What a huge weekend we have awaiting us. It's not often when El Clásico is being played, and it feels like the third-biggest match on the weekend at best -- depending on how you feel about Napoli and Roma, it could be the fourth -- but that's where we are right now.
There's the biggest rivalry in English football on Sunday when Manchester United and Liverpool square off, and then there's the Derby d'Italia between Inter Milan and Juventus later that day. It's going to be a banger of a Sunday, and I couldn't let you go into the weekend without picks for all three matches.
And, don't worry, I made sure to include some Saturday matches in this weekend's parlay to give us something to sweat then too. All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
Manchester United vs. Liverpool, Sun. 11:30 a.m, NBCSN
There's typically a common theme with matches like these in England. When two of the biggest clubs in the country meet, there's non-stop hype surrounding the match. Everything every player or coach does during the week leading up to it has to mean something and is scrutinized accordingly. There's then plenty of time spent talking about how important the match is for both clubs and how it will be electric.
Then it usually ends with a boring match where neither team seems interested in making the mistake that will be discussed for the next week. So, when I see a total set as high as this one, I have to go under. Going back to the 2011-12 Premier League season, these clubs have met 20 times in league play and scored 45 goals. That's an average of 2.25 goals per match, and only three of those 20 matches have seen four or more goals scored in them, so why in the world would we bet on it being four in 21? The Pick: Under 3.5 (-160)
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Inter Milan vs. Juventus, Sun. 2:45 p.m, CBS Sports Network and Paramount+
It can be nerve-wracking taking an under in a Serie A match, especially when the total is set at 2.5. Of the five major leagues in Europe, Italy's top league has been the highest-scoring this season, just like it was last season. Serie A matches are averaging 3.18 goals per match. The Bundesliga is second at 3.04. It's that high-scoring entertainment that has made betting the over quite profitable in the league this season, but for this match, I have to go the other way.
Juventus got off to a slow start to the season but they've adapted to life without Ronaldo and turned things around quickly. The key to that turnaround? Well, with Max Allegri in charge, you shouldn't be surprised to learn it's the team's defense. Juventus have allowed an average of 0.78 expected goals (xG) per match over their last eight matches, which have resulted in seven wins and a draw. When we look at how Juve have played away from home in that stretch, they've won four straight matches, but while games against lesser clubs like Malmö and Spezia ended with 3-0 and 3-2 wins, against tougher sides, things have been far more pragmatic. It's been 1-0 wins where the xG matches the final scoreline, as Juve haven't mounted much of an attack in either. On Sunday, at the San Siro against an Inter squad that's been terrific defensively at home, I'm expecting another pragmatic affair. First goal wins if it even comes. The Pick: Under 2.5 (+100)
Barcelona vs. Real Madrid, Sun. 10:15 a.m, ESPN+
I am so grateful for Barcelona having one of the world's largest and most passionate fan bases because it forces sportsbooks to protect themselves against it. Real Madrid is favored in this match, even though it's in Barcelona, but it's not favored by enough. Over the last couple of seasons, Barcelona have been bumslayers. That's still the case without Lionel Messi. This is a team with numbers that look good because they pile on against inferior competition but come crashing back to Earth against better teams. In 11 matches across all competitions, Barcelona have played four clubs currently in the Champions League (Bayern Munich, Benfica, Atlético Madrid and Dynamo Kiev). Barca have won only one of those four matches (they beat Dynamo) and lost the other three. They were outscored in xG in those matches by a score of 5.3-4.1. If we remove the Dynamo Kiev match, they were outdone 5.2-2.5.
In Barcelona's other seven matches this season, they have an xG advantage of 12.3-6.7. Notice the disparity? That's what bumslaying looks like! Well, Real Madrid might not be at the height of their own powers right now, but they're in much better shape than the Blaugrana, and certainly aren't a bum. To get Real at this price feels like a steal no matter the result. The Pick: Real Madrid (+150)
This weekend's parlay pays +128.
- Chelsea (-550)
- Bayern Munich (-600)
- Everton or Draw (-700)
- Sevilla (-225)