Chelsea or Arsenal: Who will win the Community Shield?
A look ahead to the weekend's betting action as the English football season begins in earnest.
Chelsea to strike first blow
Arsenal and Chelsea resume hostilities on Sunday in the FA Community Shield, the traditional August curtain raiser to the English season. Arsenal have won the event 14 times previously (one shared title) while Chelsea's last Community Shield win came back in 2009.
The teams met three times last season, with Arsenal winning twice. However it was a 3-0 thrashing by Arsenal at the Emirates in September that ultimately shaped Chelsea's season. They switched to 3-4-3 immediately after that thrashing and the rest, as they say, is history with Chelsea eventually winning the title by seven points.
The FA Cup holders go into the game with uncertainty shrouding their key man Alexis Sanchez, with rumours persisting he could be heading out of North London. They also start a season not in the Champions League for the first time since 1997-98 after finishing fifth last season. They've not been pulling up too many trees in the transfer market, with their one significant bit of recruitment coming in the shape of Alexandre Lacazette from Lyon. The French striker scored more than 20 goals in his last three seasons in Ligue 1 and is a 5/1 poke with bet365 to score first at Wembley.
Antonio Conte has bolstered his defence this summer with the signing of Antonio Rudiger from AS Roma while Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata have also been brought in as the Blues look to launch a defence of the Premier League title they won so impressively last season.
Winning the title and defending it are two different things, however, and not since Manchester United's hat trick between 2007 and 2009 has the same team held the trophy aloft in consecutive seasons. The bookmakers see Chelsea as clear second favourites behind Manchester City in the title betting this season (best price 7/2) but they are fancied at 6/5 with bet365 to beat Arsenal and start their season with more silverware.
Problems mount for Sunderland
The 2017-18 English Championship season gets under way this weekend too, where on Friday Derby County look a decent punt at 21/10 with bet365 to see off Sunderland.
The problems are mounting for Sunderland, who endured a disastrous Premier League campaign last year that ended in relegation. Preseason has not been much better, with things coming to a head last weekend. Losing 5-0 to a Celtic reserve side at home was bad enough but this was topped by midfielder Darron Gibson being filmed in a pub just hours later slurring his words and claiming several of his teammates don't care about the club.
Fans of the Black Cats have not seen their side win at the Stadium of Light since December 2016 and Derby will be confident of adding to their misery here. The Rams have finished in the playoffs but failed to secure promotion twice in the last four seasons but have fresh hope under Gary Rowett, who has bolstered his squad by signing Tom Huddlestone, Andre Wisdom and Curtis Davies.
They look to be getting Sunderland at just the right time and all things considered should not be bigger than 2/1 to prevail.