Poor old Liverpool.
Having finished second in the Premier League by just two points last term, the loss of £75m man Luis Suarez, allied with the extra demands Champions League football will place on their squad, has seen punters abandon them in droves to make the top four again this term.
Brendan Rodgers’ men can be backed at crazy 87/100 odds to either emulate/better 2013/14 or slip two places in the top flight. Here’s why they’ll manage it.
Suarez may be long gone, but the Reds have used the funds generated from his sale to fix a raft of problem positions.
Much mirth has been enjoyed by those who believe Liverpool are buying their way into eighth place, having spent around £50m on Southampton’s Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren.
Those armchair pundits won’t admit that Liverpool’s attacking-midfield, centre-forward and centre-half ranks were in desperate need of strengthening ahead of a campaign in which they will compete on four fronts.
Left-back is another area that warrants addressing and there’s definitely money left over in the Anfield coffers to do so, with Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno still looking likely to sign on before the summer’s out.
With highly-rated winger Lazar Markovic and defensive-minded midfielder Emre Can also picked up, Liverpool will start this season with a better squad than they had at the end of the last campaign.
Liverpool’s Premier League win ratio was higher with Suarez in the side last season, but not by much.
The Merseysiders triumphed in 23 of 33 top-flight matches with the Uruguayan in the side, to give them just shy of a 70 per cent win rate, and managed three victories out of five at the start of term when Suarez was serving his bite ban.
Extrapolated over the last campaign, a 60 per cent win rate would have given them just one win less than fourth-place Arsenal, and one more than fifth and sixth-place Everton and Tottenham.
Considering the wealth of squad additions Rodgers has made over the summer, and with the Northern Irishman almost certain to bring in more talent, Liverpool look more than ready for life after Suarez.
Daniel Sturridge has notched a remarkable 31 Premier League goals in 43 fixtures for the Reds.
Going by the 2013/14 runner-up’s 87/100 odds to retain their top-four spot, this stat has either been forgotten or completely overlooked.
Take bwinbetting’s James Middleton, for example, who neglected to mention the former Manchester City and Chelsea striker in any part of his piece arguing that the Reds’ top-four return will be short-lived (Click here).
Lambert and Lallana managed 22 Premier League strikes between them for Saints last term, which suggests Liverpool won’t want for top-flight goals in 2014/15.
If Raheem Sterling progresses at the same rate he has over the last two terms the England teenager could be a world beater.
Sterling belied his tender 19 years by bagging nine goals and five assists last term, with world-class defenders such as Vincent Kompany and Nemanja Vidic made mugs of by the north London native.
The Three Lions newcomer’s best numbers came in six appearances in a central position behind Suarez and Sturridge, with WhoScored.com having him down as scoring three goals and laying on two assists in that role.
If Rodgers keeps Sterling there, with either Markovic or Lallana replacing Suarez, he could be priceless by the end of the campaign.
Arsenal and Spurs – Liverpool’s closest contenders in the market for a top-four place – both have question marks hanging over them going into the new term.
The Gunners have unlocked funds for Alexis Sanchez, David Ospina, Mathieu Debuchy, and Calum Chambers this summer, but only the former is sure to improve their starting line-up this term, as right-back Bacary Sagna had to be replaced by the latter pair and it’s unclear whether goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny’s place is under threat.
Liverpool finished a full five points ahead of the Gunners last term, and a whopping 15 in front of Spurs, so the north London duo’s 4/7 and 3/1 prices to make the top four seem very short in relation to the Reds’ 87/100 odds.