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Chops

Chops

Chops is the executive producer of High Press Soccer. He's an unabashed Liverpool fan who will absolutely let that bias seep into his reporting and analysis.

Liverpool Now -240 to Win Premier League After 3-1 Defeat of Manchester City

Chops November 10, 2019

Liverpool defeated Manchester City at Anfield today 3-1.

While City started strong, the game was never really in doubt after Fabinho’s master-strike in the 6th minute.

 

Stats may show an even match, but the chances Liverpool created were bigger–and they finished them well.

Liverpool are now eight clear of second place Leicester. Chelsea are also eight points back in third. Man City are 9 points back in fourth place.

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Liverpool Premier League Title Odds

Despite being 8 up on second place Leicester and 9 up on fourth place City, Liverpool are still only -240 to win the Premier League.

TeamOdds
Liverpool -240
Man City+225
Chelsea+2500
Leicester+3300
Arsenal+50000
Manchester United +50000
Tottenham+50000

Fourth place Manchester City, who are in fourth place, still have the second best odds despite being in fourth place. City are priced at +225.

Chelsea, who are in third place, which is ahead of fourth place Manchester City, are +2500. Leicester, who are in second place, which is two spots ahead of fourth place Manchester City, are +3300.

Should Liverpool be heavier favorites?

Liverpool have played all of the other “Big 7” clubs (Leicester, Chelsea, fourth place Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United). They’ve taken 16 out of a possible 18 points.

Fourth place Man City have only played two of the Big 7. They’ve taken 1 out of a possible 6 points from those teams.

Liverpool’s -240 are in-line with 538’s probability model.

However, ClubElo has viewed this Liverpool team as superior–and one of the five best of all-time.

The bottom-line is: fourth place Manchester City have a very steep climb  to get back in contention.

Where to bet the Premier League in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook.

 

Previewing Liverpool vs Manchester City on the High Press Soccer Podcast

Chops November 8, 2019

A new High Press Soccer Podcast is available to stream in this post or download from the Apple Podcast Center.

Chops is joined by site contributor Tyler Everett to discuss:

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Listen to “High Press Soccer Podcast Episode 40: Previewing Liverpool vs Manchester City” on Spreaker.

Champions League Group A Recap: Is It Time to Consider PSG a Real Contender?

Chops November 7, 2019

On Wednesday, PSG secured passage to the knockout rounds of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League with a 1-0 win over Club Brugge. At 4-0-0, the Parisians are perfect in the competition.

Look at that below table. They’ve scored 10 and conceded ZERO goals. Even Manchester City, in their annual cakewalk of a bracket, have conceded twice and dropped points. No other UCL squad can claim 4 clean sheets.

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2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group A Standings

ClubMPWDLGFGAGDPoints
PSG44001001012
Real Madrid42119547
Club Brugge402228-62
Galatasaray401308-81

Are PSG a legitimate Champions League contender?

At this point, you have to say “yes,” right? ddsmakers agree, as they’ve leap-frogged Liverpool (+650) to third favorite at +600.

It’s certainly fair to be skeptical. We’ve seen this drill before with PSG: impressive group play followed by Round of 16 flame-out. However, something about this squad just feels different. O

  1. They’re actually flying under the radar. Neymar has the ability to shift all focus on him both on and off the pitch. The Brazilian picked up a hamstring injury 12 minutes into an international match with Nigeria last month. He hasn’t seen the pitch since. While he should be back soon, Neymar has only played five games for PSG this campaign. The club is doing fine without him, in part because…
  2. …Mauro Icardi has been awesome. Typically, Icardi hears about Neymar drama and says, “Hold my beer.” But the Argentinian has been solid and mostly drama-free at PSG. He’s netted four times in the UCL and displaced Edinson Cavani in the starting XI. Assuming Neymar comes back and is in form, the attacking trio of him, Icardi, and Kylian Mbappe is downright scary.
  3. Angel Di Maria is on fire. The 31 year-old Argentinian is having his best season since 2015-16. He’s got 2 goals and 3 assists in the UCL to go along with 4 & 5 in Ligue 1. If PSG can keep him fresh into next year, he’s a terror in midfield.

This is PSG. Some dramabomb could drop at any moment. Cavani can’t be happy and may start making more noise. Icardi could steal someone else’s wife. Neymar could, well, be Neymar. The Mbappe rumors to Liverpool and Real Madrid could be a major spring of 2020 distraction. But for now, PSG should be considered top contenders.

What about Real Madrid?

Don’t read too much into their Wednesday 6-0 home paddling of Galatasaray. They were at a negative gd before the 6 goal outburst. RM will advance. But they’ll continue to be the wildly inconsistent bunch we’ve seen so far this season.

Los Blancos could be in for Round of 16 exit. They’re going to finish second in the group. That means they’ll be matched against a group winner in the Round of 16. We know it won’t be Manchester City as they’ll just continue to pay off UEFA officials for securing the easiest opponent. Would RM be favored to get past Manchester City, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, or Juventus? Nope. And while they likely would be favored against Chelsea/Ajax by oddsmakers, neither are favorable match-ups.

Group A Odds to Advance

Top 2 odds for Club Brugge and Galatasaray are now off the board. PSG and Real Madrid are going through. Over on DraftKings Sportsbook, PSG are -10000 to win the group. RM are +2500.

Liverpool vs Manchester City Matchday 12 Preview

Chops November 7, 2019

Who: Liverpool vs Manchester City
When: Sunday, November 10th @ 11:30am ET
LineLiverpool +165 | Draw +265 | Manchester City +150

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In the span of 24 hours this weekend, US sports fans will be treated two colossal match-ups. On Saturday, it’s a massive showdown from the two best teams in college football from college football’s best conference: Alabama vs LSU. Expect 40% of America to tune into that one.

Across the pond, the two best teams in the best domestic league in the biggest sport in the world face off: Liverpool vs Manchester City. If it pulls anything like last year’s match-up (it should draw more), expect about 40% of the adult world population or over 1 billion people to tune into that one.

Liverpool are six points clear of Manchester City going into the match. If they win, they go 9 up and put some comfortable distance between the two sides. That 9 points is even bigger considering something we’ve written and written again and now have written yet again:

This season in the Premier League, Liverpool have played and beaten or drawn:

  • Chelsea
  • Arsenal
  • Leicester City
  • Manchester United
  • Tottenham

Man City has played and tied:

  • Tottenham

Throwing Leicester (deservedly) into the big club popular clique, Liverpool will have gone up against all of them. A win on Sunday, and they’ll have captured 16 out of a possible 18 points from the best teams in the EPL.

That’s going to be tough for City to replicate. So while Sunday’s match won’t determine who ultimately wins the Premier League this season–it carries a ton of weight as to who eventually will.

Liverpool vs Manchester City Match Preview

Last season, Liverpool drew City 0-0 at Anfield. It was perhaps the biggest 💩 of a game either team could’ve played given the stakes. Neither team ever really opened it up. Both seemed content with a draw.

The only match Liverpool lost all of last season of course came at the Etihad. They lost it because of 11 millimeters. If you’re a genuine masochist, relive that painful 11 millimeter moment here:


That’s it. That’s how close these two teams were last season. That was the difference. Jurgen Klopp knows this. He won’t be content with a draw. Given the quality of teams City still has to face, Pep Guardiola knows he can’t afford a draw either.

So which match will this more closely resemble from last year? The one at the Etihad or Anfield?

Liverpool vs City has turned into a genuine rivalry. Pep Guardiola and City have consistently shown an inferiority complex when it comes to Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. (Speculating here) Pep knows that City’s bandwagon fans will never create the kind of atmosphere and passion that’s shown at Anfield. Additionally, City, whose owner suppresses human and women’s rights in his home country and wistfully breaks FFP regulations in England, simply bought errrrybody in sight. Liverpool used a forward-thinking analytics approach to assemble the smartest roster in Europe.

Now to be fair, City spent wisely on that billion dollar roster. And while Pep and the boys bottle up in the Champions League, they showed real resiliency and backbone in holding off Liverpool’s charge down the stretch in the EPL last season.

These teams don’t seem to particularly like each other. They know they’re the two best teams in the world (and two of the 10 best all-time). And they know what’s at stake.

Expect this to more closely resemble the Etihad match from last season.

That’s partly because the defenses are giving up more big chances

Both Liverpool and City have been vulnerable defensively this season. For City, injuries are mostly to blame. All-world center-back Aymeric Laporte is out. Left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko is out. Defensive center-mid Rodri is out. Ederson may be out. John Stones is NOT out. So yeah, the defense has issues.

As Grace Robertson points out on Statsbomb: “City are now a higher pressing side than ever, but at the same time are conceding chances of better quality than ever before, and have paid the price more than once.”

Some of that was happening before Laporte and Rodri went out. While Pep has tightened the defense up some recently, Liverpool is a different beast.

Liverpool’s defense is suffering similar issues as City, though (mostly) not just due injury concerns.

If you’ve watched every minute of every Liverpool match this season, you’re getting some queasy 2017 flashbacks. There are nervy moments and big chances conceded that simply didn’t happen last year.

A big part of that issue–from the eye test–is that Virgil van Dijk isn’t in the same form as last season. That’s understandable, as he had one of the most transforming years a center-back has ever had at a club.

But he’s a tick off this year.

The statistics back it up too.

There are lapses in concentration and organization that didn’t happen with the frequency as last season. VVD is the lowest statistical performer of his backline this campaign. He’s still great. He’s just not the colossus he was at this time last year. That’s in part reflected by the lack of clean sheets Liverpool is keeping. Yes, they’re winning. But they’re conceded goals they did not concede last year.

YET!

Liverpool have the same goal differential this year after 11 matches as last year (+16). And Liverpool are four points ahead of where they were at this point last season too (31 to 27). They’ve actually scored more this season compared to last at this time (25 to 21). They’ve just conceded more (9 to an absurdly low 5).

Liverpool allows the second fewest shots against them per game this season. City allow the fewest. So things aren’t so dire after all, right? For City, especially with the injuries, there is a concern. While they’ve only conceded 10 goals this season, their xGA is 12.5. Liverpool have conceded 9 to a xGA of 10.26. Liverpool have consistently out-performed their xG.

There’s the potential for a perfect storm on Sunday where City give up big chances, Liverpool converts one or two and then rolls.

So…the bottomline is: both teams will have real chances to score. It’ll come down to who is finishing better.

Then who will finish better?

The easy answer to this is Man City. Raheem Sterling looks like one of the three best forwards in the world right now. Sergio Aguero has been one of the best forwards in the world for a decade (and still is). Gabriel Jesus can score. Kevin de Bruyne can too, although he’s mostly crushing souls through his absurd xA output.

Liverpool heavily rely on Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mohamed Salah to carry the goal burden. Typically they’re more than enough. They may not be on Sunday.

Part of that issue could be the reliance on Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson to service the build-up to them. As bad as Manchester United have been this season, OGS and crew provided a sturdy template for how to stifle Liverpool’s attack. The basics of that strategy are to bottle up and disrupt TAA and Robbo as much as possible. Pep has watched the tape. Pep may try a similar approach.

To combat this, Klopp should look at inserting a wonderfully in-form Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the line-up. While Liverpool lose a little defensively with Ox compared to Jordan Henderson or Gini Wijnaldum, he provides a legitimate scoring threat that doesn’t remotely exist in the midfield right now. Ox is playing with confidence, scoring 4 goals in his last 4 games. He could be a true difference-maker.

What are other key match-ups to watch?

While obvious, Fabinho will be critical to Liverpool’s success. His ability to disrupt City’s counters may prove the difference maker. Fabinho could really have his way this match if fellow Brazilian Fernandinho is deployed at center-back instead of defensive center-mid.

It’ll be interesting to see the proximity of Fabinho to KdB in this one. De Bruyne appears to have taken over the “Best Player in the Premier League” mantle from Eden Hazard. Sterling may be the best goal scorer, but KdB is the best player.

Otherwise, this is all about Mane, Firmino, and Salah being in sync at the same time. City’s backline is ultra vulnerable. There will be pockets of space available to exploit. Liverpool’s final product must be crisper and more clinical than it has been at times this season.

Prediction

Liverpool haven’t lost a Premier League game at Anfield since April 2017. They’ve earned the benefit of the doubt at home. Oddsmakers and 538 have City as the slightest of slight favorites. Despite all of the bellyaching above about how porous the defenses are, oddsmakers have under 3.5 goals at -215.

Expect VVD to step up and have a mountain of a game. Expect Liverpool to be a little wasteful in the final third. It’ll be an exhausting, physical match that ends in a 1-1 draw.

Where to bet the Premier League in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook.

Champions League Recap: Tuesday Was Kind of Bonkers (Podcast)

Chops November 7, 2019

It was an utterly enthralling and bonkers day of Champions League action on Tuesday. Consider:

  • Ajax led Chelsea 4-1 at Stamford Bridge…which included an unfortunate Kepa own-goal…then had two players sent off and white-knuckled their way to a 4-4 draw over the final 20 minutes.
  • Inter Milan go up 2-0 at Borussia Dortmund in the first half, scoring a glorious goal in the process…and end up losing 3-2.
  • Liverpool somehow struggle to a 2-1 win at home vs Genk…despite rattling off nearly 30 shots.
  • Barcelona laid another 💩 by drawing Slavia Prague 0-0 at home…and remain atop their group.
  • Red Bull Salzburg’s ERLING BRAUT HAALAND score again…yet Napoli still pull a point at home.

Here’s a High Press Soccer Podcast breaking down Tuesday’s game. Listen in the post or subscribe and download from Apple’s Podcast Center. Look for another Champions League podcast recapping Wednesday’s action and looking ahead to Liverpool vs Manchester City tomorrow.

Listen to “High Press Soccer Podcast Episode 39: Champions League Matchday 4 Recap” on Spreaker.

 

Champions League Group C: Kyle Walker in Goal Cements Manchester City Atop Table

Chops November 6, 2019

The only thing more uncomfortable on the eyes than Manchester City’s putrid third kit is having to watch Kyle Walker fill in as an emergency goalie for the FOURMIDABLES. Because that happened today in their 2019-20 UEFA Champions League Group C match against Atalanta.

Seriously look!

MILAN, ITALY – NOVEMBER 06: Kyle Walker of Manchester City looks on while he is in goal for Claudio Bravo of Manchester City who was shown the red card during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Atalanta and Manchester City at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on November 06, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Ederson went off at half-time with a reported minor injury. Pep is likely taking  precaution there with their Sunday showdown against Premier League leaders Liverpool looming large. Then, back-up keeper Claudio Bravo was sent off with a red card. It provided Atalanta with a free-kick and City in need of an emergency back-up keeper. Enter Kyle Walker.

He did not look happy.

Regardless, City battened down the hatches for about 10 minutes and kept Walker from being challenged. While they drew Atalanta 1-1, dropping their first points of group play in their ridiculously easy and unchallenging bracket, they solidified their spot atop the table. City have not guaranteed advancement yet. However at 10 points, they’re greater than 99% to advance.

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Group C Odds to Advance

Shakhtar Donetsk and Dinamo Zagreb both sit at five points. Atalanta is shockingly at the bottom with 1. We’ll repost the odds once issued again later tonight. However, expect Shakhtar and Dinamo to both be around even-money as both play Atalanta and City again.

Until then, enjoy more pictures of Kyle Walker in goal.

Kyle Walker of Manchester City and Benjamin Mendy of Manchester City in action during the UEFA Champions League group C match between Atalanta and Manchester City at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on November 06, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Cottini/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Manchester City’s English defender Kyle Walker (R) prepares to enter the pitch as a replacing goalkeeper during the UEFA Champions League Group C football match Atalanta Bergamo vs Manchester City on November 6, 2019 at the San Siro stadium in Milan. (Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP) (Photo by MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP via Getty Images)

Champions League Group E: All of the Scenarios for Liverpool, Napoli, and Red Bull Salzburg

Chops November 6, 2019

With four of the six 2019-20 UEFA Champions League group stages matches done this week, High Press Soccer will take a look at every bracket and examine who will likely go through.

At the end of the day, the oddsmakers were probably right. They’re almost always right.

Group E–the real group of death this year–is loaded. Liverpool (#1 ClubElo), Napoli (#18 ClubElo) and Red Bull Salzburg (#19 ClubElo) are top-tier, exciting squads.

While matchday 1 results suggested Liverpool could be in trouble and Red Bull Salzburg may surprise, it hasn’t exactly worked out like that over the past two month. It’s not a lock yet–but Liverpool and Napoli–just as the original odds suggested–are comfortably positioned to advance to the knockout round.

As we saw today though, crazy things can and usually do happen in the Champions League.

Here’s a look at what Liverpool and Napoli need to do to secure the top seed in Group E and how Red Bull Salzburg can still crash the party.

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Champions League Group E Standings

ClubWDLGDPoints
Liverpool30139
Napoli22038
Red Bull Salzburg11224
Genk013-81

Red Bull Salzburg certainly have had their chances. They made an impressive comeback at Anfield to nearly pull a draw off Liverpool. And they had an early lead at Napoli that ended in a disappointing draw. With a little luck in either of those matches, they’d be on solid footing to advance.

Napoli’s draw at Genk did nothing to dampen their chances at advancement. They’re the only club in the group without a loss yet. However, the Genk draw gave Liverpool the edge of advancing as the #1 seed.

Champions League Group E Winner Odds

Over at FanDuel Sportsbook NJ, Liverpool have pulled away as the favorite to claim the group.

  • Liverpool: -390
  • Napoli: +250
  • Red Bull Salzburg: +10000
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Champions League Group E Probabilities

Over at FiveThirtyEight, their probability models suggests Liverpool and Napoli are locks. RBS has only a 10% chance to advance.

 

However, despite being atop the group, 538 gives Liverpool a slightly lower chance of advancing to the round of 16 (94%) than Napoli (96%). That’s due to Napoli still having a home match vs Genk. A win there, which would bring Napoli to 11 points, and they’re 100% in.

Scenarios That Could Change the Group

First, it’s important to know the Champions League group stage tiebreakers, as they may come into play:

  • Points in head-to-head matches among tied teams
  • Goal difference in head-to-head matches among tied teams
  • Goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams
  • Away goals scored in head-to-head matches among tied teams

With that in mind…

Liverpool

Much of the drama could be sucked out of the group on matchday 5 (November 27th) as Napoli visit Liverpool. A Liverpool win means they’ll advance as top seed. Napoli couldn’t catch them on points. If Liverpool were to lose or draw vs Napoli, things could still be very interesting.

Napoli

For Napoli, a win at home vs Genk on matchday 6 (bringing them to 11 points) assures their advancement regardless of the Liverpool match.

But about that November 27th game at Anfield. If Napoli secure any points against Liverpool, they just need to beat Genk at home to come out of Group E as top seed. They’ll have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Liverpool.

Red Bull Salzburg

Realistically, RBS have virtually no shot to win Group E.

  • That would require Napoli drawing Liverpool and losing to Genk.
  • AND Liverpool drawing Napoli and losing to RBS in Austria.
  • While RBS winning out (obviously).

If the above scenario happened, RBS would have 10 points. Liverpool would have 10 points. And Napoli would have 9.

Then it goes right back to the tiebreakers for top seed between RBS and Liverpool.

  • RBS and Liverpool would be tied in head-to-head points
  • If it’s a one-goal game, they’d be tied again. If RBS beat Liverpool by two, they’d have the edge
  • Goals scored in head-to-head matches likely goes to RBS as well
  • And their 3 away goals at Anfield would almost assuredly win the day if all of the above were tied

So with potential edges in goal difference, goals scored, and away goals, Red Bull Salzburg still have a fleeting hope of not just advancing, but as a number 1 seed. It’s not likely at all, but it’s possible.

Liverpool Player Ratings vs Genk – Champions League Matchday 4

Chops November 5, 2019

The 2019-20 UEFA Champions League rolls along this week with Group Stage matchday 4. Liverpool host Genk at Anfield. A win here puts Liverpool at 9 points and realistically just needing one draw in their final two matches to advance. 

With a massive match-up against Manchester City looming this weekend, Jurgen Klopp was expected to give some players rest. AND HE DID. 

But first…

Liverpool utterly dominated the first half. 76% possession (felt like more). 15 shots on goal with 3 on target. Genk had two shots on goal with 1 on target. Genk had a total of 3 touches in Liverpool’s box during he first half. So of course the score is 1-1 going into the half. 

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain gave Liverpool the 2-1 lead with a fantastic finish off an even better set-up from Mo Salah. That score holds. Thanks to the Red Bull Salzburg – Napoli draw, Liverpool move to the top of Group E with 9 points.

Liverpool had 28 shots with 8 on target. Genk had 6 / 3. However, this match never felt secure. Something is off with the squad right now. Genk was pressing at the end like they were…Liverpool. Not a good sign heading into the weekend against City. The defending in particular has got to be better.

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Liverpool starting XI vs Genk

Interesting line-up selection by Klopp today. Rotation was expected, but not necessarily like this. 

Liverpool Player Ratings

Manager

Jurgen Klopp (6) – At this point, it’d be silly to question the boss for his selections. Sitting Salah seems like the right play today but as I’ll write a few times in this, he may be hoping Mo scores some and gains confidence heading into City. More reps for Dejan Lovren and VVD also would make sense, but maybe Gomez is showing better in training. Hard one to judge. Didn’t think he made the right subs (based on performance). Has got to work on the lads not giving up so many big chances defensively. A more clinical team like City will kill us there. 

Goalkeeper

Alisson (8) – Good effort on the Genk leveler. Decent distribution in first half. Critical save in the 81st minute to help preserve the lead. Comes up huge in the 86th minute as well. 

Defenders

Trent Alexander-Arnold (7.5) – Written this a few times the past week but TAA is playing in a different gear right now. So much confidence, particularly when driving up the field. Awesome defending in 40th to kill a dangerous cross. Does the same in the 51st moment to kill a real threat (though it was eventually called off-sides). Led the team in possession by a fairly large margin. Again, our best defender.

Virgil van Dijk (6) – Left unmarked twice in first half on corners but couldn’t convert. Some huge headers at the end to secure the game. Still, something feels off. Too many opportunities conceded. 

Joe Gomez (6) – While not hurting us, is drifting back a little too much. Should hold line higher. Defending just isn’t back to last year’s form. Did win 8 aerials.

James Milner (6.5) – Good to see Milly get some run in a spot he’s excelled at. Robbo could benefit from some rest. He’ll run himself ragged vs City. 

Milner looks strong again. He won’t get credit for the assist to the Gini opener, but his feed in directly led to the goal. Shifted to midfield when Robbo came on. 

Midfielders

 Georginio Wijnaldum (7) –  Kind of like Gini on the right so far. Tried to find Origi on an ambitious ball in at the 7th minute but it wasn’t weighted well enough. AND HE SCORES THE OPENER. A very proper and opportunistic strike from Gini to put Liverpool ahead 1-0. Definitely a “good Gini” game.

Fabinho (6) – As usual, always where he needs to be. Hockey assisted the second goal. Otherwise a little more quiet than usual. 

Naby Keita (6) – Could’ve struck his close-range shot in the 23rd better, wasting a big opportunity. Having said that, looks pretty good. If we played Genk every game then Keita would be playable.  He was active and stuffed the stat sheet. Three completed dribbles, three tackles, five shots on goal. Also completed 94% of his passes.

Still isn’t where we all hope he could be. Subbed off for Andy Robertson 74th. 

Forwards

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (8.5) – A deserved start for Ox. He’s been more effective in that mid-field attacking role but let’s see how he does as part of the front three. Best part of seeing Ox back is the extra gear he’s hitting. Often looks Mane-fast. Freaking gorgeous goal to give Liverpool the 2-1 lead. Another great showing. Subbed off for Sadio Mane in the 75th.

Mohamed Salah (7) – Salah is someone who seems like he needs rest. He’s had a dinged up ankle and has been somewhat ineffective lately. The presumption here is Klopp wants Salah to gain some confidence by lighting up Genk. I do like Salah at the center-forward spot. He’s done well there in the past. Firmino-esque gorgeous pass to assist on Ox’s goal.

His final product though is OFFFFFF. We went through this drill last year when Mo couldn’t finish a sentence. He needs to find his shot again by, erm, Sunday.

Divock Origi (7) – Another Red deserving of a start (and against his former youth team). Key pass to Milner on the build-up on the opening goal. Good early showing. Strong on ball and creative. Dispossession defending work in the 23rd springs a counter that almost led to a goal. Particularly strong on ball with five completed showings. Deserved to find the back of the net once. Subbed off late for Firmino.  

Substitutions

Andy Robertson (NR) – Came on for Katy to steady the backline, shifting Milner to midfield.

Sadio Mane (NR) – Came on to secure a game winner for Ox (although Ox was the best attacking player of the day).

Roberto Firmino (NR) – Comes on late for Origi. No time to make impact.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain earns it again. His form is superb. He needs to find a place in the starting XI against City.

Carabao Cup Not Moving Liverpool vs Aston Villa Match: What Liverpool Should Do

Chops November 5, 2019

Remember when Pep Guardiola was belly-aching over Manchester City’s December schedule, complaining how unfair it was? Liverpool heard his baby-whining and said, “hold my beer.”

After defeating Arsenal in a thrilling Carabao Cup round of 16 match, Liverpool were faced with a massive potential issue. The Carabao Cup quarters were scheduled for December 17-18th. However, as reigning Champions League holders, Liverpool is required to play the FIFA Club World Cup.  In Qatar. On December 18th. Surely, accommodations would be made, right?

Well…

Liverpool have two matches scheduled on two separate continents less than 24 hours apart. As big of “mentality monsters” as they are, this maaaay be a step too for the lads.

So now what?

Liverpool will play two different squads. One will play in England. One will play in Qatar.

The club determined this was the most sensible option moving forward.

What should Liverpool do?

What “should” and what “will” Liverpool do are two different things.

Jurgen Klopp has indicated he’d keep the same general squad he’s been using in the Carabao Cup throughout the competition. It’s a good way to keep his younger players motivated. It also gives veterans on the fringes or coming back from injury critical playing time to re-acclimate to the squad.

However, this situation changes that calculus.

Poll Liverpool supporters and my hunch is the vast majority would prioritize a Premier League title over anything else this season. Every decision made should  optimize the potential of achieving that goal. Sending the “A” squad to Qatar when the option to keep them domestically exists does not optimize that goal.

What Liverpool should do: send the primary pieces of the Carabao Cup squad to Qatar for the FIFA Club World Cup. If augmented by the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, James Milner, (maybe?) Naby Keita, and Adam Lallana–that side should compete just fine. Let the core of Liverpool’s preferred XI stay in England, play the Carabao Cup, and save their energy for the remaining grueling schedule they face the following few weeks.

What Liverpool will do: Likely send the A team to Qatar and take the same girl they brought to the dance to the Carabao Cup quarters.

One way or another, this will be a highly debated and second-guessed decision by Klopp and FSG.

Liverpool vs Genk Preview: Champions League Matchday 4

Chops November 3, 2019

Who: Liverpool vs Genk
When: Tuesday, November 5th @ 3:00pm ET
Line: Liverpool -1250 | Draw +1050 | Genk +2500

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Liverpool host Genk at Anfield this Tuesday for Champions League matchday 4.

Oddsmakers view Liverpool and Napoli as locks more or less to advance from Group E.  A win vs Genk would put Liverpool at 9 points. If Napoli beat Red Bull Salzburg in Italy this week, Liverpool would just need a draw in their last two fixtures (@RBS, home vs Napoli) to advance.

Here’s your Liverpool vs Genk Champions League preview.

Liverpool vs Genk Champions League preview

Two weeks ago, Liverpool handled Genk in Belgium 4-1. The Belgiums had opportunities and played with purpose, but ultimately Liverpool’s offensive firepower won the day.

Jurgen Klopp rotated his line-up that match, inserting Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita at midfield. Ox netted a brace and looked superb. It was Keita’s best match for the Reds since coming to the squad last year. Since then, Ox has continued to look sharp. Keita has been his maddeningly inconsistent self. Regardless, expect both to start again.

In general, expect Klopp likely to roll out the same line-up as he did in Belgium. The one potential regular who could be rotated is Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian was off against against Aston Villa and may need some time for his ankle to fully heel before their crucial match-up against Manchester City on Sunday. If Salah sits, Divock Origi should find his name on the team sheet.

Even with Joel Matip out with injury and Virgil van Dijk nowhere near the form as last season, Genk simply don’t have the weaponry to give themselves a shot at Anfield. For Liverpool fans, the hope is the Reds go up early and can give rest to Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, and either Trent Alexander-Arnold or Andy Robertson in the second half.

Even though Liverpool don’t play City until Sunday, another game where the Reds lean on their opponent all match but don’t break-through until the closing minutes isn’t ideal. The lads need to rest those tired legs.

Prediction

Oddsmakers think this one will have at least 4 goals (-132). At Anfield, it’s hard to argue with that. Liverpool win 4-0.

Liverpool Player Ratings vs Aston Villa (Matchday 11): Reds Pull Out Thrilling Late 2-1 Win

Chops November 2, 2019

Premier League matchday 11 brings a trip to Aston Villa for Liverpool.

Not much rotation today. Fabinho is forced out of the line-up as another yellow card would force him out of the Manchester City match. Jurgen Klopp gives the start to a deserving Adam Lallana. Expect Klopp to roll with that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita midfield in their Champions League match vs Genk on Wednesday.

AND…

WHAT. A. GAME.

Credit to Aston Villa, who played their collective asses off. They led 1-0 until the 87th minute. Then Liverpool gutted out two goals (one by Andy Robertson, one by Sadio Mane) and claimed a 2-1 win. Unbelievable. Except that they keep doing it.


While some may wonder how Liverpool keeps doing it, the reality is they were the better side today by a large margin. The heat map shows significant field coverage compared to AVL. They had a clear possession advantage (not shocking) and turned that possession into actual opportunities. Liverpool had 25 shots on goal (6 on target) to AVL’s 5 and 2. Liverpool just converted those chances at the very (very) end of the game. Plus Firmino’s off-sides was NOT an off-sides. So there’s that too.

Here are the Liverpool vs Aston Villa player ratings.

Liverpool Player Ratings

Manager

Jurgen Klopp (8) – Interestingly, Klopp puts Jordan Henderson at the #6 instead of Lallana. It’s not the best fit for Hendo. He’s been grooming Lallana to be his fill-in DMC. The best explanation is he’s resting Ox for Genk.

That lasted 10 mins though as Klopp shifted Lallana back to the middle. Good adjustment by the boss. Subbed out Salah for Origi and Ox for Gini. The subs should’ve been Mane and Henderson.

Nevermind what the fuck do I know. Mane scores the winner. Good job by Klopp.

Goalkeeper

Alisson (6) – Was given no help on the opener and got big–however, he could’ve gotten body part on it had he reacted better. Has come off his line twice for two heady clearances.

Defenders

Trent Alexander-Arndold (9) – TAA becomes the fourth youngest player to reach 100 appearances for Liverpool today. Just a local scouse living his best life.

Wonderful interception in the 26th, completed dribble and shot. He follows it immediately with a well-serviced corner. Playing with real confidence and drive. His dribbled is Messi-esque today. He’s constantly on the attack. His service in to Mane gets the assist for the winner. Looks like the best player on the pitch if not one of the best in the world. For real.

Virgil van Dijk (6) – More sloppy and casual play from the big man. Too many missed markings and turnovers in the first half. Continues in the second half, not connecting basic passes. Does make one heady clearance in the 78th.

Dejan Lovren (7) – Once again, showing better defensively than his CB partner. Does well getting in box for headers, just missing a good connection in the 90th.

Andy Robertson (8.5) – Have a feeling this is going to be a vintage Robbo match with constant marauding and an assist or two. He’s been solid in the first half. His ability to cleanly bring down balls and service them in is second to none.

Beautiful run in and header to level the game. Bravo👏👏👏

Midfielders

Jordan Henderson (3) – Always an ill-fit at the #6. Hendo excels more in an attacking role. He utterly brain-farts a pass back to Alisson in the 8th, almost leading to a big chance  for Villa. Gets moved to the flank though early and immediately looks better. Feeds a great ball into the box that Mane almost converts for the opener.

Totally loses sight of Trézéguet on the set piece opener. Not sure who he was defending there. Or better put: poor defending in general. In second half, fails to connect a basic key pass in the box, killing a counter. Needs to come out for Ox immediately. Stays in the whole game but has to be better than today.

Adam Lallana (5) – If Fabinho were to pick up a yellow card this game, he’d be forced to miss Liverpool’s next domestic match. That match is against Manchester City. So welcome to the bench, Fabinho! And welcome back to the starting XI, Adam Lallana. After starting where Ox would be, gets moved to the center. On the ball more than any Liverpool player though not making the most of it.

Missed a golden opportunity from a Firmino feed in the 73rd. Subbed off late for Keita.

Georginio Wijnaldum (4) – One of those quiet Gini days in the first half. Does little in the second and subbed off for Ox in the 65th minute.

Forwards

Roberto Firmino (6) – Called off-sides on an equalizer and clearly was not, but VAR🤷‍♀️. The best of the forward bunch today by a mile. Tracking back well and creative in distribution.

Sadio Mane (6) – Really poor today so far. His decision-making is awful, constantly missing the right pass (hence his historically low assist totals). Rightly booked for a yellow for simulation in the box. Can’t wait until he earns a penalty in the box later in the match and doesn’t get the call because the refs think he’s diving again. Mane is capable of having some real stinkers though and then coming through with a key goal out of nowhere. Fingers crossed that’s the case today.

Skies a great opportunity in the 72nd minute, so not the case yet. Too slow. Too easily dispossessed.

However…

His ball in to Robertson for the equalizer is wonderful. And he scores the winner. Typing this sentence 30 minutes earlier is very prescient now:

Mane is capable of having some real stinkers though and then coming through with a key goal out of nowhere. Fingers crossed that’s the case today.


Mohamed Salah (3) – Salah feels poised for a big breakthrough game on games. Today should be the day. My DFS line-ups at least reflect that opinion.

His finishing today is POOR. Skies two shots into the stratosphere. Then skies a header into the stands off a brilliant ball in from Robertson. I’m way off on today being a big breakthrough. Exact opposite. Subbed out for Origi in the 65th.

Substitutions

Divock Origi (6) – In for Mo Salah, can he create some magic again? He doesn’t convert but played well, better than Salah.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6) – Comes in for Gini and goes on an immediate rampage. Rifles off a couple of shots in succession that are well defended by Villa.

Naby Keita (NR) – On late for Lallana to make something happen. Not enough time to make an impact.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Trent Alexander-Arnold was a boss today. He’s playing at a new level. Hope everyone else is seeing this. Thank you Squawka for this…

Aston Villa vs Liverpool Matchday 11 Preview

Chops November 1, 2019

Who: Aston Villa vs Liverpool
When: Saturday, November 2nd @ 11:00am ET
LineAston Villa +750 | Draw +450 | Liverpool -295

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Aston Villa host Liverpool on Saturday in a match that on the surface seems fairly predictable.

While it feels like Aston Villa is doing well this season, they’re sitting 15th right now. They’re 3 points clear of relegation.

And while it feels like Liverpool is doing well this season, well that’s because they are.

Villa aren’t poor, but they have a ceiling. Liverpool have a floor and they’re the best team in the world. Let’s not overthink this. Here’s a preview.

Aston Villa vs Liverpool matchday 11 preview

So back to Villa. They’re tied for 6th in goals scored on the season (15) and are spot on their xG (15.11). They’re a little lucky in conceding, giving up 16 to an xGA of 17.97. Basically, they’re right where they should be in the table.

They’re going to score. However, they’re going to give up slightly more than they score. Villa are taking points off the teams they should. They’re losing to England’s best. Not a lot of surprises here.

Offensively, they have a respectable 5 players registering more than one goal for the season to date. Scottish international John McGinn leads the way with 3. Jack Grealish and Anwar El Ghazi both have 2 goals and 3 assists.

Their backline, primarily anchored by Tyrone Mings and Björn Engels, isn’t good enough to stand up against top flight teams. They’re not Arsenal-bad. Against teams like Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham or Leicester, they’re can’t hang for a full 90 minutes. Villa will be competitive in just about every game. This isn’t a poor squad. They’re just going to struggle against the Big 6 + Leicester. No shame there. 10 other squads would say the same thing.

For Liverpool, it’ll be interesting to see if Klopp gives some of the lads who performed well against Genk and Arsenal a start. While consistently converting shots from outside the box isn’t sustainable (even though he historically has done it well), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should see his name on the team sheet soon. He adds a level of dynamism (offensively) that’s lacking from the midfield.

Naby Keita is too inconsistent to be trusted. However, maybe this is a contest where giving Curtis Jones a run out as a sub makes sense. He’s looked sharp in pre-season and both Carabao Cup matches. Keep the younguns who are performing motivated.

I don’t expect Klopp to tinker too much though. The most likely scenario is he rolls out his preferred starting XI. The Premier League is too important to the club this season.

Prediction

Liverpool are too much of a machine right now to get derailed at Villa. The Reds are winning. While oddsmakers are -157 for this to come under 3.5 goals, this feels like a 3-1 Liverpool win. Villa are good enough to find the net. Their backline won’t hold against Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane. In particular, Salah looks as though he’s ready for one of those breakout games.

Where to bet the Premier League in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook.

 

Liverpool vs Arsenal Carabao Cup Starting XI and Player Ratings: Why the Hell Not

Chops October 30, 2019

Ah, why not? Liverpool play Arsenal at Anfield today in the Carabao Cup (or as we call it in the non-existent High Press Soccer offices, the Caribou Coffee Cup).

In our Liverpool vs Arsenal Carabao Cup preview, we thought that the Gunners would roll out a “let’s win this one baby!” line-up and Liverpool would take a more conservative, “let’s see how it goes” approach. Nah. Both squad’s line-ups indicate their collective fucks given about the Carabao Cup are somewhere between zero and zero and a half.

Liverpool have gone from around -150 to +150 since the line-ups were announced. Arsenal improved from around +250 to +155.

In what could best be described as a “defensively absent” game, regular time ended with Liverpool and Arsenal tied 5-5. Liverpool won the penalty shootout 5-4 to advance.

Here’s Liverpool’s starting XI and player ratings.

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Liverpool starting XI vs Arsenal: Carabao Cup edition

Via Liverpool’s instagram account

Liverpool Player Ratings vs Arsenal

Manager

Jurgen Klopp (7) – Klopp is giving the youths some run today. Good to see Keita, Ox, Milner and Lallana in there though. Given what Arsenal rolled out, Klopp might’ve actually put the better starting XI on the pitch. But the manager trusted the kids. While the backline was putrid, he got the result he wanted.

Goalkeeper

Caoimhin Kelleher (7.5) – Kelleher was very good against MK Dons. While it would’ve been nice to see Adrian get another start, Klopp clearly believes Kelleher has a future.

Kelleher almost brain-farted in the 8th for what could’ve been a costly turnover. That would’ve been an appropriate initiation as all top-flight Liverpool goalies have their moment. Made a solid save that was deflected out for the opening. He was betrayed by poor defending on that goal. Same story on the second goal. He made a solid save but no defenders where around to help him clear it.

Feel bad for him. Despite the scoreline you can’t really look at one of the goals and blame him. He was good! Also, kid guessed right on EVERY pk. Every single one. Good showing.

Defenders

Neco Williams (7) – Reports trickled out yesterday that Williams would get the start. The 18 year-old Welsh defender has reportedly looked great for Liverpool’s U19 squad.

The best defender of the bunch mostly because he didn’t make any glaring mistakes. Led the backline in tackles (4). Great service to Origi to make it 5-5.

Joe Gomez (6) – Hopefully working himself back to fitness at center-back, where we was outstanding last season before his leg injury. Made some decent enough plays on the ball. Solid if not spectacular.

Sepp van den Berg (3) – Liverpool’s “big” summer signing gets a first team start.

Give him a break since he’s 17 but very poor game. His inability to close out Willock and flinch at the shot was rec level. He’s a couple years away from being a couple years away right now.

James Milner (6) – Was our Man of the Match in the previous Carabao Cup win. Back at left-back. Some key passes early on. Looks sharp. Buried his penalty to make it 2-3 because that’s what James Milner freaking does. Do you know what James Milner doesn’t do? The turnover on a sloppy pass back to Kelleher that gave Arsenal their 4th. Did hit his pk of course in the shootout.

Midfielders

Naby Keita (4) – WE CAN BUILD ON THIS NABY! That’s how we all felt against Genk last week.

Aaaaaand literally did nothing. Poor showing. Wtf. Off for Curtis Jones in the 55th.

Adam Lallana (5) –  Great ball into Ox in the 11th that could’ve been converted with a better touch from Ox. Otherwise he could’ve and should’ve created more. Somewhat disappointed, would’ve like to see more from him.

Confidently hit his pk in the shootout.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6.5) – Going against his former club, this should be the Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain show today. His attempted cross to Rhian Brewster led to the opening Mustafi lol og. His turnover though led to the sequence of Arsenal’s 1-1 leveler. Should’ve ripped a shot in the 29th instead of going for an assist. Poor showing. Head isn’t in it.

UNTIL IT IS.

His strike and goal from way deep is freaking absurd.

Forwards

Harvey Elliott (5) –  The youngest ever player to start for Liverpool at Anfield: Harvey Elliott! Remember that for trivia night.

Hustles around like Mo Salah with a man bun. Sends a good early opportunity into the Atlantic Ocean in the 5th minute. His turnover led to the third Arsenal goal. Did well going down to earn the penalty for Milner.

Similar to last game, he had his moments. But he’s a couple of years away from being ready for a regular first team role.

Rhian Brewster (5) – Brewster was a bit of a dud against Dons. Here’s hoping for a good rebound performance. He was booked in the first half for getting in front of a goalie drop kick. I appreciated his ambition on that.

In general, just needs to do more if he wants to break into the first team. Not good enough. Did hit his pk in the shootout.

Divock Origi (8) – Gets the nod over Curtis Jones today. Tracking back to help a lot on defense except…he’s terrible defending. Really should’ve buried an equalizer in stoppage time in the 1st half. Atoned with this beauty though.

His second strike to level it in stoppage time was absurd.

Finally, hit his pk (obv) in the shootout.

Substitutions

Curtis Jones (6) – Should’ve gotten the start but came on in the 55th for Keita. Immediately looked better than Keita. Sealed the win with his pk in the shootout.

Pedro Chirivella (NR) – Came on late for Ox.

MAN OF THE MATCH

DIVOCK ORIGI obv

Liverpool vs Arsenal EFL Cup Round of 16 Preview (UPDATE)

Chops October 28, 2019

Who: Liverpool vs Arsenal
When: Wednesday, October 30th @ 12:30pm ET (all matches broadcast on ESPN+ in the US)
LineLiverpool +104 | Draw +255 | Arsenal +240

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Editor’s Note: Updated with some Liverpool roster news. 

With apologies to Chelsea vs Manchester United, the real marquee match-up of this week’s EFL Cup (also known as the Carabao Cup or as we call it in the HPS offices, the Caribou Coffee Cup) is Liverpool vs Arsenal.

Getting two matches pitting Big 6 teams against each other in the Round of 16 is a blow for the EFL Cup. The competition is already getting lost in the shuffle to other trophies, and two of the top English clubs will be eliminated this week. Also painful is that Manchester City somehow managed to get an easier draw yet again, as they host a Southampton squad that just got hammered 9-0 by Leicester. However, Manchester City really, really try to win this competition, so they’ll 100% be around until the end.

Anyway…

So much of this match-up is dependent upon who each squad puts on the team sheet. Based on reports in the past 48 hours, Liverpool will be going super young. Let’s try to figure it out. Here’s a preview.

Liverpool vs Arsenal EFL Cup Match Preview

If this match was at Emirates Stadium, I’d just do a quick blurb that Arsenal would probably win and be done with it. The reality is the EFL Cup means more to Arsenal this season than it does to Liverpool. It’s the truth. Liverpool are laser focused on the Premier League and Champions League. Bowing out of the EFL competition wouldn’t make Jurgen Klopp lose any sleep. However, winning an EFL Cup gives Unai Emery some job security and momentum.

Anfield though.

Liverpool have won 14 straight at home going back to February 27 of this year. The last time Liverpool did not win at home was to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Round of 16 (that one ended in a draw). Would Klopp truly punt a match in any competition at Anfield?

With that out of the way, expect Arsenal to field something closer to their regular squad on Wednesday. Alexandre Lacazette is almost assuredly going to start. Same probably for Dani Ceballos and promising youngster Kieran Tierney. It won’t be Arsenal’s best XI, but it’ll be strong.

I’d expect Klopp to roll out a similar starting XI in this as he did at MK Dons. This is a great opportunity for Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to build on their performances vs Genk last week.  Divock Origi will find his name on the team sheet. Curtis Jones was strong at MK Dons and earned more first team time. Harvey Elliott is back from suspension and will at a minimum be on the roster. Adam Lallana will find himself filling in for Fabinho at the #6. Adrian should get the start between the sticks, but it appears as if 20 year-old Caoimhin Kelleher will get the nod.

The backline will be interesting. Klopp is reportedly content rolling out the teenagers in this one. While Ki-Jana Hoever will not, as he’s with the Netherlands U17s, Neco Williams likely will. So will Sepp van den Berg. Don’t be surprised to see James Milner on the backline to provide some steady veteran presence though.

Originally, we thought it wouldn’t be surprising if one of Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, or Roberto Firmino started. While they may be on the bench and available for a call up in the second half if the game is close, it’s not trending that way. Back in September 2018 in the League Cup, the Reds hosted Chelsea at Anfield. Sadio Mane got the start and both Firmino and Salah came on in the second half to try and secure a win (Chelsea ultimately prevailed 2-1). At first, it seemed like that’s the kind of template Klopp would follow here. Not so much any more.

Prediction

Well, oddsmakers had Liverpool listed as -122 to win. With the reports of a very young squad for the match, the line has now moved to Liverpool +104. Arsenal has improved from +280 to +240.

We may update this again to see what Arsenal rolls out. However, all signs point to Liverpool punting this competition. Arsenal likely wins.

Where to bet Carabao Cup in the US

In the US, you can legally bet on soccer in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

For New Jersey, we recommend DraftKings Sportsbook NJ or FanDuel Sportsbook.

North Carolina Courage Smash Chicago Red Stars 4-0 to Repeat as Champs, Cap Off Year of Growth for NWSL

Chops October 28, 2019

The North Carolina Courage struck early and often, smashing the Chicago Red Stars 4-0 to repeat as NWSL champions.

Brazilian international Debinha scored in the fourth minute. She was followed by USWNT stars Jessica McDonald (26′), Crystal Dunn (45+5′), and Sam Mewis (61′).

The big difference between the squads was quality of shots. Possessions was essentially even (51-49% for Courage), and completed passes were even at 401 a piece. For Courage, of their 20 shots, 11 were on target. Chicago only managed to get 2 of their 13 on target.

Big year for NWSL

This was a watershed year for NWSL.

Bouncing off the popularity of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, attendance surged. ESPN took note, striking a broadcast deal with the league. Some cities experienced more fans at games than their MLS counterparts. In general, attendance was up across the board.

What’s next for NWSL and Women’s Soccer?

Well first, the USWNT is naming their new coach tomorrow. It’ll be Reign FC (Seattle) head coach Vlatko Andonovski.

For the league though, expect the following:

  • Expansion tied to MLS cities (like Atlanta, which would crush it)
  • A strengthened and expanded broadcast deal
  • Attendance to grow though not at the same spike seen from the summer of 2019

The league is in good shape. It takes a long time to build a sports league. It’s a brick-by-brick process. It feels like NWSL has learned from the mistakes of past leagues. MLS is a good model to follow. There’s a template here for success. NWSL is on the right path.

 

Liverpool Player Ratings vs Tottenham (Matchday 10)

Chops October 27, 2019

Liverpool host Tottenham in the marquee match-up of Premier League matchday 10.

Not much has changed since when these two teams met on June 1st. Liverpool has kept on winning. Tottenham…not so much.

Still, Tottenham appeared to get back on track with a 5-0 Champions League shellacking of Red Stars Belgrade this week. Liverpool put 4 past Genk in Belgium. Both teams should be feeling confident.

Just one quick note before we dive into the Liverpool vs Tottenham player ratings — here are the major clubs Liverpool has played to date this EPL season:

  • Chelsea
  • Arsenal
  • Leicester City
  • Manchester United
  • Tottenham

Here are the major clubs Manchester City has played:

  • Tottenham

With a win, Liverpool would remain 6 clear of City. Liverpool are in good shape. 

Unfortunately for them, it took Spurs all of 47 seconds to get on the board. Harry Kane (when did he become so unlikable btw?) was in his frustratingly right place / right time rebounding a header from a long shot off the cross bar to put Tottenham ahead 1-0. From there, while stats showed Liverpool dominated the first half (72% possession, 10 / 5 shots) it didn’t really feeeeel that way until  minutes 30-45. Credit to Spurs gk Paulo Gazzaniga for making some killer saves. 

Jordan Henderson leveled the match with a smart strike in the 52nd. 

Liverpool absolutely put their foot on the pedal after that. Sadio Mane earned a penalty in the box that Mo Salah converted from the spot to go up 2-1. That ended up being the final. 

Another day where xG doesn’t match the eye test on Liverpool. They were xG 1.8 (+1 penalty) to Spurs’ 1.6. After a full 90, not even Harry Kane’s parents would says Spurs looked even. Here’s a crazy stat to close with: 

Had Spurs somehow recorded another goal today and come away with 2-2 draws at the Etihad and Anfield, they’d have done so despite being outshot by a collective 51 to 14 (with 23 on target vs 6)

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Liverpool Player Ratings

Manager

Jurgen Klopp (7.5) – Went back to his tried and tested starting XI (minus an injured Joel Matip). Was that the right call? Klopp has a frustrating habit of not allowing players to build momentum on positive performances. 

The midfield felt a bit stale for swaths of the first half. But as Klopp is also prone to do, he got the lads in the right mind-frame after half. Liverpool DOMINATED the second half. Was smart to adjust to a 4-4-2 when Salah went out, moving TAA to outside right mid and Milner to outside left. 

Well managed game by the boss. 

Goalkeeper

Alisson (8) – Hot damn it’s nice having Alisson back. As he can do, came up with two HUGE saves in the closing minutes to help secure the win. Did well in distribution today too.

Defenders

Trent Alexander-Arndold (9) – Delivery gets better and better as the game goes on. Seriously got more balls into the 18 than all of Spurs combined, times 2, and squared. Only Kevin de Bruyne has created more chances than TAA this season. 

Won’t go on score sheet but his well-positioned header to thwart a Spurs counter in the 74th LED to the Liverpool counters and penalty in the box against Mane. Really defending well with some key blocks and clearances. Led the squad in possession. All around stellar day. 

Virgil van Dijk (6) – Maybe could’ve anticipated and / or been on Kane closer for that opener. Otherwise was solid and organized (finally). For example, in the 79th brought the backline high enough that when Spurs got a turnover and counter, FIVE Tottenham players were off-sides. However, still not back to last year’s form.

Dejan Lovren (7) – Looks good! Some heady defending. Better than VVD today. Was second on squad in possession (10.6% total) and won 7 aerials. 

Andy Robertson (6.5) – Wasn’t on the ball as much as normal, but he was effective when he did (two successful dribbles and some good deliveries). Did well defending. 

Midfielders

Jordan Henderson (7.5) – Simply looks more comfortable when on front foot. Invisible when not. VERY smart strike to level. GREAT run into the box that could’ve drawn a penalty in the 81st minute. Needs to tidy up his passing though. Overall was active defensively and tracking back. Won two tackles. One of his better performances of the year even before the goal though. 

Fabinho (7) – Another solid showing. More of a boss defensively than offensively…but was a midfield disrupted in the second half particularly. 

Georginio Wijnaldum (6) – Fairly solid play and was getting involved. He needed to pull the trigger on a golden chance in the 60th minute that resulted in no shot. Then headed the ball right at the keeper 30 seconds later. Subbed for Milner in the 77th. 

Forwards

Roberto Firmino (7) – Very unfortunate to not find the net multiple times (4 shots). Tracked back and added a lot defensively, winning three tackles. 

Sadio Mane (6.5) – Was the weakest of the attacking three for much of the day, but did well to fight and get the penalty leading to Salah’s score from the spot. 

Mohamed Salah (8) – VERY VERY unfortunate to not find the net multiple times. While Mane probably deserved to take the penalty that put Liverpool up 2-1, Salah deserved the goal. Came off with a little knock late. He was great today. 

Substitutions

James Milner (NR) – Came on for Gini to help close out the game after the Salah penalty. 

Joe Gomez (NR) – On late for Mo Salah to provide defensive support. Looked nervy though. 

Divock Origi (NR) – Super late sub to kill off the clock.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Giving this to TAA. Thought he was our best all around player of the day. 

Who Will Win the 2019 MLS Cup? Reviewing the Playoffs on the High Press Soccer Podcast

Chops October 26, 2019

We recorded a MLS focused High Press Soccer Podcast this week.

Harrison Hamm joins to discuss:

  • Atlanta United’s win over Philadelphia and their MLS Cup repeat chances
  • The wild El Trafico showdown between LAFC and Galaxy
  • Zlatan’s comments about MLS and the importance of high-profile European stars playing in the league
  • Who will win MLS Cup

Stream the episode in this post or subscribe and download from Apple’s Podcast Center.

Listen to “High Press Soccer Podcast Episode 36: MLS Playoffs” on Spreaker.

Liverpool vs Tottenham Matchday 10 Preview

Chops October 24, 2019

Who: Liverpool vs Tottenham
When: Sunday, October 27th @ 12:30pm ET
LineLiverpool -200 | Draw +350 | Tottenham +540

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Liverpool and Tottenham got back to their offensive juggernaut ways in the Champions League this week.

The positive UCL results came off of poor performances from both in the Premier League the previous weekend. Liverpool dropped points for the first time all season, drawing Manchester United 1-1. Tottenham dropped points for the 497th time of 2019, drawing last place Watford 1-1 at home.

Liverpool are getting an “A-game” performance from each team they face. Being champions of Europe will do that to you. Expect a feeling-good-about-themselves Tottenham side to come directly at the Reds.

Unlike their Champions League final in June, this should be an open, high-octane, counter-attacking affair.

Liverpool vs Tottenham match preview

Has there ever been a team that is unbeaten after 9 domestic games and assuredly going through their UCL group that has more doubters and lingering questions than Liverpool? The biggest issues:

  1. Their midfield lacks creativity.
  2. The attacking three look off.
  3. The defense is too casual.

Actually…all of those statements are true. Also true: Liverpool haven’t lost a Premier League game in almost a year and are 6 points clear of Manchester City.

Is the Genk line-up the template for future success?

Liverpool’s 4-1 win at Genk showcased all three of the above points but in different and mostly encouraging ways.

  1. Their midfield lacks creativity: The draw to Man U provided a template for how teams could shut down Liverpool. OGS neutralized Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. The midfield couldn’t create build-up that led to chances. Despite a hefty possession advantage, Liverpool only got 10 shots off. Before his injury, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain provided offensive punch to the midfield. And before he came to Liverpool, Naby Keita was a classic box-to-box do-it-all midfielder. Klopp inserted both into the line-up, and they helped drive Liverpool’s attack.
  2. The attacking three look off: When Mo Salah, Sadio Mane, and Roberto Firmino are all clicking, Liverpool are unstoppable. They’re all capable of individual moments of brilliance that has saved some games this season, but rarely have all three been “on” at the same time. Against Genk, they started to gel more and more as the game went on. Maybe it was because Genk isn’t that good. Maybe it was because the were getting the ball in better spots thanks to their new midfield. Whatever it was, the second half was the first time in awhile when the three truly looked in sync.
  3. The defense is too casual: Ok, this is still a problem. Virgil van Dijk has had some concentration lapses this season that didn’t happen last year. Not sure what the fix is other than “stop being so lackadaisical and focus already.”

So what will Klopp do this match? Will he roll out Ox and Keita again, hoping what he saw wasn’t just a one-off inspired performance against an inferior opponent?

Ox is the first person since Lionel Messi last year to score two UCL goals from outside the box. He was also the fastest person on the pitch Wednesday. Did Klopp pull him after 72 minutes to save him for Sunday?

Keita had the most touches, passes, completed passes, and take-ons of the entire squad against Genk. Will Klopp let him build on that?

If he does, Liverpool could put 4 or 5 up at home against Spurs. However, given how front-footed that midfield is, the Reds could give up 2-3 as well.

Tottenham have quality not playing up to their potential

As for Tottenham, they’re a fairly WYSIWYG side. We know what we’re getting with them.

Harry Kane is no longer “2016-17 Harry Kane” but he’s still among the top 15 pure strikers in the world. Son continues his strong form from last year and looks like their best player again.

After those two, there’s a drop off in quality. Christian Eriksen doesn’t look focused. Harry Winks looks amazing one game and invisible the next. Dele Alli is talented but regressing. Tanguy Ndombele has pure class moments but hasn’t been consistent.

However, their two biggest issues are: 1) the backline isn’t good enough, and 2) the team at times appear to have quit on their manager, Mauricio Pochettino.

As for Poch, we’ve written extensively on that. The abridged summation is he’s an elite manager AND his team has tuned him out. That may be partly management’s fault, as too many players are at the end of their contract.

Whatever the reason, Spurs have too many concentration lapses. They’ve conceded 22 goals in 13 matches across all competitions this season. Teams like Liverpool are expert at converting on mistakes.

Another Spurs problem is they are not good defending attacks down the wings, especially since losing Kieran Trippier. TAA, Robbo, and Ox and Keita if they play will be marauders down the flanks for 90 minutes.

Prediction

Regardless of what line-up Klopp rolls out, Spurs have won exactly ZERO road games this season. Not one. That’s not changing at Anfield on Sunday. Oddsmakers view this as a 3-to-4 goal game. Agree there. Expect a 3-1 Liverpool win.

 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Napoli in January?

Chops October 23, 2019

At this point, it’s looking less and less likely that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will stay in MLS next year.

And why should he? In his 37/38 aged season, he’s proven capable of scoring at elite levels. He netted 30 goals in 30 games this year. He scored 22 in 27 last year. Often, the goals are spectacular.

We’ve already written why Manchester United should get Zlatan in January. However, Zlatan though has intimated he’d like a return to Serie A. And particularly his fondness for what Diego Maradona did at Napoli. He may get his Serie A wish.

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Napoli express interest in Zlatan

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is a Zlatan admirer. He said he’s interested in acquiring Zlatan.  He also said that ultimately the decision to join Napoli is up to the big Swede.

One point though why Zlatan to Napoli feels like a real thing rests in this quote from De Laurentiis:

“I met him, not as a footballer, but as a normal person in Los Angeles because we shared the same hotel. I invited him to dinner with his wife and children and we had a great night.”

It would be incredibly naive to not think some level of discussion about joining Napoli was had at that dinner.

Anyway, if Napoli don’t beat Red Bull Salzburg today, expect Zlatan to lead the Italian side to Europa League glory in 2020.

Champions League Group E: Why Today Is Most Important Day for Liverpool, Red Bull Salzburg, and Napoli

Chops October 23, 2019

The second half of 2019-20 UEFA Champions League matchday 3 group games begin at 12:55pm ET today.

This season’s “Group of Death”–Group E–features three teams ranked in the top 14 of FiveThirtyEight’s Global Club Rankings (ClubElo agrees as well, with all three in the top 19). This will be a tightly bunched group at the top with razor thin margins separating who advances. The match-ups today between Genk vs Liverpool and Red Bull Salzburg vs Napoli have particular weight to the eventual group outcomes.

Here’s why.

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Napoli’s away draw to Genk opened the group up

Thanks to a BS call against Andy Robertson leading to a late penalty and win, Napoli took firm control of Group E on matchday 1. All they needed to do was hold serve at home and manage a win at Genk.

That didn’t happen. They drew 0-0 at Genk.

While oddsmakers still have Napoli heavily favored (-1000!!!) to advance out of Group E with Liverpool (-2500), that all could change quickly if Red Bull Salzburg (+285) take care of business at home. Amazingly, RBS and Napoli are basically even according to oddsmakers in this match.

The line: Red Bull Salzburg +145 | Draw +275 | Napoli +170

To be fair, the line is more or less in line with FiveThirtyEight’s match probability.

However, Napoli has not been very good on the road in Europe the past 14 months. They’ve won exactly 0 of 4 away games in Champions League competition. They won 1 of 3 away games in the Europa League after that.

Also! They played Red Bull Salzburg in the Round of 16 in the Europa League last March. They lost 3-1 away to a not-as-strong-as-they-are-today RBS side. And that match didn’t have an Academy Award winning halftime speech from Jesse Marshe either (NSFW).

Both squads know how important this match is, because…

…Nine points probably gets you out of the group

Last season’s “Group of Death” also contained Liverpool and Napoli. Here’s how it ended up:

Nine points is a pretty good delineation marker for advancing to Champions League knockout rounds. In the past three UCLs, only twice has a team with less than 9 points advanced (Benfica with 8 in ’16-17, Lyon with 8 last year).

In a group with three legit teams, 9 points and you’re probably good (unless you’re Napoli last year). 10 and you’re golden.

If Liverpool win at Genk, they’ll get to 6 points. Liverpool will win at Anfield against Genk, which gets them to 9. From there, it’s just an away draw at RBS or draw at home vs Napoli and they’re 100% advancing.

So for RBS and Napoli, this match really is everything. If Red Bull win and move to 6 points, Napoli may find themselves in a painfully close third place finish for the second year in a row.

Too bad a Zlatan to Napoli transfer can’t happen sooner.

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