Fri, 17 Aug 2012 21:22:23 GMT | By IANS

Bookies favour Manchester City to win EPL

London: The English Premier League (EPL) kicks off its 2012-13 edition Saturday and holders Manchester City start as the bookies favourite to retain their title.

Bookies favour Manchester City to win EPL (© Reuters)

EPL Chief Executive Richard Scudamore has no doubt that the Premier League will continue to capture people's imaginations around the world when the 21st season kicks off Saturday.

"It will have its critics, but it will have more people following it, there'll be more debate in workplaces on Monday morning, and it'll be football again," he was quoted as saying by Daily Mail.

The Premier League had a thrilling title race last year, going down to the wire before Manchester City clinched it in the stoppage time of their last game against Queens Park Rangers after trailing 1-2. They needed a victory to stop Manchester United, who had already beaten Sunderland, from snatching the title to extend their record to 20 titles.

City are the 5-4 favourite, with William Hill and Ladbrokes, to retain its title, meaning a successful $4 bet will bring in $5 plus the original stake. Manchester United is the 9-4 second choice ahead of European champion Chelsea at 5-1.

The programme begins with seven games but the champions City start with a game against newly promoted Southampton Sunday, with United completing the opening round of games at Everton Monday.

The biggest news on the eve of the league is that Dutch striker Robin van Persie, the league's top scorer last season with 37 goals, has quit Arsenal to join United for a reported fee of 24 million pounds ($36.2 million).

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has said he had to trade the 29-year-old because he only had a year remaining on his contract and he had refused to sign a new one.

Arsenal though have already made some key signings. They brought in German striker Lukas Podolski from Cologne and also last season's French league top scorer Olivier Giroud from Montpellier.

The Gunners, who are also expecting to lose midfielder Alex Song to Barcelona, have roped in Spanish international Santi Carzola.

Chelsea have also made changes to their squad. They would be without their prolific striker Didier Drogba, who left in the summer to join Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua. The London club though made some big buys.

Belgian Eden Hazard joined the Blues in a deal worth 32 million pounds. He will be joined by German Marko Marin and another promising Brazilian youngster Oscar dos Santos Emboaba.

In the last ten years, Manchester United won the title five times, Chelsea thrice, Arsenal once and Manchester City their first last year.

The last 10 winners of the English league:

2011-12 - Manchester City

2010-11 - Manchester United

2009-10 - Chelsea

2008-09 - Manchester United

2007-08 - Manchester United

2006-07 - Manchester United

2005-06 - Chelsea

2004-05 - Chelsea

2003-04 - Arsenal

2002-03 - Manchester United

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