It was almost all chalk in Round 1 of the MLS Playoffs. The only road team to deliver a win was LA Galaxy against Minnesota (although it took a massive comeback by Philadelphia Union to advance).
The marque match of the semifinal round is without a doubt another El Trafico, as LAFC host Zlatan and co. How big is the match? In a good sign as to the state of MLS, even the bad tickets are fetching top dollar.
Here are the odds and some quick thoughts on each match. Look for our predictions post by Wednesday.
MLS Conference Semifinal Odds
|NYCFC -107||Draw +265||Toronto +265|
|Seattle Sounders -139||Draw +280||Real Salt Lake +360|
|Atlanta United -152||Draw +310||Philadelphia Union +350|
|LAFC -250||Draw +410||LA Galaxy +550|
Odds & Ends
- LAFC are (rightfully) the biggest favorite of the week, priced at -250 to Galaxy’s +550. However, 1) for whatever reason, Galaxy are in LAFC’s head, 2) Galaxy looked pretty good against Minnesota!, 3) and they won without Zlatan doing well, who 4) always brings his A-game against LAFC. It only seems right that LAFC prevails here, but it won’t surprise anyone if Galaxy win.
- ATLUTD are only -152 at home against Philly. While that may seem low, they didn’t look great against New England. Only when the Pogba and Villalba subs were made did Atlanta “look like Atlanta.” However, Philadelphia was lit up at home by RBNY, so 🤷♀️. Having said all of that, while Atlanta doesn’t feel like a lock, they keep winning big games at home. And -152 a good price.
- Speaking of good prices, Seattle -139 at home?! Maybe we’re not giving RSL enough credit, but Seattle is a legit Cup contender. Don’t see them losing at home.
- Interestingly, that NYCFC vs Toronto price is very favorable to the Canadians. NYCFC started as even-money and just moved to slight favorites as we were writing this up. While LAFC vs Galaxy is the most intriguing match, this is probably the best of the bunch.
Who: Genk vs Liverpool
When: Wednesday, October 223rd @ 3:00pm ET
Line: Genk +800 | Draw +550 | Liverpool -360
Last season, they lost all of their group stage games (including to Red Star Belgrade!). This season, they were on their way to a draw at Napoli before a ridiculous penalty was called against Andy Robertson in the box.
So Liverpool can’t win away from Anfield then, right?
Nah. They won 17 straight domestic games until this weekend. And in 2017-18 they had a +17 goal differential and no losses in the group stage. They’ll be fine.
Genk vs Liverpool match preview
First, for the majority of our readers, it’s probably worth spending a few sentences on the following: Who is Genk?
Genk play in the Belgium first division (same as Club Brugge). They’re currently seventh in the table.
Their Global Club Rank puts them as the 109th best squad in the world. For comparison’s sake, Norwich is 104th and LAFC is 111th.
If Liverpool faced Norwich or LAFC away, you’d think they’d win comfortable, right?
Genk are a compact defensive squad. Their best players (Carlos Cuesta, Sander Berge, Joakim Maehle, Jhon Lucmi, gk Gaetan Coucke) are all defensive contributors (Berge at DMC being the fulcrum).
If they’re going to score, it’ll either be from a set piece or in open play from Mbwana Samatta. You maybe saw some tweets recently about Samatta being the first Tanzanian to score in the Champions League. Of the team’s 15 domestic league goals this season, Samatta has 5 of them.
Those 15 domestic goals are the lowest of any Belgium team in the top 7. Genk don’t score. That’s their problem.
Genk vs Napoli shows Liverpool a worst case scenario
Napoli is a close approximation to Liverpool. At home, Genk held Napoli to a 0-0 draw. That result flipped the group odds to Liverpool’s favor.
The stats in that match more or less will mirror Liverpool’s on Wednesday. Napoli had 63% possession. They outshot the Belgiums 18 to 14. Napoli were just wildly unlucky.
xG map for Genk – Napoli
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) October 2, 2019
The Italians hit the woodwork early. Coucke came up with some huge saves and was bailed out with a goal-line clearance from his defense once.
Napoli should’ve won.
Mo Salah injury update and impact
According to Jurgen Klopp, Mohamed Salah wasn’t “close” to playing against Manchester United. Given this is the Reds most forgiving UCL away match, I’d expect Salah to sit it out too.
This is an obvious problem for Liverpool. While Roberto Firmino (when “on”) is the most important player on the Reds, Salah is still the best.
It was evident on Sunday against Manchester United. Salah’s gravitational pull on other defenders opens up opportunities that simply don’t exist without him. It was most apparent on Sadio Mane, who had exactly zero shots on goal (to be fair, he scored a goal that was ruled off due to a BS handball VAR review, but moving on…).
No Salah, less shots. The Genk vs Napoli match from a personnel perspective actually becomes a closer approximation of how this should go.
Genk will park the bus and Liverpool will have to break them down
Even with Genk’s solid defensive work, Napoli still managed 18 shots on goal. They were massively unlucky to not see one find the back of the net.
The strategy here isn’t complicated. Genk will park the bus. They’ll ride the tide of emotion from their home crowd and play aggressive and with purpose. They’ll try to contain and frustrate Liverpool while being opportunistic on a counter or set piece. Genk will be playing for a draw.
Just can’t see Genk scoring on Liverpool. They don’t have enough offensive weaponry. Klopp will look to add some defensive composure by inserting James Milner in the line-up. Divock Origi will get a start, having an inspired performance against his home country crowd. Liverpool find a goal or two and win this 2-0.
Who: Ajax vs Chelsea
When: Wednesday, October 23rd @ 12:55pm ET
Line: Ajax +120 | Draw +255 | Chelsea +205
The Chelsea youngsters have been enjoying themselves. They’re dominating oppositions and shoving them aside to record a string of impressive wins after a bloomy start to the season. Now it’s time to tussle with someone their own size (and age) as they enter the lion’s den when visiting a confident AFC Ajax side in the UEFA Champions League.
Ajax have shown no signs of stopping even after losing their prized assets this summer. Erik ten Hag’s boys are putting on classy shows in Europe this season. They’re undefeated in the Eredivisie and dominated their way into topping Group H.
But the young Ajax side face their biggest challenge yet in a surging Chelsea all ready to take the game to them. Frank Lampard’s spirited mentality is mirrored in his young side. They have enough quality to pose real problems for last season’s semi-finalists. This should be an exciting clash of attacking philosophies. Neither side is expected to hold back in a quest for all three points.
AFC Ajax Likely XI
Onana, Dest, Veltmann, Blind, Tagliafico, Martinez, Alvarez, Ziyech, Van de Beek, Neres, Tadic.
Ajax have no injuries currently and a packed squad full of interesting options to trouble the visitors.
Chelsea Likely XI
Kepa, James, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Tomori, Alonso, Jorginho, Kante, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, Abraham.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek remains the long-term injury for Chelsea, with Antonio Rudiger also unable to regain fitness so far. Christian Pulisic inspired their win over Newcastle in the weekend, but he’s unlikely to get a start in Europe.
AFC Ajax vs Chelsea Match Preview
Chelsea’s stuttering start to the season collided with their shocking home loss to open their Champions League campaign. However, the hard-fought win at Lille proved they have enough mileage to get out this group.
I think they need a string of wins in order to establish a top-two place for themselves, but doing so at Ajax’s expense is a monumental task. The Dutch giants not only are yet to drop a point: they haven’t even conceded a goal in the Champions League yet.
Indeed, 3-0 wins against Valencia & Lille showed just how above everyone else they are. With quality additions in the summer and inheriting even more wondrous talent from their unmatched academy, there’s a reason to their unbridled dominance.
We here at High Press Soccer have maintained our stance on Ajax winning this group. However, a compelling win over Chelsea will further solidify that. With established stars like Dusan Tadic, Hakim Ziyechm, Quincy Promes & the bubbly Donny van de Beek marching them forward, Chelsea’s inexperienced defence could be left in sixes & sevens.
Ajax’s stylish “Total Football” style has worked wonders even with a reshuffle in their shape. The squad has a 7.31 WhoScored Rating, proving how effective they’ve been. They’re delightful to watch, as if Ziyech’s 4g, 5a & Tadic’s 6g, 8a proves anything, they’ll be creating a nightmare for the young Chelsea.
Frank Lampard must be super pragmatic with his approach or risk an utter humiliation at the Johan Cruyff Stadium. Ajax are quick and decisive enough to find the loopholes in his system,. This is the English manager’s toughest task yet in his short managerial career.
He must go with a defensive approach, including a stacked defensive line just so that his young defenders aren’t exposed. Kepa Arrizabalaga statistically has some of the worst goalkeeping stats in the Premier League, so he’s not going expected to be a big heroic factor for them.
Lampard needs experience stars like the three-lung N’Golo Kante to run all over & nullify Ajax’s threat. An inspired Jorginho will help bring composure as well as drive Chelsea forward. The Blues have enough quality in Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi & Tammy Abraham to create penetrative moves, but they must take their chances.
Pulisic is always there as his wild-card to bring on later as a potential match-decider, with his electric nature assured to test Ajax’s defence. Lampard should allow his players to be expressive and take the game to the hosts. But he also must maintain a compact defensive shape at all times to stop the game from going out their hands.
Chelsea should give Ajax a run for their money here, but the Dutch side are just too strong at home. I’d say Ajax will win this 2-1 or 3-1 depending on how Lampard’s side approaches the game.
So Liverpool’s win streak ended Sunday at 17. The Reds tied Manchester United 1-1. However, they’re still favorites to win the Premier League.
Oddsmakers only give 7 teams a realistic shot at the top 4.
Premier League Title and Top 4 Odds
So, yeah. Liverpool are still odds-on favorites. Manchester City have crept back to almost even-money.
Liverpool and City are off the board for top 4 now. Including those two, only 7 teams are +400 or better for the top 4: Chelsea, Arsenal, Leicester, Tottenham, and Manchester United.
Wolves are next closest at +2000 with Everton (for real?) at +2500.
Where to Bet the Premier League in the US
In the US, you can legally bet on soccer online in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.