EPL Top 4 Odds: Tottenham, Newcastle Set to Duke It Out for 4th
Since the current format for the Champions League has been in place, there's a heavy emphasis on finishing in the top four in the Premier League. That ensures qualification into next year's Champions League, which brings in a huge amount of revenue while also giving your team the chance to play in club soccer's elite competition.
There are other ways of qualifying now. Winning either the Champions League or Europa League automatically gets you into the next season's group stage. Starting next season, the two leagues that have the best results in Europe that season will get an extra Champions League place.
We don't know if any of those bonus spots will be awarded this season, so we'll focus on the top four for the time being. Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are heavy favorites to be in the top four, so we won't talk about them today. Here are the next set of teams in the marker, per the EPL odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Tottenham Hotspur (+125)
Under new coach Ange Postecoglou, Tottenham have completely changed the way they play.
Gone is the conservative style of play that old managers Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte liked to utilize. Ange prefers an attacking, free-flowing game from his team.
Spurs were flying high to start the season and on top of the table at one point. Since then, they've lost two games in a row and now are in fourth place.
The underlying metrics for Tottenham are actually not as strong as their results suggest they should be. Their expected goals (xG) differential is just 0.6, ranking 10th in the league (per FBRef).
Tottenham have suffered a lot of injuries over the past few weeks, the key ones being to Richarlison, James Maddison and Mickey Van de Ven. They'll need these guys healthy if they want to compete for a top-four spot.
At +125 with meh xG numbers and a worrisome injury list, Tottenham are probably a pass for me at the moment.
Newcastle United (+170)
Newcastle were the surprise top-four finishers last season. They aren't going to sneak up on anyone this campaign, with the money they've spent and how they performed in the last year.
It's already been an up-and-down season for Newcastle. They were on a three-game losing skid at the start of the season, had a huge 8-0 win against Sheffield United, and now are on a run of just two wins in their last five league matches.
That win against Sheffield United -- the worst team in the league by xG -- was their only win away from home in the league this season. The Magpies' away form will need to improve if they are to make the top four this season.
Newcastle's xG differential is fifth in the league, so they are definitely within a shout of finishing in the top four this season. What could hinder them are some absences to some of their main players -- similar to the issues plaguing Spurs.
Sandro Tonali was Newcastle's most important summer signing, but he will be banned for the rest of the season. Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak are their only reliable goal scorers and both strikers are currently injured. Harvey Barnes also was a signing this summer who was supposed to give them depth on the wings, and he's been out since September. Sven Botman, likely their best center-back, hasn't played since late September due to injury.
Qualifying for the Champions League last year has put a strain on Newcastle's depth, and so far, said depth hasn't been able to handle it.
But unlike Tottenham, Newcastle's xG numbers are pretty good, and there's a chance they get last in their UCL group, which would relieve them of some fixture congestion in the back half of the season. Plus, Newcastle is probably going to be willing to spend money in January and could do with some roster reinforcements.
All in all, I wouldn't mind taking a stab at them to make the top four at +170.
Aston Villa (+320)
Aston Villa are definitely one of the more surprising teams in this year's top-four battle. They had a great surge at the end of last season but have taken another step forward, one that could see them qualify for the Champions League.
Villa's transformation started last season when Unai Emery took over as manager. They've been hugely impressive to get where they are in the table.
Earlier in the season, Villa was outperforming their xG numbers by quite a lot. They've rectified that after four straight games against teams in the bottom eight of xG differential.
What is concerning for Villa is that they haven't played many of the elite teams yet. In their games against Liverpool and Newcastle, they lost by a combined score of 8-1 and fell in the xG battle 5.8-2.5.
Villa did get wins against Brighton and Chelsea, but they had fewer expected goals in each of those games -- even in the 6-1 win over Brighton. They have two games left against both Arsenal and Manchester City, arguably the two best teams in the league, and they have a key top-four battle with Tottenham in their next match.
Their list of injuries is short, but Tyrone Mings and Emi Buendia are out long-term. Aston Villa are currently just one point behind Tottenham for fourth place and only four points off the top of the table. They still have a lot to prove for me to feel comfortable backing them to make the top four, but they deserve credit for getting in this position.
Manchester United (+380)
Unlike Spurs and Villa, Manchester United are certainly not happy to be in the position they currently are in.
After finishing third last season, United were expected to -- at worst -- finish around that spot this season. Things haven't gone well. But they should actually be thankful to be where they are because their performances don't merit a place as high as sixth.
With that said, believe it or not, Manchester United have the best form (by results) in the Premier League across the last five games. It's easy to have missed that because they barely squeaked by with wins against teams they are better than, and the one loss came when they were thoroughly beaten by Man City.
The xG numbers for Man United are very underwhelming. They are the only team in this group that is under water in xG, posting a negative xG differential of -1.3.
Against top competition, it hasn't been pretty. They've lost to Tottenham, Arsenal, Man City and even Brighton.
The injuries have been brutal for United, especially on defense. Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martinez and Tyler Malacia are all out seemingly long-term. Casemiro has been out for about a month now, and Christian Eriksen and Rasmus Hojlund picked up injuries in the last Premier League game.
Things don't seem to be trending well for United now, so betting on them to finish in the top four -- even at +380 -- seems like a stretch. I'd be more likely to back Chelsea at +470 instead of Manchester United.
The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.