Big 12 Championship Odds Preview

By: Travis Pulver 

Big 12 Championship Odds Revisited: Has Anything Really Changed for The Big 12? 

With all the chaos and confusion surrounding the college football season for a while, it seemed like it may not happen for a while. It may not look like your typical season, but there will be football. It will be different. But different can be good, right? 

However, are things really going to be all that different for the Big 12? 

Since they only have ten teams in the conference, they already play everyone in the conference. The only difference is the non-conference slate—which has been reduced to one game. Teams will typically have three giving them plenty of time to work the kinks out before the conference slate starts. But this year, there will only be one.  

So, when the conference slate starts, teams could very well still be trying to figure things out. Because of that, there could be a few early upsets that end up impacting the final standings. 

Should that possibility impact how you bet, though? 

Big 12 Championship Odds Revisited: Conference Still Oklahoma’s To Lose

When preseason odds were first released months ago, Oklahoma was considered the favorite to win the Big 12—and nothing has changed. DraftKings still has the Sooners listed as the favorite (-125) followed closely by Texas (+175). 

Odds for the rest of the conference are as follows: 

  • Oklahoma State (+650) 
  • Iowa State (+1000) 
  • TCU (+1600) 
  • West Virginia (+2500) 
  • Baylor (+3300) 
  • Kansas State (+4000) 
  • Texas Tech (+6600) 
  • Kansas (+10000) 

Oklahoma has been the class of the conference, having won the championship for five years in a row. But if they were ever going to get knocked off, this could be the year. They lost a lot of key players off last year’s good-but-not-great defense that will need to be replaced. 

While the passing game rules in the Big 12, you still need a run game. But with Kennedy Brooks out and Trey Sermon now calling Ohio State home, there is no telling what the Sooners run game will look like.  If the running game struggles, it may be harder for their new quarterback, Spencer Rattler, to acclimate to the college game. 

Once the Sooners play a game, we will know what to expect from them going forward, but there are plenty of questions about the team for now. But there are even more about Baylor. 

Should You Follow the Matt Rhule Rule Like the Oddsmakers?

It seems as if oddsmakers are down on the Bears because Matt Rhule left. But the Bears are still a very good team. While losing Denzel Mimms to the NFL hurts, the Bears have a good offense coming back, led by quarterback Charlie Brewer. However, they may be in trouble on defense, with only two starters coming back. But with a defensive-minded head coach in Dave Aranda, they could surprise people with a quick rebuild. 

As usual, expectations are high for Texas. With the talent coming back on offense, that is not hard to understand. However, Texas could have used the additional non-conference games this season with new coordinators on both sides of the ball. 

Should either side struggle with their new playbooks, the Longhorns could find themselves on the outside looking in for the playoffs early in the season. They have two relatively easy games in September, but then face TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor, and Oklahoma State in October. 

Texas could be out of the running heading into November. 

Iowa State is not going to be an easy win with much of last year’s defense coming back and a talented trio on offense at quarterback (Brock Purdy), Breece Hall (running back), and wide receiver (Tariq Milton). But the offense has to be rebuilt with only one starter coming back—which could mean trouble early in the year. 

Oklahoma State will get a lot of attention early on with Heisman hopeful Chuba Hubbard leading the way coming out of the backfield. As a team, they have 19 starters coming back, which could lead to high expectations or a faster start than anyone else in the conference. 

As for the rest of the conference, TCU will likely be a better team than it was last year. But it may be asking too much to think they could compete for the conference title. The same could be said for Kansas State. 

West Virginia will still be rebuilding this season, and Texas Tech has a lot of work to do, which leaves Kansas. Les Miles has his work cut out for him there. 

So—who’s going to win? 

That’s a good question, which is also why college football is so great. There is a world of potential ready for each team to tap into. Whoever does the better job will come out ahead in the end. But who that will be right now is hard to say.

MLS Is Back Tournament Odds – Semifinal Matches

By: Matt Watkins 

MLS is Back Tournament Odds—Semifinal Matches

Just when you think you have this tournament and its opponents figured out, there’s a left turn and we get a set of final four clubs that, while maybe not a huge surprise (save for one), pretty much no one expected as the last ones standing for the title.  

With three matches remaining, this is as wide open a field as you can get and the betting lines reflect the parity between the squads.  

MLS is Back Tournament Odds—Semifinal Match No. 1

(Note: All times listed are EST) 

Philadelphia Union vs. Portland Timbers – WednesdayAugust 5, 8:00 p.m. 

Line: Philadelphia +170Portland +150 

The match against Sporting KC was exactly why some people said Philadelphia was a team to keep an eye on during this tournament. The 15 minute stretch in the first half where it scored all of its goals was poetry to watch (well, unless you live in Western Missouri). They held up under adversity after conceding a stoppage time goal at the end of the first frame and withstood a deluge in the first 10 minutes of the second stanza from Sporting.  

The key to the match was Brendan Aaronson. If you’ve watched any of the tournament, you’ve heard the commentators, regardless of network, rave about his ability, how the Union needs to move players like Aaronson and Mark McKenzie on to European clubs in order to validate the investment that ownership has made on the development side. Honestly though, having watched my fair share of Philly matches, both last year and in this tournament, I just hadn’t seen it.  

In the quarterfinal match, we saw it. Maybe Jim Curtain got in his ear and said “you’re not the name YET that can get every call from falling down, play your game and earn it.” Maybe he decided he needed to make a bigger impact on his own. Maybe it was the KC defense that allowed him to connect so well with Sergio Santos. Whatever it was, his play made the difference for Philadelphia and propelled the team into the semis.  

MLS is Back Tournament Odds—How Did Portland Get Here

Portland looked equally as strong in its semifinal match against NYCFC. Unlike Philadelphia who built its lead early, the Timbers held steady before a defensive lapse (even an eight year old knows not to try to clear the ball in front of his own net, so why the Cityzens thought it would work is beyond comprehension) allowed them to tie the match before half.  

Second half subs helped to put the contest away. One of the biggest takeaways from the match is the reminder of how tactically sound you need to be against a team as complete as Portland. Two of the three goals came completely against the run of play with the giveaway in the box and a counterattack.  

One point of concern for the Timbers is the turnaround time. Philadelphia played the first of the quarterfinal matches on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Portland played the last on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. The Timbers have a much older overall lineup than the Union. How does having 48 hours less recovery time affect players like Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, and Diego Chara, all of whom are on the wrong side of 32?  

Chara and Valeri are club legends who have ties to the 2013 MLS Cup championship team, but does age play a toll, especially the in heat and humidity of Orlando much greater than what they experience at home? 

Competition History: Portland has owned the series history, going 6-1-3 against the Union. Valeri has had some of his best moments coming off the bench against Philadelphia with a goal and an assist in each of his last two matches against the club. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Prediction: Match No. 1: Philadelphia 2, Portland 1. Philadelphia hit its stride against KC. Even with Kacper Przyzbelko still not on his game, the way that Aaronson and Santos connected and Jose Martinez played coming up to keep the diamond in the midfield, the offense should be able to get its shots off. The goals the Timbers scored against NYCFC likely don’t go in against Philly.

The Union is much more likely to hold steady on the back line and not give things away, nor is a more athletic keeper like Andre Blake likely to surrender a goal on, what I will absolutely grant was an absolute howler, a shot from 25 yards out. Neither team winning would be a surprise, but we’re going with the younger, fresher, and arguably hungrier Union squad to advance.  

Confidence level: 6/10.  

MLS is Back Tournament Odds: Semifinal Match No. 2

Orlando City vs. Minnesota FC – Thursday, July 317:30 p.m. 

LineOrlando City +150Minnesota +175 

Ok, we get it now. Orlando is a legit threat in MLS. Could it be argued that LAFC didn’t take the Lions seriously enough or counted the match as over on the last minute corner that allowed the Lions to draw even? Yes. Did Bob Bradley mismanage his subs in the quarterfinals? Probably. But Orlando City still needed to uphold its end of the deal and it did.  

The defense was outstanding against LAFC and the offense got its chances before winning in penalties. The Lions have been the most impressive team in this tournament, both overall, as well as from an exceeding expectation standpoint. Mauricio Pereyra has been one of the top players in the tournament and has allowed Nani to play more a facilitating role with his creative brilliance.  

Orlando City still needs to finish better though as it has created chances better than any team, but has still mustered just one goal each in its last three matches. It’s been enough to see the team through to the semis, but the Lions will need to convert some of those opportunities in the semis if they want to advance.  

MLS is Back Tournament Odds—How Did Minnesota Get Here?

Minnesota, meanwhile, has been pretty much exactly as advertised. The Loons can win in multiple ways, as we’ve seen in their two knockout stage matches. They can play a tight defensive battle and grind out a draw to force PK (as they did against Columbus) or they can methodically carve your defense and find ways to get the ball in the back of the net (as they did against San Jose).  

All that said, the biggest concern is who is not there for Minnesota. Can the run continue without Ike Opara (out for the tournament), Kevin Molino (hurt against Real Salt Lake), and Romain Metanire (banged up against Columbus)? The logical answer is no, but this tournament has defied logic to this point.  

Match/Competition History: MNU holds a 2-0-1 series advantage against Orlando City with both teams being relatively new to MLS. There is one common link and that is the head coach of Minnesota, Adrian Heath. He guided Orlando City to a pair of USL titles before it moved up to MLS and then was sacked 18 months into its stay at the highest tier. He has led the Loons since 2017 and helped oversee their ascendance.   

MLS is Back Tournament Prediction: Semifinal Match No. 2Orlando City 2, Minnesota FC 1. This is where Minnesota’s injuries just become too much to overcome. Even at full power, the Loons are probably still a step away from hoisting any trophy.  

Orlando City will lock down on defense and what few shots do get through will be handled, mostly comfortably, in net by Pedro Gallese. Most importantly, Orlando City has played tough matches throughout and is battle tested when it comes to late-game situations.  

Confidence level: 6/10. 

MLS Is Back Tournament Odds and Quarterfinal Matches Betting Picks

By: Matt Watkins 

MLS is Back Tournament Odds and Quarterfinal Matches Betting Picks and Predictions

The MLS is Back Tournament certainly hasn’t lacked for drama. With teams that weren’t expected to pull a point advancing past the group stage, we expected a bit of return to normalcy in the knockout stage.

While most of the better teams advanced, it wasn’t without some severe challenges from the upstarts. Time to look at the quarterfinals. 

MLS is Back Tournament Quarterfinal Betting Predictions

(Note: All times listed are EST) 

Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting KC – Thursday, July 30, 8:00 p.m. 

Line: Philadelphia +280, Sporting KC -106 

Two of the teams that were lumped into the darkhorse category entering the tournament meet in the quarterfinals, with neither looking very good in getting there. The Union were first up and used a strong defensive effort as well as a resurgent Andre Blake in net in order to eke out a 1-0 win against New England. Philly has conceded just two goals in four matches in the MLS bubble, in large part to the play of Blake who has the most saves in the tournament.  

Meanwhile, KC was nearly the victim of the biggest upset as despite a decisive shot and possession advantage against Vancouver, Sporting was held off the board and had to survive penalty kicks in order to advance. KC has shown flashes in the tournament, but for the most part, hasn’t played up to potential.  

At their best, they can be dominant, as evidenced by the two wins to start play in 2020 before the season paused. At their worst, they still have the talent to compete, but as the competition gets tougher, they’ll need more of early 2020 and less of what we’ve seen so far in July.  

Competition History: They two teams are 6-6-5 against each other in 17 total clashes. The Union holds a 22-20 goal advantage in those contests. They have played one time previously in a knockout event with KC advancing 7-6 on penalty kicks in the 2015 U.S. Open Cup finals. 

Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting KC Betting Prediction: Philadelphia 2, Sporting KC 1.  

We haven’t picked too many upsets in this tournament but given the uneven play of Sporting through its first four matches, it’s difficult to go into any of its matches with much confidence. KC will get off its shots, registering 37 against Vancouver, but only eight of those went on goal.  

Mark McKenzie, Jack Elliot, and the rest of the Union defense will need to make sure there aren’t any lapses on the back line, but the way the Union has counterattacked this tournament, Sporting’s aggressiveness may actually be the key to a Philadelphia victory. 

Confidence level: 5/10.  

Orlando City vs. LAFC MLS is Back Tournament Betting Prediction 

Orlando City vs. LAFC – Friday, July 317:30 p.m. 

LineOrlando City +220, LAFC -110 

The “home” team of the MLS is Back Tournament keeps chugging along. It wasn’t the prettiest win against Montreal, but the Lions were never seriously threatened in the match and held control all the way. The turnaround for Orlando City is really remarkable given that it’s nearly the same roster from last year.  

Manager Oscar Pareja attention to detail has the team playing to potential and believing in itself. When the tournament run ends for Orlando, rest assured the squad that leaves the field will have given its opponent all it can handle.  

If you remember from our group stage preview, about LAFC we said “they don’t just beat you, they take away your will to live.” After a stumble against Houston with a draw in its opening match, the Black and Gold had chugged along with methodical efficiency. Diego Rossi has been brilliant as the focal point of the offense in the absence of Carlos Vela. Nothing should change here.  

Match/Competition History: LAFC holds a 1-0-1 advantage against Orlando City and has a 6-3 edge in goals.  

Orlando City vs. LAFC Betting Prediction: LAFC 3, Orlando City 1.  

The Lions may make this one closer, but at the end of the day, LAFC is just too talented, too strong, and too hungry after last year’s early postseason exit. It needs to prove it is a, if not THE dominant force in MLS before it gets a reputation of regular season success preceding postseason failure. 

Confidence level: 8/10. 

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Minnesota FC MLS is Back Tournament Betting Prediction

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Minnesota FC – SaturdayAugust 1, 8:00 p.m. 

LineNot set as of 8:00 a.m. on July 29 

Midway through the group stage, Minnesota showed why it had started 2020 in such strong fashion and carried it into the Round of 16. FC scored the first goal of the tournament against Columbus early in the contest, fought through a ferocious second half attack by the Crew, and eventually emerged in penalties. When playing well, it’s hard to deny Minnesota, a fact that we learned all too harshly by picking against the squad in the first knockout match.  

Meanwhile, San Jose battled against Real Salt Lake through the first half before an early second half PK led to a 5-2 victory. The Quakes are another team in this tournament who, when things go well, the offense fires as its capable, can do some damage. They can be inconsistent, though, which in a knockout stage generally doesn’t bode well for deep runs.  

Match/Competition History: San Jose leads 4-3-0. It’s been a tale of two seasons (each) however. In 2017, 2018, the Earthquakes went 4-0-0 against Minnesota. Since the beginning of 2019, FC is 3-0-0 against San Jose, including a win on March 8 this year, outscoring SJ 11-3 in the process.  

Minnesota FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes Betting Prediction: Minnesota 4, San Jose 2. Minnesota’s ability to vary its attack will be too much for the Earthquakes in the end. The score may be a bit inflated over what the final line will actually be, but I’ll be among those thoroughly shocked if San Jose advances through this one. 

Confidence level: 8.5/10. 

Portland Timbers vs. NYCFC MLS is Back Tournament Betting Prediction

Portland Timbers vs. NYCFC – SaturdayAugust 1, 10:30 p.m. 

LineNot set as of 8:00 a.m. on July 29 

Well hi, NYCFC, nice of you to finally show up to the tournament! After losing its first two group matches and then scraping by with a victory against Miami, NYCFC had to wait through several days of competition and get a perfect set of results. It did and made it into the knockout stage as the final team.  

Playing free and easy, they pretty well dismantled pre-tournament favorite Toronto, who didn’t seem prepared for what NYCFC had to offer. The result, Toronto is wondering what if and NYCFC marches on.  

Meanwhile, in the last match of the Round of 16, much like Toronto did with NYCFC, Portland also took its opponent too lightly. Fortunately for the remaining entrant from the Pacific Northwest, FC Cincinnati is nowhere near the level of NYCFC and the Timbers were able to escape in penalties. A better effort will be needed in the quarters.  

Match/Competition History: Portland leads the series 4-1-0 and holds a 7-2 advantage in scoring. The Timbers have blanked NYCFC in all four wins.  

Portland Timbers vs. NYCFC Betting Prediction: NYCFC 2, Portland 1.  

Make no mistake, Portland will watch the tape and not be surprised, but if the boys from the Bronx can play as they did against Toronto and in last year’s regular season, this could very well be the match that gets it on track and shoots it into the finals. That said, this is an incredibly difficult match to forecast and could very well go either way. 

Confidence level: 3/10.  

EPL Odds and 2020 Season Wrap Up

By: Fasika Zelealem 

2020 EPL Top Four Odds: Who Made the Cut?

The 2019/20 Premier League season has come to a close and it probably goes down as the craziest season in English football history, and not for good reasons. 

The final day of the season consisted of a relegation battle and a top four battle and we will look at who made the cut for the Champions League and who sadly didn’t. 

Chelsea fans… CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve officially made the UEFA Champions League next season. A hectic couple of minutes before half-time consisted of two Chelsea goals thanks to Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud who gave The Blues a two-goal cushion over Wolves going into half-time. 

Chelsea finished fourth in the table, level on points with Manchester United and four points ahead of fifth-placed Leicester City. 

It’s the perfect end to the season and perfect result heading into their FA Cup final against Arsenal on the 1st of August.  

The Last Second UEFA Champions League Qualifiers

Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech will be playing in the Champions League next season and with the likely signing of Kai Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen on the cards, Chelsea is a dark horse to do some dangerous things next season. 

Manchester United fans… CONGRATULATIONS! You too have also qualified for the UEFA Champions League next season. A crucial 2-0 away win against top four rivals Leicester City on the final day confirmed United’s qualification and meant they finished third in Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer’s first full season in charge. 

A 14th penalty for United during the game which Bruno Fernandes converted meant no other team in Premier League history has been awarded more penalties than United have had this season. A last-second strike from Jesse Lingard doubled the scoreline and provided a perfect ending to United’s league campaign, finishing on a 14-match unbeaten streak. 

United’s season isn’t finished, as they play LASK in the second leg of their Round of 16 tie in the Europa League. United have a 5-0 advantage from the first leg and are no doubt the favorites to win the Europa League with odds of -200. 

Leicester City and the Falter at the Finish

Leicester City fans… COMMISERATIONS! After spending 30 matchdays in the top four, Leicester City has found a way to bottle their Champions League aspirations as a 2-0 home loss to Manchester United on the final day of the season condemned them to finish fifth, four points behind both Chelsea and Manchester United. 

A horrendous second half of the season where they won just four games in their last 17 games means they qualify for the Europa League instead of making a return to the Champions League, a competition they reached the quarterfinals in 2017.  

On a positive side for Leicester City, Jamie Vardy became the first-ever Leicester City player to win the Premier League Golden Boot with 23 goals, 

This is a second bottle job on manager Brendan Rodgers’ resume, of course, the first being the infamous 2013/14 season as manager of Liverpool. Rodgers will be on thin ice next season after a capitulation in the second half of the season.  

It’s been a wild and wonderful Premier League season and we can only hope for more craziness next season. 

MLS Odds: MLS Is Back Tournament – Saturday-Sunday Knockout Matches

By: Matt Watkins 

MLS Odds: MLS Is Back Tournament – Saturday-Sunday Knockout Matches

Right, that group stage turned on its ear fast. From a Josef Martinez-less Atlanta United going scoreless in three games to a complete breakdown on the defensive end by the LA Galaxy to NYCFC just not finding any rhythm, the MLS is Back Tournament certainly kept us on our toes. Honestly, you combine all of the above with surprise performances by consistent bottom-dwellers, and much of what we expected in the MLS is Back Tournament never materialized.  

What that leaves us with, however, may be even more intriguing. As we enter the knockout stage, some of the traditional favorites are already gone, which, while we may have less name brand recognition, gives exciting matchups among teams that don’t often see the spotlight. Take the first game of the knockout stage… 

(Note: All times listed are EST) 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Predictions: Saturday Knockout Stage

MLS Knockout Stage Odds: Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact – Saturday, July 25, 8:00 p.m. 

Line: Orlando City -106, Montreal +250 

Hands up who saw this coming? Even the guy who always says he predicted what no one else expected can’t volunteer he saw both of these squads coming out of the group stage. Part of the reason no one expected Orlando City and Montreal advancing is they both returned nearly the exact same rosters as the ones that finished ninth and 11th in the Eastern Conference in 2019.  

But with coaching changes come new voices and new attitudes and both teams displayed them in the group stage. Orlando City went 2-0-1 and won the group thanks to goal differential against Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Montreal played a couple tough losses before coming together in its final group stage game, beating DC before and advancing as a wild card.  

MLS is Back Knockout Stage Betting Prediction: Orlando City 2, Montreal 0. Orlando City has looked to be the better team in the tournament overall and has the better talent level. Add in that they have three men running into the box on almost every attack and it’s a lot to ask a somewhat undisciplined back line to handle. They almost beat Philly with it, they will be Montreal with it.  

Confidence level: 8/10.  

Philadelphia Union vs. New England Revolution – Saturday, July 25, 10:30 p.m. 

Line: Philadelphia +150, New England +150 

Two teams that most people expected to be here, but maybe not necessarily how. Coming into the tournament, Philadelphia was supposed to rely on its offense and get enough from the back line and in goal to be able to advance. The Philly offense has yet to come around, though they did look a much more cohesive unit at times against Orlando City. Meanwhile, New England has conceded just one goal in the tournament, even though they, too, were supposed to score.  

This tournament was supposed to serve as the coming out party for the Union who some picked to win the whole thing and fulfill the promise of recent years. Despite tying for the second most points in the group stage, it hasn’t looked dominant and this match against the Revs could be the biggest test Philly faces. One big help for the Union will be the return of Jose Martinez from suspension. 

MLS is Back Knockout Stage Betting Prediction: Philadelphia 2, New England 1. This may be the toughest match to pick in the knockout stage. Both teams have a good attack that hasn’t shown up. Philadelphia had some back line lapses against Orlando City that it cannot afford against New England and has had to rely on Andre Blake a little too much.  

If New England scores early, it could turn the game on its ear. In the end, though, we’re going with recent experience that the Union has in both the 2018 US Open Cup and the 2019 MLS playoffs. Philadelphia has also fairly well owned the Revolution, going 7-1-2 in the last 10 matches between the squads with a +16 goal differential.  

Confidence level: 5/10. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Predictions: Sunday Knockout Stage

Toronto FC vs. NYCFC – Sunday, July 26, 8:30 p.m. 

Line: Not set as of 5:30 a.m. EST 

Again, two teams that people expected to be here, but one that did not arrive in knockout as planned. Toronto picked up every bit the same part it played in last year’s MLS Cup, winning group C, posting matches of two and four goals before taking its foot off the gas in the final group game when it already knew heading into the contest it was through.  

Meanwhile, no one predicted the downfall of NYCFC who mustered just two goals in the group stage after showing a dominating offense last season and returning a majority of its weapons. They have looked out of sync and quite frankly snippy with each other on the pitch. That sort of internal crankiness is generally not good for long playoff runs.  

MLS is Back Knockout Stage Betting Prediction for Sunday: Toronto 3, NYCFC 0. Ok, maybe NYCFC will get on the board with one, but even if they take an early lead, this is a match between two teams that are in opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to their level of play. Toronto is doing exactly what it is supposed to and NYCFC hasn’t been able to get out of its own way. The result should bear that out. 

Confidence level: 9/10. 

Sporting KC vs. Vancouver – Sunday, July 26, 11:00 p.m. 

Line: Not set as of 5:30 a.m. EST 

Vancouver showed us why wins, or a single win, not draws get you past group stages. Entering the final match of Group B, the Whitecaps had played, pretty much exactly as you’d expect in the tournament: 0-2-0, scoring three times and conceding seven. But then a victory against Chicago and they’re in position to advance, which they did as the last team through.  

I know there are those who may say you shouldn’t be able to win just one match and go through, but they also did make it on the goals for tiebreaker, so the Caps first two matches did have something to do with it. Still…yeah. 

Meanwhile, Sporting KC started off with a loss against Minnesota FC in what was one of the best early matches of the tournament before scoring multiple times each against Colorado and Real Salt Lake to advance as the Group D winner. They’re exactly who we thought they’d be at the beginning of this tournament, a potentially potent offense with an efficient defense.  

MLS is Back Knockout Stage Betting Prediction for Sunday: Sporting KC 3, Vancouver 0. Unlike our previous 3-0 prediction, it doesn’t feel like we may be shortchanging Vancouver to say it might not score here. It also doesn’t seem out of the question for KC to post more than three goals against a Whitecaps team that conceded seven goals in its first two matches before Chicago inexplicably fell apart when it needed just a single point to advance. 

Confidence level: 9.5/10… I’d say my confidence would be 10/10, but stranger things have happened in sports. I mean, 15 seeds beat two-seeds every couple of years in the NCAA Tournament. End of the day, though, whatever the line comes out to be on this match, go with KC. The only holdback is the ROI if you have to lay $300+ to win back $100, but it’s as close to an investment as opposed to a wager that you may get in this round.

EPL Odds and Favorites to Finish in the EPL Top Four for Week 38

By: Fasika Zelealem 

2020 EPL Top Four Odds Preview Week 38

We have reached Week 38 of the 2019/20 Premier League season and in what has been an exhilarating season, we have a bit more excitement in store on the final day as two teams will confirm their place in the UEFA Champions League next season, while one will miss out. 

Chelsea has dropped to fourth going into the final day after a thrilling 5-3 defeat to Liverpool. Despite being 4-1 down in the second half, the introduction of Christian Pulisic was felt immediately after his mazy run past three Liverpool players enabled him to put the ball on a plate for fellow substitute Tammy Abraham who slotted in to make it 4-2. 

Pulisic then got himself onto the scoresheet for his ninth league goal of the season after a fine strike from inside the box.  

However, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s goal in the 84th minute sealed the three points for Liverpool ahead of their trophy celebrations and meant Chelsea’s qualification for the Champions League was to go to the final day of the season. 

They sit fourth in the table, one point ahead of Leicester City and level on points with Manchester United. 

The Blues face a tough test in their last game of the season at home against Wolves. 

Chelsea’s odds to finish in the top four open at -700. 

Manchester United Odds to Finish in the EPL Top Four

Manchester United’s unbeaten streak has increased to 13 games but only after a disappointing 1-1 draw with West Ham United on Wednesday night. 

Following their 2-2 draw with Southampton, United got back to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Palace to keep the pressure on both Leicester City and Chelsea. 

While United’s draw against West Ham bumped them up to third in the table going into the final day, it leaves them with a nerve-wracking task as they go head-to-head with Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Sunday afternoon. 

United are a point ahead of Leicester and a draw will be sufficient enough to qualify for the Champions League, whereas a win would secure third. 

However, if Leicester were to win and Chelsea were to beat Wolves, United would fail in their task for Champions League football and instead drop to the Europa League for the second year running. 

Manchester United’s odds to finish in the top four open at -500. 

Leicester City Odds to Finish in the EPL Top Four

Leicester City find themselves out of the top four for the first time in months. Their recent results has finally come back to haunt them. Despite a 2-0 win over Sheffield United after their embarrassing 4-1 defeat to Bournemouth four days prior, Leicester City once again capitulated to their opponent, losing 3-0 to Tottenham Hotspur. 

A Harry Kane brace alongside a James Justin own goal condemned Leicester to an 11th league loss and a place down the Premier League table. 

Leicester sits on 62 points, one point behind both Chelsea and Manchester United; the latter whom they face on the final day of the season at King Power Stadium. 

Leicester can draw against United and rely on Wolves to beat Chelsea which will see them qualify for the Champions League. 

Leicester City’s odds to finish in the top four open at +163.

Arsenal v Manchester City Odds Preview for July 18th 18/07/20, 19:45 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 FA Cup, Semi-Final

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Manchester City Odds Against Arsenal for July 18th

Current FA Cup holders Manchester City take on Arsenal in the semi-final of the competition. The winner of the tie takes on either Chelsea or Manchester United in the final at Wembley.

City dispatched Watford 6-0 in the final last year to win their sixth FA Cup title and their first since 2011, making them the first and only English club to complete a domestic treble, having won the EFL Cup and the Premier League earlier that season.

On their way to the semi-finals, they’ve beaten Port Vale, Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United, setting up a tie with the most successful club in FA Cup history, Arsenal.

The North London club has won a record 13 FA Cups with the last one coming in 2017, after defeating London rivals Chelsea 2-1. This is Arsenal’s first semi-final since winning the cup and have a tough task to get past the current holders.

City is coming off two mightily impressive 5-0 victories against Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion leading up to the match, while Arsenal is coming off the best victory of their season, defeating Premier League champions Liverpool 2-1.

Goals from Alexandre Lacazette and Reiss Nelson sealed the deal for the home side who capitalized on uncharacteristic mistakes made by Alisson and Virgil Van Dijk to claim all three points and become just the third side to defeat Liverpool in the league this season.

Manchester City Odds Against an Attacking Arsenal

Arsenal’s route to the semi-finals involved wins over newly-promoted Leeds United, Bournemouth, Portsmouth and Sheffield United.

With Arsenal out of the Europa League, the FA Cup is the only chance to collect silverware, however, the sportsbooks has them as the least favorite to win the trophy with their odds opening at +1200.

Despite Arsenal’s record of 96 wins, 57 losses and 45 draws against Manchester City, recent results tell a completely different story.

City has six straight league wins against Arsenal, scoring three goals in five of the six games, including the last three games. Arsenal’s last league win against City came back in December 2015 where they did the double over City.

Sportsbooks odds on City getting to their second consecutive FA Cup final opens at -333. Odds on Arsenal defeating the current holders for a spot in the final open at +800. Odds on the score being level at full time opens at +475.

Who is This Game More Important For?

Despite Pep Guardiola’s insistence that finishing second in the Premier League is more important than winning the FA Cup, I stand by my opinion that this game and the FA Cup, in general, is much more important for Manchester City than Arsenal. 

One note; with the money City have spent, they better get to every final and give themselves an opportunity to win every trophy they can, because that’s what they paid for. 

Second note; Arsenal have had three managers in one season and are truly at the beginning of their rebirth, although a trophy will be nice, it won’t mean much in comparison to what they plan to aspire in years to come under Mikel Arteta. 

Third note; I don’t really have a third note apart from City will miss Sergio Aguero, their leading scorer in history and they’ve scored 10 goals in their last two games, that’s it. 

Liverpool FC vs Chelsea FC, 22/07/2020

After 30 long years, Liverpool Football Club will finally have their hands on a Premier League title as captain Jordan Henderson will lead the celebrations at Anfield following their match against third-placed Chelsea.

This is a moment Liverpool fans have been waiting for generations. After watching the likes of Gary Neville, John Terry, Thierry Henry, Sergio Aguero and Wes Morgan (doesn’t fit in here but oh well) lift countless Premier League titles, it’ll finally be a Liverpool player with his hands on the trophy and who better than Jordan Henderson.

The captain is Liverpool’s current longest-serving player with nine years with the club and is the only remaining member left from the ill-fated 2013/14 season where Steven Gerrard’s disastrous slip against Chelsea ended dreams of a first Premier League title.

Henderson’s story will inspire many and illustrates the hard work he’s put in to be at the forefront of Liverpool’s success. Despite being told he can leave the club in 2012 by then-manager Brendan Rodgers as he looked to bring in the all-time United States men’s national team scorer in Clint Dempsey from Fulham, Henderson decided to stay and fight for his place.

He’s now captained Liverpool to Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup, and Premier League success as the “Henderson Shuffle” will be on show yet again on Wednesday evening.

But before the celebrations, Liverpool takes on Chelsea in what will be a highly entertaining encounter.

While the bout has nothing on the line for Liverpool apart from basic sporting competitiveness, UEFA Champions League is on the line for Chelsea. Frank Lampard’s men sit third in the table on 63 points, one ahead of both Leicester City and Manchester United, having played a game less than Leicester.

Chelsea Odds to Upset Liverpool’s Coronation

It’s a crucial game for Chelsea, however, should they not get a result, Leicester City’s next game against Manchester United assures that one of them will drop points which will keep Chelsea in the top four.

Liverpool v Chelsea has always been and will always be a firestorm of a game and in recent years, Liverpool has gotten the best of the West London club.

In their last six league meetings, Liverpool has two wins, two draws, and one defeat; the last defeat to Chelsea in the league coming in May 2018.

Liverpool did win the reverse fixture back in September but was knocked out by Chelsea in the FA Cup back in March.

Sportsbooks odds on Liverpool earning their 31st league win of the season opens at +100. Odds on Chelsea becoming the first club since 2017 to win at Anfield in the league open at +250. Odds on a draw between the clubs open at +275.

When Will Jurgen Klopp’s Statue be Commissioned?

A statue erected in your honor in football is huge. It gives thanks for what you did for the football club in your time, illustrates your legend, and makes sure your name is etched in the history of the club. 

Jurgen Klopp deserves a statue of his own outside Anfield. While it will most likely be done after he leaves the club, I don’t think I can find a Liverpool fan in the world who wouldn’t campaign for a Klopp statue. 

He brought the club their sixth Champions League and first Premier League title, but most importantly he succeeded in his plan he spoke out about when he first joined the club in 2015. 

“We need to change, from doubters to believers”.

EPL Odds and Favorites to Finish in the EPL Top Four for Week 36

We have reached Week 36 of the 2019/20 Premier League season after the restart and the top four race has continued its exhilarating ride.  

After consecutive wins over Watford and Crystal Palace, Chelsea lost for the second time in four games as they were beaten 3-0 by Sheffield United. 

It was a disappointing performance for Frank Lampard’s men in which David McGoldrick scored his first two league goals of the season as well an Oli McBurnie strike. 

It was a game Chelsea should have won and are kicking themselves for not increasing the gap ahead of Leicester City and Manchester United who also dropped points this weekend.  

Chelsea, however, stays third in the table and is just a point ahead of both Leicester City and Manchester United with just three games to go.   

The Blues face Norwich at home next followed by an away trip to champions Liverpool and hosting top four rivals Wolves on the final day of the season. 

Chelsea now possesses the joint-best odds alongside Manchester United to finish in the top four which open at -400. 

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Manchester City Odds to Finish Top Four While on a Roll

Manchester United’s unbeaten streak has increased to 11 games but only after a disappointing 2-2 draw with Southampton on Monday night. 

Stuart Armstrong’s strike put Southampton ahead early before Marcus’ Rashford’s 16th goal of the season put things level. An Anthony Martial screamer just three minutes later put United ahead and the Frenchman equaled Rashford’s 16 league goals as well as netting his 50th Premier League goal for United. 

However, with just four minutes left of added time, Michael Obafemi managed to convert a Jan Bednerak assist past David De Gea in the 94th minute to earn a draw and keep United in 5th place. 

United stay fifth and are level on points with fourth-placed Leicester and just one point behind Chelsea in the race for Champions League football. 

Manchester United possesses the joint-best odds to finish in the top four alongside Chelsea which opens at -400. 

Leicester City Odds to Remain in the Top Four While Losing Steam

Leicester City will count themselves lucky that they remain in the top four this week after a horror show at Vitality Stadium condemned them to a 4-1 defeat to the struggling Bournemouth. 

Despite taking the lead through Jamie Vardy in the first half, Bournemouth equalized in the 66th minute through a Junior Stanislas penalty. Just one minute later, Dominic Solanke scored his first Premier League goal for the club.  

Caglar Soyuncu was sent off after kicking out at Callum Wilson and things turned from bad to worse for Leicester who conceded two more before the final whistle blew. 

They are now just a point behind Chelsea and level on points with Manchester United but retain a superior goal difference. 

Leicester City possesses the third-best odds to finish in the top four which open at +150.  

After two consecutive losses without scoring a goal, Wolves got back to winning ways with a convincing 3-0 win over Everton. 

Raul Jimenez ended his three-match goal drought with his 16th league goal if of the season as he netted a penalty just before half time. Leander Dendoncker and Diogo Jota rounded up the scoring for Wolves who stay sixth and four points behind Manchester United and Leicester City. 

Wolves’ chase for Champions League football looks unlikely but they remain on course for a second consecutive season in the Europa League. 

Sportsbooks’ odds on Wolves to finish in the top four open at +1100. 

Manchester City v Bournemouth Odds Preview for July 15th

With Bournemouth needing all the points they can get to stave off relegation, an away trip to a Manchester City side that has won back-to-back 5-0 victories isn’t exactly the best way to get out of the relegation zone. 

Bournemouth sits in 18th place on 31 points, three behind Watford and West Ham United with three games remaining. The Cherries possess an inferior goal difference to both sides above them and a damaging loss to Manchester City can further increase that. 

They earned their first win in eight games since February after a thrilling 4-1 victory over fourth-placed Leicester City. Despite going 1-0 down in the first half through Jamie Vardy’s 23rd goal of the season, a Dominic Solanke double as well as a Junior Stanislas penalty and an own goal from Jonny Evans secured a hugely important win for the side. 

They now travel to Manchester City who has dismantled both Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion 5-0 in their last two games. Raheem Sterling scored his second league hat-trick this season against Brighton and in looks in fine form ahead of the game. 

While the game against Bournemouth doesn’t mean much for City in the grand scheme of things, they are heading into an important period of the season as they take on Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final in a few days as well as taking on Real Madrid in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final match-up in early August. 

Manchester City Odds Against the Cherries

Despite the season looking like a forgettable one so far for City, an FA Cup triumph as well their first-ever European title added to the Carabao Cup they’ve already secured will certainly make it a historic and successful season for Pep Guardiola and his players. 

Sorry, there’s more bad news for you Bournemouth fans heading into this game. In the 15 games you’ve played against City, you have never, that’s right, never won against them. 

Since their promotion in 2015, they’ve faced Manchester City nine times and lost all nine times. City has scored four or more goals in four of those nine games. The reverse fixture back in August was a 3-1 win for City at Vitality Stadium. 

Sportsbooks odds on City winning a third game in a row opens at -800. Bournemouth’s odds of defeating City for the first time opens at +1600. Odds on a draw opens at +850. 

What is Raheem Sterling’s Ceiling?

With Sterling’s hat-trick against Brighton, he’s now netted career-high 27 goals in all competitions, defeating his previous best of 25 goals last season. It’s another marker of the continuing improvement in Sterling’s game and his growth in becoming one of the top players in the Premier League. 

He’s scored 18, 17 and 17 goals in his last three Premier League campaigns with an opportunity to go past his record of 18 with three games left this season. At just 25 years of age, he is one of City’s cornerstones and arguably England’s best player. 

I believe Sterling has the potential to be one of the best players in the world and to see his growth under Guardiola has been something special. 
 

Watford FC vs Manchester City, 21/07/2020

Manchester City Odds Against Watford for July 21st

Manchester City’s league campaign has been dead rubber for a matter of months now. Liverpool has been ahead for so long and City’s own Champions League qualification has been secure since the beginning of the season; aside from the whole being banned from the competition which has since been overturned. 

The two competitions that were continuing to drive this City side was the FA Cup and the Champions League. However, after their convincing 2-0 defeat against Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final, City finds themselves no longer able to defend their FA Cup trophy and counting on the Champions League to have an opportunity to still call this season a success.  

They are still on a three-match league winning streak, narrowly beating Bournemouth 2-1 in their last outing. They come up against another relegation-threatened team in Watford. The Hornets are 17th with 34 points, three ahead of Bournemouth with two games remaining. 

With two wins in their last three games, Watford should be safe but with games against Manchester City and Arsenal coming up, the relegation race could go to the final day. Their crucial 3-1 loss to West Ham who went ahead of them with the win proved to be Nigel Pearson’s last game in charge as he was sacked subsequently. 

Manchester City Odds to Remain Unbeaten Against Watford

Manchester City holds one of the longest unbeaten records against Watford in the league, having not lost a game in all competitions to them since 1989. They’re also on a 12-match winning streak spanning back to 2013. City embarrassingly dispatched Watford 6-0 in last year’s FA Cup final and followed that up with an even more embarrassing 8-0 victory back in September. 

It’s fair to say that Watford has fared as a bit of a punching bag for City in recent years and whether that will happen again on Tuesday night is another question.  

Sportsbooks odds on Watford getting a win and essentially marking their spot in the Premier League next season opens at +750. Odds on City making it four league wins in a row open at -333. Odds on a draw between the two clubs open at +500. 

Is Pep Guardiola Under Pressure?

To say that a manager who’s spent more than £400m just on defenders and is currently 19 points behind the league leaders, well, that would be stupid. 

Yes, Pep is one of the greatest managers in the world today and probably in history but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s failed this season and failed with one of the biggest checkbooks in football. 

Losing the title to a rival is one thing but losing it in the devastating fashion that they did, that’s a whole other thing entirely. 

Next season will be a massive win for Pep and his squad. With Liverpool retaining their best players and with Chelsea and Manchester United look like serious contenders, there will be no room for error for Pep. 
 

Arsenal v Liverpool Odds Preview for July 15th

Having drawn 1-1 with Burnley in their last match, Liverpool now has to win their last three games to break the Premier League points record (100) set by Manchester City in their title-winning season of 2017/18. 

Liverpool failed to become the first team since Sunderland in the 1891/92 season to win all their home games in a season. While their run of 24 consecutive home wins has come to an end, there are still several records in play that Liverpool could break. 

Aside from the points record, Liverpool can break the win record (32 in a season set by Manchester City in 2017/18), if they win their last three games as well as winning the league by the biggest margin (19 points set by Manchester City in 2017/18). 

The first step to breaking those records is a tough one as Liverpool travel to Arsenal on Wednesday evening. Arsenal is coming off a disappointing loss in the North London derby as they fell 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in a defeat that all but ended Arsenal’s already slim chances of UEFA Champions League qualification. 

Despite going ahead with Alexandre Lacazette firing a screamer from outside the box, just three minutes later miscommunication between Sead Kolasinac and David Luiz allowed Tottenham’s Son Heung-min to finish past Emiliano Martinez. 

With just 10 minutes left in the game, Toby Alderweireld connected with Son’s corner to head past Martinez to make it 2-1 to Tottenham to ensure they stayed unbeaten this season against Arsenal. 

Liverpool Odds to Take Down the Gunners

The Gunners now sit ninth after being overtaken by Tottenham and are five points off qualification for the Europa League. However, if you ask most Arsenal fans, they would probably prefer a season out of the Europa League to focus on the Premier League rather than Thursday night trips across Europe. 

Arsenal’s last win against Liverpool came in 2015 and have been on a pretty poor run against the Merseyside club since then. In the seven league games they’ve played since then, Liverpool won have five and drawn twice. The reverse fixture back in August was a 3-1 win for Liverpool and the two clubs met again in the fourth round of the EFL Cup which Liverpool won 5-4 on penalties after the game ended 5-5 in regular time. 

Sportsbooks odds on a Liverpool win open at -118. Arsenal’s odds of getting back to winning ways open at +275. Odds on a draw between the clubs open at +280. 

How Will Liverpool Fare Against Arsenal?

While Liverpool does possess an impressive recent record against Arsenal, the North London club has always put up a good fight and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp gave his thoughts on the clash against Arsenal. 

Previewing Wednesday’s clash, the boss told Liverpoolfc.com: “It will be different, but we will have a bit more space [preparation time], which is good. 

“We have one more day. The last seven days now were really incredible, three games in pretty much a week is unbelievable in that moment.  

“But it is how it is and now we have one day more and then hopefully we can completely recover.  

“We will and then we go again against Arsenal, which will be an interesting one.” 

EPL Odds and Favorites to Finish in the EPL Top Four for Week 36

By: Fasika Zelealem 

2020 EPL Top Four Odds Preview Week 36

We have reached Week 36 of the 2019/20 Premier League season after the restart and the top four race has continued its exhilarating ride.  

After consecutive wins over Watford and Crystal Palace, Chelsea lost for the second time in four games as they were beaten 3-0 by Sheffield United. 

It was a disappointing performance for Frank Lampard’s men in which David McGoldrick scored his first two league goals of the season as well an Oli McBurnie strike. 

It was a game Chelsea should have won and are kicking themselves for not increasing the gap ahead of Leicester City and Manchester United who also dropped points this weekend.  

Chelsea, however, stays third in the table and is just a point ahead of both Leicester City and Manchester United with just three games to go.   

The Blues face Norwich at home next followed by an away trip to champions Liverpool and hosting top four rivals Wolves on the final day of the season. 

Chelsea now possesses the joint-best odds alongside Manchester United to finish in the top four which open at -400. 

Manchester City Odds to Finish Top Four While on a Roll

Manchester United’s unbeaten streak has increased to 11 games but only after a disappointing 2-2 draw with Southampton on Monday night. 

Stuart Armstrong’s strike put Southampton ahead early before Marcus’ Rashford’s 16th goal of the season put things level. An Anthony Martial screamer just three minutes later put United ahead and the Frenchman equaled Rashford’s 16 league goals as well as netting his 50th Premier League goal for United. 

However, with just four minutes left of added time, Michael Obafemi managed to convert a Jan Bednerak assist past David De Gea in the 94th minute to earn a draw and keep United in 5th place. 

United stay fifth and are level on points with fourth-placed Leicester and just one point behind Chelsea in the race for Champions League football. 

Manchester United possesses the joint-best odds to finish in the top four alongside Chelsea which opens at -400. 

Leicester City Odds to Remain in the Top Four While Losing Steam

Leicester City will count themselves lucky that they remain in the top four this week after a horror show at Vitality Stadium condemned them to a 4-1 defeat to the struggling Bournemouth. 

Despite taking the lead through Jamie Vardy in the first half, Bournemouth equalized in the 66th minute through a Junior Stanislas penalty. Just one minute later, Dominic Solanke scored his first Premier League goal for the club.  

Caglar Soyuncu was sent off after kicking out at Callum Wilson and things turned from bad to worse for Leicester who conceded two more before the final whistle blew. 

They are now just a point behind Chelsea and level on points with Manchester United but retain a superior goal difference. 

Leicester City possesses the third-best odds to finish in the top four which open at +150.  

After two consecutive losses without scoring a goal, Wolves got back to winning ways with a convincing 3-0 win over Everton. 

Raul Jimenez ended his three-match goal drought with his 16th league goal if of the season as he netted a penalty just before half time. Leander Dendoncker and Diogo Jota rounded up the scoring for Wolves who stay sixth and four points behind Manchester United and Leicester City. 

Wolves’ chase for Champions League football looks unlikely but they remain on course for a second consecutive season in the Europa League. 

Sportsbooks’ odds on Wolves to finish in the top four open at +1100. 

Manchester City v Bournemouth Odds Preview for July 15th 14/07/20, 16:00 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 36

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Manchester City Odds Against Bournemouth for July 15th

With Bournemouth needing all the points they can get to stave off relegation, an away trip to a Manchester City side that has won back-to-back 5-0 victories isn’t exactly the best way to get out of the relegation zone. 

Bournemouth sits in 18th place on 31 points, three behind Watford and West Ham United with three games remaining. The Cherries possess an inferior goal difference to both sides above them and a damaging loss to Manchester City can further increase that. 

They earned their first win in eight games since February after a thrilling 4-1 victory over fourth-placed Leicester City. Despite going 1-0 down in the first half through Jamie Vardy’s 23rd goal of the season, a Dominic Solanke double as well as a Junior Stanislas penalty and an own goal from Jonny Evans secured a hugely important win for the side. 

They now travel to Manchester City who has dismantled both Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion 5-0 in their last two games. Raheem Sterling scored his second league hat-trick this season against Brighton and in looks in fine form ahead of the game. 

While the game against Bournemouth doesn’t mean much for City in the grand scheme of things, they are heading into an important period of the season as they take on Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final in a few days as well as taking on Real Madrid in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final match-up in early August. 

Manchester City Odds Against the Cherries

Despite the season looking like a forgettable one so far for City, an FA Cup triumph as well their first-ever European title added to the Carabao Cup they’ve already secured will certainly make it a historic and successful season for Pep Guardiola and his players. 

Sorry, there’s more bad news for you Bournemouth fans heading into this game. In the 15 games you’ve played against City, you have never, that’s right, never won against them. 

Since their promotion in 2015, they’ve faced Manchester City nine times and lost all nine times. City has scored four or more goals in four of those nine games. The reverse fixture back in August was a 3-1 win for City at Vitality Stadium. 

Sportsbooks odds on City winning a third game in a row opens at -800. Bournemouth’s odds of defeating City for the first time opens at +1600. Odds on a draw opens at +850. 

What is Raheem Sterling’s Ceiling?

With Sterling’s hat-trick against Brighton, he’s now netted career-high 27 goals in all competitions, defeating his previous best of 25 goals last season. It’s another marker of the continuing improvement in Sterling’s game and his growth in becoming one of the top players in the Premier League. 

He’s scored 18, 17 and 17 goals in his last three Premier League campaigns with an opportunity to go past his record of 18 with three games left this season. At just 25 years of age, he is one of City’s cornerstones and arguably England’s best player. 

I believe Sterling has the potential to be one of the best players in the world and to see his growth under Guardiola has been something special. 
 

Arsenal v Liverpool Odds Preview for July 15th 15/07/20, 20:15 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 36

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Liverpool Odds Against Arsenal for July 15th

Having drawn 1-1 with Burnley in their last match, Liverpool now has to win their last three games to break the Premier League points record (100) set by Manchester City in their title-winning season of 2017/18. 

Liverpool failed to become the first team since Sunderland in the 1891/92 season to win all their home games in a season. While their run of 24 consecutive home wins has come to an end, there are still several records in play that Liverpool could break. 

Aside from the points record, Liverpool can break the win record (32 in a season set by Manchester City in 2017/18), if they win their last three games as well as winning the league by the biggest margin (19 points set by Manchester City in 2017/18). 

The first step to breaking those records is a tough one as Liverpool travel to Arsenal on Wednesday evening. Arsenal is coming off a disappointing loss in the North London derby as they fell 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in a defeat that all but ended Arsenal’s already slim chances of UEFA Champions League qualification.

Despite going ahead with Alexandre Lacazette firing a screamer from outside the box, just three minutes later miscommunication between Sead Kolasinac and David Luiz allowed Tottenham’s Son Heung-min to finish past Emiliano Martinez.

With just 10 minutes left in the game, Toby Alderweireld connected with Son’s corner to head past Martinez to make it 2-1 to Tottenham to ensure they stayed unbeaten this season against Arsenal.

Liverpool Odds to Take Down the Gunners

The Gunners now sit ninth after being overtaken by Tottenham and are five points off qualification for the Europa League. However, if you ask most Arsenal fans, they would probably prefer a season out of the Europa League to focus on the Premier League rather than Thursday night trips across Europe.

Arsenal’s last win against Liverpool came in 2015 and have been on a pretty poor run against the Merseyside club since then. In the seven league games they’ve played since then, Liverpool won have five and drawn twice. The reverse fixture back in August was a 3-1 win for Liverpool and the two clubs met again in the fourth round of the EFL Cup which Liverpool won 5-4 on penalties after the game ended 5-5 in regular time.

Sportsbooks odds on a Liverpool win open at -118. Arsenal’s odds of getting back to winning ways open at +275. Odds on a draw between the clubs open at +280.

How Will Liverpool Fare Against Arsenal?

While Liverpool does possess an impressive recent record against Arsenal, the North London club has always put up a good fight and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp gave his thoughts on the clash against Arsenal. 

Previewing Wednesday’s clash, the boss told Liverpoolfc.com: “It will be different, but we will have a bit more space [preparation time], which is good. 

“We have one more day. The last seven days now were really incredible, three games in pretty much a week is unbelievable in that moment.  

“But it is how it is and now we have one day more and then hopefully we can completely recover.  

“We will and then we go again against Arsenal, which will be an interesting one.”

Arsenal v Liverpool Odds Preview for July 15th 15/07/20, 20:15 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 36

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Liverpool Odds Against Arsenal for July 15th

Having drawn 1-1 with Burnley in their last match, Liverpool now has to win their last three games to break the Premier League points record (100) set by Manchester City in their title-winning season of 2017/18. 

Liverpool failed to become the first team since Sunderland in the 1891/92 season to win all their home games in a season. While their run of 24 consecutive home wins has come to an end, there are still several records in play that Liverpool could break. 

Aside from the points record, Liverpool can break the win record (32 in a season set by Manchester City in 2017/18), if they win their last three games as well as winning the league by the biggest margin (19 points set by Manchester City in 2017/18). 

The first step to breaking those records is a tough one as Liverpool travel to Arsenal on Wednesday evening. Arsenal is coming off a disappointing loss in the North London derby as they fell 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur in a defeat that all but ended Arsenal’s already slim chances of UEFA Champions League qualification.

Despite going ahead with Alexandre Lacazette firing a screamer from outside the box, just three minutes later miscommunication between Sead Kolasinac and David Luiz allowed Tottenham’s Son Heung-min to finish past Emiliano Martinez.

With just 10 minutes left in the game, Toby Alderweireld connected with Son’s corner to head past Martinez to make it 2-1 to Tottenham to ensure they stayed unbeaten this season against Arsenal.

Liverpool Odds to Take Down the Gunners

The Gunners now sit ninth after being overtaken by Tottenham and are five points off qualification for the Europa League. However, if you ask most Arsenal fans, they would probably prefer a season out of the Europa League to focus on the Premier League rather than Thursday night trips across Europe.

Arsenal’s last win against Liverpool came in 2015 and have been on a pretty poor run against the Merseyside club since then. In the seven league games they’ve played since then, Liverpool won have five and drawn twice. The reverse fixture back in August was a 3-1 win for Liverpool and the two clubs met again in the fourth round of the EFL Cup which Liverpool won 5-4 on penalties after the game ended 5-5 in regular time.

Sportsbooks odds on a Liverpool win open at -118. Arsenal’s odds of getting back to winning ways open at +275. Odds on a draw between the clubs open at +280.

How Will Liverpool Fare Against Arsenal?

While Liverpool does possess an impressive recent record against Arsenal, the North London club has always put up a good fight and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp gave his thoughts on the clash against Arsenal. 

Previewing Wednesday’s clash, the boss told Liverpoolfc.com: “It will be different, but we will have a bit more space [preparation time], which is good. 

“We have one more day. The last seven days now were really incredible, three games in pretty much a week is unbelievable in that moment.  

“But it is how it is and now we have one day more and then hopefully we can completely recover.  

“We will and then we go again against Arsenal, which will be an interesting one.”

Chelsea Odds v Norwich Preview for July 14th 14/07/20, 20:15 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 36

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Chelsea Odds Against Norwich for July 14th

A second defeat in four games for Chelsea had the potential to derail their UEFA Champions League aspirations.

Chelsea fell 3-0 to Sheffield United and was in danger of being overtaken by Manchester United, should they win their game in hand against Southampton on Monday night. 

However, Chelsea was dealt a lifeline after Michael Obafemi’s 94th-minute equalizer secured a point for Southampton as they drew 2-2 with Manchester United at Old Trafford. 

United remain fifth due to the draw as Chelsea stay third, just a point ahead of fourth-placed Leicester City and Manchester United. 

Chelsea’s home game against the already relegated Norwich is as close to a sure thing as one could be. Chelsea has everything to play for at this stage of the season. Not only have they already secured the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech in which the latter has already started training with the team, but they are interested in Bayer Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz. 

The highly-rated talent according to reports, wants to leave the German club due to their failure to qualify for the Champions League which makes it incredibly important for Chelsea to qualify if they want to land one of Germany’s biggest talents and to pair him with his compatriot in Timo Werner. 

Norwich on the other hand is headed back to the Sky Bet Championship after just one season in the Premier League.  

A disastrous 4-0 home loss to West Ham United where Michail Antonio scored all four goals; the only West Ham player to score four goals in one game in Premier League history, secured Norwich’s return to the second tier of English football. 

Despite some high moments including a 3-2 win over then-champions Manchester City earlier in the season, it’s been a disaster for The Canaries. 

Chelsea Odds Against a Disastrous Canaries Club

They’ve won a league-low five games, scored a league-low 26 goals and have conceded a league-high 67 goals. It’s going to be a difficult summer for Norwich as they have a lot of young talent who could be looking to leave the club after a taste of Premier League action. 

The likes of Ben Godfrey, Max Aarons, Jamal Lewis, Todd Cantwell, and Emiliano Buendia will be chased by top teams in the league and it’s unclear whether Norwich will be able to keep hold of their young stars. 

Norwich has lost their last seven games, scoring just one goal in the process. Their last win against Chelsea came back in 1994 and have lost five of their last six league meetings, dating back to 2012. 

Sportsbooks odds on a Chelsea home win open at -800. Odds on an unlikely Norwich away win (they’ve won just once away from home this season) open at +1600. Odds on a tie open at +850. 

Is This a Successful Season for Chelsea?

The unbelievable job Jurgen Klopp has done at Liverpool season has overtaken some impressive managerial jobs that has been on display this season. Chris Wilder and Nuno Espirito Santos of Sheffield United and Wolves, respectively have done a great job with their teams as they look on course for European football. 

Frank Lampard is another. With a transfer ban in his first two transfer windows as manager as well as managing the loss of Eden Hazard, not much was expected of Chelsea. 

However, he has them third with three games remaining and in an FA Cup semi-final knocking out Liverpool and Leicester City in the process. 

With Ziyech and Werner’s full impact coming next season as well as potential other signings, Chelsea looks to be a threat for years, and with everything they’ve had to deal with this season, they’ve been an impressive outfit and Champions League qualification will be the cherry on the cake. 

Liverpool v Burnley Odds Preview for July 11th 11/07/20, 15:00 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 35

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Liverpool Odds Against Burnley for July 11th

Liverpool needs three wins out of their last four games to break Manchester City’s points record and win total that would surely place them as arguably the greatest Premier League team of all time.

With two difficult fixtures coming up against Arsenal and Chelsea, the home game against Burnley is a must-win.

After a tense 2-0 win over Aston Villa, Liverpool traveled to Brighton & Hove Albion where a Mohamed Salah brace and a goal from captain Jordan Henderson saw off the home side that placed Liverpool on 92 points; back to 23 points ahead of Manchester City.

Salah is now on 19 goals, joint-third in the division with former red Danny Ings and only behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (20) and Jamie Vardy (22).

Liverpool’s next game against Burnley will be a hard-fought one if anything. The Clarets have just one loss in their last 12 games and their first game since the restart in what was a 5-0 defeat to Manchester City was that only defeat. Since then, they’ve gone four games unbeaten, winning three of their last four, including keeping three clean sheets.

Liverpool Odds to Continue Their Dominance Over Burnley

Nick Pope leads the division with 14 clean sheets, one ahead of Liverpool keeper’ Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson.

Liverpool has ever only lost to Burnley once in the Premier League; a 2-0 defeat back in 2016. Since their return back to the league in 2014, the two teams have met nine times since with Liverpool coming out on top seven times, tasting defeat once and drawing once.

Sportsbooks odds on a 31st league win for Liverpool open at -450. Odds on a shock Burnley win which would stretch their unbeaten streak to five games open at +1100. Odds on a draw between the two teams open at +550.

Is this Liverpool Team the Greatest in Premier League History?

I’m a Liverpool fan and I would love nothing more than a consensus on us being the greatest Premier League side of all time, unfortunately, there are a couple of things we need to do first that would greatly help our argument. 

Breaking Manchester City’s record of most points (100) and most wins (32) in a league side will go a long way in arguing in favor of Liverpool but first, let’s mention some of the great sides in league history. 

We just mentioned them, the 2017/18 Manchester City side cruised to their fourth Premier League title and first for Pep Guardiola. They finished 19 points ahead of second-place (Manchester United) and hold the record for the biggest margin of victory. 

The 2004/2005 Chelsea side who conceded just 15 goals in the season (a record that still stands). It was their win record and points record that stood for 12 years before City broke it a couple of years. 

I still think at this moment in time the Man City team of 17/18 is the greatest to grace the league but if Liverpool does what they need to do, it’ll be difficult not to go with them. 

MLS Is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group F Analysis

By: Matt Watkins 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group F Analysis

Who’s In Group F (Alphabetical): Houston Dynamo, LAFC, LA Galaxy, Portland Timbers 

Anyone who believes this wasn’t a completely random draw and that the MLS has an agenda in the tournament, either to advance certain teams or to feature rivalries, will point to Group F and say that if things were really random, there’s no way LAFC would be in the same pool with the LA Galaxy.  

It is MLS marquee head-to-head and will attract a major west coast audience for El Traffico. It also highlights a group that, for better or worse, shouldn’t see a ton of surprise.  

(Note: All times listed are EST) 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group F: Houston Dynamo

Synopsis: In the last several seasons, the most exciting thing about Houston has been its team name. I mean, Dynamo is pretty cool, right?? Dynamic on the pitch, however, it is not. Since entering the league with a bang, winning the MLS Cup in each of its first two seasons, Houston has missed the playoffs five of the last six years, though it did win a U.S. Open championship in 2018. 2020 wasn’t off to a great start either at 0-1-1 and just one goal against five conceded in its two matches.  

Reason for Optimism: When they do well, they do really well. If somehow, Houston catches fire, they tend to make extended runs in the postseason, an experience that would serve well in the knockout stage. Getting there is the issue.  

Cause for Concern: Lack of secondary scoring. Mauro Manotas has been an excellent striker for the Dynamo in his career, netting 43 goals in the last three-plus seasons since entering the starting lineup full time and has Houston’s only goal this year. If he’s having an off night, though, there aren’t many others who will pick up the scoring slack. Another reason: Houston has been DREADFUL away from home. Beginning with 2014, the Dynamo is just 10-57-19 away from the Space City. Draws won’t do it in this tournament. Wins advance teams and a .227 winning percentage on the road in the last six years doesn’t bode well.  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 18 vs. Portland, 8:00 p.m. – While I think the game against the LA Galaxy is a better matchup and more winnable, in order for that contest to mean anything, Houston has to have something on the table heading into its final match. That won’t come against LAFC in the first contest, so the Dynamo needs to get at least a point, preferably three versus Portland in order to not have their bags already packed prior to its finale. 

Prediction: Do not advance past group stage. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group F: LAFC

Synopsis: Despite only being around two seasons, LAFC has become one of the dominant forces in MLS, leading the league in scoring and winning the community shield in 2019. They were off to a 1-0-1 start in 2020 with both matches at home. One key note for LAFC came out on Monday afternoon as 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela will miss the tournament due to what is being called a “family situation.” (To note, Vela’s wife is expecting the couple’s second child. The team says it is completely behind Vela’s decision and that he should be with his family right now.)  

While not a natural striker, Diego Rossi will likely take over as a focal part of the offensive attack with Brian Rodriguez getting time on the wing. It probably won’t affect the group standings much overall, but it is something to watch for in the knockout stage. 

Reason for Optimism: Dominance. 21-4-9. That was LAFC’s record last season. 72 points, eight more than anyone else in MLS. The club scored the most goals in the league and conceded the fewest, resulting in a ridiculous +48 goal differential. They don’t just beat you, they take away your will to live. Both teams know LAFC is better than you before they step on the pitch. Then they prove it.  

Cause for Concern: Eastern Conference Elite. As good as LAFC is, it has at times, struggled to keep the top squads in the East off the board. Since the beginning of 2019, against the other 22 teams in the league, LAFC has surrendered 31 goals in 36 matches, 0.86 per match with 10 clean sheets. Against NYCFC, Atlanta, and Philadelphia, it has allowed nine goals in four matches. Just something to keep an eye on as the knockout stage progresses. 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 18 vs. LA Galaxy, 10:30 p.m. – The Galaxy has been the only Western Conference team that has displayed any ability to score consistently against LAFC. It’s the best chance for someone to give a game in the group stage. LAFC will still likely win the match or at least earn a point with Vela out, but his absence will shift the line in some way. 

Prediction: Advance to knockout with a heavy likelihood as group winner. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group F: LA Galaxy

Synopsis: While not the dominant team of the early 2010’s that won three out of four MLS Cups, the original Los Angeles entry into the league has remained a formidable foe, qualifying for the postseason in 23 of its 25 seasons. It’s a new Galaxy team, however, one that lacks big name star power and a willingness to display it as the days of Landon Donovan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robbie Keane, and Carlos Ruiz are gone. The talent is there with Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez up front, but LA needs to find a cohesion as it started the season 0-1-1.  

Reason for Optimism: Chicharito will play. There was concern when the Mexican standout, who has 52 goals in 109 caps for the national team, was subbed out at halftime of the Galaxy inter-squad game on July 2. The Galaxy GM stated it was just a precaution and he should be back in training and will travel with the team to Orlando. Even if him being at the tournament is decoy, it gives something for opposing managers to have to think about as the international star plays his first season in MLS.  
 

Cause for Concern: Jonathan dos Santos will not. The two-time MLS All-Star has been ruled out of the tournament due to injury requiring minor hernia surgery. Part of the rationale behind signing Chicharito away from La Liga was to pair him with dos Santos, a teammate on the Mexican national squad who can be very creative with his distribution, even as a holding midfielder. Now without dos Santos, Chicharito may be able to play, but who gets him the ball will be up for question. 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 13 vs. Portland, 10:30 p.m. – With Houston on the back end of its schedule, even a loss against LAFC in the middle game isn’t a tournament crusher. In order to make that matter, though, the Galaxy will have to play well and pull at least a point against Portland in the first match. That plus a win against the Dynamo and goal differential should see them through, but it all starts with the first match, which oddsmakers see as a tossup, as both have a +154 money line. 

Prediction: Advances to knockout. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group F: Portland Timbers

Synopsis: Maybe it’s just something in the water in the Pacific Northwest as, much like the Seattle Sounders, Portland doesn’t do anything great, but doesn’t have a glaring weakness. They’ve got championship experience, winning the MLS Cup in 2015 and advancing to the finals in 2018. They were 1-1-0 with a loss against Minnesota and a win against Nashville in 2020. 

Reason for Optimism: Play away from home. One thing about teams that are neither spectacular or deficient in any specific area is that their style usually translates to being able to play anywhere against anyone. In the last three seasons, they have averaged 15.3 points per season on the road, a solid number, which should travel relatively well to a neutral site.   

Cause for Concern: Secondary scoring. Diego Valeri has scored both of Portland’s goals in 2020 after an eight goal campaign last season. He was part of a dynamic trio that included Brian Fernandez and Jeremy Ebobisse. Fernandez had his contract terminated at the end of last season and Ebobisse has played a total of 23 minutes this season. Where is Valeri’s help if he can’t get loose on his own? 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 18 vs. Houston, 8:00 p.m. – With an even matchup to open the tournament, the onus to perform at the highest possible level comes in the middle game, against the weakest team in the group, to not just get three points, but also to build goal differential.  

Prediction: Does not advance past group stage. 

MLS Is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group E Analysis

By: Matt Watkins 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group E Analysis

Who is in Group E (Alphabetical): Atlanta United FC, Columbus Crew, FC Cincinnati, New York Red Bulls 

Group E is much like Group B in that the top team in the quartet should breeze into the knockout stage, with, at worst, two wins and a draw. Anything less than that for Atlanta would likely be a disappointment. New York should have a strong case for the second spot and be the only team to challenge Atlanta, but Columbus started the season well and is looking to come back to relevance.  

(Note: All times listed are EST) 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group E: Atlanta United FC

Synopsis: Not since Houston in the mid 2000’s has a team has come on and had such early success as Atlanta. United has never won less than 15 matches in any of its three seasons, made the playoffs each year, won the MLS Cup in 2018, took home the U.S. Open Cup in 2019, and went to the conference finals last year as well. They were also the only team in the Eastern Conference that started 2020 with a 2-0-0 record. 

Reason for Optimism: Josef Martinez. Simply put, for all the hype about names such as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and performances from players like Landon Donovan, Chris Wolondowski, and Kei Kamara, there has not been a more devastating offensive force than Martinez. He’s scored 77 goals in 84 regular season matches, set the league scoring record with 31 in 2018 when he won the All-Star, league, and postseason MVP awards, and is in the prime of his career at just 27 years old. If he’s on the pitch, Atlanta has a chance and should be favored.  

Cause for Concern: I’ll let you know when I find it. They score. They don’t allow a ton of shots. When a shot gets through Brad Guzan, who has 64 National Team caps and played nine seasons in the Premier League, usually stops it. They are the most complete team in MLS.  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 11 vs. New York, 8:00 p.m. – If anyone can give Atlanta a challenge in the group stage, it’s the Red Bulls. They are a tested and experienced team who, if they go down, it will be to the players on the pitch, not the name on the front of the kit.  

Prediction: Advance to knockout, VERY likely group winner. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group E: Columbus Crew

Synopsis: With the exception of a brief run from 2015-2017, it’s been hard times for one of the league’s original squads, who have missed the postseason four of the last eight years. 2019 may have been the toughest to swallow, tumbling to 10th in the Eastern Conference. The Crew got off to a decent start this season at 1-0-1, playing quality teams with a win against NYCFC and a draw against Seattle.  

Reason for Optimism: Defense. Even through its struggles, Columbus generally held offenses down last season, conceding 47 goals, the fourth fewest in the East and the eighth lowest total in the league overall. This year, they gave up just one tally in two games. 

Cause for Concern: Scoring. As well as they’ve traditionally held teams off the board, the Crew has trouble getting onto the board itself. The 39 goals it scored in 2019 was the third lowest total in the league and even with a win and a draw this year, Columbus found the back of the net only two times. 1-0 matches are not uncommon for the Crew, it’s just a matter of who has the one. 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 16 vs. New York, 10:30 p.m. – It certainly seems like how teams play against the Red Bulls is the determining factor as to how this group is going to go. Columbus’ contest with New York is no exception. With what should be a win against Cincinnati under its belt in its first match, the outcome of this contest likely determines the second team that advances from the group. If it’s to be the Crew, three points against the Red Bulls is a must (more on that later). 

Prediction: Do not advance past group stage, though it’s close. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group E: FC Cincinnati

Synopsis: An expansion team last season, Cincinnati was 10 points worse than the next lowest team in the league, going 6-22-6. It wasn’t looking much better this season with an 0-2-0 start. 

Reason for Optimism: Play away from home. FC Cincinnati went 3-11-3 away from Nippert Stadium in 2019. While that may not seem overly impressive, it was the same number of road wins as playoff teams New England and Dallas.  
 

Cause for Concern: Scoring. 34 goals in 36 matches in club history.   

Critical Group Stage Match: July 11 vs. Columbus, 10:30 p.m. – Being honest, there really isn’t a critical match for Cincinnati, who should go 0-3-0 in Orlando. If there is any chance to steal a point, let alone three, it’s in the opener against the Crew. Oddsmakers don’t see it though as Cincinnati is a hefty +325 underdog, the second worst money line of any opening match in the tournament, which is saying something considering the competition. 

Prediction: Do not advance past group stage. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group E: New York Red Bulls

Synopsis: The club the entire group hinges upon, the Red Bulls have been the model of consistency in MLS from the very beginning, qualifying for the postseason 22 of 25 years. They are experienced and make the playoffs on an annual basis, but have never achieved postseason success, only advancing to the MLS Cup final in 2008. They were 1-0-1 with a win against Cincinnati and a draw at Real Salty Lake in 2020. 

Reason for Optimism: Coaching. Chris Armas has been there before as a player for the National Team (64 caps) and in MLS (264 caps between the LA Galaxy and Chicago, spanning 13 years) and won 47 matches in four seasons at his alma mater as a coach. He will not crack under pressure and the club takes its lead from him.  

Cause for Concern: Goalkeeping. Luis Robles is gone after seven years as the starting keeper for the Red Bulls. David Jensen has been tabbed as the replacement. It is his first year stateside, following a four-year run with Utrecht in the top level of Danish professional soccer.  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 16 vs. Columbus, 10:30 p.m. – As we stated earlier, the outcome of this match likely determines the second team to advance from the group. The advantage the Red Bulls have here is their overall scoring ability. A loss to Columbus would be tough to overcome, but a draw in this match favors NY as its scoring punch, particularly if they pile it on against Cincinnati should give them a goal differential advantage if the Red Bulls and Crew both go 1-1-1.  

Prediction: Advance to knockout. 

MLS Is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group D Analysis

By: Matt Watkins 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group D Analysis

Who iin Group D (Alphabetical): Colorado Rapids, Minnesota FC, Real Salt Lake, Sporting KC 

Similar to Group A, D has a pair of teams that, in theory, should break away from the rest of the group if both history and the 2019 standings hold true with Real Salt Lake and Minnesota FC. Both were comfortably in the postseason last year with RSL making it to the conference semis for a second straight year.  

However, as Lee Corso, pundit extraordinaire of the “other” football would say, “not so fast, my friend!” Colorado surged at the end of last season, just missing the playoffs and KC was atop the table through the first two matches of the year. This very well could be the toughest group in the tournament with a good shot that someone, after having to beat each other up in group play, who would otherwise have chance at making a deep run, might not wind up advancing. 

(Note: All times listed are EST) 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group D: Colorado Rapids

Synopsis: Last year represented a changing of the guard in many ways for the Rapids, changing managers a third of the way through the season and moving away from the legendary Tim Howard in goal. Howard announced his retirement before the season and was on the bench for seven of nine matches late in the season before returning for his home farewell (a clean sheet, of course) and the season finale as Colorado had already been eliminated. Through it, the team that mustered just two points through the first 11 matches of the season, finished the year 12-7-4 and was 2-0-0 at the suspension of play in 2020.  

Reason for Optimism: Ball movement. Jack Price emerged as of the MLS top distributors in 2019 with 11 assists following four, most coming late in the year in 2018. Keegan Rosenberry has been able to spur a counterattack from his defensive placement, resulting in two assists in two games this year. Any time you have players who are creative enough to be able to move the ball in distribution, you’ll have a chance.  

Cause for Concern: Rust. For as bad as the Rapids began last year, they’ve been good this season. Something clicked along the way, even with a mostly returning roster. Clint Irwin made the net his area to defend and has done it well. Colorado was primed for a big season, will they be able to continue carry momentum after four months off?  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 22 vs. Minnesota FC, 10:30 p.m. – The standings to start 2020 were completely flipped in the Western Conference with three of the teams in this group all 2-0-0, including Colorado and Minnesota. If Colorado can match the firepower of Minnesota, there is a good chance they advance.  

Prediction: Advances to knockout, but write it in pencil as it will in likely be as a wild card. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group D: Minnesota United FC

Synopsis: After a couple of rough seasons to start the franchise, Minnesota finally broke out last year, qualifying for the postseason and gave the LA Galaxy a battle before falling in the final 20 minutes. Minnesota led MLS in goals through two matches, both road contests, in 2020.  

Reason for Optimism: They can score. A lot. When you face Minnesota, you need to be tactically strong and hold your shape in the back because they will shoot, shoot, and shoot at every opportunity. Need proof? 28 shots including 14 on target in two matches. United has three players with two goals already in this season. MUFC will find the back of the net.  

Cause for Concern: Experience. Minnesota FC is in just its fourth season and has only played in one postseason match. How do players hold up under pressure when they haven’t felt it on this stage before? This may not be a concern point in the group stage, but in a one-and-done knockout, it’s a different story. If there is a reason to temper those concerns, it would be last year’s run to the U.S. Open Cup finals. 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 12 vs. Sporting KC, 8:00 p.m. – These were the two teams that were atop the Western Conference when the season was halted. They’d scored as many as the next four highest scoring teams in the conference combined. The winner of this group opening tilt will hold a major advantage in advancement. It’s a testament to the scoring prowess of both teams that the oddsmakers don’t have a clear favorite here with both teams having a plus money line (KC – +179, Minnesota – +125). 

Prediction: Advance to knockout. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group D: Real Salt Lake

Synopsis: RSL has been steady throughout its history, advancing to the conference semifinals in 2018 and 2019 while qualifying for the postseason in 10 of the last 12 years. This year did not get off to a good start, however, with a pair of draws and just one goal in two matches. 

Reason for Optimism: Defense. A little quick math shows that if you’ve tied two contests while only scoring one goal, it stands that you’ve also only allowed one goal in those two matches. Zac MacMath has thusfar taken advantage of his second act as he hasn’t been a full time starter in goal in six seasons, but has conceded just one tally in 180 minutes this year. A large part of that comes from a back line that has forced him to see just four shots on target in that time. 

Cause for Concern: Scoring. Last year’s leading goal scorer for RSL, Albert Rusnak has mustered just three shots this year, none of them on target, and Sam Johnson hasn’t seen the pitch. Three scoreless draws won’t get it done. 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 12 vs. Colorado, 10:30 p.m. – The ability to keep the ball out of the net will be tested in the final two matches of the group stage, so Real Salt Lake needs to take advantage of the team in the group that has the least firepower, relatively speaking, if they want to have a chance.  

Prediction: Does not advance past group stage.  

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group D: Sporting KC

Synopsis: After eight consecutive years of making the playoffs and winning the Western Conference regular season in 2018, Sporting KC saw the bottom fall out in 2019, tumbling to 11th place, totaling just 38 points and posting a -18 goal differential, the first negative goal season since 2009. KC appears to have rebounded this year, starting 2-0-0, outscoring opponents 7-1.  

Reason for Optimism: Back Line. Sporting KC is a defense first team, always has been, which is what made a club record 67 goals conceded last year such an outlier. We’re talking about a team that allowed even 50 goals in a season just once since 2000. The back line has found its form again, allowing just six shots on goal in two matches. Granted, those matches were against Vancouver and Houston, but you have to start somewhere.  

Cause for Concern: Quality of competition. Remember when we just said that Sporting KC needed to start somewhere in its defensive rebuild? That somewhere was with the worst team in the conference last year and the worst team in the West early this season. That is all about to change.  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 12 vs. Minnesota, 8:00 p.m. – See description of this match under Minnesota synopsis. Rinse. Repeat. Any edge for KC comes from its defense.  

Prediction: Advance to knockout.

MLS Is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group C Analysis

By: Matt Watkins 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group C Analysis 

Who’s In Group C (Alphabetical): D.C. United, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, Toronto FC 

Ok, finally a group that has some intrigue as to who may or may not move on! Three of the four teams in the group made the Eastern Conference playoffs last season with the fourth team missing by just four points. Toronto made a surprise run to the finals, taking out top-seeded NYCFC and second-seeded Atlanta along the way. 

(Note: All times listed are EST) 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group C: D.C. United

Synopsis: David Beckham notwithstanding, Wayne Rooney may have been the biggest name to ever grace an MLS pitch and he made his impact felt for D.C. United the last two seasons, scoring 33 goals in 38 matches. Rooney has departed, but the success looks to continue as the team started 1-1-0 in 2020.  

Reason for Optimism: Defense. For as much as Rooney grabbed headlines, and rightfully so tallying 32.3 percent of the squad’s goals the last two years, it was the back line and keepers that kept the club in contention. Bill Hamid has been one of the top goalies in MLS throughout his career, posting a 1.23 goals against average through 233 matches. He had a 1.12 mark last season and a 0.86 mark in 14 contests in 2018. He will keep D.C. in any match, regardless of his team’s offense.  

Cause for Concern: Scoring. Rooney is gone and while players like Paul Arriola and Yamil Asad have the ability to step up, both are still relatively young and may or may not be ready to take the mantle of being the go-to guy.  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 10 vs. Toronto, 8:00 p.m. – It’s a tough call for all the teams in this group to say who the critical match is as no game is a virtual guarantee of three points. As we noted earlier, D.C. relies on its defense and keeping. As such, they held a potent Toronto offense to just one goal in two matches during the 2019 regular season. United also plays well on the road, going 6-6-5 outside the nation’s capital. D.C. needs to get at least one point from this matchup and if things break their way, they could get three. I’d be willing to take a flyer on United here as that +275 line is a tempting number for a team that can win the match outright.  

Prediction: Advances to knockout, but write it in pencil as it will in likely be as a wild card. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group C: Montreal Impact

Synopsis: Montreal has been the close, but not quite team in MLS since its appearance in the 2016 Eastern final. The club missed the postseason by four points each of the last two years, but got off to a good start this year with a 1-0-1 record with a win against New England and impressive draw at Dallas. 

Reason for Optimism: Playing well against good teams. Granted it’s only two games, but Montreal performed well in its first two matches of 2020. Contrast that to 2019 when it tended to beat lesser teams and lose to better ones. An advanced level of competition versus better opponents is generally a sign a team is ready to step forward.  

Cause for Concern: Play away from home. In its thee-year playoff drought, the Impact has gone 10-32-8 on the road. With three neutral site games, they will have to find a way to compete away from the Quebec faithful. 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 9 vs. New England, 8:00 p.m. – I promise, not all of these teams will have their first group match be the most important, but in such an even group, the initial opportunity in the standings is crucial. With Montreal already having a win against New England this season, the task gets tougher a second time around as the Revs will be out for revenge. 

Prediction: Do not advance past group stage. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group C: New England Revolution

Synopsis: The Revolution had to fight hard at the end of the season to make it into the playoffs before giving Atlanta all it could handle in a cheeky 1-0 setback where they made Josef Martinez a non-factor. The late surge broke a playoff drought for New England who started 2020 year 0-1-1 with a loss to Montreal and a draw against Chicago. 

Reason for Optimism: Hot starts in matches. That’s how the first two games of the season went for New England this year, scoring in the 13th minute against Montreal only to give up two goals later in the match. The Revolution opened the scoring in the 28th minute against Chicago only to see the Fire level the match with 20 minutes remaining. They can open well, but playing the full 90 minutes will be a big factor in a short tournament. 
 

Cause for Concern: Quality competition. If you look at the MLS standings through two games, it seemed abundantly clear that the Western Conference was better. Mostly crossover games were taking place in order to take advantage of warmer weather in the south and the west. But New England played two games against their own conference, mustering just a single point. That would not bode well as the season wore on with fewer games against theoretically easier competition. Just something to keep an eye on in Orlando.   

Critical Group Stage Match: July 16 vs. D.C. United, 8:00 p.m. – Ok, I promised that not every game would be the first one in the group, so this I where I deviate. Despite the season opening result, I can see New England getting one, if not three against Montreal in the first group game, which leaves its knockout stage hopes firmly lodged in its second contest. A good start may be enough against D.C., which is not known for its scoring punch, so an early lead may do it for the Revs. 

Prediction: Advance to knockout. 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group C: Toronto FC 

Synopsis: Offense led Toronto into the postseason last year and then carried it to the finals, scoring nine goals in its run through the Eastern Conference. A shortened tournament where each game is crucial is built for a club like Toronto, who is battle tested after winning the MLS Cup in 2017 and reaching the finals in 2016 and 2019. They were off to a 1-0-1 start in 2020 with a west coast road draw at San Jose before a 1-0 win against NYCFC. 

Reason for Optimism: Experience. This is a club that knows how to win in crunch time as its playoff experience shows. Given a chance to only need to win a handful of matches, but with all matches essentially win or go home, Toronto FC will have a chance to shine.  

Cause for Concern: Defense. Make no mistake, Toronto will score. Even in 2018 when it missed the postseason, it posted 59 goals and has averaged 60.3 goals per regular season in its run of making three of the last four MLS Cup finals. But it has also conceded its share of tallies, 116 in the last two seasons, in fact. They’ve only posted eight clean sheets total in 2018 and 2019. Quentin Westberg has, at least temporarily, supplanted Alex Bono as the top keeper. Will that be enough to hold down the opposition should the offense have an off day? 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 21 vs. New England, 9:00 a.m. – This match could be as much for seeding as anything else. Toronto should earn some points against D.C. United and Montreal. Winning this group has major implications because it means you will face a wild card team in the knockout stage, either the third place team from Group, B, D, or F, or the fourth place squad from Group A. If results play as they should in Toronto’s first two matches, a win against the Revs should secure the top spot. 

Prediction: Advance to knockout, slight edge to be group winner.

MLS Is Back Tournament – Group B Betting Preview

By: Matt Watkins 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group B Analysis

Who’s In Group B (Alphabetical): FC Dallas, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders, Vancouver Whitecaps 

Of all the groups in the MLS Is Back Tournament, defending MLS Cup champion Seattle may be the seeded team that has the easiest path to the knockout phase. With the talent level of the other three teams, any one of them could make it out of the group phase as well. I wouldn’t expect to see a wild card come out of here though as by beating each other up in group play, no one might have enough points to advance beyond the top two.  

(Note: All times listed are EST) 

The MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group B: FC Dallas

Synopsis: FC Dallas was the last team into the MLS postseason in 2019, but nearly pulled off the upset of the First Round, falling behind 2-0 against Seattle before knotting the match at 3-3 in the 82nd minute, finally conceding with seven minutes left in extra time. Dallas dominated at home last season, gaining a result in all but one game, but was woeful on the road at just 3-11-3. They started this season well with a home win against Philadelphia and a draw versus Montreal. 

Reason for Optimism: Scoring and a decent amount of it. FC Dallas was fourth in a stacked Western Conference in scoring in 2019 and registered four goals in its first two matches in 2020. Putting the ball away is not a problem. 

Cause for Concern: Positive COVID tests. It had to come up sometime and Dallas is the unfortunate ones to bear the brunt of it. Three players tested positive before getting on the plane and six more players, plus the coach have tested positive since arriving in Orlando. Since arriving, there have been two more positive tests, including at least one more player. Names have not been released of who has tested positive, nor should they be, but when 10 out of a potential 28 players that are either on the MLS roster or supplemental rosters are going to be out, it won’t be hard to figure out who, nor will it be easy to overcome on the pitch.  

Critical Group Stage Match: Vs. Vancouver, TBA – Originally, this match was scheduled for July 9, but has been pushed back at least a week due to positive tests on Dallas (which now has only 18 potential players available) and inconclusive tests, delaying Vancouver’s trip to Orlando. It still stands that given Seattle’s status as one of the best teams in the league and San Jose is always a playoff contender in the West, this is a MUST win game for Dallas against the weakest team in the group. Anything short of three points would be intensely difficult to overcome. Dallas is favored in this matchup at a -134, but that line could shift depending on what we hear as to who is available. 

Prediction: Do not advance past group stage. This may be different depending on who is actually on the field, but it’s hard to see FC Dallas advancing with the level of uncertainty around the team. 

The MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group B: San Jose Earthquakes

Synopsis: The first team outside the 2019 playoff bubble, San Jose started 2020 well with a draw against MLS Cup runner up Toronto before a 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Minnesota FC. One thing you’ll almost always get with a San Jose contest is scoring – both teams will do it in bunches. 

Reason for Optimism: San Jose has the aforementioned scoring punch. The Earthquakes put up four goals in two matches this season and netted 52 a season ago. Even at 37, Chris Wolondowski is still a capable striker, as evidenced by 15 goals last year.  

Cause for Concern: Conceding goals. San Jose needs to secure its back line, badly. While it’s easy to blame seven goals in two games on the keeper, Daniel Vega has had to face 14 shots on goal in those two contests. He’s had to face 177 in 36 games with the Quakes. Yes, he needs to do better, but that many shots is too many.  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 20 vs. FC Dallas, 8:00 p.m. – If you assume each has a loss to Seattle and a win against Vancouver, San Jose vs. Dallas on the final night of Group B play determines who advances with the final guaranteed spot from the group. 

Prediction: Advance to knockout. 

The MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group B: Seattle Sounders

Synopsis: After LAFC ran away with the community shield in 2019, Seattle was the best of the pack in the pack in a tight Western Conference. The Sounders won’t wow you with scoring, nor lock down completely on defense, but they’ll play a good, tactical, intelligent match on a nightly basis and are one of the toughest outs in the entire league. They rode that strategy to the MLS Cup last season and were up to their old tricks, downing Chicago and drawing against Columbus to start 2020.  

Reason for Optimism: A relatively weak group. By winning the cup last year, Seattle was one of the seeded teams in the tournament, which means they couldn’t have been placed in a group with either LAFC or Real Salt Lake. The draw gave them the teams that finished 2019 seventh, eighth, and last in the Western Conference a year ago.  
 

Cause for Concern: Scoring. Ok, this is really nitpicking, but it’s the only thing I could really come up with. The Sounders don’t have that true number nine who will take the ball at any time and make it happen (though you could argue that Jordan Morris is that guy), but they have two players who notched 10+ goals last season and Nicolás Lodeiro (didn’t play in either of the first two matches of year) is one of the finest distributors in the game. I’m sure Seattle will be fine, but if there is a problem, this is it.  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 10 vs. San Jose, 10:30 p.m. – The Sounders toughest game is their first one out of the gate. Even a draw probably locks Seattle into the top seed, but if San Jose can rise up and steal three, Seattle’s road gets bumpier. Seattle is heavily favored in this one at -106 compared to San Jose being +280. 

Prediction: Advance to knockout, likely group winner. 

The MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview for Group B: Vancouver Whitecaps

Synopsis: Our “thanks for showing up to round out the pool” award goes to Vancouver. The Whitecaps mustered just 34 points in 2019, registering last in the West and the fewest in the league last year for a non-expansion team. Vancouver was equally as bad at home (5-7-5) as they were on the road (3-9-5). The Whitecaps are just three years removed from a third place finish in the conference and were off to a 1-1-0 start this year, following up a season opening loss to Sporting KC with a win at the LA Galaxy.  

Reason for Optimism: Back line. Vancouver has allowed just five attempts on target in two games this year. 

Cause for Concern: Take your pick: Offense or goalkeeping. Even with a win, the Whitecaps have nine shots on goal in two games. Of the five shots Vancouver has allowed, Maxime Crepeau has seen three go past him. Neither one translates into a long stay in the Sunshine State. At least the players have a beautiful city to look out the window at for two weeks in isolation when they get back home (can vouch for it, took our honeymoon there. If you get the chance, go!)  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 9 vs. FC Dallas, 10:30 p.m. – If the Whitecaps have a shot in any game, it’s this one. With the uncertainty facing Dallas, there’s a chance for Vancouver to sneak one, if not three points and add a little intrigue to what is, on paper, quite frankly, a dull group. 

Prediction: Do not advance past group stage.

MLS Is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group A Analysis

By: Matt Watkins 

MLS is Back Tournament Betting Preview: Group A Analysis

Who is In Group A (Alphabetical): Chicago Fire, Inter Miami, Nashville SC, NYCFC, Orlando City, Philadelphia Union. 

Of all the teams in the MLS Is Back Tournament, Group A is the one that seems relatively cut and dry as to the top two teams that advance, but also is the one that has the most potential for controversy and intrigue for the third guaranteed spot. With six teams instead of the four all the other groups have, not everyone will play all the other teams. Is it an advantage for Inter Miami not having to face NYCFC? Is it a disadvantage for Chicago to not play Philadelphia, who, even though Philadelphia was the better side overall last season, struggled mightily against the Fire?  

(Note: All times listed are EST) 

MLS is Back Tournament Group A: Chicago Fire

Synopsis: The Fire just missed out on the postseason last year, despite a +8 goal differential, which actually tied Philadelphia for the third best in the Eastern Conference, but also underscored the up and down nature of the squad. They opened 2020 with a loss at Seattle before stopping back home for a bite to eat and then heading east, forging a 1-1 draw against New England. It’s been a while since Chicago’s heyday atop the league as the Fire has missed the playoffs the last two years and currently holds the MLS longest drought without an appearance in the conference semifinals, last reaching in 2009.  

Reason for Optimism: Relative early success against 2019 playoff teams. CenturyLink Field and Gillette Stadium are among the toughest places in MLS to play. That the Fire was able to forge a draw late against the Revs and only lost to the Sounders on a stoppage time goal in the second half could bode well for confidence moving forward. 

Cause for Concern: Um, who’s going to score? CJ Sapong didn’t play in either of the first two matches of the season. Nemanja Nikolic returned to Europe. Alexander Katai left for the LA Galaxy in the offseason and is currently a free agent. That trio accounted for 31 of 49 goals last season. If Sapong isn’t back, mustering just two goals in three matches isn’t out of the question for Chicago. 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 8 vs. Nashville, 10:30 p.m. – Taking on one of two expansion franchises in Group A, the Fire and Nashville FC tangle in the second half of the tournament kickoff doubleheader. While a win isn’t a guarantee of advancement with matches against Inter Miami and NYCFC remaining in group play, a loss to Nashville could end the hopes for the Fire just 90 minutes into the tournament. 

Prediction: Possible wild card if Sapong is healthy and plays to potential. 

MLS is Back Tournament Group A: Inter Miami

Synopsis: One of the two newbies to MLS this season, Inter Miami got a lot more publicity than its expansion counterpart due to star power in the owner’s box as David Beckham is one of the primary shareholders and the public face of the team. They have yet to play a home game, falling 1-0 to LAFC and 2-1 at DC United.  

Reason for Optimism: Inter Miami may be still looking to find its form at the top with just one goal in two games, but along the back, there are few keepers in MLS who are more tested than Luis Robles, who was signed as a free agent during the winter. Robles spent eight seasons with the Red Bulls, has 114 wins and a career 1.29 goals against average under his belt. He is also playoff tested with 23 postseason matches to his name.  

Cause for Concern: Scoring. Inter Miami tallied once and mustered just 12 shots on goal in two matches this season. 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 19 vs. Philadelphia, 10:30 p.m. – Opening with Orlando City and then Chicago next, it isn’t out of the question for Inter Miami to have two, perhaps even four points coming into the final group stage match. Either the third spot in Group A or a wild card berth could be on the line in the final contest of the group. 

Prediction: Advance to knockout 

MLS is Back Tournament Group A: Nashville SC 

Synopsis: The other 2020 expansion team, Nashville moves to the Eastern Conference for the MLS is back tournament for scheduling purposes. The club did not get any favors in the schedule to open franchise history, hosting Atlanta and traveling to Portland in March, dropping both matches.  

Reason for Optimism: The defense wasn’t terrible against Atlanta and Portland, only allowing four shots on goal in the two matches. The canary yellow kits also look pretty cool. 
 

Cause for Concern: Of the four shots on goal Nashville allowed in two matches, Joe Willis saw three of them go by. He’s been a backup for the majority of his career coming into this season and has a 34-56-25 record with a 1.66 goals against average in 10 seasons. Maybe there’s a reason why… 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 20 vs. Orlando City, 9:00 a.m. – It’s entirely conceivable, and probably likely, that Nashville will reach this match already eliminated from contention. Orlando City is the best chance to get a point in the table before heading home.  

Prediction: Do not advance past group stage. 

MLS is Back Tournament Group A: NYCFC

Synopsis: NYCFC won the Eastern Conference regular season last year by six points and outscored every other team in the conference by at least five goals. After gaining the First Round playoff bye, they were stunned in the conference semifinals by Toronto FC, mustering just one goal in the match. This season they were off to a humble start, losing a pair of 1-0 contests on the road at Columbus and Toronto. The road part of that is a key element as the strength of NYCFC came from defending their home pitch, going 11-1-5 at Yankee Stadium.  

Reason for Optimism: On paper, NYCFC should be able to rebound. The top five goal scorers are back with Héber Araújo dos Santos, Alexandru Mitriță, Valentín Castellanos, Maximiliano Moralez, and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi combining to find the back of the net 50 times last season.  

Cause for Concern: Slow start to the season. dos Santos and Mitriță, who combined for 27 of the goals were in their first MLS season after playing for lower division Euro clubs previously. Only Moralez has had any level of sustained success stateside. While seven wins away from the Bronx was the top mark in the East, playing at a neutral site without home supporters could provide a minor issue. 

Critical Group Stage Match: July 9 vs. Philadelphia, 9:00 a.m. – NYCFC won both matches against the Union last season, but the oddsmakers have this one as a toss-up at the moment, with both teams sitting at +150. A win puts them in the driver’s seat in the group.  

Prediction: Advance to Knockout, possibly as group winner. 

MLS is Back Tournament Group A: Orlando City

Synopsis: A team with a great fan base, but has scarcely given it a reason to cheer, Orlando City has never placed better than seventh in the Eastern Conference and 14th in the overall MLS standings. The last three seasons, the club has finished 10th, 11th, and 11th in the East. Consistent leadership would be nice as, counting interim coaches, Orlando City has had six managers in six seasons. It started 2020 with a draw against Real Salt Lake before a 2-1 setback at Colorado.  

Reason for Optimism: The schedule. Orlando City starts with Inter Miami and closes with Nashville, both winnable matches. If experience means anything, it should show up here. 

Cause for Concern: Never quite getting over the top. Orlando City has always been the team that is annoying and pesky, but at the end of the day, just hasn’t gotten it done.  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 8 vs. Inter Miami, 8:00 p.m. – Orlando City gets to start the tournament off as one of the two “hosts”. It says a lot that Inter Miami, the expansion team, is favored in this match at a -112 while Orlando City fans can clean up a tidy sum at a +260. Still, a good showing, even if it means just a point, could help spark a run. 

Prediction: Do not advance past group stage. 

MLS is Back Tournament Group A: Philadelphia Union 

Synopsis: In its 10th season last year, the Union finally fulfilled the promise it had previously shown. Leadership from Alejandro Bedoya and a balanced scoring attack propelled Philadelphia to the number three seed in the East and a heroic comeback against the Red Bulls in the First Round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. After a lackluster effort in the season opener at FC Dallas, the Union rebounded with a thrilling 3-3 draw at LAFC. 

Reason for Optimism: Balance. One of the best the biggest assets for the Philadelphia Union last year was having multiple options to score. The same should be true in the tournament as, while the majority of the defense will have to key on Kacper Przybylko who netted 15 goals last season, with Bedoya, Sergio Santos, Jamiro Monteiro, Ilsinho, and an emerging Brendan Aaronson, there will be plenty of options to find the back of the net. The Union might also have the easiest schedule in Group A. While starting with NYCFC isn’t optimal, not having to play Orlando City or Chicago, teams against whom Philadelphia has had some inexplicably bad results against in the past, is huge for the Union chances to advance. 

Cause for Concern: There was a time when Andre Blake was why you went to a Union match. He would dazzle in net and still does make a save or two a game that leaves an opponent scratching its head. His goals against average has crept up in the last couple years though, and his 2019 save percentage was the lowest of his career at 59.0 (compared to 71.2 in 2017 and 70.3 in 2018). Blake playing to form will be key, especially in the knockout stage.  

Critical Group Stage Match: July 9 vs. NYCFC, 9:00 a.m. – Starting with the defending Eastern Conference regular season champions isn’t the greatest deal, but even mustering a point against NYCFC will all but assure the Union of advancement with Nashville and Inter Miami left on the docket. Even a loss in the opening match doesn’t hurt too much, but better to get on the right foot. It’s an even match as the oddsmakers see it with both teams entering at +150. 

Prediction: Advance to Knockout, possibly as group winner. 

Brighton & Hove Albion v Liverpool Odds Preview 08/07/20, 20:15 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 34

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Liverpool Odds Against Brighton & Hove Albion for July 8th 

After Liverpool’s 4-0 defeat at City, spirits were somewhat deflated despite having already captured the Premier League. You never want to lose to your rival, especially in embarrassing fashion as Liverpool did. 

However, they bounced back as champions do, with a 2-0 home win over Aston Villa that secured Liverpool their 24th home win in a row. The game looked like it was heading to a stalemate until a Naby Keita pass found Sadio Mane who struck home from inside the box to open the scoring in the 71st minute. 

After two key saves from Alisson, Liverpool was lucky to still be ahead and doubled their lead through Curtis Jones’ first-ever Premier League goal to seal all three points for the home side. 

Liverpool remains on course to defeat Manchester City’s record tally (100) for a Premier League season and will need five wins out of their last six games to do it. 

No offense to Brighton & Hove Albion, but they are the easiest fixture on Liverpool’s remaining schedule, and anything less than a win would truly be unacceptable, again, no offense. 

Liverpool takes on a Brighton side in a weird bubble. You would bet on them to stay safe from relegation, but you wouldn’t bet a whole lot. They sit nine points ahead of the relegation zone and while that may seem like a lot, you never know what can happen in the English Premier League. 

Can Brighton & Hove Spoil Liverpool’s Party?

Brighton’s ability to get draws this season has essentially saved them from a return to the Sky Bet Championship. They have 12 draws this season, the joint-third most in the league, and draws to the likes of Leicester City, Wolves and Chelsea has proven to be valuable points in their fight to stave off relegation. 

As they host the champions on Wednesday evening, their head to head record is particularly damning when it comes to Liverpool. Their last win against Liverpool in all competitions came back in 1984 in the FA Cup. 

They’ve played 10 times since, with Liverpool winning nine and drawing once, including an active eight-game win streak. Liverpool won the reverse fixture 2-1 back in November, despite having goalkeeper Alisson sent off. 

Sportsbooks odds on Liverpool winning their 30th league game this season opens at -182. Odds on a Brighton home win opens at +500. Odds on a first draw in nine meetings between the two clubs opens at +320. 

Who Will be Sold in Liverpool’s Summer Clear-out?

Liverpool’s squad depth has gotten better over the last few years, there’s no doubt about it. However, compared to other great sides across Europe, there is no comparison. 

There is too much of a drop-off when substitutes replace the starters in the line-up, and this could result in a clear-out of the squad in the summer. 

The likes of Divock Origi, Xherdan Shaqiri, Dejan Lovren, and Adam Lallana could be casualties this summer as Liverpool look to beef up their squad depth as they enter the most important years for several of their key players’ career. 

When you have a squad and culture that Liverpool possess now, it’ll be criminal not to do everything in your power to make sure they keep winning as long as they can. 

Manchester City v Newcastle Odds Preview 08/07/20, 18:00 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 34

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Manchester City Odds Against Newcastle for July 8th 

I started my last Manchester City article saying: “This has been the story of Manchester City all season. 

“They’ll earn a couple of impressive wins in a row and look to go on a run, only to be stopped in their tracks with another loss on their record.” 

Well, that’s pretty much what happened. After such an impressive 4-0 win over Liverpool, which laid a marker for next season, by the way, they traveled to Southampton to get back to back wins and stop the cycle of inconsistency. 

After Ederson was caught off his line, Che Adams’ 40-yard strike nestled in the back of the night which was his first Premier League goal in 25 games this season. A man of the match performance from Saints’ keeper Alex McCarthy was a big reason Southampton claimed all three points as his goal was impenetrable as they earned their 13th league win of the season. 

For City, it’s yet another setback and their third loss in their last six games. It’s unacceptable with the talent they have that they’ve lost more games (9) this season than Manchester United (8), Wolves (7), and Arsenal (8) while losing the same amount of games as Sheffield United.  

Manchester City Odds to Right the Ship Against Newcastle

They travel back to Manchester on Wednesday as they host an improving Newcastle side who are on their longest unbeaten run of the season. 

They’re unbeaten in their last six games including wins over Southampton, Sheffield United, and Bournemouth. Newcastle and Manchester United are the only teams to remain unbeaten since the restart which has seen the magpies rise to 12th in the table with a good chance of finishing in the top half of the table. 

Since losing three in a row in late December and January, Newcastle has suffered just two defeats in their last 12 games. 

The two clubs met just last week in the FA Cup where City saw off Newcastle 2-0 to reach the semi-finals where they face Arsenal in an attempt to defend their trophy. 

City’s last win against Newcastle, however, came back in September 2018 as the last two league meetings were a draw and loss for City. 

However, that one loss for City against Newcastle is the only loss since 2005 they’ve suffered against Newcastle in the league. 

Sportsbooks odds on City bouncing back with three points open at -900. Odds on a Newcastle win opens at +2000. Odds on a draw between the two clubs opens at +900. 

What Has happened to Gabriel Jesus?

The Brazilian has struggled in recent weeks as he’s come into the side for the injured Sergio Aguero. Jesus is one of City’s and Brazil’s brightest talents, but the shine has seemed to have darkened as his form has taken a deep dive. 

Despite netting 10 times in the league this season; which is a respectable figure for a player who doesn’t start every match, he has just one goal in his last 11 matches and for someone leading the line at one of the top clubs in the world, it’s just not good enough. 

He’s seen as the successor to Sergio Aguero, but every year Aguero stays, Jesus gets a year older and less patient to wait for his time as City’s undisputed number nine. 

Jesus must perform but after losing Leroy Sane, City must be wary not to lose the Brazilian. 
 

Crystal Palace v Chelsea Odds Preview 07/07/20, 18:00 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 34

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Chelsea Odds Against Crystal Palace for July 7th

Chelsea bounced back from their 3-2 loss to West Ham United with an emphatic 3-0 win over Watford on the fourth of July. Olivier Giroud, Willian, and Ross Barkley were the scorers as the blues returned to fourth after temporarily dropping to fifth after Manchester United’s 5-2 win over Bournemouth earlier on in the day. 

Willian has been in hot form since returning to action with four goals in his last four games and has finally looked worthy of being Eden Hazard’s successor of the number 10 shirt at Chelsea. 

Christian Pulisic is another whose game has reached another level recently with two goals in the last four games as well winning the penalty in Chelsea’s second in the 3-0 win against Watford. 

Chelsea restored the two-point lead over Manchester United and after Wolves’ 2-0 loss to Arsenal now find themselves five points behind Chelsea with five games to play. 

The Blues have three tricky away games in their next four games started including Sheffield United and Liverpool, but their road trip begins at Selhurst Park against a struggling Crystal Palace side. 

After a four-game winning streak which included a 2-0 win over Bournemouth upon the Premier League restart, Palace has lost three on the trot, failing to score a single goal in the process. 

A 4-0 thrashing by Liverpool, followed by a 1-0 home loss to Burnley, ending with a 3-0 loss by the hands of Leicester, a game in which Jamie Vardy ended his goal drought and became a member of the Premier League Hundred Club, has seen Palace slide to 14th in the table after being a regular fixture in the top half of the table. 

Chelsea Odds to Keep Palace on Their Heels

Palace has difficult fixtures coming up against Chelsea, Manchester United, Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur, and if it wasn’t for their four-game winning streak in February and early March, Palace could be in a dangerous situation near the bottom of the table. 

Chelsea has reigned supreme over Palace in the last two years, winning four league games straight including the reverse fixture in November, winning 2-0. In their last six fixtures, Chelsea has won four and lost twice with their last loss to Palace occurring in October 2017. 

Sportsbooks odds on a Chelsea win opens at -222. Odds on Crystal Palace returning to winning form opens at +650. Odds on a draw between the teams opens at +333. 

Does Tammy Abraham Have a Future at Chelsea?

After the signing of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig, the spotlight immediately went on Tammy Abraham and how the new signing will affect his place in the team. 

Since the restart of the Premier League, he’s started just two games and come on as a sub in the remaining three games and remains goalless since the restart. 

Abraham hasn’t scored in the league since January 11th when he netted in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Burnley. The return to form of Olivier Giroud who’s netted twice since the restart has culminated in fewer minutes and when Werner is ready to play, you better believe that Abraham will get even fewer minutes and could spell the end of his long association with Chelsea

Manchester City v Liverpool Odds Preview 02/07/20, 20:15 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 32

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Liverpool Odds Against Manchester City

Guys, it’s official, Liverpool are PREMIER LEAGUE CHAMPIONS! The Merseyside club’s first-ever Premier League title and first league title since 1990 was confirmed after Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea.

The triumph took over the news that night and the following day as one of the most infamous droughts in British football was ended 31 games into the season. Footage of Liverpool players and staff watching the Chelsea and Man City game went viral as well as their celebrations when Willian’s late penalty put Chelsea 2-1 up.

Jurgen Klopp was in tears when being interviewed on Sky Sports as well as captain Jordan Henderson who became the first Liverpool captain to lead his team to a Premier League trophy. It was a special day for everyone involved with Liverpool Football Club and a sad one for those associated with Manchester City.

Not only did they lose the battle against Chelsea, but they inevitably lost the war to Liverpool and in spectacular fashion.

To add insult to injury, Pep Guardiola confirmed his City team will give a guard of honor to Liverpool; a customary tradition that one team claps for the newly crowned champions. However, they can gain some redemption back when they host Liverpool on Thursday evening.

Despite an encouraging start to the restart with a 3-0 win over Arsenal and a 5-0 crushing victory over Burnley, City slipped to an eighth league defeat against Chelsea. City has lost two more games than Wolves (who did the double over them) and have lost the same amount of games as ninth-placed Arsenal this season.

Liverpool Odds After Being Crowned Champions

Liverpool on the other hand, bounced back from a 0-0 draw against Everton to absolutely dominate Crystal Palace 4-0 at Anfield. It was the first time an opposition side had no touches in their opponent’s box since OptaStats began tracking that statistic in 2008.

In recent seasons, Liverpool and City have been tough to separate. In their last six league meetings, both clubs have won twice, lost twice and drawn twice. Liverpool did come out on top 3-1 in their last meeting back in November last year.

Sportsbooks odds on Liverpool doing the double over City open at +230, while odds on City defeating the new champions opens at +100. Odds on a draw between the two most recent Premier League champions opens at +275.

Can Liverpool break the Premier League points record? 
 

Liverpool is currently on 86 points with seven games left in the season and no team in Premier League history has had more points at this stage of the season. The current points record is 100, set by Manchester City in their 2017/18 title-winning season. 

If Liverpool wins every remaining game this season, they will finish on 107 points, however, they still have to play the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal. 

They can afford to lose two more games this season while winning the other five and I for one will not count out the champions from making history yet again. 

Liverpool v Crystal Palace

By: Fasika Zelealem

Liverpool Odds Against Crystal Palace for June 24th

After Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Everton on Sunday evening, we found out that the game brought in 5.5 million viewers in the UK which made the match the highest watched Premier League match ever in the UK. I’m pretty sure the viewers feel that the match certainly wasn’t deserving of that title.

To be frank, it was a slow and boring match with Everton getting the better of chances and would have gotten all three points if it weren’t for two key saves by Alisson late in the game. The absence of Mohamed Salah and Andy Robertson proved pivotal as Liverpool couldn’t get into their usual swagger and lacked the threat of Robertson on the left-hand side and the constant runs in behind by Salah. 

It again shows the need for summer additions if Liverpool wants a long period of success because, as good as the likes of Divock Origi and Georginio Wijnaldum are, Liverpool need more dynamism in both midfield and attack. 

Nevertheless, they are one step closer to their title triumph and they follow up their derby day draw with a return to Anfield against an in-form Crystal Palace side. 

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Liverpool Odds to Take All Three Points Against Crystal Palace

Palace won their first game back comfortably in a 2-0 away win at Bournemouth as they rose to ninth in the table, two points off Sheffield United and three points behind Tottenham Hotspur who occupy the last remaining European qualification spot. 

After a span of one win in 11 games from early December to mid-February, Palace was in danger of getting dragged into a relegation battle especially after three consecutive losses to Southampton, Sheffield United, and Everton. However, they bounced back with three consecutive 1-0 victories over Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion and Watford before the suspension of the league. 

Palace has historically caused problems for Liverpool as they remain the last side to defeat the league leaders at home in the Premier League, which they did way back in April 2017. Liverpool has, however, rectified their recent record against Palace by winning the last five meetings between the two clubs. 

Sportsbooks odds on Liverpool getting one win closer to the Premier League title opens at -400, while odds on Palace again beating Liverpool at home opens at +1000. Odds on a tie between the two clubs open at +500. 

Mohamed Salah’s Golden Boot Odds to Make it a Three-Peat

After the apparent knee injury that Sergio Aguero suffered against Burnley as well as the current dip in form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and current Premier League top scorer Jamie Vardy, the door has opened for Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah to overlap the aforementioned players to a potential third consecutive golden boot award. 

Salah is tied with Danny Ings and Sergio Aguero with 16 goals behind Aubameyang’s 17 goals and Vardy’s 19. Sportsbooks have Salah’s odds of netting in his first game back against Palace opening at -137 and his odds of claiming this year’s golden boot has increased to +450, behind Aubameyang and Vardy. 

Manchester City v Burnley Odds Preview for June 22nd

Manchester City Odds Against Burnley for June 22nd

Manchester City looked back to their best on Wednesday night as they dispatched Arsenal by three goals to nil. Goals from Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, and Phil Foden capped off a dominating performance by the champions as they won their first game back in the Premier League.

The five subs rule means that City will be able to do even more damage from the bench with the amount of talent that warms the sideline every game. The fact that Sergio Aguero was City’s fifth sub just demonstrates the insane levels of squad depth that City possess.

City moved six points ahead of Leicester City in third as their stranglehold on second place gets stronger nearer the conclusion of the season. Despite the inclusion of German winger Leroy Sane in the matchday squad for the first time since August, he was an unused substitute in the game. Reports after the game made the rounds that Sane rejected a new contract at City and indeed wants to leave with newly crowned German Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich the overwhelming favorite to land the 24-year-old.

Manchester City Odds to Stomp Burnley

City gets back to action swiftly with another game at the Etihad Stadium where they host Burnley in what will be the latter’s first game back since the suspension of the league.

Sportsbooks odds on a City home win open at -800, while a Burnley win over the champions open at a staggering +1800. Odds on a tie open at +800.

Burnley sits 11th in the table with 39 points where a win against City will see them overlap Arsenal in 10th as well as get them level on points with Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur.

Before the season was halted, Burnley was one of the in-form sides in the league as they went on a seven-match unbeaten run from January to March, which included impressive wins over Leicester City and away to Manchester United. The upturn in form occurred after their worst stretch of the season where they lost four on the trot and started to slide into dangerous territory near the bottom of the table. However, their quick turnaround has all but secured their Premier League safety for yet another year for Sean Dyche and his players.

Could Manchester City Go Unbeaten for the Rest of the Season?

Consistency has been a constant thorn in the side of Manchester City this season as shock losses have derailed their league form time and time again. However, with the restart and the return of Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane, City has all their weapons back which will always be dangerous to the rest of the league; even Liverpool. 

City has two games remaining against the top six in Chelsea and Liverpool while six of their nine remaining fixtures are against sides in the bottom half. With City’s ruthlessness looking reenergized in their win over Arsenal, I’ll be surprised if Liverpool’s 20-something point lead over City is kept intact come the end of the season. 

Everton vs. Liverpool Odds Preview 21/06/20, 19:00 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 30

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Liverpool Odds Preview Against Everton

Liverpool would have already been crowned Premier League champions if the league had not been suspended, you know, probably. However, the Premier League is back, and Liverpool can continue their quest on their long-awaited league triumph.

Liverpool takes on Everton in both clubs’ first games back since the restart of the league and what better way to kick off the first round of games than a Merseyside derby.

Liverpool is a team that may have benefitted from the suspension of the league. The last few games Liverpool played before the league halted were littered with inconsistent and underwhelming performances.

A 3-2 win over relegation candidates West Ham United worried fans as the league leaders conceded two goals in one game for the first time since their 5-2 win over Everton in December. A stunning 3-0 loss to Watford ended Liverpool’s incredible 27-game unbeaten streak and dismissed any ideas of an invincible season.

A 2-0 loss to Chelsea in the FA Cup ended dreams of a league and cup double as well as getting knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Atletico Madrid following a 3-2 defeat in extra-time at home.

An extended break mentally and physically could prove to be refreshing to a team that’s been under the spotlight since day one.

The same could be said for Everton; not the spotlight thing, that’s preposterous, but the club was on a downward spiral nearing the suspension of the league after initial good form under Carlo Ancelotti. The Italian managed five wins in his first eight Premier League games before a 3-2 loss to Arsenal and a 4-0 loss to Everton sandwiched by a 1-1 home draw with Manchester United.

Will Liverpool Ever Lose to Everton?

The recent record between the two clubs is both incredible and embarrassing at the same time. Liverpool has not lost a game against Everton in all competitions since 2010. Everton’s last win came in October of that year in a 2-0 home win. Everton has also not won a game against Liverpool on the road in all competitions since 1999. 

I was five months old when Everton last secured a win at Anfield, terrible, isn’t it? While there has been a lot of draws in recent years between the two teams, Liverpool has started ramping up the wins with two already this season with a 5-2 league win in December as well as a 1-0 home win in the FA Cup in December.

Sportsbooks odds on Liverpool going one step further to the title opens at -188, while odds on Everton derailing the trophy parade for another week with a win opens at +450. Odds on a tie open at +333.

With Manchester City’s win over Arsenal in midweek, that means Liverpool cannot mathematically win the title with a win over Everton, however, it does increase their chances of winning it at Anfield, albeit without fans.

Aston Villa vs. Chelsea Odds Preview 21/06/20, 16:15 PM Kick-Off 2019/20 Premier League Season, Week 30

By: Fasika Zelealem 

Chelsea Odds Preview Against Aston Villa

The return of the English Premier League immediately thrusts Chelsea back into their chase of UEFA Champions League football. Before the suspension of the league occurred, Chelsea sat fourth in the table and three points ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United and five points behind third-placed Leicester City. 

Chelsea’s last league game was a 4-0 home win over Everton, a win that was their second in three games following a poor run of just one win in their last six games including losses to both Newcastle United and Manchester United. 

The London club is one of many who would have benefitted from the extended break as players who may not have been fit for the rest of the season have had time to recover from injury and play a part for the rest of the season. 

The likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and N’Golo Kante are back in training and are big additions to the Chelsea side as they look to confirm their participation in the Champions League next season in Frank Lampard’s first year as manager. 

Manchester United is one side who’s massively benefitted from this as Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford who looked set to miss United’s final stretch of the season are now back fit and ready to help them qualify for the Champions League after a year out of Europe’s top club competition. 

How Will Aston Villa Look Upon Return to Action

Chelsea’s opponents on Sunday have very much different aspirations for the rest of the season. Aston Villa played the first game back since the return of the league where they drew 0-0 at home to Sheffield United. 

They were lucky however to claim a point after Oliver Norwood’s free-kick fell beyond the goal line of Aston Villa but according to goal-line technology, the ball didn’t cross the line and a goal was not given.  

Villa, who sits 19th in the table is a favorite for relegation and sportsbooks has them returning to the Sky Bet Championship after just one season in the top-flight at odds of -300.  

They suffered four consecutive defeats until the suspension of the league where they lost 4-0 to Leicester City back in March. Despite their poor form, they remain just one point from safety and have the same points total as 16th placed West Ham United. 

Can Chelsea’s Incoming Signings Boost Their Chances of UCL Qualification?

Chelsea confirmed the summer signing of Ajax playmaker Hakim Ziyech back in January and today secured the signing of RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner, beating Liverpool to the punch. 

Not only are they two top talents who immediately improve the quality of Chelsea, but they also cost a combined £78.6 million; to demonstrate the incredible business that is, Arsenal signed Nicolas Pepe and the disastrous David Luiz for £80 million, amazing right? 

Chelsea possesses odds of -150 to make the top four and the signings of Ziyech and Werner who arrive in summer will only drive the Chelsea squad to deliver European football to two players who’ve played in the competition with Werner making the quarterfinals this season with Leipzig. 

For the game on Sunday, it’s only worse news for Aston Villa whose last win against Chelsea came back in 2014. Since then, they’ve lost five consecutive league games to Chelsea including a 2-1 loss in the reverse fixture back in December. 

Sportsbooks odds on Chelsea to defeat Aston Villa open at -188, while Villa’s odds to win in their second game back since the restart opens at +450. Odds on a tie opens at +333.