Premier League Matchday 34 is full of high stakes fixtures. Liverpool and Manchester City have challenging match-ups. And save for Tottenham, none of the four teams vying for the remaining two UCL spots have cakewalks.
Every game matters this weekend. Here’s how the oddsmakers see them.
Matchday 34 Betting Lines Preview
|Leicester City -137||Draw +270||Newcastle United +400|
|Tottenham -650||Draw +650||Huddersfield +1800|
|Brighton Hove +130||Draw +230||Bournemouth +215|
|Burnley -105||Draw +235||Cardiff +320|
|Fulham +340||Draw +275||Everton -125|
|Southampton +160||Draw +210||Wolves +190|
|Manchester United -225||Draw +370||West Ham +650|
|Crystal Palace +900||Draw +425||Manchester City -333|
|Liverpool -162||Draw +300||Chelsea +425|
|Watford +225||Draw +260||Arsenal +115|
Odds & Ends
- Have you seen the Premier League table? Spots 3-6 are tightly bunched af. Chelsea (66 pts, 23 gd), Tottenham (64 pts, 26 gd), Arsenal (63 pts, 25 gd), and Manchester United (61 pts, 18 gd) are separated by razor thin margins. Chelsea have played one more game, but are three clear of fifth place Arsenal, but still have to play Liverpool (this week), Manchester United, and FA Cup finals participant TURN DOWN FOR WATFORD. Regardless, FiveThirtyEight give them a 52% chance of UCL qualification. Arsenal is at 50%. Man U is bringing up the rear at 19%.
- Liverpool are unbeaten at home since since The Beatles played the Cavern Club (seriously look it up). They’re surprisingly short home favorites at -162 given their fortressing of Anfield and ability to repeatedly pull last minute horseshoes from their rear.
- Last week, we called the Wolves – Manchester United game as a potential value play, saying the Red Devils may be due for an emotional letdown after the hiring of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This week United is somewhat reeling. Look at the West Ham draw or outright numbers there.
- Finally, Wolverhampton is a weekly (and gamely) roller-coaster. Southampton is in decent form. That +160 for the Saints at home is worth a longer look.
They’ve dueled 156 times in domestic play over the decades. But over the next week, the first-ever European meeting between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur will unfold under the hot spotlights of the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals – with a brand-new stadium heralding a new era on one side and one of the dominant teams in the modern game chasing history on the other.
Since the draw this all-Premier League matchup has been a subject of anticipation and no small amount of pride among devotees of English soccer. City’s early status as clear favorites has been amplified even further in recent weeks, however.
The reigning EPL champions have kept up a fearsome pace in their hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, running neck-and-neck with Liverpool atop the league standings and on the hunt for FA Cup and Champions League glory to add to the Carabao Cup trophy they hoisted in February.
With Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal win over Brighton & Hove Albion, the Cityzens are 21-1-1 across all competitions in 2019 and look eminently capable of winning their second continental title ever, and their first since the 1970 European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Spurs, meanwhile, have little choice but to take an aspirational approach to this clash. Though they finally moved into their gorgeous, and long-delayed, $1.3-billion new home this week, they’ll carry the debt incurred on the building for years. On the pitch, their undersized squad have slumped badly of late, losing four of their last six in the EPL. They also face a dogfight just to qualify for next season’s UCL with a top-four finish.
Injuries and Odds
Man City always smelled like the odds-on bookies’ choice here and the events of the past month have only tilted the numbers further in their direction. Do these lines underrate the potential influence of Spurs’ loud new home-field advantage? That’s an intangible for discerning punters to weigh.
Odds are from 04/08/19 on FanDuel NJ Sportsbook. As always, home team is listed first. If you need a refresher, visit how to bet soccer or how to bet Champions League.
|Tottenham +320||Draw +270||Manchester City -120|
|Manchester City -240||Draw +350||Tottenham +700|
|Odds to Advance to Semis|
|Manchester City -600|| |
Leveraged by their stadium financing to the reported tune of $838 million in total debt, Tottenham have been unable to buy reinforcements for manager Mauricio Pochettino in recent transfer windows, leaving them with little depth compared to City’s luxuriously-assembled roster.
Last month, Erik Lamela picked up a hamstring injury, the same fate that had already sidelined Serge Aurier, while Eric Dier and Fernando Llorente have been dealing with hip flexor and concussion issues, respectively. In better news, Harry Kane’s ankle ligament healed ahead of schedule earlier this spring and their other Harry, the Winks variety, just returned from a month out with hip and groin problems.
As for the blue side of Manchester? While Pep Guardiola still has three competitions to juggle, he also has both the quantity and quality of players to platoon with along the way. All things considered, their injury list is short as they enter the most decisive stage of the campaign.
That said, the most prominent concern is a highly influential one: Sergio Aguero limped out of the league win over Fulham with what appears to be a groin or similar soft-tissue knock. A scorer of 27 goals across all competitions this season, the Argentinean marksman is not easily replaced but will surely be focused on being fit enough for some sort of role in the Champions League series.
Fullback is suddenly a concern for Pep Guardiola, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Kyle Walker over the past week sustaining what are likely hamstring injuries and Fabian Delph also sidelined at present.
Combined Manchester City-Tottenham Starting XI
With cerebral managers in both technical areas and high-level talent all around, these two sides can trot out any number of tactical looks, making even basic lineup predictions something of a fool’s game. Our best guess uses a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 shape not far from their usual norms.
Here’s the combined starting XI for Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur using a 4-3-3:
Manager: Pep Guardiola
Considering the overall investments of their Abu Dhabi ownership, Man City might just be the most expensively-assembled squad in world soccer history, and it shows here. That’s a lot of sky blue. Meanwhile, Spurs are blessed with ample quality along the top lines of their depth chart, but can’t hold a candle to the Cityzens’ deeply-stacked roster of reserves and rotation options.
First off, it’s safe to say that Sergio Aguero saunters right into this XI is he’s fully fit and ready to go. With his status in doubt, I’m placing Harry Kane at the No. 9 spot, given how prolific and influential he’s been for both club and country. His Danish teammate Christian Eriksen also sneaks in, thanks to the elegant playmaking skill set and ice-cold veins that have caught the attention of Real Madrid and other global aristocrats.
After that, the front six takes on a distinctly sky-blue tint. Raheem Sterling is enjoying a breakthrough season and will surely play a significant role in this tie, while Bernardo Silva has become a steady City regular even while handling multiple tactical and positional assignments. At his best, Leroy Sane is pure, unplayable lightning along the flanks, and the fact that he’s been platooned at times this season says more about his team’s strength in depth than his own contributions.
In central midfield, Guardiola is spoiled for choice and any number of potential combinations would be quite daunting to Tottenham. I’m guessing that he fields three of his most trusted soldiers – Kevin De Bruyne, Fernandinho and David Silva – in hopes of dominating the engine room, though don’t be surprised by a trademark tactical twist like an inverted fullback or a five-man midfield.
Injury questions complicate decisions along the back line. I’m guesstimating that Kyle Walker’s hamstring will recover in time for him to take part, though Spurs’ Kieran Trippier is a close second. Conversely, even as second- or third-choice at City, Ben Mendy’s plenty good enough to win the race on the left corner.
In the middle, Toby Alderweireld is one of the most wanted center backs in world soccer, so he features alongside Aymeric Laporte, though Nicolas Otamendi would have reason to feel hard done by in this scenario. As for goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris is a World Cup winner with a penchant for the spectacular – the problem is that it sometimes includes spectacular (and costly) gaffes, so the multilayered skillset of Ederson wins out for now.
Along the touchlines? Mauricio Pochettino is one of the fastest-rising managerial figures on the planet and a huge key to Tottenham’s ambitious climb towards the European elite. Alas, his track record simply isn’t as long or as trophy-strewn as Pep’s yet, so City’s Spanish schemer is the unavoidable pick here.
The USWNT throttled Belgium Sunday night 6-0 at the beautiful Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, in a game that taught us nothing much at all.
Oh, it was nice to be reminded that Carli Lloyd is still Carli Freakin’ Lloyd, and the former FIFA Player of the Year reminded us of that with two goals in a determined display.
And with an astounding five (!!!!!) headed goals out of six U.S. tallies, we also learned that the U.S can still rely on the “Abby Wambach Route 1” approach if need be. What we did not learn is if the American defense can be trusted against upper echelon teams in France this June at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.
Effective line-up changes hard to evaluate given the competition
Last week’s 5-3 win over Australia raised some doubts about that defense that clobbering Belgium simply could not assuage. Against Belgium, coach Jill Ellis reverted to playing Julie Ertz at center-back next to her 2015 World Cup partner Becky Sauerbrunn. Ellis surprisingly shifted prospective center-back Tierna Davidson to left-back, a move that allowed Crystal Dunn to trade her by now usual fullback role for the relative freedom of the midfield.
Sam Mewis subbed in for late scratch Rose Lavelle, and Ellis played a second string front three consisting of Lloyd flanked by Christen Press and Mallory Pugh. This is an amazing second choice trio and an embarrassment of attacking riches, but no one is unseating a healthy Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, and Megan Rapinoe front line.
It took Lloyd 14 minutes to head home a Davidson cross (0:24 in the below video). Less than five minutes later, Lloyd nodded home again from brilliant work by Dunn (0:55 in the below vid).
By the time Lindsey Horan and Mewis added headed goals of their own the Yanks led 4-0 and Ellis had undone all her lineup changes sending Davison to center back, Ertz to the midfield, and Dunn back into defense.
What had Ellis learned in that half an hour that she did not in the past three years? That Ertz, then Julie Johnston, who made the 2015 World Cup All Star Team and was shortlisted for the Golden Ball, can play defense?
That Dunn a former NWSL MVP and Golden Boot winner as a striker can flourish further up the pitch? These would seem to be knowns. And what does a hat-trick of assists versus Belgium really tell us about Christen Press?
Ellis has noted that Press can be an effective distributor, but that playmaking has primarily come from a wide role for Press. Press did see some minutes recently at the number 10 spot but Ellis is seeming locked in on Lavelle for that role. Perhaps the coach could have tried Press centrally a bit more often these past three years?
Any U.S. Women’s national Team Coach would have faced the same challenges that Ellis has has since that historic flameout versus Sweden in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. There had to be turnover, there had to be experimentation. There is the feeling in some quarters, this being one, that answers should have been found by now for some of these questions.
And before we get to the most obvious position in need of clarity, center-back, let’s talk briefly about the one position the Ellis was reluctant to experiment with these past three years: goalkeeper.
Ellis gave Ashlyn Harris a bit of a look, and Jane Campbell and Adrianna Franch were briefly considered but Ellis seemed to lock in on Alyssa Naeher to replace Hope Solo and it never seemed to be a genuinely open competition.
Naeher has been good, can she be great? Could one of the others?
But back to the center of the U.S. defense, center-back. 33 year-old Becky Sauerbrunn remains entrenched in one spot, deservedly. But Ellis’ temptation to return to Ertz can be read as a lack of confidence in her other options, 20 year-old Tierna Davidson and 25 year-old Abby Dahlkemper.
When Ertz was moved forward to the defensive midfielder role in 2017, she was considered both a revelation and a solution. Partnered with Horan and Mewis, the midfield was secured. Looking for a bit more offensive ability, Ellis would work Lavelle into the number 10 role at the expense of Mewis, although Mewis continues to impress when called upon.
Time is running out to find the right answers
Just three friendlies remain before the USWNT begin World Cup play on June 11 versus Thailand. With all due respect, Ellis could put out any number of lineups and beat Thailand. The same holds for Chile five days later.
The next real test for the U.S comes versus old friend Pia Sundhage and Sweden. It is a chance to avenge Brazil 2016, it is a chance for Ellis to even the score with her former boss, but most importantly it could be a step on the road to a World Cup Championship.
Then, and only then, is when we will find out if Ellis got it right with all of her tinkering.
U.S. Women’s National Team Match Report
Match: U.S. Women’s National Team vs. Belgium
Date: April 7, 2019
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Banc of California Stadium; Los Angeles, Calif.
Kickoff: 6 p.m. PT
Weather: 70 degrees; Partly cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 4 2 6
BEL 0 0 0
USA – Carli Lloyd (Tierna Davidson) 14th minute
USA – Carli Lloyd (Crystal Dunn) 19
USA – Lindsey Horan (Christen Press) 26
USA – Samantha Mewis (Christen Press) 33
USA – Alex Morgan (Carli Lloyd) 52
USA – Jessica McDonald (Christen Press) 90+1
USA: 1-Alyssa Naeher (24-Ashlyn Harris, 46); 11-Ali Krieger, 4-Becky Sauerbrunn, 8-Julie Ertz (7-Abby Dahlkemper, 46), 12-Tierna Davidson; 9-Lindsey Horan (20-Allie Long, 60), 19-Crystal Dunn (13-Alex Morgan, 46), 3-Samantha Mewis (25-McCall Zerboni, 73); 22-Mallory Pugh (26-Jessica McDonald, 61), 10-Carli Lloyd (capt.), 23-Christen Press
Substitutes not used: 2-Emily Sonnett, 17-Tobin Heath
Head coach: Jill Ellis
BEL: 21-Nicky Evrard; 2-Davina Philtjens (5-Shari Van Belle, 59), 4-Heleen Jaques (17-Maud Coutereels, 59), 6-Tine De Caigny (3-Ella Van Kerkhoven, 80), 9-Tessa Wullaert (capt.), 11-Janice Cayman, 18-Laura De Neve, 19-Chloé Vande Velde (13-Elena Dhont, 46), 20-Julie Biesmans, 22-Laura Deloose (16-Sarah Wijnants, 85), 23-Kassandra Missipo (8-Lenie Onzia, 86)
Substitutes not used: 1-Justien Odeurs, 12-Lisa Lichtfus, 14-Davinia Vanmechelen
Head coach: Ives Serneels
Stats Summary: USA / BEL
Shots: 17 / 4
Shots on Goal: 8 / 0
Saves: 0 / 2
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 6 / 10
Offside: 1 / 2
USA – Carli Lloyd (caution) 64th minute
BEL – Maud Coutereels (caution) 90
Referee: Ekaterina Koroleva (USA)
Assistant Referee 1: Kathryn Nesbitt (USA)
Assistant Referee 2: Felisha Mariscal (USA)
4th Official: Karen Abt (USA)
Woman of the Match: Carli Lloyd