With the onset of August, attention begins to focus on the English Premier League, but action in the main European football leagues will also soon resume with French Ligue 1 and the German Bundesliga commencing on the second weekend in August.
Last season Barcelona, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Bayern Munich dominated their respective divisions with substantial winning margins and the betting markets reflect their continued superiority. There will challengers in the months ahead, but perhaps there are better value bets among the other teams competing in these leagues.
FRENCH LIGUE 1
In France, for example, PSG are clear favourites with newly promoted Monaco expected to finish no worse than runners-up. However, Saint Etienne may surprise a few people this season despite the sale of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. They have re-invested the some of the proceeds in purchasing midfielder Benjamin Corgnet from Lorient and French under-21
international Franck Tabanou from Toulouse among other signings. With Brandao leading the attack William Hill are offering them at 9/1 for a top three finish.
At the foot of Ligue 1, Bastia may struggle this campaign. On loan striker Anthony Modeste has departed and Florian Thauvin has finally moved to Lille leaving the Corsican team short of quality in attack. Paddy Power quote them at 11/4 for relegation.
Bayern Munich are expected to win another Bundesliga title with Borussia Dortmund occupying second place. Yet, cup finalists Stuttgart could improve upon their 12th position from last season and Bet365 are offering them at 13/2 for a top four finish. The prolific Mohammed Abdellaoue has been signed from Hannover to add further scoring power alongside 15 goal man Veded Ibisevic and Martin Harnik.
Meanwhile, Mainz finished last season a dismal note in winning only one of their last 15 matches. Top scorer Adam Szalai has been sold to Schalke for a reported 8 million Euros with Dani Schahin arriving for 1.5 million Euros. Mainz could experience a difficult season and are quoted at 11/4 by Totesport for a bottom three finish.
SPANISH LA LIGA
With Barcelona and Real Madrid leading the markets in Spanish La Liga, there is better value among those teams chasing a Champions League qualifying berth, in particular Sevilla. They finished a disappointing ninth last season and have since sold both Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas to Manchester City. However, they have been replaced by Carlos Bacca, who netted 25 goals last season for Brugge and Raul Rusescu, a 21 goal man for Steaua Bucharest. Add Kevin Gameiro from PSG into the equation and the 6/1 offered by Ladbrokes for a top four finish appears reasonable.
Many experts predicted a poor 2012-13 season for Rayo Vallecano after the sale of Michu, but they responded by finishing 8th. Yet they have now lost 18 goals merchant Francisco Medina (Piti) and the influential Leo Baptistao, who has signed for Atletico Madrid. Odds of 6/1 are being offered by Bet Victor on them being relegated.
ITALIAN SERIE A
A lot of attention with be focussed on Juventus, Napoli and the two Milan clubs in Serie A, but AS Roma will be hoping to improve upon their sixth place from last season. Although Marquinhos has moved to PSG, the talented Kevin Strootman has been signed from PSV Eindhoven while Moroccan international defender Mehdi Benatia has arrived from Udinese for
13 million Euros. With Mattia Destro confirmed as a permanent signing in a strong attacking line-up, Roma’s odds of 7/2 at Paddy Power for a top three showing are appealing.
At the foot of Serie A, Bologna may be candidates for a prolonged relegation tussle with 3/1 currently available on Betfair for the bottom three. After winning only one of their last 10 games during last term, there has been plenty of summer transfer activity but they have lost the services of loanee attacker Manolo Gabbiadini and finances are limited.
There will be disappointments and surprises once the European leagues begin but there should be plenty of competition despite the markets suggesting clear favourites for the main leagues.