Were EPL “futures” odds-makers been vindicated by Man City’s romp through the holiday slate?
It’s a bit demonstrative to just glance at the Premier League table if you haven’t happened to look at it since Boxing Day. Manchester City has pulled ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool by double-digit points, without any pronounced swoon from either Reds or Blues going into the new calendar year. Citizens have blown past counter-attacking teams like Leicester City, risen above the technical defending parity of matches with Wolves and Brentford, and recently out-lasted a group of rather aggressive Arsenal athletes to earn an 11th-straight league victory.
But a closer look at the ledger reveals why Man City is really so separated – Liverpool and Chelsea have run into tougher opponents between Christmas season and now. Pensioners’ maiden match of 2022 was a 2-2 draw with (guess who) Liverpool, prior to a series of tournament matches which are perceived to have worn Chelsea down somewhat prior to this weekend’s crucial fixture against City. Liverpool has had to contend with recent EPL wars against Tottenham, Arsenal, and Chelsea in addition to facing a busy domestic tournament schedule of FA Cup and EFL Cup dates
in spite of manager Jürgen Klopp’s best efforts thanks to manager Jürgen Klopp’s wisdom.
Man City may have had it relatively easy in league play for a while, to say nothing of a 3rd Round FA Cup lay-up over Swindon Town, the “Charlestown Chiefs” on the totem pole of English club football. That ends this Saturday as Citizens host Blues at City of Manchester Stadium.
Scroll briefly for a look at the weekend’s marquee Premier League kickoff – or check on Friday’s lone set of odds and angles in the preview immediately below.
January 15 (Friday): Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Crystal Palace
Friday’s (+110) money line odds on Seagulls can be explained by the club’s top-half Premiership standing. Brighton has defied the common tropes of low-budget English teams throughout much of the league’s arduous winter schedule with consistent, quality form.
Despite visiting Stamford Bridge on 12/29, Brighton has earned 7 points from 3 EPL matches. Seagulls are also coming off a stirring FA Cup win over West Bromwich. Conversely, CPFC has fallen into 11th position on the English Premier League table after a brief flourish of solid attacking this past autumn.
A significant amount of parity between the 2 clubs may be overlooked in Friday’s betting odds. CPFC’s goal-scoring swoon may have officially ended in December when the club produced 3 goals in 2 separate matches with Everton and Norwich City. Brighton has had recent problems generating shots against clubs oriented to defending, like Wolves and Leeds United. Eagles drew 1-1 with Brighton at Selhurst Park on September 27th, as prolific Seagulls forward Neal Maupay scored late to spoil Palace’s 1-0 lead.
Right now, draw is an excellent pick at (+220) odds. Consider also a “Double Chance” pick on “Crystal Palace or Draw” with FanDuel’s prop odds resting at a generous (-145).
Recommended bet: Draw (+220)
January 15 (Saturday): Manchester City vs. Chelsea F.C.
Supporters who have followed English football for at least the last 3 seasons should be taken back by Saturday’s earliest match-odds. Chelsea was last cycle’s dragon slayer when it came to smiting Sky Blues in big domestic and international matches. But that’s water under the “Stamford” bridge, at least according to the bookmakers who’ve cast visiting Blues as a (+420) or steeper-than 4/1 underdog for the rematch in Manchester on Saturday.
Man City built a solid lead on the domestic table over the holiday. However, claiming points through a whirlwind of quick contests bookending Boxing Day’s blitz is a matter of roster depth, not ceiling. City’s recent glory in pulling away from the pack isn’t a guarantee that Sky Blues (-150) will continue romping the planet.
Chelsea F.C. may be fatigued on Saturday, having beaten Tottenham in an EFL Cup bout 3 days prior. Pulisic was held out of the lineup, however, for Wednesday’s tournament victory, indicating that Thomas Tuchel may have a big role planned for the USMNT star in the upcoming Man City match.
Tit-for-tat scoring and spectacular rushes and far from unlikely, making the best bets on Man City and Chelsea a simple total-goals pick or Handicap Draw (City (-1) (+260)).
Recommended bet: Over (2.5) (-116)
January 15 (Saturday): Burnley F.C. vs. Leicester City
Funny looking odds are also a thing at Turf Moor this week. Leicester City is only a (+150) money-line favorite over Burnley, a perennial speed-bag for opposing clubs at the UEFA level.
The 2021-22 Foxes do not possess “UEFA” style quality. In fact, the club has had a hard time earning 3 points from Europa League matches this season, let alone in defeating elite clubs of the Premiership. Leicester City hosted Burnley in September and needed a late Jamie Vardy goal just to draw level at 2-2, merely a single example of many such disappointing results for a team currently sitting at 10th on the table.
In spite of Burnley F.C.’s all-too-familiar standing near the bottom of the Premier League table, Clarets have not lost a league match to a visiting opponent since falling to Arsenal early this season. Merely 27 goals-allowed for a stout Clarets backline ranks Burnley F.C. alongside West Ham and Manchester United.
However, bets on Burnley (+185) are as dodgy as the club’s fortunes. Clarets may be among the most stubborn bottom-half teams in Europe, but that form didn’t show up in the recent FA Cup round, in which Burnley blew a late lead to lose to Huddersfield and suffer elimination. Foxes cannot yet be touted as having a renaissance, but Leicester City has played an improved brand of football in recent weeks. Just ask Liverpool or Watford Football Club, the latter of which bore the brunt of a well-rested Foxes attack.
Recommended bet: Leicester City (+150)
January 15 (Saturday): Aston Villa vs. Manchester United
Aston Villa, perhaps for the first time in a modern-era EPL match, is less than a 2/1 pick to defeat Man United. Considering that’s largely how the betting lines opened, you can’t say bookmakers are lacking in cajones.
A clue to the banjo string-tight odds (for this kind of match-up, anyway) is that Saturday’s match has a rather standard total-goals handicap, with sportsbooks offering 1/1 odds on Over (2.5) and Under (2.5) total goals.
Such betting options offer a clue to Villa’s perceived chances in a grudging, slow-paced match. Aston Villa’s back line has proven itself against best-attacking lineups of the EPL, having held Liverpool to a single penalty goal.
Red Devils and Villains also met in the FA Cup last Monday. Though the event was held on Manchester United’s home turf of Old Trafford, many onlookers felt United did not have the best of the play. Man United’s 1-0 win required 2 VAR-overturned tallies to smite a Villa comeback effort in the 2nd half.
Having David de Gea manning the posts and Marcus Rashford lurking on the wing helped give supporters the impression that Man United was going all-out to advance in the tournament. However, speculators would be well advised to look at the match’s ledger again before drawing conclusions, or getting upset-fever.
The fact is that Ronaldo didn’t appear in the event. Furthermore, the harsh criticism of defender Victor Lindelöf’s performance overlooks that the FIFA workhorse was just working his way back into an incomplete lineup. Harry Maguire could join Lindelöf in front of de Gea this weekend.
Red Devils will fight hard to win in any alternative competitions at hand, especially with an EPL title already out of the question. But it remains that squads like Man United think of finishing top-4 on the league table ahead of all other goals. In context of United’s cautious lineup on Monday, the tournament-vs-league-form angle could grab everyone’s attention quickly if MUFC jumps out to a 2-0 advantage.
Recommended bet: Man United (+135)
January 16 (Sunday): West Ham United vs. Leeds United
There came a time during Leicester’s magic Cinderella run, and more recently during Wolverhampton’s epic leap from English Championship to UEFA qualification, in which bookmakers finally gave up hoping that the underdog would suffer a long bout of negative reversion.
West Ham would be viewed as a candidate for negative reversion due to the team’s middling budget. Hammers are not an annual Premier League contender to date, and worst of all, the club’s recent success coincides with a tiring schedule of home-and-away competitions. But this is no ordinary season.
Momentum is continuing to grow for West Ham United, after Jarrod Bowen’s performances in an FA Cup triumph and a lead-in league victory over Norwich City. Michail Antonio has bested his teammates with 8 league goals on the cycle. But putting it all on West Ham’s stars is a mistake, as it takes depth of quality to produce the steady results supporters of the club have come to count on in the 2021-22 cycle.
West Ham has not lost to a clean sheet since finishing with 10 men in a loss to Arsenal about 1 month ago. Hammers haven’t defeated any high-profile foes since whipping Chelsea on December 4th, though it also hasn’t had to do so. Playing in 3 competitions is easier when it coincides with a manageable league slate.
Consecutive pairings against bottom-half teams has helped West Ham reel off 3 straight EPL wins. Perhaps most impressively, though, is that Hammers marched into Selhurst Park on New Year’s and obliterated a proud defending club, winning 3-2 in a triumph that was less anxious than the final result may imply.
Bowen’s tournament gem came at the expense of Leeds United, making Sunday’s kickoff at London Stadium yet another accidental “FA Cup Replay.” Leeds had a truly miserable day trying to pass the football in the 3rd Round loss, and Peacocks changed-out an entire attacking midfield looking for answers. Such “incremental” tactics on both sides could lead to a match in which head coaches restrict forward numbers and try to produce the winner without sacrificing a point, marking FanDuel’s thin “Over (2.5)” payoff odds of (-162) a curious market.
Recommended bet: Under (2.5) (+132)
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.