Premier League Betting: Back dark horses for the Top Six and lay two London teams
The winter break is still in full flow in the Premier League, so Jasmine Baba takes a look at the state of play in the Top Six market...
We're just over two-thirds into the 2019/2020 Premier League season and unfortunately, for neutrals and for those who like to find value in the title race, it looks like Liverpool have already claimed the bragging rights for this year with their stonking 22-point gap at the top of the table. You can still lay them at 1.01, but that would be in vain.
There's still bets to be had, however. The Reds' might have run away with the league, but for those chasing European football, the race hasn't been tighter with only six points separating fourth and ninth place. But who looks good enough, and at the best price, to finish in the Top Six this season?
Chelsea - 1.09
Position: 4th - 41pts Remaining games: Man Utd (H), Tottenham (H), Bournemouth (A), Everton (H), Aston Villa (A), Man City (H), West Ham (A), Watford (H), Palace (A), Sheff Utd (A), Norwich (H), Liverpool (A), Wolves (H)
First up, Chelsea. Frank Lampard's side are 1.09 to remain in the European hot spots, mainly because they have a five point advantage over seventh place and no one looks close to maintaining a run to pip them at fourth, let alone pushing them down beyond that.
However, their form since November hasn't been the most consistent. From November 23, they've picked up just four wins from 13 matches, losing six and drawing the other three. They now have back-to-back league games against other Top Four and Top Six hopefuls in Tottenham and Manchester United. Losing either of them will give momentum to their direct rivals, and drawing will just boost the positions of those in touching distance.
With their price so short and a bunch of mediocre results, I'm going to go against xG, which has them as the third best team in the Premier League table based on underlying process (Expected Goals For / Expected Goals against), and have a small priced lay on Chelsea at 1.13.
Sheffield United - 3.50
Position: 5th - 39pts Remaining games: Brighton (H), Aston Villa (A)*, Norwich (H), Newcastle (A), Man Utd (A), Tottenham (H), Burnley (A), Wolves (H), Chelsea (H), Leicester (A), Everton (H), Southampton (A) * - Match postponed
The surprise package of not only the fight for Top Six but also just a general shock in the league, newly-promoted Sheffield United were one of the favourites to be relegated before the season got underway but are now laughing in fifth position, ahead of Spurs, Manchester United and Arsenal; three teams they're currently unbeaten against.
They're more Wolves than Wolves were last season.
The Blades are underrated in this market too. Unlike Chelsea, Tottenham, Man Utd and Wolves, they don't have extra games due to the Champions League or the Europa League. They only have the FA Cup to worry about, which is easily managed with their squad especially with their additions of Sander Berge from Genk and Panagiotis Retsos from Bayer Leverkusen, on loan to name a few.
But that's not all, they don't have to play Liverpool or Man City again, which was four of their seven defeats all season. Understandable. Their other three defeats came against Leicester and Southampton at home at the start of the season, and the only other game which they slipped up in was again at Bramall Lane against Newcastle. They don't lose many anymore, their defence is only bettered by Liverpool in the league and with their unbelievable strength away from home, they could definitely stay in the Top Six.
Infogol's expected goals table has them in ninth place at this stage of the season, and forecasts them to finish ninth, but their expected goal numbers are only improving as the season goes on, meaning it wouldn't be huge surprise to see them hang around in the European race.
Chris Wilder's side are trending in the direction that Infogol expects to see from a top six side, so combine this with the fact that they are extremely difficult to breakdown and beat, and they are a good bet to qualify for European football at 3.50.
Tottenham - 1.40
Position: 6th - 37pts Remaining games: Aston Villa (A), Chelsea (A), Wolves (H), Burnley (A), Man Utd (H), West Ham (H), Sheff Utd (A), Everton (H), Bournemouth (A), Arsenal (H), Newcastle (A), Leicester (H), Palace (A)
Tottenham. Fully chaotic Tottenham. I'll gloss over the North London club sacking of Mauricio Pochettino, but the hiring of Jose Mourinho hasn't exactly improve the squad as their fans were hoping. Although they're unbeaten in their last three which included the 2-0 win over Man City, they're riding their luck. For instance, even though I've not followed xG for the last two teams, Tottenham are the team currently furthest away from their expected position (6th in PL, 14th in xG table). A good example of this is that victory over the defending champions.
What's most worrying, however, is that seven of their 13 remaining games are away from home and Tottenham are abysmal on the road. They've only won two out of the 12 (Wolves and West Ham), drawing five and losing the other five. The ones to play will also be tough; Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Palace will be battling to avoid relegation and on the other side Chelsea and Sheffield United will be trying to stake their claim in Europe. Paired with the loss of Harry Kane and Moussa Sissoko to injury and it looks like Mourinho's men could miss out.
Everton - 4.60
Position: 7th - 36pts Remaining games: Arsenal (A), Man Utd (H), Chelsea (A), Liverpool (H), Norwich (A), Leicester (H), Tottenham (A), Southampton (H), Wolves (A), Aston Villa (G), Sheff Utd (A), Bournemouth (H)
I have to be honest, I was a cynic over Carlo Ancelotti's appointment at Everton. His training methods aren't one of the modern-era coach that you get but more of an old-style manager who believes players can motivate and train themselves to which he provides the tactics for. I thought the Toffees needed the former and evidently, I am wrong. Ancelotti's appointment has been so revolutionary that only Liverpool (24) have won more league points than Everton (17) since his first game in charge in December. Their last five form reads WWDDW.
There is a warning backing them at this price if you think they can make a breakthrough of the current Top Six. Their last five were against teams in the bottom half of the table. Out of the 12 games left, eight of them are against the top half including a tough run of Arsenal away (note; away, I do not believe Arsenal are a tough test usually), Man Utd, Chelsea and the cherry on top that is the Merseyside Derby. The Toffees are still partial to get stuck too, like throwing a 2-0 lead away at home to Newcastle deep into extra time to finish 2-2.
That being said at 4.60 it's worth having a small bet on them; xG has them forecasted to finish eighth but expected to be sixth currently. Everton being in seventh position, means they're not far off what the statistics are saying, and the league is the only thing they're competing in...
Manchester United - 2.16
Position: 8th (on goal difference) - 35pts Remaining games: Chelsea (A), Watford (H), Everton (A), Man City (H), Tottenham (A), Sheff Utd (H), Brighton (A), Bournemouth (H), Aston Villa (A), Southampton (H), Palace (A), West Ham (H), Leicester (A)
At the current price of 2.16, I wouldn't touch Manchester United to finish in the Top Six. They're a bit like Everton in terms of xG, only swapped around (expected to be eighth which is their position but forecasted to be sixth), so there's still a chance for them.
However, they've only won one of their last five games and the most disappointing of those results was a 2-0 home defeat against Burnley. They're 10th in the away form table and still have tricky games having to travel to Chelsea, a possibly in-form Everton, Tottenham and Leicester. Add to the fact they still have to play a Manchester derby and a resilient Sheffield United, one can only wonder how many slip ups are in store for them.
It's a perfect storm too. Mismanagement of the club had left them devoid of strength in-depth with the long-term injuries to Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford until they signed Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo- if that's enough, you have a manager who seems limited in what he can achieve and an environment that doesn't seem to be efficient. In terms of xG, they have been on the decline for some time after a decent start to the season (xG-wise), so it's too much of a risk at the price and there's better value elsewhere.
Wolves - 2.60
Position: 9th (on goal difference) - 35pts Remaining games: Leicester (H), Norwich (H), Tottenham (A), Brighton (H), West Ham (A), Bournemouth (H), Aston Villa (A), Arsenal (H), Sheff Utd (A), Everton (H), Burnley (A), Palace (H), Chelsea (A)
Last but not least, Wolves. They're a tricky team to place and their recent form isn't encouraging, winning only once in their last six games (D2-L3).
They're not as feared as they once were - especially against the Top Six - they've only managed to do the double against Man City out of them, Man Utd, Chelsea, Tottenham, Liverpool and Arsenal (W2-D3-L3), they have seven games to play at Molineux but have the worst home form out of any of the teams mentioned in this piece (12th) and dropping points against Leicester could mean game over. They're a better bet than Man Utd however; being a bigger price, xG is forecasting them to finish fifth and they have, in my opinion, a better squad. But there are too many draws in the team to back them at 2.60 when they are also through to the knock out stages of the Europa League.