Nothing’s more dangerous than when a gambler’s frame of mind is opposite the athletes she’s betting on. For instance, an MLB speculator might be sick of watching National League teams ground-out for an entire weekend, but that doesn’t mean the next Over/Under outcome won’t be forged by ballclubs ready to lay the lumber.
Likewise, a punter might view a rainy, cold venue at Stamford Bridge and decide that nobody in his right mind would even try to score goals. But that’s not how the footballers are feeling. In fact, on a rain-laced pitch, they’re hoping opposing keepers won’t be able to handle hydroplaning shots that skim into the net swiftly.
The furious schedule of English football bouts leading up to Boxing Day – and continuing onward into January – could prompt bettors to focus on fatigue, injuries, and the crush of alternative competitions when handicapping teams on 12/26. From the players’ POV, though, a nice week’s stretch of training prior to post-Christmas fixtures is just what the doctor ordered, especially with international soccer dialing things down for a while over the winter.
UEFA Champions League action is pausing, and a majority of FIFA commitments have been satisfied for a while. Removal of the UEFA’s temporary “Away Goals Rule” could serve to make upcoming international bouts less taxing for keepers and defenders on home grounds. High-profile teams like Manchester City have been unexpectedly knocked out of the EFL Cup.
As a result, teams can be expected to employ game plans which are no more cautious than usual despite the recent blitz of Premiership action. There might even be some faster-paced matches than usual on Sunday, considering that some starting-11 players can look forward to another week’s “break” soon as reserves step to the fore for elite teams in FA Cup action.
An overreliance on injury angles seems to have affected the odds for this week’s maiden prediction on scroll, Wolves vs Watford at Molineux Stadium.
EPL Match Odds, Previews, and Picks for Boxing Day
Wolverhampton vs Watford F.C. (Sunday, December 26)
Wolverhampton is used to being an undervalued side in Las Vegas, but why is there only a (-125) line on Wanderers to defeat Hornets at home on Boxing Day?
Watford has dropped 9 points in its last 4 league matches contested against Wolves and has only won once at Molineux Stadium since 2007. Hornets stand a lowly 17th on the EPL table in 2021-22.
Split betting action and host injuries could help to explain Wolverhampton’s modest money-line odds. Wolves matches are known for successful “Under” total-goals bets when bookmakers become too focused on strikers like Raúl Jiménez and forget the club’s iron defending style.
FanDuel’s odds of (-128) on U(2.5) total goals scored by Wolves and Watford is just close enough to a 1-to-1 payoff that gamblers will be tempted to play the market. Note that Jiménez has missed time following a suspension and Bundesliga loaner Hwang Hee-Chan was injured prior to Wolves’ draw with Chelsea last weekend.
The Chelsea match did see the limited return of the El Tri phenom, and no significant amount of attrition appears bound to slow Wolverhampton’s push for another UEFA placement in 2022-23. Watford’s loss to Brentford on 12/10, in which Hornets blew a late lead to drop 3 points, didn’t showcase a club that’s ready to impress bookmakers as the visiting side.
Recommended bet: Wolves (-125)
Liverpool vs Leeds United (Sunday, December 26)
Reds are a (-2) Sunday favorite against visiting Peacocks of Leeds United, with “Handicap Draw” markets now displayed in the “Goals” section behind O/U betting for Over (3.5) goals at odds of (-140).
Punters have mixed evidence when it comes Leeds’ road form and the club’s chances at a legendary venue. Peacocks recently visited Stamford Bridge and frightened Chelsea by scoring first, hustling to strike unpredictable shots on-target and nearly swiping a point prior to Jorginho’s penalty winner for Blues in the 94th minute. Leeds went into a follow-up bout at Manchester City full of spunky confidence…and promptly lost 0-7.
Liverpool hasn’t been embarrassing many English Premier League opponents this year despite the club’s league-low 1 loss in domestic play. Reds went into a recent kickoff vs. Aston Villa with a patchwork starting-11 that included Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in between superstar forwards Salah and Sadio Mané. The group went on to play cautious, physical football and earned a hard fought win.
Wednesday’s 6-goal tournament clash with Leicester, and Reds’ ongoing problems dealing with Jamie Vardy, could be deceiving to the casual eye. It’s not Jürgen Klopp’s style to tax his team in other competitions. Reds will be fresh on the attack in just about every EPL meeting no matter what drama unfolds in 2nd-fiddle domestic brackets. However, the club’s careful overall approach has illustrated that Klopp doesn’t think the Premiership race will be won or lost in winter, implicating thin “Over” (3.5) odds as a dodgy choice.
Recommended bet: Under (3.5) (+118)
Manchester City vs Leicester City (Sunday, December 26)
It would have been unimaginable to think money-line odds on Man City vs Leicester would reach (-550) for Sky Blues and (+1300) for Foxes as of as few as 6 months ago. To put it plainly, the fellow UEFA clubs have had disparate 2021-22 seasons.
Foxes may be a solid underdog pick at 13-to-1 with minimal wagered units, however the sportsbook’s (-2) goal spread on Man City creates a superior ‘dog gamble ATS. City’s 11-0 margin over the last 2 matches is inflating goal totals, spreads, and money-line markets prior to the inevitable reversion to “soccer scoring.”
Leicester City, meanwhile, is a defense-first club that will approach the Man City kickoff in a similar fashion as West Ham, Aston Villa, and RB Leipzig, each of which has defended superbly and produced surprising outcomes against Manchester City.
Recommended bet: Leicester City (+2) (+125)
Tottenham Hotspur vs Crystal Palace (Sunday, December 26)
Eagles have been limited to just 1 victory since November 6th while CPFC has worked through a swoon. That being said, the shaky form of Spurs gives punters a reason to peek at Crystal Palace’s 4-to-1 odds to win on Boxing Day.
The good and the bad of Tottenham have been on display over the last 2 matches. Spurs lost for a 3rd frustrating time in 4 UEFA appearances on December 9th, this time with an ugly 0-3 outcome against Rennes.
Once the Champions League ledger is carved-out, English Premier Leagues sides have prohibitive advantages in 2nd-tier international play. That casts an even bigger shadow over the club in light of its UEFA belly-flop. Harry Kane did recently draw first blood against visiting Liverpool, though, and fought Reds to a 2-2 draw in a fairly entertaining battle. Spurs have specialized in clean sheets against bottom-half league foes this cycle, helping to hold FanDuel’s O/U (2.5) payoff odds at standard (-110) payoff lines for both sides. Unlikely that we’ll see such a slow, staid match this week.
Recommended bet: Over (2.5)
Aston Villa vs Chelsea F.C. (Sunday, December 26)
Aston Villa has won 4 of its previous 6 league matches, and has transitioned from an English Premier League hanger-on to threatening a top-half EPL finish. Three Lions reserve forward Ollie Watkins has netted 5 goals over 15 appearances as Villa (+450) boasts recent wins over United, Leicester, and CPFC.
Chelsea utilized a 3-4-2-1 attack that failed to produce results in last Sunday’s scoreless draw against Wolves. Blues couldn’t take 3 points from a 12/16 league match with Toffeemen of Everton F.C., and must now focus on a tournament date with Brentford before moving on to Villa Park on Boxing Day.
Also driving bets on Aston Villa are the outcomes of 3 dramatic Chelsea-Villa fixtures from spring and autumn. Villains prevailed in a last-day Premiership appearance back in May, nearly knocking Chelsea F.C. out of a top-4 finish. Chelsea’s individual stars overcame a dodgy team performance in a September rematch, as striker Romelu Lukaku and keeper Benjamin Mendy lived large in a 3-0 victory. However, Pensioners were nearly eliminated from the EFL Cup by Villains just 11 days after that match’s conclusion.
Forget the recent history and wager the far-superior side at odds close to 1-to-1.
Recommended bet: Chelsea (-145)
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.