It's not the most robust weekend in Europe, particularly in England. With the FA Cup semifinals going on -- one of which is a possible Champions League final preview between Manchester City and Chelsea -- there aren't many Premier League matches left to choose from. Also, I don't make a habit of betting the FA Cup. Even when we reach the semis and things get "real," you can never be sure how badly any of the teams remaining want to win it.
Particularly when two of them just reached the Champions League semifinals, and one of those two (Chelsea) still need to make sure it qualifies for the Champions League next season.
Thankfully, Italy is coming to our rescue. The race for the top four (the Champions League qualification spots) in Serie A is one of the most exciting in the world, and we have two matches in Italy this week between clubs fighting for those spots. So, while we'll start in England on Saturday, it's Sunday in Italy where the weekend's biggest matches will occur. All odds are via William Hill Sportsbook, and all times listed are Eastern.
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1. Wolverhampton vs. Sheffield United, Sat. 3:15 p.m, Peacock
Sheffield United have nothing to play for but pride. They sit at the bottom of the Premier League table, 19 points away from safety with only seven matches left to play. In other words, a team that has won only four of 31 matches this season would need to win each of its last seven even to have a 5% chance of surviving. It won't happen. This is a Sheffield United team that has won only once in its last nine matches and has managed only three goals and 5.5 expected goals (xG) in that span. It stinks.
Meanwhile, Wolverhampton has been playing pretty well lately, or at least better than their results. They've won only once in their last six (with two draws) but with an xG advantage of 5.4-3.8 over the opposition in their last four matches. They should pick up another three points and climb closer to the top half of the table on Saturday. The Pick: Wolverhampton (-150)
2. Atalanta vs. Juventus, Sun. 9 a.m, ESPN+
I enjoy the overreaction to Juventus' struggles. Juventus have won nine straight Serie A titles, but will not be winning the league this year, and they've already been knocked out of the Champions League. This has led to the endless study of Cristiano Ronaldo's body language and questions about Andrea Pirlo's ability to manage. If Pirlo -- who had never managed anywhere before this season -- were having the same kind of results at a smaller Italian club, people would be saying he should take over at Juventus. Since he's having the results at Juventus, they wonder if he should be replaced.
But the criticism isn't all misplaced. Juventus have been an uneven team this year, at times looking like they can beat anybody and at others looking like it's without a plan. That's not the case with Atalanta at the moment. Atalanta have won nine of their last 11 matches across all competitions, and the only two losses came to Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals. This weekend they face a Juventus team with problems in defense at times, and I'm not sure how the Juventus defense will hold up against the relentless pressure from the Atalanta attack. Atalanta average 2.13 xG per match at home in Serie A, and I like their chances of wearing down Juve on Sunday. The Pick: Atalanta (+145)
3. Napoli vs. Inter Milan, Sun. 2:45 p.m, ESPN+
As much as my Napolitano heart wants Napoli to win this match on Sunday, I don't dare to bet against Inter. Inter haven't lost a match since losing to Juventus 2-1 in the Coppa Italia semis on Feb. 2. Antonio Conte's side hasn't lost a league match since a stunning 2-1 loss to Sampdoria on Jan. 6 and has won 20 of 23 Serie A matches, including the last 11. That's why Inter have the Scudetto (the league title) wrapped up already.
Napoli are currently in fifth place, chasing both Juventus and Atalanta for that fourth spot, but while they've been playing better lately, I'm not sure they're up to the task of taking down Inter. At least, not often enough to take it at the price offered. Instead, I'm attacking the total. Napoli have a dynamic attack (they're averaging 1.78 xG in their last nine matches), but also struggle defensively. Inter are explosive and efficient in attack and will have plenty of chances. This should be an entertaining, high-scoring affair. The Pick: Over 2.5 (-115)
This weekend's parlay is limited to Sunday, and it pays out at +151.
- PSG (-310)
- Lazio (-250)
- Manchester United (-280)