The epic conclusion to the 2011-2012 English Premier League

Premiere League

Premier LeagueWhen Manchester City turned an eight-point deficit into a first-place tie on top of the English Premier League standings, a whole lot of attention was turned on the season-ending drama of the EPL. Football fanaticism aside, the betting angles on the EPL have become discussions in their own right, none more so than the potentially disastrous decision by BetFred to pay out Manchester United’s title bid a month before the season was to end.

It was last April 3 when BetFred’s Fred Done hastily decided to call off the dogs on the Premier League championship race, paying out bettors who had Manchester United winning their 20th EPL title. “Back in 1998 Fergie told me to never pay out early again but Sir Alex need not worry, I’ve not got it wrong this time,” Done said last month. “United are past the post for a record 20th title. Even with the derby to come a five point lead is just too much for City.”

A month later – and with a pair of matches to go – Fred Done at least got it half-right. There’s a Manchester team on top of the standings, except that it’s not United. It’s City.

In a whirlwind month that saw the Red Devils drop an inexplicable loss to Wigan, 1-0, and scoring a draw against Everton, 4-4, after choking a two-goal lead, City turned the championship tables on their cross-town rivals by running off three matches in a row – 4-0 against West Brom; 6-1 against Norwich; and 2-0 against Wolves – all in decimating fashion.

With an eight-point lead cut down to three, United still had a chance to take control of the title with a win against City at Etihad Stadium. Winning the match would’ve put them in a commanding six-point lead on the tables while a draw would let them retain their precarious three-point lead with two matches left.

Instead, Vincent Kompany scored the only goal of the match, leading City to an unprecedented – at least for their standards – reversal of fortune that has Fred Done and his boys over at BetFred sweating buckets.

So, what are the title odds for the two Manchester teams? City is 27/50 favorite and United is a 7/4 underdog.

Not exactly what BetFred had in mind, right?

Moving on down to the rest of the league, the next important race in the EPL is the Top 4 finish, currently being contested – in a tight race, no less – by Arsenal, Tottenham, Newcastle, and Chelsea. Arsenal is in a the driver’s seat with 66 points, follow by Tottenham and Newcastle with 65 points each, and Chelsea trailing the pack with 61 points. For the Gunners, the road to a Top 4 finish is looking like a formality at 7/100 odds. Their last two matches are against two inferior teams that are in no danger of relegation: Norwich and West Brom. So you can pencil in Arsenal in that third spot.

Taking in the shape of a City-United title race is the Tottenham-Newcastle battle for the fourth spot, which could potentially end up being a ticket to a Champions League appearance, provided Chelsea doesn’t upset Bayern Munich in the 2012 Finals. Currently, the two teams are tied with 65 points apiece, although Tottenham’s superior goal differential compared to Newcastle –  23-9 – puts them firmly entrenched at the 4 spot. Betting odds for a Top 4 finish on both teams reflect that grim reality for Newcastle fans as the Spurs have 1/5 odds to secure the place with Newcastle at 11/4 odds. The latter’s date with Manchester City this weekend won’t help their cause considering the stakes involved for the Citizens in that match too.

And then there’s the race that nobody wants to be a part of: relegation.

The bottom rung of the EPL standings is currently occupied by Wolves, who is already a cinch to be relegated from the Premier League next season. Likewise, Blackburn is also close to being dropped from the EPL with their 1/100 relegation odds a stark reminder of their unenviable predicament.  Where it gets interesting is the last relegation spot, which could be claimed by either Bolton or QPR.

Currently, Bolton is in the bottom three on the basis of goal difference compared to QPR – the Wanderers are -31 whereas the Park Rangers are -23. Despite having the goal difference advantage, Bolton have been given even odds to be relegated with QPR being given 8/11 odds.

The slight favorite status on the latter comes as a result of the last two matches for each team with Bolton facing a more difficult road to scoring points, thanks to a season-ending date with Manchester City.