There are a few common threads in the typical early-season Premier League storylines. Less-heralded clubs will often run-up a nice point tally in August, September and October matches, only to predictably fall back once the real football gets going in winter. Aristocrats will slip, slide and work to improve their lineups before becoming prohibitive favorites in fixtures late in the season.
2019-20 may be throwing a wrench in that narrative.
For a start, it’s hard to imagine the 2 most-dominant clubs – Liverpool and Manchester City – having any kind of serious swoon in the early weeks of the campaign. Man City lost its 1st match in forever last Saturday at Carrow Road, but Citizens are about a 1-to-10 moneyline favorite (on a 3-way moneyline!) to defeat visiting Hornets on Saturday. Liverpool lost its maiden Champions League round-robin match to Italian club Napoli, but has hardly been bothered by any of 5 Premiership opponents so far.
Meanwhile, few of the league’s perpetual also-rans are threatening to shoot to the top of the early-season table. The 4 club names currently dotting the top of the EPL standings are Liverpool, City, Tottenham, and Man United – essentially a ledger list of UEFA Champions League and marquee Europa League representatives.
Everton, my futures pick to ascend to the top of the table in 2020, has had a poor start with 2 wins, 2 losses, and a draw. A wager that felt “sexy” prior to Matchday 1 is now wearing 3 layers of clothes and playing cards at a Royal British Legion meeting.
Finally, Chelsea F.C. is outplaying both expectations and the team’s early results.
The club’s Sunday match with Liverpool is an opportunity to establish transfer-hampered Blues as a legitimate contender while helping a dozen other clubs by handing Reds a maiden loss on the season.
It’s easier said than done of course…though gamblers are all over it, shrinking Chelsea’s line-to-win at Stamford Bridge to just (+265) with a week’s betting action.
But generally-speaking the 2019-20 English Premier League clubs are playing like it’s mid-season already, with clear favorites already separating themselves from underdogs that would be expected to make noise…at least for a while.
How are London and Las Vegas speculators handling a season in which the Soccer Gods have pressed a fast-forward button? Let’s look at 10 upcoming weekend matches and try to get a sharper image.
Southampton vs A.F.C. Bournemouth
Southampton has been faring pretty well defending its box considering that the team prefers to play a full-out pressing style on the front line.
Last week’s 1-0 victory over Sheffield United gave Saints a much-needed 3 points, but it was the previous 1-1 draw with MUFC that turned the heads of handicappers.
The Friday match-up with Cherries is getting a lot of wagers as a stand-alone fixture which will be, in the drunken words of Ric Flair, “televised nationally all over the world.” But the lines aren’t moving very much, showing that there is no real consensus outside of what London’s pro handicappers think.
I’m really liking the Draw line at (+260) payoff.
Leicester City vs Tottenham
Foxes are an extremely popular wager to defeat Spurs on Saturday, having wowed audiences with several wins including a penalty-kicks triumph over Newcastle in the Carabao Cup.
But it’s not as if Leicester City is a hot, streaking club right now. The team hasn’t beaten any elite opponents yet in 2019-20 and lost to United 1-0 last week.
The line-movement makes Harry Kane and Tottenham – a club rumored (or “rumoured”) to be getting healthier up and down the lineup – and excellent ML pick at (+140).
Burnley FC vs Norwich City
We’ve witnessed Canaries having to deal with some bumps on the road in a fresh Premier League stint. Perhaps it’s even trickier to speculate on the club following a big victory, since there’s such a small sample-size of recent top-level results to work with in that regard.
That’s bad news for handicappers, because Norwich City pulled-off a simply historic win over City…a result very few pundits saw coming.
Canaries didn’t need too many late-match heroics, but instead simply ran-out ahead and stayed ahead of a monumentally-difficult foe for most of 90+ minutes.
Now Burnley is handicapped as a (+100) gamble to beat Norwich City on Saturday. Not to overreact to 1 upset win or anything, but I’m having a hard time understanding that number. Clarets haven’t won a match this season except for a 3-0 win over a sloppy Southampton squad on 8/10, and blew a 1-nil lead to lose 1-3 to unheralded Sunderland in a tournament match at Turf Moor later in August.
Canaries are the pick at (+275).
Everton vs Sheffield United
It’s kind of depressing to see how little faith the gambling public has in Toffees after 5 Premier League matches. Especially since I was so high on Jordan Pickford and Everton at the start of the season.
But at least the Norwich City-over-Man City shocker lets the club know that Reds and Citizens aren’t simply a pair of video-game teams that are programmed to win automatically.
There will be chances to pass up the current leaders on the EPL table, if only Everton holds serve and builds a point total without taking another upset or a surprise draw.
Sheffield presents a vulnerable opponent on Saturday and the line-movement of an expanding (-150) Toffeemen line-to-win makes it a better wager than it was 5 days ago.
Man City vs Watford
Citizens have beaten Hornets in 8 out of the last 10 matches and a bounce-back performance on Saturday is almost a lock.
But it’s probably not an outcome worth betting on, since Ederson’s side is a 1-to-9.5 market.
Is there anything else available to pick without just playing the sportsbook for the sake of it? The total has fallen to (3.5) goals at Bovada Sportsbook, but I wonder if City will fall back on its spring-of-2019 form and defend patiently until Watford makes a fatal mistake.
2-0 victories can feel more solid and comprehensive than 6-2…and Citizens could use a little confidence boost on the backline along with a healthy dose of patience instilled by Pep from the bench area.
The Under is the play at City of Manchester Stadium.
Newcastle United vs Brighton
It’s only Matchday 6 and Newcastle is already sinking to the bottom of the table. Magpies have had a difficult schedule so far, taking on clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham…but have actually fared better against the elite clubs while shrinking against opponents like Watford.
Brighton could be a demoralized squad, however, having drawn with Burnley after leading almost the entire 2nd half only to give up an added-time tally to Ireland National Team midfielder Jeff Hendrick.
I’m feeling another draw here (+225) as each side struggles to get things sorted out.
We’re a little pressed for time on this Friday morning, hurrying to get the Saints-Cherries prediction out in plenty of time before kickoff.
Check this url on Saturday morning (even Saturday morning London time) for 4 more exclusive predictions on Sunday’s slate of EPL action.
***SUNDAY PREMIERSHIP WAGERS***
Crystal Palace vs Wolverhampton
CPFC has predictably fallen back into the pack with a loss to Spurs on Matchday 5. Eagles remain a solid club with excellent defending but shouldn’t be a hot ticket in London or Las Vegas at this point unless the price is right.
Wolves’ woes are the reason for Crystal Palace’s moneyline-movement to (+160) for this Sunday’s fixture at Selhurst Park. Bettors are not sure that Wanderers can make a decent go of it at a hostile venue, and why would they? The club has lost twice in a row and has nary a win on the season, casting doubt on whether the visitors will avoid a costly sophomore swoon in their latest Premier League tenure.
I’m going with Palace all the way…just like the public for a change.
West Ham vs Manchester United
Hammers are also a popular underdog at (+215), but that line has grown too short despite this match taking place at Olympic Stadium and not Old Trafford on Sunday.
Red Devils beat Foxes 1-0 on Matchday 5 as Marcus Rashford (surprise, surprise) scored early on a penalty kick and MUFC played quality football when not in possession.
Actually, is “quality” only a slang term used for offense? I’m still learning some of the English ways. Still going with Man United at (+125).
Arsenal vs Aston Villa
Gunners are a (-225) ML favorite in this fixture after a couple of draws. Villains, however, present another vulnerable opponent at Emirates, as Aston Villa F.C. has only played 2 top-level matches since upsetting Everton and hasn’t looked splendid in either of them.
I like Arsenal-to-cover (-1.5) but given Pickford’s mastery between the posts, a wager “Under” the rising Bovada Sportsbook total of (3.5) makes a lot of sense.
Chelsea vs Liverpool
Finally, we come to the most-awaited of 2 fixtures that will begin just prior to noon EST – Chelsea Football Club hosting Liverpool at good old Stamford Bridge.
Not to put too much importance on the 6th match of the season for both clubs, but Blues have a lot on the line, given the chance to either re-establish the team as a contender behind Frank Lampard or fall by a bunch of goals to arguably the most-powerful attacking side in the world right now.
Either could have a major impact on Chelsea’s mindset going forward. Remove Reds from the unbeaten ranks and it suddenly becomes an anything-can-happen table with Blues in the thick of it, or lose and slip back to 2-2-2 and mired right in midst of the pack.
Not to be skeptical of the hosts’ chances – but you don’t often find (+100) lines on Reds-to-win against any but the strongest opponents. Liverpool is playing like it doesn’t know how to lose or even draw against fellow English clubs in league play, and so an (EVEN) line is a chance to get a rare nice payoff on 1 of Salah’s sparkling performances.
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.