Well – as Robin Williams put it in Bicentennial Man – that won’t do. Our soccer blog has bounced back from losing weeks a number of times in a long English Premier League season, and as a veteran handicapper I’m supposed to keep the faith and believe in the process until things turn around. Yet I am also reminded of the “patience mythology” that infects other sports and hobbies from time to time (and handicapping is a sport all its own) such as the idea that fishing is all about patience.
The best carp fishermen in the U.K. are not always “patient” for hours on-end. If a method isn’t working, they’ll try another. And after a 2-6 record last weekend I’m ready to exchange the canned corn for the marshmallows or whatever you’ve got. It’s got to improve.
Premier League managers can’t always afford to be patient this time of year, not with a tight race for UEFA qualification and tournaments like the FA Cup coming to a head. Neither can ‘cappers keep doing the exact same thing during a losing run and expect that the successful picks will come sooner than later.
There are disadvantages to the blog format, of course. We can’t cherry-pick the matches that we feel most-comfortable predicting. WagerBop makes it a point to offer a recommendation on every match, every week, because no readers (and especially no EPL club supporters) should feel left out when perusing the previews.
The best soccer gambler I’ve ever seen knows a little something about thousands of lower-tier clubs in Eurasia, but surfs through all of the odds he can find on hundreds of matches per-week until identifying the 5 or 10 worst sportsbook prices and taking advantage of those. The rule is simple – when the house is focused on the broad landscape and the handicapper is narrowly analytical on a few fixtures, the client has the advantage. When the house dedicates lots of time to pricing a specific market but the speculator is trying to predict 50 games at once and the market in question, the sportsbook has the edge.
So, to try to snap our site out of the doldrums, my colleague Nikola and I have decided to split this week’s Premiership handicaps 5-and-5 apiece. I’ve picked 5 matches that I’m comfortable predicting, and Nikola has 5 matches he’s comfortable with. Not that we didn’t fight over some of the “dibs” of course – but it worked out OK since I’m just as glad to pick wagers on secondary events and leave United-City to the big man from Serbia.
It won’t be an every-week deal or a running competition – though we won’t be able to resist counting up wins, losses, and pushes to see who “won.” If it works, and we’re back in the black with this weekend’s outcomes, you can expect more collaborations soon…because no one said not to keep fishing the same way once the nets begin filling up.
Liverpool vs A.F.C. Bournemouth
The Reds are in strange territory. They have two losses in a row. Furthermore, they haven’t scored in either of them, and that is something fascinating for Jurgen Klopp’s machinery, as we all know that they have one of the best, if not the best offense in the world. The Cherries are in an even worse position, with three contests in a row without a win, sitting below the red line, which separates EPL from the Championship. They have five head-to-head games against the Reds in which they haven’t scored, and on the other hand, allowed at least three hits in their net.
So, the conclusion is clear – take Liverpool -1.5 with the odds -120 for Saturday’s early match. -Nikola
Arsenal F.C. vs West Ham United
Arsenal suffered a tragedy against Olympiacos in the UEFA League Europa. The elimination is something nobody could predict, and that humiliation still rings in the ears of all Gunners’ fans. They have a local derby coming up this weekend, and the opponent is West Ham. The Hammers snapped a nine-game winless streak with a win against Southampton last weekend, 3-1. To be honest, we don’t quite believe that it was a sign of some big recovery, but rather a temporary burst of David Moyes’ team. We don’t have to explain why, as it is obvious, but Arsenal has, and should win this contest, which is why we back up the hosts to take all three points.
The odds are at -188 for that outcome on Saturday. -Nikola
Crystal Palace vs Watford
Reversion, reversion, reversion. That’s going to be the battle cry of speculators who take Crystal Palace to beat Watford at Selhurst Park on Saturday. Sure, Hornets just pulled off the upset of the season (trumping even Canaries’ unreal defeat of Man City) by whipping Liverpool 3-0 to quash the dream of an invincible league campaign from Reds. But this weekend’s guests have struggled on the season overall, losing to Man United by an identical 3-goal margin on Matchday 27.
Still, I’m liking Watford to win the fixture, or at least win or push an (Even) ATS pick. Bookmakers overlooked the short-term surge of momentum Hornets will get out of beating Liverpool when setting initial prices, and Watford’s (+195) line still hasn’t shrunk enough. Keep in mind Palace doesn’t have nearly as much to play for – Hornets can achieve some kind of breathing room above the “relegation zone” with another win while CPFC is 12th on the table and unlikely to earn a UEFA bid or fall to bottom-3.
Pick: Watford ATS -Kurt
Sheffield United vs Norwich City
2019-20 is an utterly fantastic campaign for Blades. There is no question about it. Sheffield was expected to be treading water and happy to avoid relegation by March ’20. Instead, the club has put together another win streak across all competitions, advancing to the quarterfinals of the Emirates FA Cup and actually challenging to play in Europe next season. Last week’s postponed match with Villains gives the squad extra rest and a match in-hand on most EPL rivals headed into Saturday’s winnable fixture at home.
Canaries have somehow reached the last 8 of the domestic bracket too, but are mired in last place in the Premiership and should probably be more than a (+0.75) Asian Handicap underdog at Bet Online and other sportsbooks. It’s back to English Championship unless something special happens soon.
Pick: Sheffield (-0.75) ATS -Kurt
Wolverhampton F.C. vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Wolves have two straight wins in the Premiership, the latest one against Tottenham on the road. It was a massive triumph for Nuno Espirito Santo’s guys, who are now in an excellent position regarding the Champions League race within the domestic league. The Seagulls, meanwhile, didn’t win for nine straight games and are just one point above the relegation zone. For many, this is a surprise after seeing their recent results, but having in mind that they have a lot of draws, could explain that situation. They play tough matches, with just a few goals, and 8 over the last 10 saw under 2.5 goals.
Our pick, in this case, is Wolves’ win on Saturday, -160. -Nikola
Southampton vs Newcastle
Macro-analysis alert! Good heavens, a (-150) moneyline on Saints seems a little out-there considering that Newcastle (+425) is right next to Southampton on the table. I don’t care about injuries, momentum (Southampton just lost to West Ham, anyway), or any other factor. If a Martian flew to Earth and analyzed these odds objectively, she’d laugh.
“Lay” bets have to be executed manually outside of U.K. exchanges, but a “lay” on Southampton is the right call here. Newcastle and “Draw” at 1 or 2 units each ought to turn the trick. (Don’t put different amounts on each market, which often leads to frustration.)
Pick: Newcastle to win or Draw (+281) -Kurt
Burnley F.C. vs Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham is losing its grip, and we just might see a late meltdown of the Spurs. They are in a tough position, and it is quite possible that this side suffers one of the poorest seasons in the previous several years. Believe it or not, Tottenham lost four straight events, counting the elimination from the FA Cup. The defense of Mourinho’s team is awful, with just one clean sheet in the last nine games. The Clarets, on the other side, are doing just fine. One defeat in the past seven games is a sign that they play solid football. Four of the previous five EPL games at Turf Moore ended with a moderate efficiency, 2 or 3 goals. It is what we expect to happen in this match too.
The bookies set odds of -105 for this late-Saturday prediction. -Nikola
Chelsea F.C. vs Everton F.C.
Sunday’s early match presents some of the most-conflicted betting action of the cycle. On the Chelsea side, Blues are getting decent action-to-win at (-120) thanks in-part to the squad’s 2-0 defeat of Liverpool in the FA Cup. But not only is Liverpool slumping, its management cares not a whit for domestic tournaments. Adrián, not Allison, played in goal for Reds in the loss, and somebody named Takumi Minamino started in the striker spot against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Meanwhile, Everton has had a disappointing season by any account, and probably deserves to be an underdog against a marquee opponent on the road. But at (+325) the Toffees moneyline appears to be too long. Chelsea is a badly nicked-up side which has not been able to replenish its roster to the usual Pensioners standards. Liverpool’s icy streak is affecting this match’s gambling lines when it’s really just a well-match contest with a dodgy favorite.
Pick: Everton -Kurt
Stay tuned for Nikola’s preview of Man United vs Man City on Sunday afternoon in the USA!
Leicester City vs Aston Villa
I’ve put a little too much faith in Leicester recently, and it’s hard to recommend a (-255) wager on a club that lost 0-1 to Norwich City in its most-recent league match.
Villa was outstanding in a 1-goal Carabao Cup Final loss to Man City on Sunday, and has shown life even in recent EPL defeats. Center-back Björn Engels started at the central midfield position against Tottenham on 1/16 and scored his maiden goal of the season in a closely-fought contest that ended with Spurs on top, then Villa proceeded to fall to Southampton on the road.
Villains will face a far more-talented side on Monday but may be allowed more patience when playing out from the back. With the burden of EFL contention now relieved, the visitors to Foxes could be surprisingly stubborn against a rising Over/Under total.
Pick: Under (3) -Kurt
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.