The themes of this week’s FBS and NFL pigskin previews each revolve around Halloween, even asking the macabre question of what heaven and hell would be like for golfers and sports gamblers (same folks, of course).
But it’s easy to blog a running theme when the idea is fresh – this is the 3rd take now and the cupboard is pretty bare, outside of the skeletons and cobwebs of course.
It’s hard to say what scares punters (and bookmakers) most about the English Premier League betting board. Except to say that the #1 trope of European football discussion in the 2010’s is slowly-but-surely proving to be bunk, leaving London’s bookies as helpless to avoid big losses as Manchester United’s brass is helpless to prevent a sour skid.
Remember the 2010’s? That was when soccer supporters used to glance at one another with knowing smiles, and opine that Man City, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and comparable teams (not that there are many) had too much money, prestige, and influence at hand for others to compete.
But instead, the 2020’s are turning soccer into an anything-goes landscape. Man United has brought in the world’s greatest striker only to “strike out” in a series of important matches. Ligue 1 is drawing the most betting action to prevail in the UEFA Champions League, and FC Sheriff of Moldova is ahead of Barca on the CL table, something that looks straight out of a sci-fi novel considering the gap in “prestige.”
Premier League punters can take heart that EPL matches are easier to predict than international bouts for a change. But we’ve got to set the past aside and focus on the present to understand how to handicap West Ham and other burgeoning brands. Hammers would typically be pegged as a late-season “reversion” candidate against which to wager in early 2022, but it’s hard for a Cinderella to “revert” to less-quality form when the upstarts are already building on a top-7 finish.
10/30: Leicester City vs Arsenal
The Premier League table involves a striking resemblance between Foxes and Gunners, which each stand at 4-2-3 with about 15 goals scored and allowed. That’s not the only reason why Leicester City (+150) and visiting Arsenal are handicapped so tightly on Saturday, but it sure is a good start to understanding Saturday’s money-line odds.
Foxes enjoy an active 3-game win streak that includes triumphs over Manchester United and Spartak Moscow. This weekend’s visitors conquered Leicester City at King Power Stadium 3-1 in February, and probably won’t need to overtax the starting 11 in order to advance past Leeds United in the EFL Cup this week. Leicester, meanwhile, faces Brighton & Hove Albion, with the latter sporting a recent trend of surviving brackets of tough competitors.
Persistent injuries have nagged Arsenal and could disrupt the club’s midfield form against a counter-attacking side like Leicester. On a more positive note, the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Arsenal’s recent defeat of Aston Villa is reported to have been the result of minor cramping. Despite dodgy defending in last week’s EPL vs. RPL match, Foxes remain poised to defend a single striker well enough to prevail.
Recommended Pick: Leicester City
10/30: Liverpool vs Brighton & Hove Albion
Let’s face it, even though Liverpool’s match begins at 10 AM New York time, a big chunk of early-morning bets will be placed on Reds in anticipation. Liverpool is, after all, the hottest team in the EPL after smashing Man United 5-0 at Old Trafford.
For supporters, the only bad thing about Diogo Jota’s goal to put Reds ahead 2-0 less than 14 minutes into the match was that Salah would play a cautious game, and be unlikely to score. Cautious or not, the Egyptian powerhouse rose to the occasion in spite of limited turns with forward numbers, scoring a marvelous hat trick to transform the battle into a rout by the beginning of the 2nd half.
Liverpool’s landmark victory has helped Reds garner a (-420) moneyline on which only intoxicated clients are likely to risk a bundle. Optimistic (+140) odds on Over (3.5) goals belies Brighton’s staid tactics against legacy English clubs, but the number reflects Liverpool’s cracking form on the attack far more than Seagulls’ potency.
Before punters rush to pick the high-side of (3.5) goals, they should note that while Reds could play an all-reserve 11 and beat teams like Lilywhites of Preston North End (not Tottenham Hotspur) in the EFL Cup, Liverpool must also prepare for Atlético Madrid on 11/3.
Pick: Under (3.5)
10/30: Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace
Based on the recent ledger, is Crystal Palace Football Club worth a look as a 17/1 moneyline pick this Saturday?
CPFC hasn’t won but a single 21st-century match over a host Manchester City, which was a 3-2 victory at City of Manchester Stadium in 2018. But at $17 vs. $1 payoff odds, it’s still not a bad idea to handicap potential picks on an underdog who has a livelier-than-expected attack.
After overcoming a bad start (and an early Carabao Cup exit), CPFC upset Tottenham 3-0 and impressed with the football against Leicester and Arsenal in subsequent 2-2 draws.
West Ham is Man City’s next match-up in the domestic tournament’s Round of 16 on Wednesday. After that, Man City moves on to deal with more Champions League play following their matchup with Crystal Palace. However, those are the kind of challenges Pep Guardiola’s club can surmount while resting a number of key cogs who’ll be used heavily against CPFC. It’s not such a big advantage to play in fewer competitions when one’s opponent could book even more dates and be victorious.
Pick: Over (2.5) or (3.5)
10/30: Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester United
Will Saturday mark the moment when Ronaldo and Man United stop fooling around and start beating opponents? London and Las Vegas seem to agree that the match at Spurs is the ticket, slapping 2-to-1 moneyline odds on Lilywhites to win at home, and for CR7’s side, odds close to 1/1.
Any perceived uptick from Man United has less impact on these odds than Tottenham’s ailing form. Spurs appeared to have turned things around with victories in 3 separate competitions going into a 3rd round of international club battles.
But a loss to little-known SBV Vitesse in the Europa League, in addition to last weekend’s clean-sheet defeat at the hands of West Ham, are outcomes that make bettors shy to pick Spurs as the victor.
United has not earned a Premier League victory since September. Paul Pogba took a costly red card on Sunday and cannot appear in the fixture. Bookmakers aren’t incorrect in casting MUFC as the slight favorite, however, due to the schedules that each time must plan for.
Red Devils are the less busy brand for a change, and enter the match extremely fresh while trying to salve the sting of Liverpool’s 5-0 performance.
Recommended Pick: Man United
10/31: Aston Villa vs West Ham
Hammers are a serious UEFA-placement contender for a 2nd straight season. Yes, “minnows” still swim upstream early in the English football cycle, but West Ham’s incredible active streak of clean-sheet international triumphs helps to prove that 2020-21’s top-half finish was no fluke. West Ham is currently 4th on the EPL table, having most recently checked off Everton and Tottenham after eliminating Man United from EFL Cup competition almost a month ago.
Aston Villa vs. West Ham kicks off on Halloween, but FanDuel’s odds managers aren’t spooked, offering Villains at optimistic (+175) moneyline odds while casting Hammers as only a slight favorite at (+150). West Ham’s Round-of-16 tournament match and ongoing UEFA schedule has bookmakers calling for good old “negative reversion” and a resulting slide down the table for the visitors.
Even if West Ham cannot finish ahead of Man United or Leicester City, the club can surely still finish ahead of Aston Villa, which has lost 3 Premier League contests in a row as opposing managers adjust to Dean Smith’s clever early-season tactics. Sunday’s “slight” favorites have enough experience on-board to make hay while the sun shines, given a looming Murderer’s Row of Liverpool, Wolves, City, Brighton, and Chelsea in league play, and a level-of-difficulty in Europa League competition that’s sure to become more of a challenge.
Recommended Pick: West Ham
11/1: Wolverhampton vs Everton F.C.
Should the chief betting angle on Sunday be momentum vs reversion, then Monday’s lone EPL match represents oddsmakers who try in vain to make up for their mistakes.
Wolverhampton has been an undervalued money-line pick on consecutive weekends, scoring a 2-to-1 payoff for Wolves bettors against Aston Villa and nearly holding-on to beat Leeds United on Matchday 9. But if Wolves’ form was a secret to everyone but WagerBop readers, it’s not being overlooked any longer. Wanderers are (+120) host-favorites to defeat visiting Toffeemen this Sunday.
The odds on Everton for away matches are starting to be impacted by the club’s poor home performances. Toffees defeated Burnley and Norwich City at Goodison Park in September, but committed 12 fouls and only managed 4 on-target shots in the latter win. Other than those outcomes, it’s been a nightmare for hometown Everton supporters, as the storied club’s attack was embarrassed by West Ham defenders, then dismantled on the back-line during Watford’s wild 5-goal performance and win.
Similar to Man United, it’s no coincidence if Everton continues to fare better away from club grounds until supporters decide to start whistling at the away team. Wolves shouldn’t be a 1/1 odds favorite at Molineux Stadium against a top-half Premier League brand, especially after failing to put away Peacocks in added time. Wolverhampton lost both of its meetings with Everton on last season’s EPL slate.
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.