It’s a mark of lazy handicapping – regretfully shared on occasion by yours truly – when prognosticators and pick-sales folk fall back on the old “let’s play with house money in our next pick.” There is no such thing as “house money,” except for the money that is retained by the sportsbook. There’s only money you’ve won at the sportsbook and money you’ve lost there. To treat winnings like “house money” is to play loose and easy with sports betting’s most precious commodity. Winnings are the name of the game – don’t wager them carelessly or you’re playing into the bookie’s hands.
However, there are times when sports gamblers get to play the “middle against the back end,” so to speak, with a potentially winning futures bet on an underdog in hand.
Thanks to Chelsea Football Club’s less-well regarded stature in London and Las Vegas earlier in 2021, plenty of punters – including those smart enough to take WagerBop‘s recommendations on FA Cup futures lines and money matches – are holding Chelsea to-lift-the-trophy bet slips in their back pockets, wondering if any kind of conventional bet on Saturday’s final is worth the trouble.
The good news is that Leicester City’s odds appear to be wildly mispriced for the circumstances at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. So much so that Foxes could become a tasty moneyline market, not for supporters who don’t believe in Blues, but for those who believe in Blues enough to have wagered on Chelsea to win the whole thing.
Good news x 2: Even if you don’t have a Chelsea to-lift-trophy bet slip taken out at the sportsbook, the Beautiful Game’s handicappers and high-rollers have overcompensated on their previous disdain for Chelsea’s chances to such a degree that stand-alone underdog bets come into focus as a profit opportunity for the final.
Chelsea vs Leicester: FA Cup Final Moneyline Odds and Handicap
The key angle behind sportsbooks’ mistaken FA Cup Final odds has little to do with momentum, though both sides can stake a claim to momentum after winning-out through an arduous, hurried Football Association bracket in 2021. It’s not directly related to the managers, though Thomas Tuchel has already taken Chelsea light-years beyond what the fiery Frank Lampard could coax out of Blues, and Brendan Rodgers of Leicester City has nurtured the East Midlands club’s tradition of quality counterattacking while coaching a new, improved lineup to aristocrat status in the Premier League and an easy UEFA Champions League bid in 2021-22. It’s not even a matter of scouting each side’s exciting youngsters, which include Team USA’s best hope for the future in midfield attacker Christian Pulisic of Chelsea and Leicester City’s 19-year-old left back Luke Thomas, who scored a crucial tally in Foxes’ 2-1 triumph over Man United on Tuesday.
No, instead the oddsmakers have simply whiffed on Leicester’s status as an elite football club that sits above Chelsea on the EPL table. Form is the focus, and there’s no doubt Chelsea’s current form is superior to Leicester’s despite the latter’s victory over MUFC.
However, the favorable analysis of Blues’ quality is based on a small sample-size of massive events Chelsea has prevailed in over the last few weeks, while Leicester’s value as a 3-to-1 underdog rests on the club’s dominance in league play and historical results that portend a corker at Wembley. Remember the first rule of underdog betting – if the odds are disparate for 2 comparable teams with similar chances to win a championship, the ‘dog is always the proper bet.
Besides, Pulisic was seen laboring to get along after Chelsea’s surprise 0-1 loss to Arsenal this week.
Blues are a credit to what young up-and-coming football teams can do in the European scene. They’re just not a genuine minus-odds favorite against Leicester City.
FanDuel’s main market FA Cup Final odds:
Chelsea (-120) / Draw (+240) / Leicester City (+290)
To Lift the Cup: Chelsea (-250) / Leicester City (+170)
Over (2.5) (-104) vs Under (2.5) (-134)
Handicap Draw: Chelsea (-1) (+250)
FanDuel Sportsbook isn’t the only FA Cup betting site on which Leicester is offered at bargain prices, in fact, Bovada Sportsbook is giving soccer speculators fatter than 3-to-1 odds on Foxes to win without penalties. Are the favorites really considered so prohibitively great after knocking-off Man City in the semifinals?
Chelsea Football Club has the buzz. But the ball doesn’t know which side’s supporters are buzzing loudest (especially in a cavernous Wembley of 2021) and FA Cup finals have a tendency to upset gimme-style predictions.
Why Chelsea’s Odds are So Thin for Saturday
Chelsea is certainly the FA Cup hopeful that’s gaining steam across the continent, even as Leicester anticipates an A-list UEFA run in 2022. Blues are guaranteed at least a 4th-place finish on the Premier League table, are poised to play in the Champions League Final against Man City on 5/29, and perhaps most importantly from a handicapping POV, have beaten City not once but twice over the last month.
In hindsight, Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final win on 4/17 was somewhat uneventful, or at least a display of the club’s newfound maturity and efficiency on the pitch. Kepa was protected from Sky Blues’ pressure for much of the appearance, and Tuchel’s juggling of the Chelsea lineup at forward and on the wing prompted counter-moves from Pep Guardiola that may not have had the desired effect.
City’s league loss to Chelsea on 5/8 showed Blues confidently rubbing salt in the wound, notching a comeback win on Raheem Sterling’s go-ahead goal after Hakim Ziyech scored yet another early-2nd half goal against the yet-to-be-crowned EPL champs. But most impressive was how Chelsea simply hogged the ball with sharp passing and made daring runs toward the Man City box as the match wore on, totally unruffled by trailing a dynastic-level Citizens squad.
You can’t say Leicester City has looked anywhere near as top quality against the foremost common opponent. In fact, Leicester’s drubbings at the hands of Manchester City are a foremost reason for Chelsea’s thin FA Cup Final odds. City defeated Leicester 2-0 when the clubs last met on April 3rd, rarely looking bothered during a 2nd half that belied the suspense of the opening 45+ minutes at King Power Stadium.
But the Manchester City defeat wasn’t exactly a fixture in which Foxes were 100% outclassed – instead the underdogs held Sky Blues to comparable numbers as Chelsea’s effort without the ball in each of the latter’s surprise wins over Man City. Leicester spent most of the appearance patiently waiting for a watershed counterattack that never came.
Styles make fights in English football, and it’s clear that Man City is more vulnerable to Chelsea’s dynamism and forward numbers than Leicester’s unique, parrying style. That doesn’t have much to do with Foxes’ chances against Blues on Saturday, though – in fact Chelsea could also prove to be vulnerable to counters from Jamie Vardy’s side.
Let’s recall that last time Leicester and Chelsea faced each other, Foxes won 2-0 while frustrating Blues into 16 fouls and less than 10 shot-attempts despite possessing the football 2/3 of the match. Yes, the outcome was in January, and 1 of only 2 Leicester victories over Chelsea in a 6-year period. But not only are Foxes newer to the scene as a UEFA-level club, it doesn’t take much recapping to realize there have been a lot of extenuating circumstances in that time. 4 of the clubs’ last 8 meetings have ended in draws.
Finally, call it the “Super League” effect, but Chelsea FC’s institutional focus could be in a slightly untoward place insofar as motivating players for the FA Cup Final properly and with singleness of purpose. The club was recently struck down by supporters after getting too big for its sizable britches, and with cracking Premier League and Champions League opportunities coming up against Foxes and Sky Blues respectively, Chelsea footballers have an awful lot to anticipate and prepare for. Pressure abounds, and pressure to maintain top-level form is a new vibe for many roster cogs.
Leicester, while intending to stay above Chelsea on the domestic league table, is psychologically free to focus and sacrifice whatever is necessary to win Saturday’s final.
How Many Units to Wager on Leicester?
By now, it’s abundantly clear which side of the FA Cup Final moneyline that WagerBop is coming down on – but the question remains how much to wager on Leicester?
There’s no reason for any bettor to risk a lot of stake on a fundamentally low-risk market. Without any wins, losses, or futures tickets in hand headed into the FA Cup’s finale, Foxes are still a fine play at 3/1, not because Chelsea wasn’t underrated all along but because it’s another team’s turn to be discounted unfairly at present. If you’re holding onto a Chelsea futures slip at anywhere from 6-to-1 to 10-to-1 odds, a wager of equal units on Leicester to lift the FA Cup hardware will guarantee a payoff of at least 2-to-1 if not more. You’re still hoping Chelsea will win the match, but the Leicester units are a safety net in case the (recent) favorites are denied.
But wait – how about a 3-to-1 ticket on Leicester to win the FA Cup Final in 90+ minutes? Those odds would mean that a 2 unit wager – measured in units per the maiden bet on Chelsea to win the bracket – would equal a 6-to-1 futures payoff with a simple regulation win for Foxes. Heads you win, tails the bookmaker loses. Right?
Not exactly, since there are 3 markets at-play in any soccer odds-to-win without penalties, and so a drawn result to the 11 on 11 battle followed by a Leicester win on penalty kicks would prevent both the long-term and the short-term bet from paying off. Leicester to “win the trophy” or “lift the hardware” is the safety pick with a Chelsea-futures slip in hand, even if the alternative 2-to-1 odds are less convenient for the “perfect” combination tactic at small units.
One final idea to consider – Bovada’s “to lift the FA Cup trophy” prop bet is not consistently on-site and available this week, but the sportsbook is offering “Double Chance” picks on 2 out of 3 outcomes, similar to the British style of “laying” 1 out of 3 potential outcomes in a match. Leicester-to-win and Draw (with only a Chelsea win defeating the bet) is (-115) payoff odds at Bovada, a 1-to-1 market that takes a fair piece of risk to gain a payoff anywhere close to a futures-win.
It’s the gambler’s choice. There are at least a trio of valuable ways to bet on Foxes this weekend, and you don’t even have to have listened to WagerBop and picked Chelsea back in early spring to find an advantage over the bookie.
But it helps.
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.