The 2012-13 English Premier League season gets underway on Saturday, with all eyes on Arsenal, who have lost their star striker Robin van Persie to arch-rivals Manchester United on the eve of the season.
Van Persie, the leading scorer in the competition last season with 30 goals, leaves a gaping hole in an Arsenal side that have already struggled to keep pace with the Manchester clubs in recent seasons.
It once again highlights the huge financial gulf between big-spending Manchester City and United and even clubs as historically successful as Arsenal, let alone battlers such as Wigan and Swansea.
With defending champions Manchester City, who last season clinched their first title in 44 years on virtually the last kick of the season at the expense of United, not in action until Sunday and the Red Devils not kicking off their season until Monday, Arsenal's home clash with Sunderland is the pick of the seven matches to start the season on Saturday.
And while Arsenal have recruited proven international strikers in Frenchman Olivier Giroud and German veteran Lukas Podolski in the off-season - in anticipation of van Persie's departure after he said he wanted to leave the club citing the Gunners' lack of ambition - the punters have been quick to react to the loss of Dutchman van Persie.
Luxbet's Andy Scott said punters were quick to start backing Sunderland to spring a first-up upset win at the Emirates as soon as news of van Persie's transfer to Man United broke.
"Even before that announcement, betting on this match was pretty even and a lot of punters think Sunderland can pull off an upset win," he said.But even despite the late blacking for the Black Cats, Arsenal are $1.36 favourites at Luxbet in head-to-head betting, with Sunderland at $8.50 and the draw looking great value at $4.50.
|Fulham to win v Norwich at $1.80 at Luxbet
||West Brom to win v Liverpool at $3.85 at Luxbet|
The other big game on Saturday is between two teams with genuine Champions League ambitions this season with Newcastle at home to Tottenham.
This pits the teams that finished in fifth and fourth place respectively last season, and the Geordie side have managed to keep their star players away from the clutches of the likes of Manchester City and United.
Spurs also retained their best player in Gareth Bale, but look set to lose midfield playmaker Luka Modric to Real Madrid.
However, with Spurs likely to take time to find their feet under new manager in former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas, Newcastle look the better value here to win at home at $2.50 at Luxbet, compared to $2.70 for Spurs with the draw at $3.25.
In the other games, Fulham, who finished ninth last season under Martin Jol, are hot favourites against last season's surprise packets Norwich, who may well suffer from the second season blues in the top flight this season.
The other of last season's surprise packets in Swansea - who also had their manager in Brendan Rodgers poached by a bigger club in Liverpool - have also been well-backed at odds to win away against the other promoted team from last season in QPR.
The first of this season's promoted teams in Reading are also in action on Saturday and are $2.35 favourites at Luxbet first-up to win at home against Stoke at $3, while the other promoted team in action on Saturday in West Ham are $2.20 favourites to win at home against a new-look Aston Villa at $3.20, with Scott reporting heavy betting for the draw in this game also at $3.20.
West Brom host Liverpool in the remaining match, with both teams having new managers with Scotsman Steve Clarke having taken over at the Baggies after Roy Hodgson won the England job.
And while we are not convinced perennial underachievers Liverpool will be any better under Rodgers than they were under sacked club legend Kenny Dalglish last season, the Reds are $1.90 favourites to win away first-up having had the benefit of some match hardening already due to their early involvement in the Europa League.
But there has been good support for the Baggies to spring an upset at $3.95 and they certainly look the best value of the underdogs on Saturday.