The Improvers: European Football Clubs That Can Win Bets

Borussia Dortmund (Getty)

It's all very well backing the top football teams in Europe, but sometimes you need to look for better value. For that reason, it's always worth taking a look further down the league tables from last reason to find teams that might make progress and get you returns on your bets. Here are some of our thoughts.

Premier League: Sunderland

After yet another great escape last season, Sunderland's American owner, Ellis Short, made a massive offer to the successful interim manager, Dick Advocaat. The Dutch manager, who had reached a World Cup with his country and won the Europa League with Zenit St. Petersburg, had made the north-east team tick at the end of a long season, but had had the intention of retiring from football.

Now that Advocaat has been persuaded to stay, Sunderland fans have the opportunity to see if this is a team that was in need of basic organisation and sound coaching in order to kick on and move up the table, or if what they saw under Gus Poyet was terminal decline. A team with the support that the Black Cats enjoy should not be annually flirting with relegation, and Short has certainly spent a lot of his own money on various signings that did not come good.

Advocaat is an experienced, cautious manager who has impressed all at the Stadium of Light with his unwillingness to overreact to either victory or defeat. Players have drawn confidence from his tactics, which utilised the squad in positions they understood and were comfortable with.

As befits Advocaat's reputation for responsible team-building, Sunderland's first signing was the young Uruguayan Sebastian Coates on a permanent transfer that might turn out to be good value. The centre-back had been viewed as error-prone in his time at Liverpool, but is improving year-on-year. Celtic defender Adam Matthews, who looks like arriving shortly, is also a strong signing.

What Sunderland needs now is a third striker to compliment Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher, preferably a player with pace, plus a winger to replace Adam Johnson, who has been charged with sex offences and, regardless of the forthcoming trial and court verdict, may be absent for a long time.

Although there are long-standing issues that predate Advocaat's arrival, the new man knows how to turn losers into winners, and has the patience of a grateful board while he does so.

Best Bet: Sunderland 6/1 with Betfair to finish in the top 10 of the Premier League in 2016/16

Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund

One of the most popular German clubs internationally, Borussia Dortmund are liked and respected for the way they took the fight to Bayern Munich over a number of seasons. Last season was a major disappointment, with the club looking wounded by the sale of Robert Lewandowski to Bayern, and Italian striker Ciro Immobile's failure to adapt fully to the rigours of a new league.

Head coach Jürgen Klopp decided to take time out of the game after that wounding 2014/15 season, but in typical Dortmund fashion, the transition to a new coach was smooth, with Thomas Tuchel, who had enjoyed a successful season with Mainz (also Klopp's former club), stepping up.

Tuchel does not set up his teams in exactly the same way as Klopp did - but this might actually be an advantage. Klopp's team was looking ragged and out-of-shape by the end of recent league seasons, his flat-out counter-attacking football, which he described as "heavy metal", possibly, like heavy metal music, not something for everyday use. Tuchel will regenerate the team with younger players and look to cultivate a more considered style.

Dortmund has thus far signed Roman Burki, Gonzalo Castro and Julian Weigl, all three of them decent signings, but none of them established superstars. This fits in with the club's template - Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus, Mario Götze and Lewandowski were not marquee names when they signed either. You can bet on Dortmund, a club that knows value in the market, offering you value next season.

Best Bet: Borussia Dortmund to finish top (without Bayern Munich) in the Bundesliga: 3/1 with bwin

Serie A: Internazionale

2014/15 was a grim season for local rivals Milan and Inter. Having once battled it out for league titles and European trophies, the two teams from the proud city of Milan were reduced to scrapping for the Europa League places in Serie A. Inter showed a small, but limited, improvement after reappointing former league-winning manager Roberto Mancini, who was also successful with Lazio and Manchester City before a blip at Galatasaray.

Mancini is a good coach, but he is also a coach who works best when given almost endless amounts of money to spend on very good players. Thank goodness, then, that Indonesian owner Erick Thohir, who was sold the club two seasons ago by Massimo Moratti, is in a benevolent mood. Among a number of excellent signings, Mancini has been able to secure the €30m signature of Geoffrey Kondogbia, a top-drawer defensive midfielder who played for Monaco and had been pursued by many Premier League clubs.

French striker Jonathan Biabiany, who played well for a doomed Parma team last season, is a sound free transfer, while the loan signing of Martin Montoya from Barcelona adds ball-playing mobility to Inter's backline. If Mancini's man-management has improved from his days at City, Inter looks nailed-on to challenge for the Champions League places this time around.

Best Bet: Inter 6/4 with Betfair to finish in the top three of Serie A

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