Various offshore sportsbooks (and FanDuel) have been offering ever-changing “bottom” futures odds on the English Premier League’s delayed conclusion in 2020.
“Bottom” odds are not to be confused with betting lines on the next time an MUFC supporter knocks a Liverpool mark on his bottom, or vice versa. Instead, it’s a kind of “reverse” championship futures’ market on which EPL club will finish in 20th place out of 20 clubs. Norwich City is currently the “favorite” at (-550) payoff odds.
There could be hope for Canaries to escape the lowest rung of the table, even relegation with a handful of victories. That’s a factor that actually makes betting the low end of European tables exciting – points are at such a premium for all eligible clubs that anything resembling a winning streak would lift a team straight up to 15th or 16th place.
The downside of betting the bottom is that, as in Over/Under and point spread betting on basketball and baseball, your cheering could wind up at cross-purposes with a team and a manager. Yes, all Premier League clubs want to win every match. But managers at clubs like Norwich City, Aston Villa, and AFC Bournemouth are not especially concerned with the difference between 18th, 19th, and 20th place. They’re only focused on survival in the EPL. If you’ve gambled on a club to finish rock bottom, don’t expect the 19th-place team above them to fight like hell to win on the final day of the season, unless there’s a lasting logjam of team-point totals which would allow the latter club to somehow leap up.
Are there any Premiership matches scheduled over the next week in which teams’ disparate motivations might lend a clue to the handicapper?
A newcomer might glance at the EPL table and decide Chelsea will be more motivated than Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Thursday. City stands with 63 points and is off to a flying start in the league’s post-COVID reboot, a near-certainty to finish 2nd place. Pep Guardiola has Sky Blues in a familiar position to charge, however. Another impressive string of wins would mean that an unstressed lineup could begin taking its collective foot off the pedal in weeks to come. That’s important with the calendar still in flux for upcoming events…including the UEFA competition Man City is focused most on succeeding in.
I’m keeping my eye on clubs with less than 40 points which are nonetheless fairly safe from relegation, but probably unable to make a run at a UEFA-worthy finish. Managers and personnel bosses at Everton, Newcastle, and Southampton are more likely to make conservative big-picture choices if a fixture’s outcome feels inexorable, whether facing Premier League aristocrats or potential relegation victims.
10th-place Arsenal has an FA Cup match this weekend, of course, along with Norwich City, Man City, and 5 other EPL teams. But we needn’t worry about small, cumulative injuries causing a footballer to play 50 total minutes of a league and tournament fixture combined. Athletes have had quite a long, unexpected break of the sort that rarely occurs in soccer. Handicappers can be pleased – we’re able to skip the step of trying to piece-together probable lineups and get on with the analytics and betting tactics.
6/24 – Wolverhampton vs AFC Bournemouth (Draw: (+310))
An obvious back-from-layoff angle has been (like so many sporting lives around the planet) jilted by coronavirus. If you rebooted the Premier League after a 2 or 3-month layoff caused by some other issue, then teams which had shown poor form on the road in the 30th league match could be expected to rally at home in the 31st, and vice versa. Except there really is no “host” advantage right now apart from staying at home and not traveling. Private jets and solicitous team doctors make it slightly less-stressful for rich athletes to travel in 2020, compared to what your neighborhood club team would go through. It’s nice to be home, but it’s not the same without a crowd of supporters. Managers can’t change that dynamic.
As opposed to the surges of adrenalin which might occur if roaring supporters greeted the players, we can expect even-more cautious tactics from disciplined “host” lineups like Wolves.
I can hear my colleague Nikola speaking to me now. “Goals,” he would say. “Bet under goals on Wolves, they don’t let anyone attack.” Under (2.5) is a (-128) payoff bet at FanDuel Sportsbook for Wanderers vs Cherries at Molineux Stadium on Wednesday – a quiet Molineux Stadium in which Wolves will not be whistled at if playing 7-across-the-back with a 1-goal advantage in the final moments. That’s pretty tempting.
Except I’m not convinced the Cherries attack is out of juice, despite the 0-2 loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday. Bournemouth will relish the opportunity to play a traditional squad, any traditional squad which does not employ the strangling zonal defense of CPFC.
While there’s a good chance Wolves will forge a 1-goal lead and defend it well into the 2nd half, recall that a less-healthy Cherries lineup also scored meaningful goals against Liverpool and Chelsea in its last 3 appearances. Callum Wilson’s tally vs Liverpool even gave Cherries the lead at Anfield for a while.
AFC Bournemouth’s potential to hold a draw or find a late equalizer (or “eee-quol-eye-zah!”) out-weighs the risk of a lost (+310) wager.
6/24 – Liverpool vs Crystal Palace (+1200)
It would be wonderful to see Liverpool put on an epic display of football over the next few weeks, utilizing the season’s final 8 domestic matches to put other teams on notice as to why Reds are fronting the pack by 20 points.
But it’s not likely to happen, as evidenced by the frustrating clean-sheet draw with Everton. Liverpool has already won the competition it is playing in. Right now, superstars are focused on taking a step at a time, putting their professional lives back together, and avoiding illness while playing their way back into form. Displays of all-out offense and eye-popping stats are not among those priorities, even if plainly possible.
Meanwhile, that Liverpool vs CPFC moneyline WagerBop said might tighten as the days go by? Well, it has. Reds gave underdog gamblers courage by whiffing on corner kicks and taking yellow cards against Toffeemen on Sunday. Meanwhile, Palace put on a show – or maybe a clinic – in the 1st half against Bournemouth a day earlier.
If you’ve already got a 15-to-1 Crystal Palace slip, congrats. If you don’t, Eagles at 12-to-1 is still a decent gamble. Is there a single chance in 10 that CPFC will prevail with teamwork over a distracted Liverpool in front of nobody? You bet.
Pick: Crystal Palace
6/27 – Aston Villa vs Wolverhampton (-120)
As desperate as Villains will be for points, Wanderers should be fully engaged at Villa Park after battling a separate bottom-3 club and realizing a run at UEFA honors will take everything the squad has to offer in 8 straight appearances.
I’ll tack Nikola’s way here.
Pick: Wolves and/or Under (3.5) (+270)
6/29 – Crystal Palace (-1, (+185) Halftime Odds) vs Burnley FC
We’ve seen how the betting strategy can work when matches are so tightly-bunched together. Punters have had the experience of gambling on fixtures when other “interim” matches are still yet to be played, but goal spreads and moneylines for matches-to-come-later have never danced so precipitously close to the top of betting boards. If you can grab a bet slip at the right time, you can watch an underdog get cracking (or an opponent take a few knocks) and sit safely with a fat payoff wager while others scramble to buy-in.
Crystal Palace’s style gives the team as small margin-of-error. The nearly 100-day layoff has widened it. The obvious game plan vs CPFC is to stay patient and look for a weakness to attack, and Eagles are at full strength right now. There were prior injuries to backs Patrick von Aanholt and Mamadou Sakho, and midfielder Max Meyer suffered over the winter. But all 3 are in action and near 100% following the long break. Remember that Palace had been down as many as 6 players as of January.
Clarets will likely bounce back from an 0-5 whipping at City’s hands. But suppose Burnley beats Watford in the next upcoming match? The lines on Crystal Palace could fatten in payoff even as Eagles suffer no real % loss to the team’s chances on 6/29. Same if Liverpool happens to score 3 or 4 goals vs CPFC in a match 5 days prior to Palace-Burnley.
Fanduel’s generous (+370) on CPFC (-1) winning by 2+ goals is tempting, but I like Palace’s (+185) odds to lead at halftime even more.
Pick: Crystal Palace (-1) or Lead after 45:00+
6/30 – Brighton vs Manchester United (-125)
Bookmakers and bettors have really got to get their heads in the game.
Manchester United would be at least a (-150) favorite against Brighton at Old Trafford, and so the nearly 1-to-1 payoff odds on Man United’s Monday visit to Seagulls can be attributed to Brighton playing host to the fixture.
Brighton isn’t really playing host, though. The “host” lineup is showing up at a familiar venue to play for TV, against a lineup which is much more talented than they are.
Pick: Man United
7/1 – Arsenal FC vs Norwich City (+500)
Arsenal vs Norwich City could be the 1st of the major “COVID” upsets, or EPL matches in which a relegation-candidate defeats an aristocrat which has already enacted a long-term plan for success in 2021 and 2022. Canaries have survival in the top tier to play for. Gunners may have little or nothing to play for in July, at least in league competition…and even the FA Cup isn’t a sure thing with Sheffield next on the ledger.
What if Teemu Pukki and Canaries somehow survive Saturday’s Q-Final with visiting United while Arsenal continues to tread water?
Those currently available 5-to-1 bets on the Emirates Stadium underdog could wind up like mint-condition Ronaldo rookie cards. Everyone will wish they’d have made the purchase back when the price was right.
Pick: Norwich City (1-unit bet)
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.