It's an interesting weekend across Europe's top leagues. Not because there are some enticing matchups -- there are a couple, but for the most part, the overall slate is underwhelming compared to recent weekends -- but because of the impact the Champions League and Europa League could have on domestic leagues.
Earlier this season we saw the top clubs across the continent struggling as they dealt with a shorter offseason and the congested schedule of league play and European play, causing them to play multiple matches per week while their counterparts were playing once per week. For example, I don't think it's a coincidence that Manchester City was spinning its tires in the Premier League through the first two months of the season. A week after finishing their Champions League group stage matches, they began the 19-match win streak they enter the weekend carrying.
Will the return of the Champions League and Europa League have an impact on the teams still playing in them? This weekend will give us all an idea, and it's something worth keeping an eye on as we head forward.
As for what we have this weekend, while there might not be many headliner matchups, there are three matches I've found plenty of value on for our purposes. All odds are via the William Hill Sportsbook.
1. Leeds United vs. Aston Villa
OK, here's a confession. I might be addicted to gambling on Leeds matches. I've found myself doing so repeatedly over the last few weeks, and I'm no longer sure if I'm doing it because of the value or because of the adrenaline rush. Because, believe me, no matter what you bet in a Leeds United match, it's seldom going to be easy. Betting on a Leeds match is a better cardio workout than what Marcelo Bielsa puts his players through in training.
And you better believe there's going to be an adrenaline rush betting an under in a Leeds match, but this is a great spot to do so. Aston Villa will be without Jack Grealish again this weekend, and their attack was very disjointed without him last week against Leicester City. The team's defense was still stout; even though it allowed two goals early due to some confusion, it quickly fixed. Leeds has injuries of their own. Both Rodrigo and Kalvin Phillips will miss the match, as could Mateusz Klich. Pick: Under 2.5 (+130)
2. Chelsea vs. Manchester United
Even though we have a matchup between two teams in the top four (Manchester City and West Ham), this is arguably the biggest match in England this weekend. It's a matchup between two traditional Big Six clubs, and any time I've seen that this season I've been conditioned to lean toward the under. These matches rarely live up to the hype, and instead, we see the teams get more conservative because nobody wants to lose ground to another team competing for a Champions League spot next year.
Chelsea's defensive performance under Thomas Tuchel only makes me more confident in the pick. Since Tuchel took over, Chelsea have played eight matches across all competitions and allowed only two goals. Their xG against in seven of those eight (we don't have xG data for FA Cup matches) is 3.0, or 0.43 per match. They've been spectacular defensively. Granted, they haven't played a team like Manchester United, but United's attack has been spotty at best as of late, as they rack up the chances against bad teams but have struggled against stronger ones. So I'm thinking this match will something of a disappointment. I'm officially advising you to take the under, but I don't think betting the draw is an awful decision, either. Pick: Under 2.5 (-110)
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3. Roma vs. AC Milan
AC Milan are coming back to Earth. This team had been flying to start the season, but even when you saw the results, the underlying numbers always suggested regression was likely to come. It has. We saw a bit of that last weekend when Inter dismantled their rivals 3-0 (I hope you took the over with me!). Well, that was just the latest in a long list of bad results. AC Milan won four of their first five matches once the calendar flipped from 2020 to 2021 but have won only two of their last eight since. Those two wins came against Bologna and Crotone, two teams that sit in 14th and 20th in Serie A, respectively.
Meanwhile, Roma are playing well. They've won five of their last seven, with a draw and a loss mixed in. The lone loss came to Juventus, which was an unlucky loss (Juventus had an xG of just 0.2 in the match). Over those seven matches, Roma have an xG advantage of 12.9-4.2. Let's take the team moving in the right direction. Pick: Roma (+135)
A five-team money line parlay for this weekend that's paying +182.
- Borussia Dortmund (-500)
- Bayern Munich (-600)
- PSG (-480)
- Inter Milan (-530)
- Liverpool (-250)