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 

Premier League Preview: The Newbies

With each new season, there brings a new wave of excitement for newly-promoted teams. Clubs rich with history that might have been stuck in the lower leagues for the last few years are now back to the pinnacle of English football. Aston Villa, Norwich City and Sheffield United are not only looking to stay up for another season, but to make a splash much like Wolves did last season.

Not every club can have the success that Wolves had last season (7th place in their first season back in the top flight), instead most are likely to be fighting for survival for most of the season. I’m going to dive into who these newly-promoted teams are, their new signings who can make a difference and their likelihood to stay in the league for next season.

Norwich City

Let’s start with the team that won the Championship last season with an impressive 94 points, Norwich City. The Canaries were last in the Premier League in 2015/2016 season and before that spent a solid 5-6 years bouncing from League One to the Championship and the Premier League. It seems now that they have found some sort of stability which is often key to staying in the top flight for newly-promoted teams. Norwich play at Carrow Road which was built in 1935 and has a capacity of 27,244.

Key Players

Teemu Pukki

Teemu Pukki: The Championship Player of the Year and scoring leader from last season’s Championship will enter the Premier League as Norwich’s best option up top. His 29 goals in 43 matches proved that he has the ability to score and that he’s durable over a long season. He’s a solid finisher, he knows how to get in behind the line to punish keepers one-on-one and he always puts himself in position to score when in the box. Norwich will need his production to continue.

Emiliano Buendia: The man feeding Pukki for a lot of the season was Buendia, who was the creative force behind Norwich’s attack last year with a second-best 12 assists in the league and second-best 2.4 key passes per game. He has endless creativity and his ability to put a ball in behind the backline from anywhere on the field could really cause problems in the Premier League this season.

Tim Krul: It’s always nice having a goalie on your team who has six years of Premier League experience and international experience with Netherlands and he’ll likely need to have a great year if Norwich want to stay up. He didn’t have his best season with Norwich last year due to their average defense, but still managed to have 13 clean sheets so there’s still hope he can save the team.

Strengths

Norwich’s offense ran through the Championship where they scored 93 goals in 46 matches (2 goals per match) and were one of only three teams who scored more than 80 goals and the only one who scored more than 90. Obviously their production will slow down dramatically in the Premier League but it’s the most important part of their team and they’ll need to produce as much as they can if they want to have any chance of avoiding the axe come May of 2020.

Weaknesses

Norwich conceded a 7th best 57 goals last season, a shocking tally for a team who won the league last season. Their strategy of winning shootouts is just not going to work in the Premier League and it will be interesting to see how they fare against the big clubs with world class strikers.

Unlike other newly-promoted clubs (we’ll get to them), Norwich barely spent this summer. That isn’t always a problem though as overspending and getting relegated again could hurt a club for years after the fact, but in this instance it is a problem. Little to no investment when there are problem areas (like center back) is just as bad as over-investing. They brought in Sam Byram and Josip Drmic but they don’t really move the needle too much and they didn’t pay enough attention to their defensive issues.

Notable Transfers

In: Sam Byrum (West Ham, $4 million), Josip Drmic (Borussia Mochengladbach ($3.4 million)

Out: Nobody notable

Prediction

I think Norwich will be in or right on the border of the relegation zone for most of the season. They’re just not polished enough to have sustained success in the league. They were a team that likely needed to spend in order to plug a few holes and instead they’re gambling on a fiscally responsible transfer policy, hoping they stay up and then spend. I have them getting relegated and would take their odds at doing so at (-150).

Sheffield United

Sheffield United are one of the most historically rich clubs in England but when the money came into the top division and the Premier League was born, United fell to the third division as they had trouble keeping up. From 1994 to 2013, the Blades had trouble both financially and on the pitch until they were taken over by a Saudi Prince. Now they’re back in the Premier League for the first time in 12 years and only the second time in 25 years. Sheffield United play at Bramall Lane which originally broke ground in 1855 with numerous renovations since, and it holds 32,609.

Key Players

Oliver Norwood: Norwood made the PFA Championship Team of the Year and was United’s best central midfielder in the 18/19 season. He’s prolific delivering set pieces (which will be key for United in getting goals this upcoming season), has the ability to play most forms of the central midfield role and is the likely best passer on the team. As the creative force going forward, United will need him to have another big year.

Billy Sharp: The other United player on the PFA Team of the Year last year was captain Billy Sharp who scored 23 goals, good enough for third best in the league. The veteran striker has been with the team since their League One days and he’ll be crucial in guiding them through their first Premier League season in over a decade. The only issue is if he still has what it takes to play at the highest level. They can’t depend on an older striker without Premier League experience as their only serious threat up top.

Oliver McBurnie: Sheffield United’s new record signing is coming off of a breakout campaign for Swansea City where he had 22 goals in the Championship last season. He’s had a little Premier League experience but was too young and didn’t get enough time to make an impact. This will likely be his best chance and it should be interesting to see how production when given more first team minutes. I’d keep an eye out for McBurnie as he’ll likely turn some heads this upcoming season.

Strengths

Chris Wilder

Sheffield United’s manager Chris Wilder is not only a hometown guy but he went against the grain last season by playing a 3-5-2 with a focus on their wingbacks going forward, and still having the best statistical defense. They also haven’t spent much and he’s guided them up from League One to the Premier League, giving the fans a lot of optimism and faith. He’s a great man-manager and can really be key in their quest for staying in the top flight.

Weaknesses

The biggest problem with this squad is that it’s filled with Championship caliber players instead of Premier League caliber players. I don’t think they’re ready and other than McBurnie (who still isn’t a proven Premier League caliber player), they haven’t made a splash in the transfer market. The biggest worry is that they’ll rely too much on Billy Sharp, who’s a great striker but is aging and has never proven himself in any league higher than the Championship. Obviously these are issues that can be proven otherwise as the season goes on, but I think we will find out in the first 5 or so matchweeks if they’re in trouble or not.

Notable Transfers

In: Oliver McBurnie (Swansea City, $21.77 million), Phil Jagielka (Everton, Free), Lys Mousset (Bournemouth, $12.67)

Out: Nobody notable

Prediction

Sheffield United are odds-on favorites to get relegated and finish 20th in this upcoming season. I think they will get relegated for the exact reason I put in my weakness; this is a Championship caliber squad. I don’t think they can hang with the rest of the league and we may see a similar season to Huddersfield from last year. I wouldn’t take them at (-200) to be relegated since the price is so steep and I wouldn’t put down double what I’d return.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa were a Premier League and First Division staple for decades, most recently with a 29-year stint in the top flight. From the 1975/76 season to the 2015/16 season Villa were only outside of the top division for one season, in 1987/88 and they had numerous 6th place finishes in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. After gaining promotion via the playoff last season, one of England’s most storied and recently successful clubs returns and with this time with some serious momentum. Aston Villa play at Villa park which originally opened in 1897 and currently 42,582, the largest stadium in the English Midlands.

Key Players

Jack Grealish

Jack Grealish: Grealish is arguably the best and most exciting player coming from the Championship this season and for good reason. The 23-year-old captain has been with Aston Villa since he was 6 years old and he was instrumental in Villa’s miracle run at the end of the season to gain promotion. He’s an extremely well-rounded player who can beat players with pace and skill, while also having the ability to finish from outside and inside the box. He led the league with being fouled 4.7 times per game (almost twice as much as the next player), and was top four in key passes per match and dribbles per game. This club starts and ends with Grealish and he’s no doubt the most important player on the team.

John McGinn: Similar to Grealish, McGinn is a very skilled and pacey player but is based more in the attacking central midfield role. He’s a fantastic passer and can dribble through the midfield, giving Villa a fantastic one-two punch with he and Grealish. He’s even turned the heads of the likes of Manchester United and I wouldn’t be surprised if he secures a big move after this season.

Strengths

Aston Villa spent $169 million this summer on incoming signings, giving the squad a huge boost especially after losing Tammy Abraham whose loan deal was up after last season. The club also has a fantastic foundation within the football league with a large support base and new owners who are willing to invest and support. Also, their offensive system is predicated on creative players and this team has several players who fit that mold (Grealish, McGinn and more). I can see this team really making an impact right away, especially against teams whoa re more vulnerable defensively.

Weaknesses

That style can sometimes lead to an over-aggressive approach which can really hurt them in the Premier League. Their aggressiveness likely won’t always work in the top flight and it could lead to the better teams countering. Another worry is that there aren’t any proven goal-scorers on this team. Their leading scorer from last season, Tammy Abraham, is back to Chelsea after his loan expired and they’ll now look to see who can replace him at a much higher level. They can find goals from Grealish and McGinn, but you can’t rely on attacking midfielders or wingers for the bulk of your production over a season.

Notable Transfers

In: Wesley (Club Brugge, $28.5 million), Tyrone Mings (Bournemouth, $25.4 million), Douglas Luiz (Manchester City, $19.2 million)

Out: Tammy Abraham (Chelsea, Loan expired)

Prediction

I think Villa will not only survive in this season’s Premier League, but could very well finish a few places above the relegation zone. Although they likely won’t get near to replicating Wolves’ performance from last season, this team has the quality, spirit and foundation to finish in the 13-17 range.

That’s all for my preview of the newly-promoted teams! Next will be my Top 4 preview which will give my prediction for who will win this season’s Premier League, who make the coveted Champions League qualification spots and other teams that will make a splash.

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

Premier League Championship Sunday Preview

Okay before we get into what will likely be one of the greatest Championship Sundays in a long time, let’s get into what happened on Wednesday night.

Spurs somehow came back needing 3 goals in the second half against Ajax to go to their first ever Champions League Final. They were down 3-0 on aggregate at halftime and a Lucas Moura second half hat trick somehow put them through to the Final with the last goal coming in the final seconds of the match. Unlike Barcelona, Ajax did not break down and allow this to happen as much as Spurs willed their way to this win. Whoever the hell is writing this script is the greatest storyteller ever. It took 35 years for a 3-goal lead to be blown in a Semifinal and then it happened twice in 24 hours. We now have an all-English Champions League Final for the first time in over a decade and only the second time ever. Over the years this sport has proven why the world is obsessed, but this last year/month/week have gone above and beyond. The highlights are below…

Credit: Bleacher Report/Turner Sports

Now we somehow transition to a Championship Sunday in which a Premier League Champion will be crowned between either Liverpool or Man City who are separated by only 1 point atop the table. Liverpool haven’t won the league in almost 30 years while City look to become the first back-to-back champion in a decade. It’s also the first time in 5 years that a champion will be decided on Championship Sunday, adding to the drama of one of the greatest title races ever. In that 2013/2014 season, City topped Liverpool on Championship Sunday. In fact, this will be the third time in the Premier League era that City will have to win on the final day to win a title, winning their previous two. Could that be a good omen for City?

This Season: 207-162-47 (+18.4 Units)
Ajax v. Tottenham: 1-1 (+0.0 Units)
(+18.4 units = $100 bettor has won $1,840 this season)

For context, all matches are played at the same time to ensure that all results occur with integrity (and drama of course). The two big matches which include City and Liverpool will be at the end of my preview.

Championship Sunday
English Premier League
10:00 am EST

Arsenal @ Burnley (TV: MSNBC) – It has to be said that Arsenal made the Europa League Final on Thursday after whooping Valencia 7-3 on aggregate and will be playing Chelsea. They’ll be travelling from Spain for this one and usually I’d take Burnley if there were a lot of points on the board, but Arsenal are still playing for 5th place. I don’t like the spread at all so I decided to put a play on the total. The last time these two played it was 3-1 to Arsenal with the over cashing, six of Burnley’s last seven matches against the top 6 have had at least 3 goals and five of Arsenal’s last six matches have had at least 3 goals. That was enough for me to take the over in a match that should have a lot of chances. Over 3 goals (-110).

Bournemouth @ Crystal Palace (TV: Local NBC Sports Markets) – Palace have not been good at home this season and especially as of late. They’re 19th in the home table, their last home win in the league against someone who hasn’t been relegated came in December (8 matches) and Bournemouth have gone two straight unbeaten away from home. I also like Bournemouth because they match up well against Palace as they play a fast-paced game and can score goals on the break. They haven’t lost to Palace in their last three matches and I think they have a great chance of taking points here. I’ll take Bournemouth as underdogs. Bournemouth (+0.5, +105).

Newcastle @ Fulham (TV: Olympic Channel) – Fulham have been relegated and I called their regression last weekend against Wolves after three straight wins. But they’ll be playing a Newcastle team who have gone 1-4-5 in their last 10 away matches and I really think that Fulham will go out of the Premier League swinging with some points. I’m going to take Fulham on the pickem line at home in their last Premier League match against a Newcastle side who really have nothing else to play for. Fulham (Pick, -115).

Chelsea @ Leicester (TV: CNBC) – Chelsea beat Eintracht Frankfurt in penalties to advance to the Europa League Final where they will play Arsenal in Azerbaijan. But they went the distance, 120 minutes and penalties, while Leicester will have an entire week’s rest and will be home for this match. That alone is a great reason to take the home side as Chelsea are sure to rest some starters while Leicester have no reason but to play their normal starting XI. Chelsea have also already locked in their top 4 spot for next season’s Champions League but Leicester can jump to 8th with a win and Everton loss. I think Leicester will be more focused on closing out their season than Chelsea will be after their big win on Wednesday. I love Leicester at home here. Leicester (Pick, -125).

Cardiff City @ Manchester United (TV: USA) – I’m baffled as to why this spread is so low. Yes United are in complete turmoil with recent results, locker room rifts and pundits calling out the leadership as well as Solskjaer’s job, but United are far better than Cardiff. Yes United have won one of their last eight matches but most of them have been against some of the better teams in Europe (Barcelona, Man City, Chelsea and more). Meanwhile at home against non top 6 teams, United haven’t lost all season long. I expect them to close out their year well against a pretty bad Cardiff side. Manchester United (-1.5, -135).

Huddersfield @ Southampton (Streaming: NBCSports.com) – This one is likely to have goals and for that reason I’m taking the over. Why will it have a lot of goals? Well not only was their first match this season 3-1, but seven of Southampton’s last nine matches have had at least three goals with their last four home games hitting that mark as well. Adding to that, five of the last eight Huddersfield matches have had at least three goals with their previous two away matches having a total of 9 goals. These two teams won’t be doing much defending on Sunday. Over 3 goals (+105).

Everton @ Tottenham (TV: SYFY Channel) – Much like the other English teams who traveled this week in European competition, Spurs will likely not even be thinking about this match. Not only will they have 3-4 less days of rest compared to Everton but Spurs players were celebrating pretty hard after their epic comeback win against Ajax (Danny Rose even had a beer on the field after the game). Their spot in the top four has been guaranteed and I expect Pochettino to sit a lot of the players who played Wednesday night in Amsterdam for precautionary and rest reasons. Everton have also been in great form and scoring lots of goals as they have one loss in their last seven matches beating Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. Not only do I like Everton on the moneyline but I love the over too because of how these teams can score goals and Spurs’ lineup will likely not be ready for the challenge if they do sit a few starters. Over 2.5 goals (-125) and Everton Moneyline (+240).

West Ham @ Watford (TV: Golf Channel) – West Ham have been playing well but they’re due for some sort of regression. They’ve now won back-to-back league matches in the league for the first time since December, proving that their consistency has been an issue. One of those wins was away at Spurs but it was their first away win in eight matches with seven of those being losses. Meanwhile Watford have not lost to a team behind them in the current table at home since October. I like Watford to close out their Premier League season with a win, knowing they’ll want to go into their FA Cup Final with City in good form. Watford Moneyline (+120).

Now to the big boy stuff…

Wolves @ Liverpool (TV: NBC) – Wolves have not been an easy outfit for top 6 teams this season and it certainly won’t help Liverpool that they played a grueling match against Barcelona on Tuesday. The last time these two played it was in the FA Cup and Wolves eliminated Liverpool at home. Both teams are in good form and the spread sits at 1.5, which is something I don’t want to bite on especially knowing how Wolves love to make things hard on good teams. Instead, due to how they can make things hard and Liverpool’s likely heavy legs, I’m going to take the under. Only three times in Wolves’ 11 matches against the top 6 has the total finished over 3 and I think it’s unlikely this total will go above that mark here as well. I do think Liverpool will win, which will force City to win, but it won’t be easy for the Reds. Under 3 (-115).

Manchester City @ Brighton (TV: NBCSN) – Man City will have to go to a Brighton team who recently drew at Arsenal, barely lost at Spurs and drew at Wolves. But at home, they haven’t been impressive at all. They’ve gone 1-2-5 in their last eight home matches with their only points coming from a win against Huddersfield and draws against Newcastle and Watford. Against the top 6 at home they’ve gained 4 points in a win against United and a draw against Arsenal. But this City team is the best team in the league and they’re now on a 13-match win streak in the league. They know all they have to do is beat this Brighton team who are now fighting for nothing to win a 2nd straight Premier League title to put their names in the pantheon of the league. I think City score early and run up the score in what will be a coronation for the new kings of the Premier League. Manchester City (-2, -120).

Manchester City will win the Premier League title for the fourth time and the second consecutive season. But kudos will have to go to Liverpool who will end up having the third best season in Premier League history.

Thanks for riding with me this season in the Premier League! I’ll still be writing til the end of the season, covering the other European leagues and European Finals. This summer I will also be previewing every USWNT match this summer for the World Cup, transfer rumors, CONCACAF Gold Cup and more!

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

Matchweek 36 Preview

Manchester City showed that they have what it takes to retain their title after surviving the trip across town to Old Trafford, beating United 2-0. Now both City and Liverpool are finally level on matches played with City above them by one point, finally finding some stability after first place has changed hands 28 times this season.

There are three matches left in the Premier League, four left in the Bundesliga, four left in La Liga and five more left in Serie A. The Premier League and the Bundesliga have neck and neck title races, all four leagues have very tight Champions League races, and most leagues have interesting relegation battles all well.

It’s the time of year that clubs can clinch titles, reach the top four and fight for survival which in turn provides us with value across the board. There are a lot of pickems of this week so let’s see if we can pinpoint that value, but first the numbers from this past midweek and overall this season…

This Season’s Record: 197-154-44 (+15.0 Units)
Midweek Matches: 4-1 (+4.4 Units)

Saturday, April 27th
English Premier League
10:00 am EST

Cardiff @ Fulham (TV: NBCSN) – Fulham are already relegated but for Cardiff, this is their best chance at saving their season and staying up in the Premier League. Shockingly enough once Fulham got relegated, they went on a two-match winning streak against Everton and Bournemouth. They’re for sure going down swinging. But they’re facing a desperate Cardiff team who last time out in a similar match a week and a half ago, beat Brighton at Brighton to keep their hopes alive. I think Fulham are due for regression especially since their defense has yet to have back-to-back-to-back clean sheets all year (let alone two in a row before this run) and their offense will likely not be able to make up for those goals conceded. I expect Cardiff to come out swinging and get a point at the minimum, keeping their hopes alive for staying in the Premier League next season. I like them on the pickem line with a positive price. Cardiff (Pick, +110).

Wolves @ Watford – Cue the Spiderman meme.

These two teams who have had almost identical seasons, identical records, similar crests and similar names will be facing off for the right for 7th place on Saturday. We all know how good Wolves have been, especially against the top 6, and it has almost put Watford totally under the radar this year. They’ve gone 6-3-2 at home in their last 11 with their only losses coming against Chelsea and to Arsenal, where they were a man down. Wolves meanwhile haven’t won an away match since the 2nd of February and have had recent struggles against non top 6 teams (oddly enough). I feel much more comfortable taking Watford on the pickem line at home. Watford (Pick, -120).

Bournemouth @ Southampton (TV: CNBC) – Other than their 5-0 win at Brighton (where Brighton were man down for a lot of the match) and their win at Huddersfield, Bournemouth haven’t been good enough lately. Including those wins against those weak opposition they are 2-2-7 in their last 11 and their away record outside of those two wins is 0-4 with a -11 goal differential. Meanwhile Southampton’s recent run hasn’t been nearly as bad, going 3-1 at home in their last four with their only loss coming against Liverpool. In that run of good form at home they beat Spurs and Wolves at home and they even beat Brighton away from home in a massive match for survival. Another reason I like Southampton at home here? They’re not technically safe and three points would all but guarantee their safety this season. Take the Saints. Southampton (-0.5, -110).

12:30 pm EST

Newcastle @ Brighton (NBC) – This. Match. Is. Huge. Brighton are fighting for their lives right now only being three points above Cardiff and a win here with dropped points from Cardiff would almost guarantee their safety. But there’s more to this match for Brighton. Their final two matches after this one are at Arsenal and home to City, two teams who will likely HAVE to win. If they fail to get points here, they’ll leave the door completely open for Cardiff. Adding to that, Brighton have had some inspiring performances this past week grinding to a 1-0 loss at Spurs where they held them for 88 minutes and they drew away to Wolves last weekend. Yes Newcastle have won two straight and their last match away from home, but prior to that away win they hadn’t won away since December which was to Huddersfield. I do wish it was a pickem but I just can’t fade this Brighton team who know they will likely need to win this match if they want to guarantee survival. Brighton (-0.5, +130).

Italian Serie A
2:30 pm EST

Juventus @ Inter Milan – This is such a great match even with Juventus closing out their 8th straight title the other day (yeah, I said 8 straight). But this one isn’t as nearly as much about Juventus as it is about Inter, who are a win away from possibly sealing their spot in next season’s Champions League. Juve are likely to rest a few of their starters to due injury and workload including Dyabala, Chiellini, Mandzukic and possibly even Ronaldo. Inter have somewhat survived the gauntlet that has been the last month, going 3-2-1 against teams like Milan, Lazio, Roma and Atalanta who all reside inside the top 6. Unlike Juve they will have no injury concerns and they have been in decent enough form to take on a somewhat shortened Juventus side who may have their minds already set on the offseason. Give me a motivated Inter team on the pickem line at home. Inter Milan (Pick, -130).

Spanish La Liga
2:45 pm EST

Levante @ FC Barcelona (TV: beIN Sports) – I think Vegas is seriously overlooking this line. FC Barcelona can clinch the La Liga title with a win and will therefore give them much more time to focus on their Champions League Semifinal. They sat a few of their main guys last weekend including Messi to make sure they can be fresh to win the league here at home. Yes, Levante is fighting against relegation and Vegas believes that they could make things tough against Barca here but I couldn’t disagree more. Levante won this past weekend at home to Betis but before that they went nine straight without a win. A motivated and fresh Barcelona side with a title on the line at the Camp Nou is one of the scariest things your eyes could ever look upon. They’re 13-3-1 at home this year with a +31 goal differential and they haven’t dropped points there since early February, to Real Madrid. Feed me Barca here. FC Barcelona (-2, +115).

Sunday, April 28th
English Premier League
7:00 am EST

Arsenal @ Leicester (TV: NBCSN) – It’s no secret that Arsenal are atrocious away from home and it was evident in their 3-1 loss to Wolves this past week (they were down 3-0 by halftime). Meanwhile they’ll face a Leicester team whose offense has begun to click with the addition of Rodgers as manager. They’ve had one match without a goal since his appointment and they’ve averaged 2 goals per game in that span. They’ll face an Arsenal team who, like I said, have been horrible away from home and rank 13th in goals conceded away from home. Rest will also be a concern for the gunners, as this will be their second away match in four days and they’ve had a grueling schedule as of late while Leicester will be rested and have had a manageable schedule the last month. I think this is a recipe for disaster for an Arsenal team who could use some points to stay in the top 4 hunt. I think the Foxes can really exploit this pickem line and worst case settle for the draw. Leicester (Pick, -110).

Italian Serie A
9:00 am EST

Genoa @ SPAL – This is a weird one to be picking, I know, but there is some serious value here. SPAL have been on fire and Genoa’s form is seriously slipping. SPAL have gone 5-1 in their last six and 3-0 in their last 3 at home against Roma, Lazio and Juventus and they’ve managed to climb out of the relegation zone. Genoa on the other hand are winless in their last five, haven’t won an away match since January and have only won two away matches all season long. I love SPAL to keep their form rolling against a very below average Genoa team on the pickem line. SPAL (Pick, -125).

Other big matchups to watch:


Schalke @ Borussia Dortmund (Rivierderby), Saturday 9:30 am EST (FS2)
Chelsea @ Manchester United, Sunday 11:30 am EST (NBCSN)

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Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

Midweek Matches and Manchester Derby Preview

We’ve got midweek matches!! I have five picks from the Premier League (including the Manchester Derby), La Liga, German cup semifinal and the Italian cup semifinal. There’s a lot on the line so let’s get right to it.

This Season’s Record: 193-153-44 (+10.6 Units)
Matchweek 35: 5-1 (+4.8 Units)

Tuesday, April 23rd
German DFB Pokal Semifinal
2:45 pm EST

RB Leipzig @ Hamburg (TV: ESPNEWS) – If you read my blog for this past weekend, you’d remember how I was all over Leipzig. Now after their win against Gladbach, they’ve won six straight and eight straight away from home. Their defense is the best in the top division and they love getting results away from home. They’ll be facing a Hamburg team who are currently in the second division, fighting for promotion to the Bundesliga and they have a massive match this upcoming weekend with promotion implications. Their form is beginning to slip though with only one win in their last six which came against another second division side in the quarterfinals of this competition. Hamburg aren’t bad, in fact they were almost a shoe-in to return to the Bundesliga after this season, but they don’t matchup whatsoever to a Leipzig team who are one of the best in the top division. I love Leipzig on the spread here with the possibility of them running away with this against an inferior side. RB Leipzig (-1, -110).

Wednesday, April 24th
Italian Coppa Italia Semifinal Leg 2
2:45 pm EST

Lazio @ AC Milan – The first leg was 0-0 in Rome after Milan were able to hold Lazio at bay. These two actually faced off in the league ten days ago and Milan were able to triumph 1-0 at home after dominating them pretty handily on the stat sheet. Milan have been fantastic at home this season going 10-4-3 and not counting their derby ‘home’ match against Inter, they haven’t lost at home since December 22nd. Lazio meanwhile only have one win in their last five and are 1-1-4 in their last six away from home in all competitions. I feel much more confident taking the slightly more in-form and home team on the pickem line here in the second leg. AC Milan (Pick, -115).

English Premier League
2:45 pm EST

Arsenal @ Wolves – Both of these teams have been a bit puzzling this season. Wolves have been giant killers this season going 5-5-5 in all competitions against the top 6 but have had trouble playing the rest of the field. Arsenal meanwhile have been good enough to be in the top four, but have been absolutely dreadful away from home even with their recent win against Watford (Watford were a man down). They rank 9th in the away table and got their first clean sheet away from home only last week. Making matters worse for the Gunners, Wolves have been pretty great at home this year. They rank 8th in the home table and they haven’t lost at home since the first week of January, a run lasting nine matches across all competitions (7-2-0). I love Wolves on the pickem line here. Wolves (Pick, +105).

Manchester Derby
3:00 pm EST

Manchester City @ Manchester United (TV: NBCSN) – The 178th Manchester Derby might be one of the most important matches played between these two in years. Manchester City need a win if they want to go back to the top of the table, as this is the match that they have in hand over Liverpool. Not only will Manchester United be trying to stop them, but they are also fighting for a spot in the top four. After Chelsea lost, United now sit only three points out of that fourth place spot. This line opened at 1.5 for Manchester City but was quickly bought down to 1, as bettors think since this is one of the biggest derbies in England, it will be very tight.

These two come into this match in pretty different shape. City are 17-0-1 in their last 18 matches in all competitions and they have only lost in the league once since the start of 2019 (14 matches). United on the other hand only have two wins in their last eight, at home to West Ham and Watford, and lost to Everton 4-0 at Goodison Park this past weekend. Against the top six, Wolves, Everton and Barcelona in that span (comparable opponents) they are 0-6 with a goal differential of -12. Adding to the bad voodoo for United, they haven’t beaten City at home in the league since 2015 going 0-1-2 in that span. United are also winless in mid-week derbies against City since ’94, going 0-2-3.

I think City obviously have more to play for and are in better shape right now. Even with De Bruyne likely out for the rest of the season, their lineup should be at 100% and they have enough quality players on their roster that depth shouldn’t be an issue. United meanwhile are having trouble finding the right starting XI right now and have been traveling nonstop for the last eleven days, going to Barcelona and Everton. City meanwhile have been home for a week and will only need to travel 4 miles to Old Trafford for this one. I think across the board City match up better, will likely have fresher legs and are in much better form. At 1.5 I might have been hesitant to take City, but there’s no chance I can fade them at -1 here. I think this once could push but I think City’s likelihood for three points are much higher than that of a draw. Manchester City (-1, -130).

Thursday, April 25th
Spanish La Liga
3:30 pm EST

Real Madrid @ Getafe (TV: beIN Sports) – Real Madrid have been one big question mark this season; dropping points to people they normally shouldn’t be, crashing out of the Champions League much earlier than normal, lower-than-usual goal-scoring production and having the 6th most conceded goals. I haven’t liked picking matches they’re in because of their inconsistency but this match definitely intrigued me. Getafe have been one of the darlings of La Liga this season, sitting in third place with the third best defense in the league. They only have one loss in their last twelve matches, are 10-1-5 at home this season and have the third most draws in the league. The draws stat would be worrying for some teams but for someone like Getafe, it shows that they know how to grind out the results they need to. That’s why I think the draw has a ton of value here at +250. Madrid haven’t won either of their last two away matches and Getafe could really use a result here. I think those two things will equal out to a hard-fought draw, much like Madrid’s last away match where they lost to Leganes. I’ll take the draw. Draw (+250).

That’s all for this weekend’s preview!

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo

Matchweek 35 Preview

Wednesday Review:

  • It’s hard to describe how Man City v Spurs went down on Wednesday. There were 4 goals in the first 11 minutes, 5 goals in the first 21 minutes, 2 massive VAR calls and a 93rd minute goal from Sterling to put City through, reversed due to VAR. The drama was unlike anything I’ve seen, the tension was palpable, the Etihad was rocking like I’ve never seen it and the stakes couldn’t have been higher. In the end, Spurs prevailed via the away goals tiebreaker and will now be facing Ajax in the Semifinals. I highly, highly recommend watching the highlights HERE.
  • Liverpool beat Porto 4-1 to advance 6-1 on aggregate. Any chances of Porto advancing were wiped away almost immediately once Mane scored in the 26th minute, giving Liverpool a 3-0 lead on aggregate with the away goal. Liverpool will now play Barcelona in the other Semifinal.

This Season’s Record: 188-152-44 (+5.8 Units)
Tuesday Champions League: 1-1 (-0.1 Units)

This week we only have six picks for your fix (rhymed, I know). There wasn’t a ton of value out there especially with a lot of the big teams coming off of exhausting Champions League and Europa League matches midweek. But let’s see what we can cook up…

Saturday, April 20th
English Premier League
7:30 am EST

Tottenham @ Manchester City (TV: NBCSN) – No, your eyes do not deceive you. These two somehow, someway square off again this weekend in the Premier League with massive implications for both teams AGAIN. City are in the thick of the title race with Liverpool while Spurs are still fighting for a top 4 spot. You honestly can’t write this stuff. I think this match will comes down to three factors; injuries, home field advantage and revenge.

Man City are now left to fight for the Premier League title after losing their Champions League hopes on Wednesday and I can guarantee you that they are pissed. They now get another shot at this Spurs team who will likely be missing a few of their most important players including Sissoko and Kane. A few others rotation players will also likely miss the match including Dier, Winks, Aurier and Lamela. A hobbled Spurs team facing this angered City team at the Etihad again is not good news. The Etihad reached it’s full potential this week and you know City and their fans will be looking for revenge. The combination of this hurting/resting Spurs squad, City getting another crack at them for revenge and the home field advantage has me picking City to run away with it. Manchester City (-1.5, -125).

Italian Serie A
9:00 am EST

Torino @ Genoa – Shockingly, Torino are still in a fight for a European spot in Serie A this year. They’ll face a Genoa team who have won once in eight matches, going 1-3-4 in that span. Torino meanwhile have lost once in their last twelve and have only lost one match this season away from home. They’ve been a really tough team to beat this season and are usually a sure thing to cover or push on the pickem line, especially when they’re fighting for a birth in a European competition. I’ll take the lads from Torino on the against a 15th place Genoa. Torino (Pick, -105).

English Premier League
10:00 am EST

Watford @ Huddersfield – This one seems pretty easy to me here. Huddersfield are long gone and Watford are still fighting for a top 10 finish. Watford are a team who don’t look good away from home on paper, losing their last three, but those matches came against United, City and Liverpool. In fact the last time they’ve lost outright, home or away, to a team outside the top 6 was in December when they lost to Leicester. They have a brilliant record against teams outside of the top 6 this season, going 12-7-3, and they are 4-1-0 against teams currently inside the relegation zone. Even without striker Troy Deeney, I think they’ll find their production via Andre Gray and Deolofeu if he starts. I’ll take them here against a really really bad Huddersfield team. Watford (-0.5, -115).

12:30 pm EST

Southampton @ Newcastle (TV: NBC) – These two teams aren’t technically safe, unless one leaves this match with three points. Newcastle sit 7 points ahead of Cardiff while Southampton sit 5 points above that last relegation place. Naturally this match is a pickem since they’re basically even on paper, but Newcastle have some juice since they’re home and have been in decent home form. Although they lost the last time they were home, Newcastle won their previous five in the league at St. James Park and they haven’t lost to a team outside the top 6 there since December. Newcastle currently ranks higher in Points Per Match (PPM), Goal Differential Rank and in relative Home/Away rank (per Lowe Down Stats). I think this one has the potential to be really close but I trust Newcastle to either draw or win here at home. Newastle United (Pick, -130).

German Bundesliga
12:30 pm EST

RB Leipzig @ Borussia Mochengladbach (TV: FS1) – This is a massive game in the Bundesliga as Gladbach are fighting for a European spot and Leipzig are trying to hold on to third place. They are separated by only seven points, but that could be ten or four by the end of this match. Leipzig are firing on all cylinders right now as they’ve won five straight matches and seven straight away from home. Gladbach meanwhile are 2-3-4 in their last nine and haven’t won outright at home in their last five attempts.

Leipzig currently rank 2nd in H/A (home/away) rating while Gladbach rank 6th and they rank 2nd in GD (goal differential) rank while Gladbach rank 8th. Those stats back up the lack of home field advantage Gladbach have, how capable Leipzig are away from home and how Leipzig tend to beat teams comfortably. RB Leipzig (Pick, -135).

Sunday, April 21st
8:30 am EST

Manchester United @ Everton (TV: NBCSN) – United are coming off of a somewhat embarrassing loss at Barcelona this past week and will be facing an Everton team who have been brilliant at home recently. The Blues are undefeated in their last three home matches which came against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool while United’s away form has been abysmal. The Red Devils have lost their last four away matches in all competitions and their form is slowly slipping out of control. In their last seven matches, United are 2-5 and will be coming off of a loss and short rest to face a healthy and rested Everton team at Goodison Park. I’m going to go above the pickem line and take Everton on the moneyline, expecting them to come out and win the game against a sputtering United team. Everton (+205).

I hope everyone enjoys their Easter/Passover weekend! Don’t forget to subscribe via email to get notified when I post my blogs and to follow the Instagram page.

Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.

Twitter: @nicodegallo
Instagram: @canikickitblog

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, 4/16 Champions League Quarterfinal Preview + Bonus Pick

The Leg 2’s are here!! There’s still everything to play for in three of the four matches, but every leg of every Champions League tie is still genuinely thrilling. This piece will include Ajax/Juve and United/Barca (and a bonus pick) while my piece coming out tomorrow will include the other two matches, Liverpool/Porto and Spurs/Man City. Let’s get to it.

This Season’s Record: 185-158-44 (+4.9 Units)
Matchweek 34 Record: 1-4-2 (-3.5) Units)

Tuesday, April 16th
3:00 pm EST

Manchester United @ FC Barcelona (TV: TNT) – Barcelona won the first leg 1-0 at Old Trafford and are bringing that away goal back to the Camp Nou to try to seal their path to the semifinal. Luckily for Barca, this is really the only thing they are focused on right now, as they have the Spanish league locked up and don’t have another match with serious meaning until late May. They rested Messi, Suarez, Pique, Lenglet and Rakitic completely while Coutinho, Alba and Arthur came on as subs this past weekend. But since United are still fighting for a Champions League spot, they instead had to play basically their whole squad this weekend against West Ham to get the points needed to stay in the chase.

Not only is rest and fitness on Barca’s side, but form is as well. United were at risk of having their worst run of form since 1992 if they lost this past weekend, but they pulled off a 2-1 win to West Ham at home. In their last six matches in all competitions they have two wins and four losses, with their only wins being at home to Watford in late March and West Ham this past weekend. They’ve actually lost their last four away matches, not boding well going into one of the cathedrals of world football, where Barcelona have not lost since November.

Barcelona meanwhile haven’t lost a competitive match since January 23rd and in their last six matches at full strength (where they aren’t resting most of their starters), they are 6-1-0 with a goal differential of +14, making for an average winning margin of 2 goals. Adding to that, they’ve been historically great in late-stage home Champions League legs (Quarterfinals/Semifinals). They’ve lost once in that criteria since 2008 and in the last four seasons they’ve gone 4-1-0 with a goal differential of +7.

Barca are known for not only winning Champions League legs, but for stepping on the throats of opponents at Camp Nou in those situations. They’re better overall, in better form, less tired and they have the best player in the world at the top of his game right now and I just can’t fade them. FC Barcelona (-1.5, -105).

Ajax @ Juventus – Kind of disappointed this one isn’t the match on TNT but I do understand that Messi and Barca/United is must-see TV. I think this match is going to be an absolute peach though, especially after how the first leg went. Ajax were completely up for it, scoring just 30 seconds into the second half and stifling Juventus’ offense completely right afterwards. They had 60% possession, 12 more shots, 226 more accurate passes and they forced Juve to use the long ball to break through their midfield, something they’re not used to doing. The one thing that’s stuck out to me about this Ajax team is that, even with how egregiously young they are, they’ve responded to every thing that’s been thrown their way. They went to Madrid and won 4-1, they drew Bayern twice in the group stage and they basically dominated Juve last week.

Juve come into this match after a tough loss to SPAL in the Serie A this weekend, but much like Barcelona they only played 2 players who got the start in Leg 1 in Amsterdam. They should be very rested and their loss to SPAL shouldn’t be a reflection at all of their form, but if you dive a little deeper you’ll realize they haven’t been exactly who they were earlier in the year. They’ve been out-shot and out-possessed in each of their last three matches, a stark contrast to their dominance from earlier in the year. This could be a product of having the league wrapped up and only the Champions League to play for, but the inconsistency of squads and performances should worry Juve bettors.

Now I’m not predicting Ajax to win and it’s not that they won’t, but it will be tough for them to waltz into the Allianz Stadium and have the same performance they did last week. But with Juve’s lack of dominance recently and their lack of maintaining systematic control of matches, this match could fit right into Ajax’s playbook to keep it tight. Outside of a few first half chances and the lack of marking Ronaldo on the goal (which shouldn’t happen again), Ajax’s defense didn’t allow Juventus to get any momentum throughout the match. Ajax caught Juventus sleeping on their goal and then kept their foot on the pedal, proving that you can’t and most likely won’t be able to coast against this team. Their midfield can create from deep with De Jong or around the box and they have the finishers to punish you with only a few good chances. If they can cut off the passing lines out wide to the outside backs, who love to whip balls in, and limit the other passing lanes to Ronaldo, I think Ajax can make this close or even push it to extra time.

I’m going to take the points. I think Ajax will be fearless, knowing that they can run with this team and the one goal spread gives them a ton of value if they get a goal as a 1-1 match puts it into extra time. Ajax (+1, -135).

BONUS PICK:

Cardiff @ Brighton (TV: NBCSN) – Oh Premier League you sneaky dogs. They slipped in one of the matches of the week with two relegation teams battling it out. These are my favorite matches since they’re usually very intense, have players playing for their jobs and the club playing to stay in the Premier League. They even say promotion and relegation are worth around $100 million.

But bottom line is that Cardiff have a much bigger hill to climb than Brighton and they will be utterly desperate here. I think that will be their downfall as they will end up going for the three points knowing that it will likely be the only result that can keep them up. The reason why I’m fading them? This strategy, especially away from home and against arguably a better team, often does not work. They’ll likely overextend themselves and allow for Brighton to counter. I usually like betting on the teams that need to win, but Cardiff might need to win too much and it will be their downfall against a Brighton team who have conceded 12 less goals this campaign. I’ll take Brighton as slight favorites here, with the rationale that a win at home will guarantee their survival. Brighton (-0.5, +105).

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

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