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The international break is over, which is a massive relief because, even though I enjoy international soccer, it is nearly impossible to bet. Still, the break was nice because it's always a treat to watch the United States men's national team beat Mexico, but it wasn't all great news for me. I also had to watch Italy go to Northern Ireland and be held to a scoreless draw, which meant Switzerland won Italy's World Cup qualifying group. So now, here I am again, four years later, with Italy in danger of missing the World Cup again.

I don't need this kind of stress in my life. You would think a team capable of winning the Euros over the summer could qualify for the World Cup with ease, but apparently not. It does offer some perspective, though.

While the USMNT region, Concacaf, is a mess, it's a much easier path to the World Cup than UEFA is for Italy. The fact Italy couldn't win its group after winning the Euros shows how much deeper the competition is in Europe than here in North America. Now, onto the this weekend's matches. All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.

Liverpool vs. Arsenal, Sat. 12:30 p.m, NBC

Handicapping soccer isn't easy to begin with, and it's more difficult coming off an international break. Some clubs are more affected by players traveling than others, and then there are the teams that were in good form before the break. You can't be sure they'll return and pick up right where they left off. This is why Arsenal fans are likely worried. The team had won four straight matches before the break and the Gunners are on a 10-match unbeaten streak. After a slow start to the season, it looked as if the team had finally figured out what Mikel Arteta wanted it to do, and everything was working.

But what if time apart ruins that? And what if your first match back is at Anfield against Liverpool? One thing that worries me about Arsenal in this spot is that, even while they were winning, their attack wasn't as potent as you'd like to see against a stronger team. Arsenal racked up goals and xG against teams like Aston Villa and Watford but was a bit more reserved elsewhere. Now, they're on the road where they've been much worse all season long against a Liverpool side I believe to be a lot better. I think the Gunners do everything they can to muddy this one up and keep within range, which should lead to a lower-scoring affair. The Pick: Under 3.5 (-145)

Inter Milan vs. Napoli, Sun. 12 p.m, CBS Sports Network/Paramount+

This is a massive match in Serie A, as Napoli find themselves tied with AC Milan atop the table, and Inter Milan -- last year's champion -- aren't far behind both. These matches will decide who wins the league this season, and this one isn't coming at the best of times for Inter. Even off the break, Inter are dealing with injuries to key players. Reports out of Italy are skeptical that either Edin Dzeko, Alexis Sanchez or Stefan de Vrij will be able to play, and there are doubts about Lautaro Martinez as well. On the other side, Napoli are as close to 100% as any team can expect at this point in the season.

Still, even without some key players, Inter are a deeper squad than Napoli and more capable of withstanding their absences. The question is, how effective can Inter be at cracking the best defense in Europe? There are 98 clubs in Europe's top five leagues, and none of them have allowed fewer goals or have a lower expected goals allowed (xGA) than Napoli (Chelsea are tied with Napoli with only four goals allowed, but have played one fewer match and have a much higher xGA). Defending had been a weak point for Napoli last season, and it's the first thing new manager Luciano Spalletti set out to fix. He's done so, and it's that defense that will get Napoli out of San Siro with at least a point. The Pick: Napoli or Draw (-150)

Tottenham vs. Leeds United, Sun. 11:30 a.m, NBCSN

This is primarily a gut play. Antonio Conte is in charge at Tottenham now, and he plays a particular style. Some fans consider it boring, and I don't blame them, because it can be sometimes. But when Conte's style of football is executed well, as it was consistently with Inter last season, it's breathtaking to watch. While fully acknowledging that trying to predict anything that will happen in a Leeds United match is no different from predicting a random number generator, I believe this is a good matchup for what Conte likes his teams to do.

Leeds want the ball? Conte and Tottenham will let them have it. It'll draw Leeds further and further forward, and then Pierre Højbjerg will intercept a pass, fire it upfield to Harry Kane, who will catch it with his chest, ward off the defender, move the ball onto a streaking Son Heung-min, and either Son or Kane will finish with a goal to put Tottenham ahead. It might even happen a second or a third time because Leeds will not change how they play, even if it plays directly into Tottenham's plans. Then Tottenham will win. The Pick: Tottenham (-135)

Weekend Parlay

The parlay is on a three-column losing streak. Don't worry; the parlay spent the international break honing its skills and working on its weaknesses. Now it's confident it can keep teams like Chelsea from drawing against freaking Burnley because Thomas Tuchel wants to rest players. No, the parlay isn't bitter. Anyway, this week's parlay pays +166.

  • Atalanta (-420)
  • Borussia Monchengladbach (-333)
  • Atlético Madrid (-250)
  • Manchester City (-550)



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