Matchweek 2 Preview

What a great start to the Premier League season we had as Manchester United, Man City, Arsenal, and Liverpool all get their wins while Chelsea, Southampton and Watford all underwhelmed. Sheffield got a surprise point away at Bournemouth while Leicester and Wolves drew in what was an a disappointing match. Brighton and Burnley both surprised everyone with 3-0 wins as well and currently sit 4th and 5th respectively.

This Season: 7-2-1 (+5.1 Units)
Matchweek 1: 7-2-1 (+5.1 Units)

We have another great slate of matches this week so let’s build on Matchweek 1.

Saturday, August 17th
7:30 am EST

Burnley @ Arsenal (TV: NBCSN) – Burnley are coming off their great result at home to Southampton where two Ashley Barnes goals guided them to a 3-0 win. Arsenal meanwhile had a somewhat dodgy win at Newcatle, but getting a clean sheet away from home with a ‘B’ squad was big (they had only 1 away clean sheet in 19 matches last season). I expect water to find its level as Arsenal will likely have Ozil and Kolasinac back with the rest of their ‘A’ squad and their return to the Emirates will surely spark some good form. I think Burnley regress to their poor away form from last season and in general and fall to Arsenal handily here. Arsenal -1.5 (-110).

10:00 am EST

Bournemouth @ Aston Villa (TV: CNBC) – Villa Park should be raucous for this one as Aston Villa host Bournemouth in their first home match in the Premier League. Bournemouth are coming off of a disappointing draw at home against Sheffield while Villa lost to Spurs 3-1, but showed some really positive flashes for the first 60 minutes. Bournemouth meanwhile had trouble against a newly promoted team who many believe will finish 20th. I love Villa in this match not just because of the home-field advantage but also because I think their aggressive attack can and will cause Bournemouth some issues. I’ll take Villa on the pickem line even with the juiced price. Aston Villa Pickem (-135).

West Ham @ Brighton – Brighton might have been the story of Matchweek 1 as they went to Watford and beat them 3-0. Yeah three goals is great but I think the fact that they kept the clean sheet is the biggest thing to take away from that game. West Ham aren’t a tall task and their 5-0 loss to City is surely an outlier, as they can surely end up fighting for a top 10 spot this season. I actually think Brighton regress just a bit while West Ham, who are desperate to get their first set of points, will come out of the gate firing. I’ll lean West Ham on the pickem line with the positive price. West Ham Pickem (+105).

Watford @ Everton – Just like West Ham, both of these teams will be desperate for points but for different reasons. Watford, coming off an embarrassing home loss to Brighton, are looking for their first points of the year and to not lay a goose egg after two matches. Everton are looking to build off of a draw at Palace where they had to hold on for the point after a Schneiderlin red card. Everton actually played well enough as they had a 1.22 xG (expected goals) and the majority of chances, but the last 15 minutes they were resorted to seeing out the draw. I’m not going to put my trust in Watford just yet and I’m expecting Everton to get three points here. Everton -0.5 (-135).

Newcastle United @ Norwich City – *checks notes*, ah more teams looking for points. Both of these teams might be fighting each other to survive come April and May and this could end up being a big match for both. Newcastle did not look good against Arsenal and their attack is of big worry to me. Norwich meanwhile actually held their own against Liverpool in that second half and even ended the match with an xG of 0.84, while Newcastle at home only mustered a 0.37 xG. I think Norwich get their first win of the season here against a Newcastle team who might take a while to find their identity. I also love their price at (+115). Norwich City -0.5, (+115).

Liverpool @ Southampton (TV: NBCSN) – I hate trying to predict what managers will do after a short week with travel (especially from Istanbul) but I can’t imagine Klopp plays his full starting XI. It is also being reported that Adrian, the keeper who has come in to replace the injured Alisson, was injured after the penalty shootout in Istanbul. This might now leave third string goalie Andy Lonergan, who has never played a Premier League match, the starting role for this match. Southampton meanwhile are coming off of a big loss at Burnley where their xG and almost all other stats actually outperformed their opponents but they still lost 3-0. That says a lot about their lack of execution but I think they have a lot of value as one-goal underdogs here. They’re home, playing an ill-rested and possibly weakened Liverpool team and they’ll be hungry to prove themselves. I’ll take the home dogs with a positive price. Southampton +1 (+110).

12:30 pm EST

Tottenham @ Manchester City (TV: NBC) – We get to the match of the weekend with two of the top six’s best squaring off in Manchester. City obviously are the team to catch this season but this would be a great moment for Spurs to gauge where they stand against the league’s best. But one thing that worried me about Spurs this past weekend was their poor start and how they allowed Villa to take it to them for a lot of the first half, at home no less. That won’t fly when playing City who can put multiple goals past you in the first 20 minutes. I think City will be the ones with the statement here at take it to Spurs who will find trouble getting a foothold early on in the match, eventually coming back to bite them with a possible large halftime deficit. Manchester City -1.5 (-105).

Sunday, August 18th
9:00 am EST

Crystal Palace @ Sheffield United (TV: NBCSN) – Sheffield look to build off their impressive draw in their first Premier League home match in twelve years. Palace meanwhile aren’t trying to build off their draw because they probably believe they should have gotten three points this past weekend. Points for Palace are much more of a necessity here than it is for Sheffield and that’s way I’ll take them on the pickem line. Crystal Palace Pickem (+105).

11:30 am EST

Leciester @ Chelsea (TV: NBCSN) – I can’t get a feel on this match at all. On one hand I think Leicester are massively improved and could be a team that top 6 teams should fear, but on the other hand Chelsea just impressed this week in the Super Cup. But then we go back to the concern of travel, rest and possible lineup changes for Chelsea and I’m hesitant to pick them. I also don’t think Leicester are ready to take three points from a team like Chelsea but the Foxes can make it really tough on them. So I’m going to try to pinpoint some value here and nail the draw which has a great price at well over 2/1. DRAW (+260).

Monday, August 19th
3:00 pm EST

Manchester United @ Wolves (TV: NBCSN) – This is a match that could rival City/Spurs for match of the week. Wolves were known top 6 killers last season and in the three times Wolves played United, they had 2 wins and 1 draw. United had a great start to the season with their big 4-0 win over Chelsea but I think they’re due for some sort of regression. Teams coming off of big wins and having to travel to tough opponents tend to find that regression and I think Wolves might be one of the last teams United want to see. Yes, Wolves had a Thursday Europa League qualifier match but they played a lot of reserves, it was at home and it might actually help them prep for this match since they’re getting a lot of their bench/reserve players some quality minutes. I’m taking the home dogs here in Wolves. Wolves +0.5 (-140).

That’s all for this weekend’s Premier League action. All of the marquee matches are at reasonable times (10:00 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm and 3:00 pm) this weekend so make sure you catch some footy and possibly make your wallet just a bit bigger on Monday morning.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo 

Champions League Final Preview

The match everyone waits for all season long is finally here as Liverpool are back for revenge after losing to Real Madrid last season and will face Tottenham who are here for the first time in their history. I’m going to go over what each team has going for them as well as what they don’t have going for them and of course a bet for the match. Let’s rock and roll.

This Season: 212-169-48 (+15.8 Units)
FA Cup Final: 1-1 (-0.1 Units)
(
+15.8 units = $100 bettor has won $1,580 this season)

As I said earlier, Liverpool will look to avenge their loss from last season where Real Madrid beat them 3-1 in Kiev. Luckily for them they won’t be playing the 13-time winners and are instead playing Final debutants, Tottenham. Yeah Spurs aren’t Madrid from the last few seasons but they’re still someone Liverpool should be genuinely worries about. Spurs are a team who they play at least twice a year and they haven’t necessarily comfortably beaten them as of late. Over the last 9 meetings between the two, Liverpool have only won four and only one was by more than 1 goal. Each of the meetings this past season were tight as Liverpool won both 2-1, but needed a late own goal to beat Spurs at Anfield in March. So what does Liverpool have going for them on Saturday?

Obviously Liverpool are known for their front three (Mane, Firmino and Salah), who have been outstanding this season, but it isn’t that far and away better than Spurs’ front three (Lucas, Kane and Son). Instead I’m going to focus on the impact that their outside backs have had this season. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson combined for 30 assists this season with TAA earning 12 in the Premier League and Robertson 11, good enough for third and fourth in the league respectively. If Spurs press too much, which they likely will, and don’t have the proper protection on the wings to prevent those outside backs from moving forward, they will be in serious trouble. Liverpool love to move the ball through the midfield then push the ball wide so the outside backs can whip balls into the box or attack the endline with pace.

Another thing that Liverpool have going for them is their defense, specifically with Virgil Van Dijk, which ranked first in the Premier League in goals conceded. Van Dijk will be key in stopping that Spurs front three which will likely be returning Harry Kane for the first time in almost two months. Since Spurs will likely play Son and Lucas on the wings to prevent the outside backs from having space, it should make VVD’s job a bit easier in marking Kane. If Spurs spread themselves too wide and don’t offer the proper help for Kane, it could leave him stranded which would be a dream scenario for VVD and Liverpool. But expect VVD to be shadowing Kane or whoever starts up top on Saturday.

So what are some negatives for Liverpool? Well they will likely be without Firmino, or at least a not 100% Firmino, and Keita has been officially ruled out. That is not good news especially if Firmino can’t start as there isn’t a like for like replacement for the Brazilian. They’ll also be facing a Spurs team who will be returning one of the better strikers in the world in Harry Kane, someone who they got to this stage without. Adding that threat might make this team even stronger and gives that already potent offense more weapons. In games with Harry Kane this season Spurs were 24-3-12 (W-D-L) while without him they went 9-2-7 with an average of 0.7 goals per game. That doesn’t mean he will come back and score goals, but it does mean that he has the ability to provide a spark to the offense or at least make the defense focus more attention on himself and less on Son and Lucas.

For Spurs, things are much more simple than people believe. If they can play their game; press and cause turnovers, then they should cause Liverpool issues. When Spurs press effectively it allows their front three who are doing the pressing to gain possession in key areas with enough space to create quick chances. If they can do that effectively and provide Kane, Son or Lucas with chances inside the 18, they can surely nab a goal.

Another thing that Spurs really have going for them is they seem like the team of destiny in this tournament (trust me that matters). They had to get through Man City in the Quarterfinal in dramatic fashion and then they had to score three second half goals including a 96th minute winner to beat Ajax in Amsterdam in the Semifinal. They won’t have as much pressure as Liverpool since this is their first ever Final and they owe almost nothing to their fans in that respect. Liverpool meanwhile are looking to avoid back to back defeats in Champions League Finals. Adding to that, Spurs have been great in matches away from home in this competition when their backs are against the wall. Bottom line; they’ve gone through the gauntlet and won’t be scared of this Liverpool team.

What are some of the negatives for Spurs? They have also been hit by the injury bug as Sanchez, Rose and Winks are all doubtful. Even Kane might not start because he may not be able to go a full 90 minutes let alone 120 if it goes to extra time. We don’t know what their starting XI will be on Saturday and that should worry Spurs fans. The only thing that we know for sure about Spurs is the midfield trio of Eriksen, Alli and Sissoko. Good luck to Pochettino in picking that starting XI.

How do I think the game will go? Well usually in Finals it takes about 15 minutes for both teams to settle and get the wheels moving because nobody wants to make an early mistake. I don’t think that will happen in this match. Both teams know each other very well, they both press and play a fast-paced style and they both have a few potent goal-scorers. I love the over 2.5 in this match both due to the points I just made (expected back and forth style, goal-scorers and familiarity) and because of the history. Both matches between these two teams went 2-1 this season, 5 of the last 6 matches they’ve played have had at least 3 goals and 6 of the last 8 Champions League Finals have had at least three goals. Outside of the total, I can’t get a read on this match with Liverpool as favorites. I think that’s a fair line for both teams and there isn’t much to exploit from it. Take the over and enjoy what should be a crazy match. Over 2.5 goals (-110) 3 UNITS.

I’d like to thank everyone for following along this year. A year and a half ago I started this for fun and it’s turned into something that became fun for everyone else as well. I recorded a podcast last night for the first time with Gos (@oh_my_gos on twitter) to recap the Europa League Final, this past Premier League season and to preview Saturday’s Champions League Final. We honestly just pressed record and talked for an hour so take it with a grain of salt, but I think it’ not half bad. Take a listen and let us know what you think!

https://soundcloud.com/nicolas-pelaez-86089003/can-i-kick-it-europa-league-recap-and-champions-league-final-preview

Thanks again for another amazing season! I will be providing a few updates shortly after the Final that I’m sure will intrige you all (*eye emojis*).

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Liverpool v. Barcelona Champions League Semifinal, Leg 2

What a title race this is becoming in England as City now sit one point above Liverpool with one match to play. The drama has been intense week in and week out and it didn’t stop this past weekend. Both teams had tough tests and both teams proved why they are having two of the best seasons in Premier League history. Liverpool needed late heroics at Newcastle as a Divock Origo scored a winner in the 86th after both teams traded goals for the whole match. Sadly Mo Salah suffered a scary head injury and looks to be out for the rest of the season, including this match agains Barcelona on Tuesday.

City meanwhile hosted a Leicester team who were totally up for it, but they prevailed 1-0 due to an absolutely insane goal from Vincent Kompany. How insane is it? It’s only his 18th goal in 11 seasons in the Premier League, his first shot on target outside of the box in 6 years and his first ever goal outside of the box. It’s by far the best goal he’s ever scored and it might be the one that wins the title for City.

Now we put that title chase on pause for the second leg of the Champions League Semifinals between Barcelona and Liverpool.

This Season’s Record: 205-161-47 (+17.4 Units)
Matchweek 37 Record: 4-2-1 (+2.5 Units)

Barcelona (3) @ Liverpool (0) (TV: TNT) – This is an odd game because Barca basically have it in the bag already and if they score one more it’ll be completely over. Second legs are also always odd because they are never normal matches. What I mean by that is that there’s usually already a score and both teams’ strategies will surely change throughout the match. When one team is up so much and has such a large cushion, you have no idea how they are going to play it, defend the whole game or try to put it away. But there was a system I used back in the Quarterfinals that worked pretty well and it has some historical data to back it. I’m going to apply that here as well.

In this season of the Champions League, 14 of the 17 2nd-leg knockout matches have had at least 3 goals. Last season, both semifinals in the 2nd leg had at least 4 goals. If we expand that stat over the last 10 years, 14 of the 20 2nd legs in the Semifinals have had at least 3 goals. Adding to that notion, every match that went 3-0 or better in the first leg (4-0, etc…) had at least three goals in the second leg, occurring three times. For this match specifically, I think it has a good chance to go over even without Salah and Firmino because both teams will be looking to score goals quickly. Liverpool have a massive mountain to climb and have no option but to go for it early and Barcelona will look to end the entire thing in the first half. Also, if you’re not properly defending Messi or Suarez then you’re in deep trouble not just on the break but if Barcelona sustain any sort of possession.

I expect Barcelona to not give in early, making sure they don’t provide Liverpool with any momentum but at the same time absorb a bit of pressure. Their goal is to keep a clean sheet in the first 30 minutes while trying to hit on the break to get that coveted away goal.

I hate the pickem line because I can’t rule out a Liverpool comeback at Anfield but I also think Barcelona could just keep running away with it. Also if Barca score first, they can allow four more goals and still go through, making the spread for either side really vulnerable. Meanwhile the over thrives in these situations. Over 3 goals (-105).

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Matchweek 37 Preview

Before we get into this weekends preview let’s go over Barcelona v Liverpool in the first leg of their Semifinal.

On paper you’d think Liverpool were able to get a result as they had more of the ball, more shots, and even more passes completed. But the scoreline says a completely different story as Barcelona ended up throttling Liverpool 3-0. They failed to achieve two of my three key points; stopping Messi and keeping a clean sheet/scoring an away goal. They did well to contain Messi for a lot of the match but there were times that the entire Liverpool defense went into panic mode whenever he had space, which allowed the lanes for Suarez and Coutinho to open up. On his first goal he was unmarked in the box and put away one of the easier chances of his career. That’s what happens when you take your eye off of him for 5 seconds in the box.

It also didn’t help that Messi scored one of the greatest free kicks we’ve ever seen. It was so good that the Liverpool players couldn’t even complain and it even made Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp smile on the touchline. 30 yards out, at 61 miles per hour and perfectly in the top corner. I really recommend watching the goal HERE. Liverpool now have a massive mountain to climb especially since they don’t have an away goal in their back pocket.

This Season’s Record: 201-159-46 (+14.9 Units)
Barcelona v. Liverpool: 1-0 (+1.0 Units)

Saturday, May 4th
English Premier League
7:30 am EST

Tottenham @ Bournemouth – This is an interesting one because how Spurs line up will say a lot about their commitment to their top 4 finish and their Champions League Semifinal on Wednesday. Son was rested on Tuesday against Ajax because of his suspension but they’ll be without Vertonghen, Kane and several other rotation players I’m sayursay both because of rest and injuries. They have enough of a cushion in the league where if they drop points, a top four finish is still likely. I think they’ll end up resting a few players because of their upcoming trip to Amsterdam. Their form worries me as they’ve only had one win in their last five matches and away from home they’ve gone 1-8 in their last 9. Bournemouth haven’t been fantastic either but they’re coming off of a 3-3 draw at Southampton where they showed that they can grind out a result especially by scoring goals. This is a great opportunity for Bournemouth to steal some points and I’m going to take them as home underdogs. Bournemouth (+0.5, -110).

10:00 am EST

Fulham @ Wolves – Fulham have been in fantastic form ever since they got relegated, winning three straight. But those matches weren’t far-fetched wins for the club and they’ll now have to face their first real test in Wolves. They’ve gone 0-4 in their last four matches against top-8 opponents with a -9 goal differential which makes for an average loss margin of 2.25. Wolves meanwhile have gone their last three matches unbeaten, with a win away at Watford and a win at home to Arsenal. They’re playing well enough to halt Fulham’s form in it’s tracks and they’re still fighting for that 7th place spot. A win here and a Leicester loss at City could guarantee that spot. I’ll take them on the spread at home. Wolves (-1. -110).

German Bundesliga
9:30 am EST

Nurnberg @ Wolfsburg – Nurnberg’s draw against Bayern last weekend was nothing short of spectacular, but it’s a one-off performance In my opinion. Adding to that, Schalke’s win at Dortmund puts Nurnberg’s hopes of survival at almost 0 as they now have an 11 point gap with 5 matches left. They’ll face a Wolfsburg team who have performed up to their standard over the last few matches, covering or pushing in most of them. They’re also still within an earshot of qualifying for European competition next season as they sit only 2 points behind the last Europa League spot and 4 points behind the last Champions League spot. Three points would be crucial in maintaining that quest for Europe and I trust them to get those points at home here. Wolfsburg (-1, -105).

Sunday, May 5th
English Premier League
9:00 am EST

Watford @ Chelsea – Chelsea will be coming off of their 1-1 draw at Frankfurt in the Europa League Semifinals while Watford will have a full week’s rest. I always like fading teams late in the season when they’re coming off of major travel, especially against clubs with a full week’s rest. Also, Chelsea’s recent results have been somewhat uninspiring as their only win in their last five matches was at home to Slavia Prague in the Quarterfinals of the Europa League. Yes Watford are coming off of a home loss last weekend, but they’ve been pretty good against top-6 clubs away from home this season. They’ve only failed to cover once against those teams in their last four tries and rank 8th in the league in away goal differential. I think they can cause Chelsea some serious trouble, especially if Sarri decides to rest some starters before the second leg against Frankfurt. I’ll take them on a spread that I think is 0.5 points too many. Watford (+1.5, -125).

Spanish La Liga
6:00 am EST

Girona @ Getafe – This is one of the more intriguing matches of the weekend as Getafe are still clinging on the the last Champions League spot and Girona are still at risk of relegation. Due to those factors, Getafe only sit as -0.5 favorites, but I think Vegas is severely underestimating how good this squad is. In their last few matches, Getafe have drawn Real Madrid, beaten Sevilla handily and had a home win against Bilbao. That’s three major results against three top-7 clubs while Girona are 1-6 in their last 7 matches. Yes, Girona’s sole win came against Sevilla last weekend (which ironically helped Getafe tremendously in the race for 4th), but overall Girona aren’t a team that Getafe should be too scared of. I love Getafe at home here to continue their quest for their first Champions League birth in 8 years and only their second ever. Getafe (-0.5, -125).

German Bundesliga
7:30 am EST

Augsburg @ Schalke – Schalke are coming off of their biggest win of the season as they dismantled rivals Dortmund and possibly ruined their chances at a Bundesliga title. Shockingly though, they still sit in the last safe spot in the league, but with a six point cushion. Meanwhile Augsburg sit only one point above them. If either of these teams can get three points, it’ll likely guarantee survival for that club. Although Augsburg have had a few good results as of late, they haven’t won in any of their last ten away matches, with their last win coming back in October. I trust Schalke, who are surely buzzing after their win last weekend, to take care of business at home and guarantee survival. Schalke (-0.5, -125).

Italian Serie A
9:00 am EST

Atalanta @ Lazio – This is probably the best match in Italy this weekend, outside of maybe the Turin derby between Torino and Juve. Atalanta come into this match in great form as they have won three straight matches and have gone unbeaten in their last eleven matches. Lazio meanwhile have had a few good wins including against Milan an Inter, but they’ve also dropped points to Chievo Verona, Sassuolo and SPAL. They’re also 2-3-1 in their last six and sit four points behind the final Champions League spot held by Atalanta. Atalanta will also have to play Juve in a few weeks and would feel much more comfortable going into that match with a three point cushion in their 4th place spot. I feel much more comfortable picking an Atalanta team who have had steady and consistent results against a Lazio team who are somewhat out of sorts right now. I’m even going to go as far as taking their moneyline at 2/1. Atalanta (+200).

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Wednesday, 4/17 Champions League Quarterfinal Preview

Tuesday Recap:

  • Ajax did it. They went to Juventus and didn’t just win, they absolutely dominated again. They’ve now out-classed Real Madrid and Juventus on their way to the semifinal and pose a serious threat to win it all. A squad with the average age of 24 and with half the starting lineup born after their last Semifinal in 1997, might be the scariest team in the world right now.
  • Barcelona did what most people thought they would do in crushing United 3-0 at home. Messi’s first goal was an absolute piece of art and so was Coutinho’s for the third. United looked completely helpless and it’s obvious they’ll need a couple years to get back to where they want to be on the European stage.

This Season’s Record: 187-151-44 (+5.9 Units)
Tuesday Champions League: 2-1 (+1.0 Units)

Wednesday, April 17th
3:00 pm EST

Liverpool @ FC Porto – Liverpool have a comfortable 2-0 lead going into the second leg and an away goal would all but seal their ticket to the Semifinals. But going to Portugal and facing this Porto team isn’t necesarilly an easy task. In fact in the Round of 16 this year, Roma had a 2-1 lead after the first leg and lost in the second leg 3-1 after extra time in Porto. But there’s something about this line that makes it really tough to pick a side. With it only being (0.5), part of me wanted to take Porto as home underdogs but picking against this Liverpool team might be a bad idea right now. And on Liverpool’s side, picking the favorite with an already two-goal lead is arguably just as dangerous. But I did find something with the total that I liked.

Looking at the last two Champions League campaigns, I collected some data about over/unders in the second legs. Last season, 6 of the 8 matches went over 2.5 goals in the 2nd leg of the Round of 16, 3 of the 4 matches went over 2.5 goals in the 2nd leg of the Quarterfinals and both 2nd legs of the Semifinals went over 4 goals with an average total of 5. This season, 7 of the 8 2nd legs in the Round of 16 went over 2.5 with an average of 4 total goals and both Quarterfinals on Tuesday went over 2.5. That’s 13 of the last 16 2nd leg knockout matches going over 2.5, a pretty staggering trend.

Why are 2nd legs so high-scoring? Often one, or both teams, have to ditch normal tactics and either go for the win/goals or they have such a big cushion that letting up goals isn’t the end of the world. Another reason is because sometimes a passive approach is taken in the first leg, to ensure that both teams have a good chance in the second. I think these thought processes fit here. Liverpool have a comfortable lead and one away goal would seal it while Porto will surely try to go for it as they were more passive in the first leg, only trying to get that away goal.

I honestly think Liverpool can add a few goals for themselves with how good their front three is and Porto’s offense is very good at home as well. I also think Porto has a real opportunity to make this a game and if they can get the first goal, they’ll force Liverpool to get that coveted away goal to put the tie away. If the game opens up like that early I expect there to be goals and if it doesn’t and Porto throws everything at Liverpool, I expect Liverpool to counter and score goals with their front three. Bottom line; I think the floodgates could open here. Over 2.5 goals (-105).

Tottenham @ Manchester City (TV: TNT) – This is obviously the match of the day as City will look to reverse their one-goal loss in the first leg and Spurs will look to pull a shocker and sneak into their first ever Champions League Semifinal. Both teams have a lot to prove so let’s dive into it.

Spurs will be without Harry Kane, their top goalscorer for the last five years, and they’ll now have to rely on Son, Eriksen, Llorente, Lucas and Alli for their production. But when Kane was out earlier in the year in January, they won five of their seven matches including their first leg against Dortmund in the Round of 16. But let’s put a little context in those matches before we rush to judgement.

Away from home in that span they went 1-2 with their only away win being at now relegated Fulham. Their two losses were to Chelsea and Palace right after that Fulham match, and then they went on to win four straight home matches against Watford, Newcastle, Leicester and Dortmund. A couple things stand out to me there; one being that they didn’t perform well away from home and another being that they couldn’t beat the only top 6 team they played. But it’s not just that they’re poor away from home without Kane, it’s that they’ve been poor with him too. They’re 1-6 in their last seven away from home and this will be their first away match in four matches since they lost to Liverpool 2-1. That doesn’t bode well going into an Etihad Stadium where City have won their last 12 matches with a goal differential of +46, an average win margin of 3.8.

We all know what Man City can do and it’s no secret that this will be very tough for Spurs. Before their loss to Spurs last week, City went 14 straight unbeaten with the most recent eight being wins. Their best players are currently in excellent form with Sterling and De Bruyne on absolute fire as of late and De Bruyne didn’t even get more than 5 minutes last week in the first leg. If they can survive the press that Spurs will likely put on and are able to build from the back, they will 100% be successful in creating the necessary chances in this game. It was the one thing that was missing last week, the link from the back to the forwards, and I think De Bruyne’s addition will be that final link to the forwards.

City should have all of their starters ready to go for this with the likelihood of Delph if he’s even considered such, unlike Spurs who will be without Kane and likely Winks while subs Dier, Lamela and Aurier should miss the match as well. I think City run away with this one starting with an early goal and not looking back. The line, sitting at (1.5), is perfect for this match as City will likely have to win by 2 goals. This is basically me betting on City to advance in the 90 minutes, a very liekly possibility.Man City (-1.5, -110).

That’s all for today’s matches! Don’t forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page and to follow on Twitter and Instagram!!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

Tuesday, 4/9 Champions League Quarterfinals Preview

It’s baaacckkk. The Champions League returns with four awesome Quarterfinal matchups; Liverpool v. Porto, Tottenham v. Manchester City, Manchester United v. Barcelona and Juventus v. Ajax. I’m posting individual match previews for each day, that way I can go more in-depth about each match. Expect my Wednesday preview of United/Barca and Juve/Ajax to drop Wednesday morning.

This Season’s Record: 180-153-42 (+4.2 Units)
Matchweek 33 Weekend: 5-3-1 (+0.7 Units)

Tuesday, April 9th
UEFA Champions League Quarterfinals
3:00 pm EST

FC Porto @ Liverpool – This draw is obviously the easiest of the group as Liverpool get what is likely the weakest opposition in Porto. But with that being said, Porto aren’t necessarily a complete pushover. They went 5-1-0 in their group and although it was a pretty easy group, it’s still a very impressive feat. They then went on to beat Roma in the Round of 16 over two legs, winning the second leg 3-1 after extra time. Their defense is quite stingy as they have allowed the least amount of goals in the Portuguese Primeira Liga (17 goals in 28 matches) but they will be without veteran defender and three-time Champions League winner Pepe for the first leg due to yellow card accumulation. They will also be without Hector Herrera as the Mexican, who has played in every match for Porto this year, is also be suspended for yellow card accumulation. Their offense can be potent, but they haven’t faced this good of a defense all year long. Making matters worse, they haven’t won on English soil in 18 matches, creating quite the uphill battle for the Portuguese side.

Meanwhile Liverpool, who are favored by 1.5 goals in this, are coming into this match in good form but not great form. The reason why I say that is because although they’re winning their matches, it hasn’t been as easy as one would think. Their last three matches (Fulham, Tottenham and Southampton) have all been tight and have needed either luck or a few late goals to get them the three points. It can be shown as a positive though as they’re still grinding their way to wins, a quality that championship sides must have, but could be a warning sign that they’re not dominating as much as they should be.

Injury/suspension-wise they aren’t as clean either, as they will be without in-form left back Andy Robertson, who has been key for most of their recent wins. Liverpool’s outside backs getting forward is a staple to their attack and Robertson’s 9 assists in the Premier League are as many as Paul Pogba, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane. They will surely miss him but since they will likely dominate the ball, back-tracking by the wing-backs might be less expected than usual in this match. I expect the Reds to lean on left back Trent Alexander-Arnold to make up for Robertson’s offensive absence, as TAA is also ranked in the top 10 in assists in the Premier League this season.

I think the keys to this match are Liverpool’s ability to finish their chances, the amount of created chances compared to Porto, the possession and Liverpool’s home field advantage. Liverpool’s best trait is that they finish their chances even if they don’t create a ton, which I think they will in this match. Their front three can all score and they can score in many different ways, making their attack multi-dimensional. Porto haven’t played anyone nearly to the quality of Liverpool and are used to being the ones having the majority of the ball, creating the chances and setting the tempo. That won’t happen on Tuesday and I think Liverpool will take full advantage of Porto being out of their comfort zone at Anfield, one of the best atmospheres in all of Europe. Liverpool (-1.5, -110).

Manchester City @ Tottenham (TV: TNT) – These two will be playing each other three times in a span of eleven days, with the first being this Quarterfinal at Spurs’ new stadium. It will be interesting to see if Spurs can feel comfortable in their new stadium against what might be the best team in the world right now, while for City it should be interesting to see if their legs can hold up as they’ll be playing their third match in six days.

For Spurs, they got back to winning ways last Wednesday with a home win against Crystal Palace at their new stadium after they had two straight away losses. It looks like Eric Dier, Eric Lamela and Serge Aurier will be missing the match which definitely hurts their depth with less options coming off of the bench. The key for Spurs will be to get through the first 15-20 minutes as City have been brilliant starting off matches. In fact, City have scored 6 goals in the first 5 minutes this season and 26 in the first 20 minutes. If Spurs can ride that initial wave, they can then push a bit forward and force the issue a little bit to get some momentum before halftime.

Other than starting well, the biggest thing for them will be whether or not they can finish their chances when they get them, especially on the counter attack. If Kane and Son can put away their chances, then they stand a good chance at getting to the second leg unscathed. If not, they’ll allow City too much time on the ball without the threat of being countered, which is right where City feel the most comfortable. Most of City’s conceded goals this season have been on the counter after they’ve pushed too far up the field, leaving them vulnerable. If Spurs can counter effectively then they have a great opportunity to score a few goals.

For City, my biggest concern is whether or not they will be up for it, which is crazy considering it’s a Champions League Quarterfinal. But I mean that because their recent opponents have been relatively easy and they’ll be playing their third game in a week. Since the Carabao Cup Final against Chelsea in February, they’ve played West Ham (1-0), Bournemouth (1-0), Watford (3-1), Schalke (7-0), Swansea (3-2), Fulham (2-0), Cardiff (2-0) and Brighton (1-0). Although they went 8-0 in that span, none of those matches can get you ready for a Champions League Quarterfinal against Spurs, especially with only two of those wins being convincing. Luckily for them, they will likely be returning star striker Sergio Aguero who will certainly be in the squad, but questionable to start. Kyle Walker pulled up with a hamstring injury in this weekend’s FA Cup Semifinal, but has responded to treatment well and should be fit to feature in the 18-man roster. They absolutely have the quality to beat this Spurs team, but only if they’re fit and ready for the challenge will they do what’s expected of them.

I think it’s a poor practice to doubt this City team. Yes they’ve had bumps in the road, specifically at the turn of 2019, but they can smell the quadruple and they’ll surely be up for this trip to London. Adding to that, Spurs’ are 2-2-5 against the Premier League top six and Barcelona in their last nine against those opponents, not a record that gives me confidence against arguably the best team in the world. I think City being slight favorites is an opportunity you can’t pass up since they’ve only dropped points twice over their last 23 matches. I think City win a low-scoring match and bring a 1-0 or 2-0 aggregate lead back to Manchester with away goals.Manchester City (-0.5, -110).

That’s all for Tuesday’s preview! Don’t forget to subscribe at the bottom of the page and to follow on Twitter and Instagram!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

Matchweek 32 Preview

The international break FINALLY ends as we return to club footy for the final stretch of the season. The two title races are heating up as the Premier League will come down to City and Liverpool (Liverpool with a 2 point advantage but City has a game in hand) and in the Bundesliga between Dortmund and Bayern who are tied on points. It’s been a while so let’s see where I stand and how I did the last time out.

This Season’s Record: 168-144-39 (+2.9 Units)
Matchweek 31/FA Cup: 5-2-1 (+2.9 Units)

Due to the fact that we’ll be coming off of an international break and there may be some players resting, some injuries, rust from two weeks off and more, I’m only going to find a few lines across Europe that I like/pop out to me. Let’s see if we can find some value.

Saturday, March 30th
German Bundesliga
10:30 am EST

Wolfsburg @ Borussia Dortmund – Earlier this week I wrote a piece on Dortmund’s chances of the Bundesliga title (LINK HERE) and mentioned how this match could be a trap game for them. Historically at home they have beaten Wolfsburg but not by comfortable margins. They’re also not the only ones fighting for something in this match as Wolfsburg have their sights on their first European birth since ’15-16. Adding to that, Wolfsburg have been more than comfortable away from home, going 7-2-4 and ranking 4th in away points this season. I think that a goal is too big of a spread for this match and I can’t resist taking the underdog. Wolfsburg (+1, +105).

Borussia Mochengaldbach @ Fortuna Dusseldorf – Two egregiously long-named clubs will face off on Saturday morning with a pickem as the spread. Although it’s heavily juiced towards ‘Gladbach, I can’t fade them since their only chance of losing the bet is if they lose outright to a 12th place Dusseldorf team who has been way too inconsistent at home. This Dusseldorf team has had two home wins in this calendar year, both against relegation squads, and they’re coming off of two bad losses before the international break. I don’t see them beating a ‘Gladbach team who hasn’t lost an away match since Dortmund in December. In fact, ‘Gladbach haven’t lost away from home to a team outside of the top four since October. ‘Gladbach (Pick, -130).

English Premier League
11:00 am EST

Bournemouth @ Leicester City – Leicester are starting to play some really good ball right now under new manager Brendan Rodgers. Yes their last two wins came against Fulham and Burnley, but prior to his arrival they went winless in seven with six of those being losses. Also, their win against Burnley came from being a man down for 86 minutes and away from home, showing that they can get it done facing adversity. They’re getting more and more productivity going forward from Vardy, Tielemans and Maddison which is exactly what this team needs if they want to succeed. They’ll face a Bournemouth team who has one win in their last seven (against Huddersfield) and one win away from home in their last nine away league matches (against Huddersfield). I like Leicester at home where they have thrived under Rodgers so far in his tenure. Leicester City (-0.5, -115).

Wolves @ Burnley – I’m shocked they have this one as a pickem considering how Wolves were playing prior to the international break with a draw at Chelsea in the league and a win against United in the FA Cup. Outside of their shocking loss at Huddersfield and their expected loss at City, they’ve been brilliant since the turn of the new year. Burnley meanwhile have lost their last four matches before the break (A. Newcastle, H. Crystal Palace, A. Liverpool, H. Leicester) and have the 17th best home record this season. They even lost to Leicester last matchweek with an extra man for 86 minutes. Wolves are far and away the better team and I’ll never shy away from them on a pickem line especially against a team like Burnley who will have serious trouble against this Wolves team especially in the midfield. Wolves (Pick, -135).

Sunday, March 31st
Spanish La Liga
8:00 am EST

Real Betis @ Rayo Vallecano (beIN Sports) – Rayo Vallecano are in big big trouble as they sit six points below the relegation zone and have lost their last seven matches. They’ll face a Betis team who are not only better than them quality-wise but they’re also coming off of two away wins before the international break. Although they did lose the match before the break to Barcelona, they haven’t lost back-to-back La Liga matches since October and it’s another match where I can’t fade the better team on the pickem line. Real Betis (Pick, -120).

Italian Serie A
9:00 am EST

Napoli @ Roma (ESPNEWS) – The second best match of the weekend brings us to Rome where the city’s namesakes will be taking on second-place Napoli. Roma have had an up and down season and recently have been poor against good opposition. In their last eleven matches against similar-quality opposition (similar on points in the league or Champions League matches), they’ve gone 0-5-6. They’ll be facing a Napoli team who sit in second in Serie A and have been great away from home, going undefeated in their last four in the league away from the Estadio San Paolo. Napoli have also won their last two matches at Roma and I love the value on their Moneyline and pickem here to do it a third time in a row. Napoli (+135), Pick (-130).

English Premier League
11:30 am EST

Tottenham @ Liverpool (NBCSN) – The second best match of the weekend leads us into the best match of the weekend as Spurs travel north to face league leaders Liverpool. This match can really set the tempo for Liverpool’s title chase as this is one of their two matches against top six sides that they will likely need to win if they want to raise their first Premier League trophy in almost three decades. Spurs came into the international break in bad shape with only one win from their last five matches while Liverpool have gone 4-1-0 in that same span. But Liverpool haven’t covered in their last three Premier League matches, showing that their last few wins have come in a tighter margin than expected. With the spread being a goal and since I can’t get a great read on this one due to Liverpool’s recent non-convincing wins and Spurs’ bad form/inconsistency, I’ve decided to make a play on the total. Liverpool’s last three league home matches have averaged 4.6 total goals while Spurs’ last three away matches have averaged 2.7 (a combined average of 3.65). Another reason why I like the over is that often after international breaks, top six clubs who have a lot of players on international duty need some time to get their chemistry back especially in a match that occurs so quickly after they get back to camp. I think this will be a high-scoring match and I’ll take the over at 3 goals even with the likelihood of a push. Over 3 goals (+110).

That’s all for this weekend’s preview! I hope you can get back in the swing of things with club soccer returning and maybe throw some coin on some matches before the Elite Eight starts on Saturday and Sunday.

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE at the bottom of the page and follow on Twitter!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo