The Premier League has long been considered the best domestic league in the world. There seems to be more parity this season as well, as only four points separate first-place Arsenal and fifth-place Tottenham. That margin is small, but parity isn't the correct word to describe the league.
The proper description would be top-heavy. The teams at the top are so close to one another because they've all done an incredible job of beating up on everybody else.
Aston Villa has been one of the season's biggest surprises, as they sit in fourth place with 28 points, two behind Arsenal's 30. Villa is averaging 2.15 points per match, which is an incredible rate. In fact, that 2.15 points per match are more than Leicester City averaged when it won the league in the 2015-16 season, and more than the 1998-99 treble-winning Manchester United team once considered the greatest English team of all time.
And Aston Villa is in fourth. Only once in the last 10 seasons has the fourth-place finisher in the league averaged 2 points per match (Liverpool in 2016-17).
|Premier League Season
|Pts per match for 1st
|Pts per match for 4th
There's still plenty of time for things to return to normal levels, but at the moment, the Premier League doesn't have parity. It's simply two different leagues disguised as one.
Newcastle United vs. Manchester United
Date: Saturday, Dec. 2 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: USA
After writing about the top-heavy Premier League, I may as well start the column with a match between the fifth and sixth-place teams averaging enough points per match to finish in the top four most seasons! The first thing we need to do before figuring out how to bet this match is determine whether or not Manchester United are In Crisis at the moment. It's so hard to keep track! They had been playing well in the Premier League for a while, and the heat had died down, but after a 3-3 draw to Galatasaray in the Champions League, it sounds like the sky is falling again.
I don't know. I think for this match, I'll stick to a trend I find far more critical. Good results or bad, neither one of these teams is defending well at the moment. Newcastle have won only one of its last four matches across all competitions because of it, and Manchester have allowed at least 2 expected goals in four of their last seven matches. The Pick: Over 2.5 (-140)
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Bayer Leverkusen vs. Borussia Dortmund
Date: Sunday, Dec. 3 | Time: 11:30 a.m. ET | Watch: ESPN+
Don't look now, but we may have a legit title race in Germany. Bayer Leverkusen have been one of the big surprises of the season, and they sit two points ahead of Bayern Munich because they're unbeaten in all competitions (Bundesliga, Europa League and the DFB Pokal) with 18 wins and a draw. That's great! The problem is Leverkusen haven't lost a match yet, and they're only two points ahead of Bayern. It will be extremely difficult to maintain that level of play.
I like their chances of doing so this weekend, though. They're facing a Dortmund team that's been much stronger at home than on the road. Dortmund allow 2.08 xG per road match compared to 1.41 at home. Considering how hot Leverkusen are and how terrific they've been defensively at home, it won't be easy for Dortmund to snatch a point here. The Pick: Bayer Leverkusen (-155)
Napoli vs. Inter
Date: Sunday, Dec. 3 | Time: 2:45 p.m. ET | Watch: Paramount+
As a Napoli fan, I did not shed a tear when Rudi Garcia was fired during the international break, but I don't believe it was entirely fair, either. Napoli not being able to maintain the incredible play of last season was more reality than anything Garcia did, and there was this sense that the defending had dropped off, but the numbers haven't supported that. Napoli's xG allowed is the third-best in Serie A. The problem is they've been slightly unlucky, allowing 14 goals on an xG allowed of 11.3.
What's concerning me now is that Napoli's defending has been worse in two matches since the managerial change. Granted, one of those matches was against Real Madrid in the Champions League, but there were some concerning moments even in last weekend's 2-1 win over Atalanta. That doesn't bode well for the defending champions against an Inter team currently in first that's flying. Still, the price on Inter here is a little too heavy for my taste. I'd rather bet the over. The Pick: Over 2.5 (-125)
A simple four-leg parlay paying +126.
- RB Leipzig (-450)
- Arsenal (-370)
- Real Madrid (-650)
- Liverpool (-380)