After five consecutive losers to start last season's inaugural Editors' Betting Battle, Mike Norman eventually found some form to narrowly win the title. But Dan Thomas, Joe Dyer, and Luke Moore are back to lock horns with Mike once more as this season's battle gets underway...
"Essentially, the early signs are that the Red Devils are a team reborn and I think we're about to witness the Theatre of Dreams become a fortress once more, starting with the comfortable beating of a Swansea team that, despite some decent summer signings, won't have the tools to stop a statement-making Manchester United."
Back West Brom @ 2.35/4 to beat Sunderland
Some people like the start of the season from a betting perspective but I'm not one of them. As last year's Betting Battle proved I got a bit lost early doors and started with five consecutive losers. I much prefer to see how clubs start their campaigns and which players are on top of their game before I start to feel comfortable betting on the outcome of matches.
Unfortunately, I don't think Dan, Joe, and Luke would adhere to my request to enter this year's battle with a level profit/loss in six week's time - they'd much prefer me to start with a few losers!
But I'm not thinking of a losing start, in fact I'm boing boing-ing with the Baggies as they entertain Sunderland at the Hawthorns on Saturday afternoon.
The Black Cats - as we know - finished last season in terrific style, beating the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United away from home to avoid relegation. But I'm not convinced they are a much better side now than they were for 90% of last season, and their lack of a 20-goal-a-season striker worries me.
I do feel West Brom will improve leaps and bounds on last season's lowly finish however. They've made some astute signings during the summer and £10m Nigerian striker Brown Ideye is a very exciting prospect. He wouldn't be the first Nigerian player to take to the Premier League, and with the likes of Craig Gardner and Joleon Lescott now in West Brom's ranks I can see them doing well, and hopefully with a winning start over Sunderland.
Mike Norman 2014-15 P/L: + £0
Back Stoke @ 1.981/1 to beat Aston Villa
After a short settling-in period under Mark Hughes, Stoke were quickly into their stride last season securing a top-ten finish thanks mainly to their superb home form.
The Potters were victorious ten times at the Britannia losing only to Liverpool, Spurs and Norwich in the Premier League. Results really picked up after Christmas and Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United were among the big name victims claimed in an impressive first season under Hughes.
So getting near enough even money on Stoke kicking off the season with a home win againstAston Villa looks solid material for the first week of the betting battle.
Paul Lambert's team are joint fifth favourites for the drop following successive 15th-placed finishes, and racked up a miserable four wins on the road last year, losing ten times. The summer purchases haven't wowed the faithful and a confident Stoke should have enough to get past their challenge.
Joe Dyer 2014-15 P/L: + £0
Back Over 3.5 Goals in Manchester Utd v Swansea @ 3.185/40
Live on BT Sport 1
This is a repeat of last season's first fixture when David Moyes opened his account as United manager with a comprehensive 4-1 win in south Wales.
Unfortunately for the Scot, it wasn't a portent of things to come, but his replacement in the Old Trafford hot seat, Louis van Gaal, will be keen to kick off in similar style - and I fully expect his team to deliver.
Van Gaal's 3-5-2 formation should bring the best out of United's attacking triumvirate of Rooney, Van Persie and Mata and they will be too hot for Swansea's defence - shorn of both Ben Davies and Michel Vorm this summer.
There's little value in backing the hosts at 1.374/11 though, so it's to the goals markets I'm heading, particularly with concerns over United's central defence and Swansea's propensity for an entertaining start (14 goals in their last three season openers).
Over 2.5 is the safer bet, trading at 1.768/11, but let's start the season in punchy style and go for Over 3.5, at a nice looking 3.185/40.
Dan Thomas 2014-15 P/L: + £0
Back Manchester United-1 v Swansea at 2.111/10
Live on BT Sport 1
I've been very impressed with how Louis van Gaal has started his tenure at Old Trafford. His experience, personality and confidence is just what Manchester United needed at a pivotal time and pre-season results have been fantastic.
His tactical flexibility, pragmatism and bravery will be key to United's chances of having a successful season and I don't think he'll have much of a problem out-flanking Garry Monk at home this Saturday lunchtime.
Essentially, the early signs are that the Red Devils are a team reborn and I think we're about to witness the Theatre of Dreams become a fortress once more, starting with the comfortable beating of a Swansea team that, despite some decent summer signings, won't have the tools to stop a statement-making Manchester United.
The odds on the straight win for the home side are of course prohibitive, but since I think the 2013 champions will breeze through this one I'm happy to take the hit on the handicap for an odds-against price.
Luke Moore 2014-15 P/L: + £0
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