have visited St James’ Park this season and failed to come away with a win, with the 2-2 draw with in-form Spurs in particular showing Newcastle are a force to be reckoned with.
Indeed, of the sides at the top of the table, all bar rampant Manchester City will have looked at different aspects of Newcastle’s performances this season with envy.
The Magpies’ settled back four will be coveted by Chelsea and Arsenal, while Manchester United could do with the attributes brought to the middle of the park by Cheick Tiote.
Meanwhile, the in-form Demba Ba brings the goalscoring menace sadly lacking at Anfield, while over at White Hart Lane he might be a better bet to hit the back of the net than Emmanuel Adebayor, who has lost his touch in front of goal after a promising start to his Tottenham career.
Add enthusiasm, hunger and an astonishing work rate into the equation and it is easy to see why Newcastle are performing so well.
And while they might struggle against Manchester City in particular – and, let’s face it, who wouldn’t – don’t expect them to disappear into mid-table mediocrity with a whimper.
Instead, back them to be challenging near the top come the end of the season.
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