The Premier League handicap is always a tricky contest to work out but in recent years the competitiveness of the top 6 has taken points away from the tallies of the leading contenders with something close to 100 points now needed from a title winner to take the honours based on last season’s evidence.
Teams tipped for the Drop can go well with starts of 40 points and upwards but the best place to be may well be the upwardly mobile middle half of the table and Southampton can once again take the award. The Saints have had their start cut by 10 points generally across the board so improvement will be needed but they finished with 60 points last year and have signed very resourcefully to cope with the demands of the Europa League. Only Chelsea conceded fewer goals and were just four points behind fifth placed Tottenham last year, so a start of 28 with Boylesports looks fair.
They edged out Swansea and Crystal Palace last year on the handicap and both should go well but they have seen their starts cut in line with those performances which can see Southampton stay ahead. Swansea and Palace are worth strong consideration but the best handicapped side in racing terms may be Stoke, who have been given largely the same start as last year and look to have an improved squad.
Bojan’s injury couldn’t stop them from making the top half for the second successive season and Afellay Moha’s arrivals give them yet more technical quality upfront and Marco Van Ginkel could hold the midfield up in the absence of Steven N’Zonzi and Mme Biram Diouf can continue to make good progress upfront.
Hills give them a start of 38, one better than the previous best that they were given last year whilst others have had their starts cut, and they should be capable of going close.
Watford may only need to stay up to sneak a place here but if their new team gels then it has the potential to get close to the top half of the table and that would surely make them hard to beat with a start of 49+.
1 pt each/way Southampton +28 (15/1 Boylesports)
1 pt each/way Stoke +37 (10/1 Hills)
1 pt each/way Watford +49 (15/1 Betfred)