WagerBop made a few nice moneyline picks on fixtures over the weekend, blessing readers who “square” gambled our picks with a positive rate-of-return. But on Monday we returned to just-whiffing on the soccer pitch, which means this is as good of a time as ever to bring up the holy spirit of handicapping, Hunter S. Thompson.
Thompson’s notable quotes include a maxim I’ve questioned over the years: “There is no fool like a careless gambler who begins to take winning for granted.”
In a certain sense, that statement is not only misleading, but incomplete. Successful ‘cappers always take winning for granted. We take losing for granted too.
Bettors who don’t risk bank accounts on high-rolling adventures are able to chart-out a 2-line graph (mental or actually on paper/silicon) of potential won and lost bets on upcoming games which leaves any potential loss in the “acceptable” range. Expecting to win within a certain % of bets throughout a season is not unreasonable, especially if you are a professional with a record of positive ROI.
So yes, when I gamble on Premier League matches, or on any major sport I know something about (hopefully, otherwise, I’m not gambling at all) I definitely expect to win.
But I know I can always lose. The wisest speculator can lose several well-reasoned wagers in a row due to bad bounces, injuries, red cards, and brilliant opposing appearances. That’s when sticking to 2-way and 3-way outcome betting lines and avoiding long-shot propositions.
As a strange 2019-20 EPL cycle winds to a close, we’ll serve-up a round of predictions and picks much as it always looks – tied up in a nice big ribbon with unassailable big-picture betting angles. However, I’m adding a reality-checkpoint prior to pulling the trigger on any recommendation. If the devil’s advocate POV elicits bad mistakes in logic or calculation, well, there’s plenty of time until publish…and until Sunday’s kickoff.
7/22 – Liverpool vs Chelsea FC
This match reminds me of England vs Belgium during the Group Stage at Russia ’18. It’s the marquee event of the week for a chunk of the wide world, but that alone won’t make it a great match. Supporters are even more impotent to help their clubs stay motivated in a landscape of empty-stadium events.
It takes 2 teams to tango. We know that Jürgen Klopp can be a scientific, cautious lineup manager to a fault, leading some tabloid writers to conclude Klopp has a sore spot for the FA Cup. In truth, Liverpool taking it easy in domestic tournaments is a symptom of wider tendencies. Reds can’t conquer everyone in all circumstances, or else risk everything the team has built in winning EPL and UEFA championships.
Liverpool might be the same team that clinched a Premier League title a short time ago, but there is no evidence Reds are playing like the team that did it. Since earning the hardware against Crystal Palace, Liverpool has posted a disappointing 0-4 loss to Manchester City, drawn with Burnley, and lost to Arsenal. Meanwhile the squad is hosting a club in 3rd place by a mere point over 2 chasers.
It would appear that Chelsea Football Club, fresh off a cracking upset win over Man United in the FA Cup semifinals, could be a moneyline steal all over again at (+270).
Reality Check: Leicester City and MUFC, tied for 4th and 5th place, will play each other soon. The teams will only gain a total of 2 or 3 points on Blues collectively with that outcome. Chelsea also has a match in-hand on Foxes and will host Wolves on Sunday. With his club’s UEFA fortunes looking steady and a lot of post-EPL season drama on the horizon, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard may be nearly as cautious as his counterpart. Meanwhile, even without a live Anfield audience, Klopp will make sure his superstars play in at least part of the 90 minutes, given his team’s tradition of spirited last-hurrah effort even when there’s nothing to gain from victory.
Pick: Chelsea ATS (+1)
7/26 – How to Deal With 10 Premier League Results in 2 Hours
Tradition, pomp, and circumstance leads the Premiership into strange waters on occasion, such as this Sunday’s furious finish with all 20 teams kicking off 11 AM New York time, right around afternoon tea across the pond. Surely there are some hot-shot gamblers out there who will place bets on all 10 matches as a badge of honor.
There’s no honor, or “honour,” in losing on too many picks because you’re mentally exhausted checking the injury wire for 20 teams on Saturday night, and certainly no glory in losing the privilege of cheering for all of your bets. Nobody can firmly pay attention to 10 soccer dramas, 10 outcomes at the same time. 10-up moneyline bettors get to stare at the 20-team scoreboard and bite their nails down to the skin. What a barrel o’ laughs, eh?
Wiser to limit oneself to about 4 or 5 bets, tops. In fact, my real “recommendation” is to indulge in betting on only your favorites out of the 3 fixtures listed below.
2 or 3-wager parlays allow for deft channel-changing or screen-in-screen surveillance with the right entertainment package. Add any more and you’re just playing a rigged lottery, “passing the time” like Sydney in Hard Eight.
Clementine, my darling, do not place extra bets on “sentimental” soccer teams for which an EPL off-season has all but begun already. Let’s sniff around for ordinary odds-to-win on sides with a lot to play for on Sunday.
Crystal Palace vs Tottenham Hotspur
Footballers are supporters, too, just like American pigskin pros are usually hardcore NFL fans. It might help to remember when athletes tend to think like their audience and when they do not. For instance, Wanderers had a 1-0 victory well in-hand against a listless Crystal Palace side on Monday, and some anxious Wolves supporters could have called for a straight-ahead style devoid of risky forward numbers, thinking that only a lucky howler could give life to CPFC’s flat-lining attack. Perhaps that was true. But the hosts played aggressively toward the Eagles box, determined to score a 2nd time and put the crucial result out of reach of any “lucky howler” shenanigans.
Nor is Crystal Palace ((+450) at Bovada Sportsbook) likely to think like its supporters this weekend at Selhurst Park, where fans would implore Eagles to brace-up for 1 final league match against Tottenham, a legitimate UEFA contender. Except nobody can implore Eagles to do anything, not in person anyway. The empty-stadium scenario has treated no club worse than Crystal Palace, even though we don’t think of Selhurst Park among the absolute most-riotous sounding soccer venues in London. Playing the “Project Restart” string of matches with no live crowd has reinforced the notion of CPFC as a squad stuck in limbo, surviving but unable to qualify for anything else, an aging roster full of players seeking to move on or maximize personal dollar-value in the signing season to come.
Tottenham, therefore, should probably not be an (Even) payoff at (-1) ATS against host Palace, at least not when viewed in-context of a solid favorite’s moneyline of (-160) odds.
Reality Check: A number of Premier League clubs have appeared to fall into a deep post-pandemic swoon, then suddenly rebound once betting odds lengthened. Sheffield United is an example, having taken more than 3 full matches to score before beating Lilywhites, Wanderers, and Blues in a 10-day span. Everton is another, surprising Blades 1-0 at Bramall Lane despite what appeared to be a horrific discrepancy in motivation. But each parallel to Palace’s slump is as incomplete as it is intriguing. Sheffield has been in midst of a UEFA placement chase, and Toffeemen are far more skilled (and youthful) than Eagles at this point. Tottenham will be going mad trying to ensure 3 points on Sunday as Wolves has jumped ahead of Spurs into 6th place by 1 point after 37 rounds.
Pick: Tottenham (-1)
Manchester City vs Norwich City
I had a hunch that the Over (3.5) at FanDuel would be a popular pick for Citizens vs Canaries Part Deux. Sure enough, FanDuel’s payoff odds on Under (3.5) are a nice (+106).
Here’s why I think there’s at least a 55% chance of 3 or less goals-scored at Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City wants revenge for the embarrassment at Carrow Road, sure. But that outcome feels like part of another season, far removed from the realities of life in the Premier League in July 2020. Not only is there no doubt Norwich City will play spirited, physical football with nothing to lose on route back down to Championship, it’s also highly doubtful that Sky Blues will be interested in humiliating a Championship side in the 2nd half.
City will rotate stars onto the pitch just as Liverpool, and play out from the back for most of 90+ minutes. What I can’t see the favorites doing is piling-on for meaningless goals with the starting 11 at the 75-minute mark. Since a potential Citizens win of such as score as 4-0 or 5-1 is playing heavily into the O/U markets, it seems strange that bettors haven’t noticed it’s among the least-likely outcomes this time. City 2, Norwich 0 is more like it.
Reality Check: Could Canaries be too anxious to make a statement and wind up taking 1, even 2 penalties in the box? Maybe, but I’m not suggesting the Exact Score prop bet. City will likely score only as necessary.
Pick: Under (3.5)
Southampton FC vs Sheffield United
It is in-vogue to criticize Sheffield manager Chris Wilder for his harsh quotes as Blades fail and flail in an attempt to qualify for Europe. Personally, I find the coach’s remarks brilliant, and a neat window into how Wilder has been able to whip Sheffield United into a top-half finish in 2019-20. His carefully gender-neutral criticisms impugned and implored everyone from center-backs to secretaries after losses to Leicester and Everton. It was a last-ditch effort to awaken a club which ran out of petrol once opponents’ wounds had healed during the break. Sheffield tactics work best when opponents are ailing and worst when not, and there’s nothing the skipper can do about that.
In questioning a lineup’s effort and focus, a manager avoids saying “Even if our whole organization does the very best it can, we’ll lose anyway.” The smartest CEOs stay away from that sort of talk. It’s like when a club loses after the coaches hype a “back to basics” slogan for a week. The players then conclude that the team is basically bad.
It just wasn’t in the cards for Sheffield to reach Europe just yet. That’s not what this season was all about. What has this season been about for Sheffield? Respect…and lots of crazy-fun victories. Sheffield’s (+210) moneyline at Bovada is a rare > 2-to-1 bet on a quality club still being devalued as “promoted” despite proving worthy of the top half.
Reality Check: Saints are a proud side and may go all-out to try to break a home-pitch jinx reputation. But I know a manager who’s a strong psychologist when I hear them. Time for 1 more crazy-fun afternoon.
Pick: Sheffield United
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.