Welcome back after a week off, but welcome back to a week of Premier League matches where several squads will be without key players as they’re off on international duty. We’ll take whatever we can get as we’re officially into the second half of the season – and the battles are heating up.
It’s not over until it’s mathematically over in a league as competitive as England’s top competition, but Manchester City is doing everything in their power to put first place out of reach for the other 19 clubs. They currently sit 10 points up on second-place Chelsea, 11 points up on third-place Liverpool, and 19 points clear of missing out on a Champions League berth. What a season it’s been thus far for the Sky Blues.
They’ve got a chance to put another nail in the field’s coffin this weekend as they take on Chelsea – the team within closest striking distance. There are 10 other matches this week, including one make-up game from earlier in the season, and here are my two favorite wagers on the slate.
Liverpool / Brentford Under 2.5 (+125)
You’re playing with fire when you take Liverpool unders – understood. But this weekend’s Reds squad will be severely undermanned because of international duties for some of their top players. The Reds need every point they can get their hands on, so I expect less of an all-out attacking style and more of a methodical approach and a low-scoring affair.
Jordan Henderson on Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Naby Keita:
“We will miss players of their quality – any team in the world would – but in the dressing room we have only best wishes for the three of them as they play for their countries in a massive tournament.” #awlive [lfc] pic.twitter.com/Dcn82XdDVc
— Anfield Watch (@AnfieldWatch) January 11, 2022
Liverpool will be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita against Brentford. That’s 26 goals and 11 assists across just three players this season. Diogo Jota will be ready to go, but he can’t do it all by himself. I still expect the Reds to pull this one out, but 1-0 is the most likely outcome. And Brentford, despite being 13th in the standings and tied for 11th in goals allowed, is much better defensively than they’re given credit. They’ve allowed just 22.0 expected goals on the year, eight fewer than the actual number of goals they’ve let in. There’s been a ton of bad luck involved, and without Liverpool’s key players in the lineup, this could be an opportunity to regress towards the mean.
The Bees have also been stingy against the league’s top teams; they allowed just a goal each to Chelsea and Manchester City. They’re not in danger of relegation just yet, but there’s no time to sit back and relax in this league. Brentford needs every point they can get, and against a weakened Liverpool squad, expect their full effort as they attempt to steal a point that many had probably chalked up to a sure-fire loss.
Brentford also has tallied the 13th-fewest expected goals in the league, and chances won’t be any easier to come by against the Reds. Liverpool has only allowed 18 goals all year – that’s fourth-fewest in the Premier League – and it’s no fluke. They’re tied for third-best in terms of expected goals allowed and as I mentioned in the open, look for the Reds to rely more on their defense than usual in this one. Play this under only down to +120.
Everton / Norwich City Both Teams To Score (-120)
These are two terrible defensive teams, and the worse of the two is going to be on short rest after playing a make-up game mid-week. We could see some fireworks in this one, but because I see more value on the BTTS line – that’ll be the play.
Norwich City battled West Ham on Wednesday, and the Hammers are a side that’ll tire you out and quickly. The Canaries are already shorthanded enough, and now they’ll need to manage their legs and their lineup as they set for this weekend’s clash with Everton. Neither team can defend their end. Norwich has allowed the most goals in the Premier League with 44, and Everton isn’t far behind; they’ve given up 32, which is sixth-most.
It’s been rough of late for these teams as well. The Canaries have allowed 13 goals in the last five matches and have posted a clean sheet just once in the last 11 games, while the Toffees have allowed 16 goals in the last seven games and haven’t shut out an opponent since early November. These squads are hemorrhaging goals and look to be just what each other needs to post some consistently good offense finally.
We’re getting strong value here because Norwich hasn’t scored in five games. I’m not going to say “they’re due” because that’s not a real way to handicap a wager, but they’re certainly primed to finally break the ice against an Everton side, allowing over two goals a game over the last two months. I love that the weaker team in the Canaries is the home side here; they’ll have their supporters at their back as they scratch and claw for every point to avoid relegation. They are motivated to keep up with a stronger Everton team, so play this one down to -130.
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