I am annoyed that Manchester City and Chelsea are playing this weekend. Maybe that's a strange response to the match, but it's true. It's also entirely possible that this reaction is born of the fact I had forgotten the match was scheduled to happen this weekend.
I had been so focused on breaking down both teams for the Champions League matches earlier this week that when both moved on to the final, it had completely escaped my mind that they were scheduled to play this Saturday, and not just the last Saturday in May.
Regardless of why I'm annoyed, I am annoyed. So much so there's a not-so-significant part of me hoping that both Pep Guardiola and Thomas Tuchel send out their version of the "B Team" so as not to tip each other off about their plans for the Champions League. Of course, I know that's not likely because Man City clinches a Premier League title with a win, and Chelsea is still battling for a top-four finish.
So I guess I'll just have to watch two of the best clubs in the world right now play this weekend and hope we don't get too many spoilers for the Champions League. This is my cross to bear, and I shall do it.
All odds via William Hill Sportsbook.
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Manchester City vs. Chelsea, Sat. 12:30 p.m, NBC
What? You thought being annoyed would keep me from betting on it? C'mon now! The Process knows nothing of human emotion; it knows only that this is just a chance for us to prepare ourselves for betting the Champions League final.
It's also a chance to prepare ourselves for the fact the final might be somewhat dull. Since Tuchel took over at Chelsea, the team has allowed only four goals in 11 away matches, and it's allowed an average of 0.42 expected goals (xG) in those matches. Tuchel's overhauled the team's defense, and it's incredibly stingy on the road. Only Porto managed more than 0.5 xG against Chelsea in any of those matches.
Also, if we look at the FA Cup semifinal between these two in April (they play every three weeks now!), it wasn't an offensive showcase. Man City took 11 shots, but most were from distance, and only three were on target. Chelsea only had three of its own in a 1-0 win. I don't think Saturday's meeting will look all that different. The Pick: Under 2.5 (-150)
Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid, Sat. 10:15 a.m, fuboTV/beIN Sports
It's a massive weekend in Spain, as only four points separate the top four teams in the standings, and they're all playing each other. On Sunday, Real Madrid are scheduled to take on Sevilla once they get done blaming Eden Hazard for all of their problems. Barcelona and Atletico will battle before that. A win for Atléti might be enough to wrap up the league should Real Madrid drop points to Sevilla, but it would knock Barcelona out of the running.
So what's going to happen? Well, I've had a pretty simple formula I've followed this season when betting Barcelona matches. Barcelona are bumslayers. They beat up on the teams below their level but struggle against teams at their level or above it. For example, if we look at the other three clubs in the top four in Spain, Barcelona have only two wins in seven matches across all competitions, and both of those wins came against Sevilla. Against Madrids Real and Atletico, Barcelona have lost all three matches and were outscored 6-2 in the process. And while Atlético hit a bit of a rough patch this spring that saw their league lead shrink, it's gotten its act together again recently, and I like its chances of getting a result here. The Pick: Atlético Madrid or Draw (-102)
West Ham vs. Everton, Sun. 11:30 a.m, NBCSN
I don't want to just come out and say that Everton have been fortunate this season because that would undercut the work that Carlo Ancelotti has done with this team, and it is a good team. Still, they've gotten pretty lucky! If you look at the Premier League table, only one team in the top half has a negative xG difference, and it isn't Arsenal in ninth or Aston Villa in tenth. Nope, it's Everton, who have an xG difference of -3.8 on the season, which works out to -0.11 per match. That latter number ranks 11th in the league, yet here Everton sit with a slim chance to reach the Europa League, or Europa Conference (the new third European tournament being introduced next season) -- a chance that would improve with a win over West Ham on Sunday.
But I don't think that win is coming. West Ham were somewhat lucky themselves earlier this season, as their results were better than their overall play, but the regression has already come, and West Ham remain solid. When you look at recent results, aside from a 3-2 loss to Newcastle which involved an early red card, everything's gone as it should. I can say the same for Everton, but unfortunately, those results include only one win in their last eight matches. West Ham end Everton's European pipe dream this weekend while solidifying their own chances. The Pick: West Ham (+127)
A four-team money line parlay for the weekend paying +169
- Hoffenheim (-450)
- Lyon (-245)
- Liverpool (-340)
- Atalanta (-480)