It is looking more and more like the 2019-20 Premiership will not come down to another war of winning streaks waged between Liverpool and Manchester City.
Instead, it’s just Reds – and whoever can possibly catch them.
Salah’s side is taking a very different path to a potential crown this season than Citizens took in 2018-19. Pundits like myself noted that as last spring’s stretch run progressed toward April, Manchester City’s rivals were afraid to open things up on the pitch and invite a potential Sergio Agüero hat trick and/or a 6 or 7-goal beating. I made sage-like “Under” predictions and advised that opponents would try to defend City even at cost of their own attack’s well-being. Yet the eventual champions found ways to crush teams by eye-popping scores again and again…especially in tournament play.
Liverpool is not exactly running clubs off the pitch at Anfield. Instead, the unbeaten front-runners are winning match after match in nail-nibbling and hair-raising fashion.
Take the team’s ledger in October alone. The month began with Reds fending-off a serious challenge from Red Bull – not to be confused with the New York Red Bulls – in a 1-goal UEFA Champions League result.
4 weeks later, Liverpool defeated Arsenal in a Carabao Cup corker at Anfield. Young keeper Caoimhin Kelleher had a rough appearance, and Salah sat out, but the visitors scored 5 goals in 94 minutes to draw level and won on penalties.
Meanwhile in English Premier League fixtures Reds only tallied 2 more goals-combined than 3 marquee opponents…and claimed 7 of 9 potential points. How did November begin for Liverpool? Funny you should ask – the club needed a last-gasp comeback to outscore Aston Villa before needing a 2nd-half Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain goal to survive Genk 2-1. It’s almost as if Jürgen Klopp has decided to see how many fixtures in a row he can lose ATS while winning almost every match in all competitions.
I include the Champions League and League Cup results in the above analysis because what could otherwise be written-off as a statistical fluke is obviously a substantive trend-line. Liverpool wins very close matches with frightening regularity.
Reds host Citizens on Sunday in a gigantic match that we’ll handicap along with the rest of the Premiership slate on Matchday 12. But Man City’s apparent vulnerability in 2019-20 opens the door for a hot and hungry Leicester side to potentially take 2nd place on the table with a victory over Arsenal on Saturday.
Of course, Foxes would temporarily enjoy 2nd position with a win no matter what, since Pep’s squad must wait an extra day to try to earn points. But it’s clear that no English football club short of 20 points after a dozen matches will be able to entertain the prospect of catching the leaders later on.
That makes Saturday’s battle at King Power Stadium a must-win for Gunners, who stand with a paltry 17 points and outside of the top-4 following an 0-1 loss to Blades and a pair of disappointing draws.
Here’s a quick handicapper’s glance at Leicester City vs Arsenal plus 9 other matches on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Norwich City vs Watford
Significant line-movement has moved the spread on this match-up to (Even), or a “pick’em” as American bookies are fond of calling it. Canaries were originally (-1) and a (+145) moneyline which has since expanded to (+170).
The gambling public’s notion makes a lot of sense. Watford has not won a domestic league fixture this season and will be a desperate guest at Carrow Road.
Run-of-the-mill Premiership sides can handle Hornets just fine, but Friday’s hosts haven’t been worth a lick on the pitch since beating Man City in mid-September.
I’m liking the Under on Bovada’s rising total of (3) thanks to Watford’s 5-across setup on the backline and Norwich’s failure to put a single shot on-target in an 0-2 loss to Brighton on Matchday 11.
Pick: Under (3)
Chelsea FC vs Crystal Palace
London and Las Vegas consensus seems to be that the goal total will go Under (3) in Saturday’s fixture at Stamford Bridge, where an inconsistent or at least tactically-varied Eagles squad visits a surging Chelsea club with a 5-match winning streak.
Crystal Palace has been stifling opponents while taking few chances on the attack in some appearances, then scoring goals in bunches or at least pairs. Yankee youngster Christian Pulisic is a revelation for Chelsea this season but may be a little tired after starring against Watford last weekend and then taking part in a grueling 4-4 UEFA Champions League draw with powerful Ajax on Tuesday.
Pick: Crystal Palace ATS (+1.5)
Burnley FC vs West Ham United
Mispriced. West Ham is wounded between the posts as Lukasz Fabianski isn’t due back until 2020, but Clarets have lost 3 in a row and stand 3-1-6 vs Hammers over the last 10 matches.
Plus, payoff is nice on the visitors’ Saturday line-to-win at (+200).
Pick: West Ham
Newcastle United vs AFC Bournemouth
Cherries haven’t allowed a Premier League goal in quite a while.
It’s impressive enough that AFC Bournemouth is currently in 7th place in its domestic league, and delightful that the underdog club was able to get a win over Man United last week. The top story has to be 21-year-old keeper Aaron Ramsdale and his backs, though – there are lots of conservative teams in European soccer but few succeed at doing more than winning Under bets for gamblers (and not necessarily spreads or moneylines). Cherries may have actually found a formula for success and not just parity.
I think the total (2.5) is ½ of a goal too high for this match, and I also like Bournemouth ATS at (+0.5).
Pick: Bournemouth ATS and/or Under (2.5)
Southampton vs Everton FC
Another meeting of suffering teams that should end in a brute-force win for the faster and more-talented side despite Saints’ aggressive tactics.
Pick: Everton (+150)
Tottenham Hotspur vs Sheffield United
Yet another set of gambling odds that have “reversion” practically written all over them. Spurs haven’t won a Premiership match in 4 tries and Blades has an even record against Tottenham in modern head-to-head record.
I’m taking a (+500) line on a Saturday underdog which has played better football than the vaunted hosts as of late.
Pick: Sheffield United
Leicester City vs Arsenal
Saturday’s stand-alone late match comes with a curious set of Las Vegas lines.
The goal spread has been modified from a consensus “.25” Asian Handicap into more-conventional markets at Bovada and elsewhere, and the total has sat at exactly (3) goals for a week.
But the moneyline on Foxes opened way too long at 1.3-to-1. Bookmakers are looking at Arsenal’s shiny head-to-head W/L vs Leicester City and hoping that Gunners’ recent series of drawn results could represent a club preparing to attain better form. Gamblers have quickly moved Leicester’s line to (+105).
The public isn’t always wrong. Tacticians will carry on about Unai Emery’s chances to slow down the Foxes counterattacks with a 4-3-1-2 or another formation that mirrors Leicester’s legendary “pincer” break-outs toward the opposing box.
But as in chess, similar tactics and like-arrangements for Black and White (or Fox and Gunner) can create chaos rather than order.
In a wild, ragged game, you’ve got to like the King Power hosts and (incidentally) the club which is winning almost every appearance while Arsenal treads water.
Pick: Leicester City
Manchester United vs Brighton
A pair of early-Sunday matches (AM in the United States) includes this interesting fixture at Old Trafford. Once again, “reversion” is the watchword as Brighton is handicapped as a (+525) underdog despite having out-played United for much of the season thus far.
This time, I’m buying the argument (if not the MUFC moneyline). Brighton’s noteworthy victims in recent matches include Tottenham and Everton…not the 2 healthiest or most well-congealed of aristocrats at the moment. Seagulls did not possess the ball more often vs Spurs and likely won’t vs United…which has been playing better in other competitions and may be ready to step-up a notch in Premier League form if only temporarily.
Pick: Man United ATS (-1)
Wolverhampton vs Aston Villa
These clubs have drawn 3 of the last 8 meetings, and considering the healthy (+255) Draw moneyline and the fact that there is no more staid host in the sport than Wolves at Molineux, the ML on a 90+ minute stalemate seems an obvious choice.
Liverpool vs Manchester City
Premier League schedule-makers know how to slate a doozy at the right time. This long-awaited match will take place as a stand-alone fixture that ends on Sunday afternoon in America.
It’s never easy to predict an outcome with so much talent and speed on the pitch. Liverpool has clearly been the superior team so far and will once again have the advantage of home turf, though that much was factored into the opening odds which held Reds as a slight favorite.
However, line-movement has spared us the ordeal of a formation, tactics, or injury-scenario analysis. City has taken a rush of bets on the spread and the moneyline, leaving the former at (Even) and (-110) in both directions.
Liverpool therefore becomes the higher-% pick. If the clubs played 10 matches under these circumstances, Reds will prevail in at least a small majority of them.
Pick: Liverpool ATS or (+160)
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.