Several major bookmakers have released odds for the 2018/19 A-League season and it makes for some interesting reading.

As most are aware, bookies don’t always tend to get it right. Sure, they had it on the money for Sydney FC’s triumph as Premiers last season, but the odds were also remarkably low for Sydney to win the Grand Final too. Melbourne Victory, of course, showed us that nobody should be ruled out in knockout football and that a 23-point gap on the ladder is no bar to lifting a trophy.

As teams start to get into shape for next month’s kick-off, there isn’t a standout favourite in the race to be champions. Some, like Ladbrokes, have opted for a three-way split among Sydney, Melbourne City and Victory, with all three coming in at 4/1. Neds have also put Sydney and Victory in at those odds, whereas City are back a bit at 11/2. Bet365 have put last season’s runners-up Newcastle Jets right among the favourites at 5/1, whereas others have them at more of an outside chance at 8/1.

Big European league bereft of real competition

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The first takeaway from these odds must be a positive one. Namely, that having tight betting markets among teams is a sign of a healthy league. Australian football may sometimes be in the shadow of the top European Leagues, but consider that Serie A (Juventus), EPL (Manchester City), Bundesliga (Bayern Munich), La Liga (Barcelona) and Ligue Un (Paris Saint Germain) all just kicked off their domestic seasons with the previous season’s champions being odds-on with bookmakers. Of course, a Real Madrid or Liverpool could be crowned at the end of the season, but, on a whole, Europe’s top leagues have become predictable.

The competition in A-League games is even apparent with the betting markets in the two opening games of the season. Sydney have been given a price of 16/11 by Unibet to beat Adelaide at the Oval on 19th October, with the home side priced at 17/10. A day later, the Melbourne Derby sees City at 16/11 and Victory at 28/17. Could you really say with certainty who will come out on top in those matches? It’s part of the reason that getting the latest expert betting tips is essential for A-League, because these games are downright difficult to call.

Sydney should see greater league challenge this season

Going back to the European leagues for a moment, we can see that in the nascent part of the season, the likes of Juventus, Bayern Munich and PSG already top the table. They are not going to move from there either. Indeed, it is common practice for some UK bookmakers to pay out early, as a type of marketing exercise, on the title winners, as they did with Manchester City last season before the league had reached the half-way point.

Sure, some will point to Sydney’s dominance atop the ladder this past few seasons, and the fact that they may well be the team beat this season. But, fans know that the gulf between them and the likes of City, Victory and others is not huge. Consider the excitement felt by fans in April and May last season, knowing that any one of six teams could take the title. Compare that to the final day of the EPL season, when everything was wrapped up including Champions League places and regulation.

The A-League is not perfect, and admittedly the standard still has a long way to go to catch up with Europe’s best. But having a genuine competition from start to finish in the season is something that should be celebrated, regardless of who walks away as champions.

Feature image credit: Sproule Sports Focus

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