WLB boss Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) kicks-off a brand new weekend column, sharing a selection of his favourite fancies form from across a range of major markets.
Game Of The Weekend
The Premier League title could quite conceivably be won (or lost) at Anfield on Sunday and it’s difficult not to give Liverpool’s showdown with Manchester City top billing ahead of the always-excellent Seville derby.
Cash has come for Liverpool but it’s still strange seeing the Merseysiders outsiders at Anfield. The Reds are unbeaten here in 43 Premier League encounters, have avoided defeat in their past 16 home outings against City, and have lost only five league matches since September 2017.
Team news is also in Jurgen Klopp’s favour. Man City have doubts surrounding Ederson’s involvement, plus David Silva, Rodri and Oleksandr Zinchenko. With Aymeric Laporte still absent, the Citizens rearguard will be a concern for Pep Guardiola’s group, especially so if the visitors adopt an overly aggressive approach in an attempt to reel the Reds in.
My hunch is, the two managers will privately settle for a share of the spoils. The meeting 12 months ago was unexpectedly tame – only 13 shots in total and an Expected Goals (xG) tally below 0.90 – and the fear of losing may condition this match-up to follow a similar pattern.
Despite the obvious attacking artillery on both sides – plus the apparent defensive shortcomings that have been highlighted in 2019/20 – games involving these two teams have tended to fall below the advertised goals line. Seven of nine contests produced fewer than four goals and therefore the draw has to come into play.
The kind pre-match odds on Liverpool allow us flexibility in many of the markets and I’ll be playing things safe by taking the Merseysiders at 5/4 (Bet365) in the Double Chance market alongside Under 4 Goals. Punters looking for something a little tastier should consider the 4/1 (Coral) available on the Draw and Under 2.5 Goals.
Liverpool v Manchester City (Sunday 4.30pm, Sky Sports)
I’m going to fill the second segment of this column with my European NAP selection: Borussia Monchengladbach v Werder Bremen to see Over 2 Goals and Both Teams To Score at 4/5 (Bet365). Here’s an extract from the piece posted on Thursday evening:
The Bundesliga is Europe’s second-highest scoring major league in 2019/20 (behind the Eredivisie) and Sunday’s showdown between Borussia Monchengladbach and Werder Bremen promises to push the current 3.16 goals per-game average up even higher.
A huge 71% of games in Germany’s top-flight have crossed the Over 2.5 Goals barrier already with 63% registering for Both Teams To Score backers. This weekend’s battle at Borussia-Park features two of the division’s chief protagonists – 16 (80%) of their collective outings have produced three or more goals with 15 (755) landing BTTS honours.
Borussia Monchengladbach v Werder Bremen (Sunday 12.30pm, BT Sport)
Few teams in France are as reliable at home as Lille. Les Dogues have made their Stade Pierre-Mauroy base a fortress, pocketing a formidable 18 victories from 25 Ligue 1 outings here since the beginning of 2018/19 and W21-D8-L6 under Galtier’s watch.
This term alone, LOSC have W5-D1-L0 as hosts, scoring at least twice in each and the Flanders outfit look well worth supporting at 11/10 (Bet365) to take top honours on against Metz on Saturday night in a match featuring Over 1.5 Goals.
Newly-promoted Metz sit second-bottom having been beaten in half of their 12 outings, as well as four of six games as guests. Les Grenats have leaked at least twice in four of those six road trips (as well as eight of their last 10 Ligue 1 tussles anywhere) have also trailed at the interval in five of their six away days.
To make matters worse, head coach Vincent Hognon will be without defensive midfielder Kevin N’Doram and left-back Manuel Cabit following a serious high-speed car accident last weekend.
Lille v Metz (Saturday 7pm, BT Sport Extra)
First Goalscorer Fancy
Levante have only conceded three goals from set-piece situations but Los Granotas have conceded the second-highest average Expected Goals (xG) figure from corners (0.70) across Europe’s top five leagues this term, suggesting Paco Lopez’s team have been rather fortunate not to ship a few more.
The Valencia-based club toppled Barcelona on home soil last weekend and are aiming for three wins on the spin having previously upset the odds with victory at Real Sociedad away. Levante are back in the Basque Country on Sunday and I wouldn’t expect Athletic Bilbao to be quite so forgiving from dead-ball situations.
Four of Les Leones’ 11 strikes in 2019/20 have arrived via set-pieces and Raul Garcia looks a little too big to ignore at 6/1 (Bet365) each-way to break the deadlock. The barrel-chested 33-year-old has netted 33 La Liga goals across the past four campaigns, converting at a rate of a goal every three games. Already this term he’s notched four times in 11 outings.
No Athletic player attempts more shots (by a long stretch) and Raul Garcia is a renowned threat in the air, has proven adept at shooting from range, and is also on penalty duty for the Bilbao boys. The versatile forward has been utilised in an attacking midfield role, as well as the team’s central striker in Gaizka Garitano’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system.
Opportunities should be aplenty with no La Liga side giving up a larger xG figure, as well as conceding a bigger xG from open play return. Levante have allowed more shots than any divisional rival, faced more on-target attempts and efforts from inside the penalty box.
Under Paco Lopez the visitors have kept 4 clean sheets in 31 away games, leaking 1.65 goals on average and on Sunday they will be without bang in-form goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez.
Athletic Bilbao v Levante (Sunday 1pm, Premier Sports)
Tottenham’s two big victories over Red Star Belgrade shouldn’t deflect from what’s been a largely below-par campaign. Results have matched an underwhelming underlying process with Mauricio Pochettino’s men amongst the league leaders for chances conceded; Spurs have shipped 16 goals and shut out only one of their 11 league opponents.
Performances at the new stadium have also been flat. Tottenham had to work hard for a late victory over Aston Villa before losing to Newcastle, scraping past Southampton, toiling against rock-bottom Watford and flattering to deceive in the supposed 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace here. Spurs certainly won’t have it easy against Sheffield United.
It’s a quick turnaround for Pochettino’s posse – playing in Belgrade on Wednesday to a Saturday showdown against the Blades – and you can bet your bottom dollar Chris Wilder’s troops will be ready to go from the off. United have produced only one substandard showing since promotion with progress underpinned by a watertight defensive structure.
The Blades boast the league’s best defence in terms of goals against, have recorded five clean sheets and only twice leaked more than a solitary strike. Arsenal were toppled at Bramall Lane, Liverpool ran close in Sheffield, Chelsea held at Stamford Bridge and Everton overcome at Goodison Park.
That’s an impressive body of work worth supporting at 11/2 (Matchbook), odds that give the Blades just a 15% of winning despite comfortably sitting above Spurs across all the major performance data metrics after 11 rounds of action.
Tottenham v Sheffield United (Saturday 3pm)
Play Your Cards Right
There really is only one venue worth looking to this weekend for cards – Seville!
My colleague Brendy Boyle has penned a wonderful scene-setter for Sunday night’s Great Derby showdown between Betis and Sevilla. It’s Spain’s biggest, and according to renowned European football expert Andy Brassell, Europe’s best. If you’ve never tuned in before, I implore you to do so this weekend, you won’t regret it.
Serial card-flasher Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez has been charged with keeping the peace He’s averaging 7.25 cards and 77.75 Bookings Points in his La Liga matches since the beginning of last season and his appointment should ensure bookings are rife at the Benito Villamarin.
The Seville derby averages the second-highest Bookings Points per-game in Europe’s major leagues (86 per-game behind Rome’s 91) with last season’s two dust-ups each featuring at least nine cards. At the time of writing, few firms have released lines or prices but Bet365 have and I believe there’s decent early value to be had via the Bet Builder.
Back Betis to receive Over 0 Cards in the first-half, Over 0 Cards in the second-half and repeat the process with Sevilla seeing Over 0 Cards in both halves – the 11/10 available is too big to ignore and should be comfortable odds-on. I’ll also be keen to explore the specific player markets prior to Sunday’s match via Twitter once odds are available.
Real Betis v Sevilla (Sunday 8pm, Premier Sports)
Words Of Wisdom
The closing price is generally considered the ‘right price’ in betting terms and getting the best odds available (and beating the closing price) is pivotal to long-term successful punting.
Put simply, backing tails in a coin-toss at 11/10 each week will leave you in the black stuff. Similarly, backing Team X at bigger odds than their closing price should in theory allow you to reap the rewards long-term.
Odds are essentially probabilities – 11/10 implies a 48% chance – and so it shouldn’t be too hard to work out that continually backing a 50% probability bet (the tails in a coin toss) at a price implying only 48% chance of success will leave you short.
Value is one of the most overused words in the industry, especially so from casual punters. It’s the term that should be used to describe a selection where the probability of a given outcome is greater than the bookmakers odds reflect. It’s what makes price the most important aspect of any bet you place, regardless of the logic surrounding the selection.
Last week I backed Man Utd to win at Bournemouth at 5/4 (2.26). Why? Because I made the Red Devils closer to even-money. United went off at 11/10 (2.10) and subsequently lost having put in a dreadful display. Whilst my stake was lost, I was pleased to see the market also perceived United’s prospects of winning were a little better than early odds suggested.
Value losers are never going to pay for your summer holiday but checking your selections against the closing line can at least highlight if you’re taking positive value bets or not. If United played Bournemouth under the same conditions as last Sunday 1,000 times more, simple probability shows that punters on the 5/4 price will enjoy having the last laugh.
So the advice? Always take best price, always review the closing line against your selections to check if you were on the right value lines, and if at all possible, bet early before the markets mature to really make your edge pay.
Liverpool v Manchester City – Liverpool double chance and Under 4 Goals (5/4 Bet365)
Borussia Monchengladbach v Werder Bremen – Over 2 Goals and Both Teams To Score (4/5 Bet365)
Lille v Metz – Lille to win and Over 1.5 Goals (11/10 Coral)
Tottenham v Sheffield United – Sheffield United to win (11/2 Matchbook)
Athletic Bilbao v Levante – Raul Garcia to score first (6/1 each-way Bet365)
Real Betis v Sevilla – Both sides to receive Over 0 Cards in both halves (11/10 Bet365)