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Nic Ladds 3rd Aug 2010 - 14:04

Premier League without top four preview

Take out the big four from the Premier League and the winner becomes a tough one to call.

Before fans of Liverpool and Tottenham begin to wonder why their clubs are not involved in our "without top four", Manchester City are in it purely down to the fact they are in the top four of the betting.

The "without top four" market has never looked like this before, after Liverpool's dreadful season last year and Tottenham's resurgence under Harry Redknapp makes this market one of the tightest to call.

Liverpool (11/8) are favourites, and rightly so considering their squad on paper. One thing you have to question is Roy Hodgson as manager. However well he did at Fulham, managing Liverpool is an entirely different prospect.

With Fernando Torres pledging his future to the club, Liverpool fans can be optimistic of an improvement on last year. If we see some a couple of names through the door at Anfield, they do have a great chance but if Torres or Gerrard are out for any extended period of time you really can't see who can step up in their absence.

With the new manager and the ownership about to change hands, this could be another transitional season for Liverpool and I am wary of betting on such an inconsistent side. Other than Joe Cole, they haven't really improved the squad drastically and they have lost Benayoun and Riera.

Their main competition to 'win the league without the top four' are last year's impressive package Tottenham (6/4).

After finishing fourth last season, their squad hasn't changed much but they certainly have the quality to be there or there about come May. With the lethal strike force of Defoe, Crouch, Pavlyuchenko and the returning Robbie Keane, Spurs really have the power to push on from last season.

They could need some more numbers at the back, with King and Woodgate injured most of the season and the full backs being a bit suspect defensively, a couple more solid names would help the cause no end.

The prices get bigger after these two but there are a couple worth mentioning.

Everton have yet again been thrifty in the transfer market but they still have some pretty quality names on the team sheet and can compete with any side on their day. They were inconsistent last season but it's hard to ever write them off at 5/1.

Aston Villa, who have flirted with the prospect of finishing fourth on a couple of occasions in the past but petered out towards the end of a season, could be worth an outside punt at 15/2.

They haven't made any signings yet but you would expect Martin O'Neill to have some cards up his sleeve. If they can keep hold of Milner and Young and maybe shore up at the back to stop sloppy goals there's no reason why they can't mount a challenge.



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