Corner Picks' holiday hiatus is over, and here's to hoping a change in the year will lead to a change in results because we limped to the finish line in 2020. Actually, the term limp is probably being generous. It felt more like I was being dragged from the back of a horse over a field of broken glass.
I've been picking out shards for weeks.
Anyway, now that the Premier League is getting back to a more typical weekly schedule, it's time for Corner Picks to get back to work. And since it's been so long, I've even got a bonus pick from Serie A this weekend. All odds are via the William Hill Sportsbook.
1. Leeds United vs. Brighton
There comes a time when you have to realize that not every team will regress to the mean. For Brighton, this is that time for me. It's become more apparent in recent weeks that Brighton isn't going to start scoring a bunch of goals no matter what the expected goals metric says. No, it turns out that Brighton is a team that takes a lot of shots and racks up the xG, but doesn't have enough finishing power.
Players like Neal Maupay, Danny Welbeck, Aaron Connolly and Leandro Trossard just aren't clinical finishers. So, even against a defense as soft and welcoming as Leeds United's, I'm betting the goals won't flow. Leeds's defending has been much better at home this season, and I know they can score, so I'm going to rely on them to win this one as Brighton firmly establishes itself in a relegation battle. Pick: Leeds (+115)
2. Liverpool vs. Manchester United
I was initially tempted to take the over in this one, but the juice was a little too high. Instead, I'm going to go with the option that makes a bit more sense because the reason I was so interested in taking the over is that I can't see either one of these teams holding the other without a goal in this matchup.
Liverpool's defense has tightened up in recent weeks, as they haven't allowed more than 1.0 xG against in any of their last five matches. Of course, those five matches came against Crystal Palace, West Brom, Newcastle United, Southampton and a literal group of teenagers in Aston Villa jerseys (and one of those teenagers managed to score). Manchester United will pose much more of a threat. I'm hoping this one lives up to the potential. Pick: Both Teams to Score - Yes (-150)
3. Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace
Picking Manchester City to win is boring, and picking against both teams to score didn't offer a great price. So why not combine the two? Ignoring its current place in the table, Crystal Palace is not good, and I'm expecting them to creep closer and closer to the bottom three as the season goes on. Away from home, an attack that's already mostly lifeless is even more so. If we remove the five-goal performance Palace had against West Brom in early December, the Eagles have scored three goals in their last seven away matches.
Now they're in a position where they're facing a City team that's been tremendous defensively all year and has finally found its rhythm in attack. City will have the ball roughly 70% of the time in this match, and they're good enough defensively to deal with any potential counters because they can take Wilfried Zaha out of the picture and force Palace to find another route to a goal. I don't think it can. Pick: Manchester City to win to Nil (-143)
BONUS PICK: Inter Milan vs. Juventus
This is a massive match in Serie A. Inter need to win to keep pace with AC Milan at the top of the table, and if Juventus loses, Andrea Pirlo's men will likely be 10 points behind AC Milan in the standings by the end of the weekend. As for how things will go, I see a lot of value on a Juventus team as the underdog. Particularly when we consider how much better Juventus has been playing of late.
It shouldn't have surprised anybody to see Juventus get off to a slow start to the season since Pirlo had never managed before and now found himself in charge of Italy's best team. However, Juventus has begun to figure it out as of late, winning six of its last eight Serie A matches with only one loss. Inter, on the other hand, has cooled off. After winning eight straight in Serie A, the Nerazzurri managed only a point in their last two matches. More worrisome is the 3.9 xG against they've allowed in their last three. The defense has slipped lately, and now they'll be facing a Juventus team that's figuring things out in attack. This isn't great timing for Inter. Pick: Juventus (+185)