The English Premier League begins just a little early this season – early enough to show that the NFL is all wet when it claims to have created the year-round sports attraction. Premiership football never sleeps, the clubs just go right on playing friendlies, and then here we are again. The Premier League is the true all-seasons attraction for fanatics around the world.
It’s not a bad batch of fixtures on Matchday 1 to say the least, though under the circumstances we might actually see less surprises than some pundits and prognosticators will be calling for this weekend.
Norwich City could be an interesting underdog pick against Liverpool, but then again, Reds haven’t lost a Premiership match any time recently…and Canaries will be out-manned outside of Teemu Pukki and keeper Tim Krul. Another promotion-story match, Tottenham vs Aston Villa will get a hefty share of gambling action as a fixture that comes after the insanity of Saturday’s early barrage of kickoffs.
Harry Kane’s mind-numbingly great strike in the ICC has captivated continents full of Spurs fans, and Tottenham is a solid 1-to-3.5 favorite to beat “Villains’” in the latter’s return to the Premiership. The Over (2.5) has been priced with a squalid (-150) payoff at multiple soccer betting websites, a market for which Kane is largely responsible for the lack of candy.
I’m also very interested in the lines on Crystal Palace and Everton. Toffees are, in my opinion, among the most underrated sides in English football headed into 2019-20.
But on midday Saturday in the Kingdom, or on 6 continents for that matter, no punter or pundit will be able to look away from London Stadium for very long.
West Ham is hosting Manchester City, the club that nearly won the proverbial “quadruple” in 2018-19 and appears poised to challenge for all 3 domestic titles and the UEFA crown once again.
Hammers vs Citizens Odds Comparison and Best Sportsbook
They say not to handicap a fixture until you’ve forecast the moneyline odds first. But the Matchday 1 Premiership odds have been out for a while now, and it’s no big surprise that Citizens are a 1-to-4 wager across most of London and Las Vegas.
BetOnline offers a couple of Asian Handicaps for the spread and Over/Under totals, City (-1 ½ and 2) in the former category and O/U (3, 3 ½) in the other. Clearly, bookmakers and bettors alike have settled on the prediction that Sky Blues are going to score often on Saturday.
But haven’t we been observing – for a calendar year now – a Manchester City squad that is capable of deadly attacks but yet only opens up when the opponent invites it? A squad which is just as pleased to win a cautious 1-0 or 2-0 result?
“2-0” is the final score BetOnline odds managers had in mind when setting the perhaps-partial payout market ATS.
Bovada’s lines are a little more straightforward. City’s moneyline has shrunk to (-425) at the sportsbook with (+1000) odds on a Hammers upset and a big fat Draw line of (+525).
The spread at the “big daddy” of sportsbooks is much simpler – Man City (- 1 ½). So is the Over/Under, with a (+115) payoff on 2 or less goals scored in the match. Though of course the Bovada total does not come with the safety of a partial payoff on a close call.
Hammers Short Some Nails
We observed West Ham last season as a club that could run and play with the best of the Premier League, but also show lousy-enough form to lose to a League One outfit like AFC Wimbledon in the Football Association Cup.
Inconsistency was the only thing holding the Irons back from a breakthrough in domestic play. Hammers beat Arsenal in January just as the FA Cup was beginning to pick up steam. But the club had lost to Burnley F.C. in an 0-2 result just a couple of matches prior.
Unpredictable and weird-looking outcomes are nothing new in the Premier League. Consider, though, the wild swings in form from West Ham over the days that followed. Hammers lost to Cherries in another ominous 0-2 final before losing the FA Cup match to Wombles despite playing an A-list lineup. The slump would climax with a painful loss to Wolves before Manuel Pellegrini’s team somehow found the courage to draw 1-1 with Liverpool on 2/4.
The transfer-window narrative has not been a pleasant experience for the proud football club. There are yawning gaps in the lineup and depth issues along the spine of the squad. The roster badly needs a striker and Hammers still haven’t signed anyone even though we know management is looking.
That means a squad in-transition that nobody is quite happy with yet will be taking the pitch against visiting Man City this Saturday.
Even though Sébastien Haller will be fun to watch play against the class of the Premiership.
The City as We Remember It
Leroy Sané may have had his last hurrah with Manchester City in the FA Community Shield final against Liverpool on Sunday. However nice it must have felt to celebrate a friendly draw (and subsequent win on penalties) in front of Citizen supporters at Wembley Stadium, I’m sure it’s a hurrah he now wishes he wouldn’t have had…especially while negotiating a deal with Bayern Munich.
The German winger was injured just 10 minutes into the match.
Here’s an interesting “infinite regress” take on the nasty spill – or maybe it’s a take of a take on the nasty spill. Or a take of a take of a take of a nasty spill. Or a t…
— Bayern mania (@Bayern_mania) August 4, 2019
The vibe around the tri-defending champions is that the club can get along just fine without Sané. That’s an interesting decision to make, considering that the same analysis led in-part to Joachim Löw’s Nationalelf laying an egg at the 2018 World Cup.
But no team with the name “Agüero” at the front of the formation is hurting at striker as Man City’s opponents on Saturday are. Raheem Sterling is still developing into a worldwide superstar. The Sky Blue backline and goalkeeping can’t be questioned.
Meanwhile, Rodri gives the squad another dynamic weapon whose acquisition could signify Pep’s intentions to win more 1-0 and 2-0 results in 2019 and beyond.
Finally, there’s the handy fact that summer football has been a lot more populated by top rosters in 2019 than last year’s post-World Cup friendly matches that featured reserve squads.
That means we can look to summer fixtures as a decent barometer of how the EPL clubs (and other English clubs) are feeling.
Sterling scored twice during a 4-1 win over West Ham in a Premier League Asia Trophy semifinal in July, even though Hammers played Roberto in goal and Declan Rice at defensive midfield against a starting City lineup that could most-generously be described as “2nd best.”
Pep allowed his stars to take the helm gradually throughout the 1st half, and the result was a dominating performance in which the underdogs earned 0 corner kicks and were unable to even catch-up to the Sky Blues to foul them and slow the attack.
Manchester City is unbeaten in all domestic competitions since snow was falling in Kansas. There’s no reason to believe that the club is vulnerable to an upset on Saturday, but perhaps the Sky Blues’ recent record in friendlies is pushing the O/U total for Matchday 1 too high.
The Asia Trophy final against Wolves – at last a prepared team that is settled at most positions and not experimenting – turned into an 0-0 draw that might have demonstrated the type of soccer we should expect from City and other Premier League favorites in late-summer days of the new season.
West Ham vs Man City: Score Prediction and Best Lines
The media’s watchwords are going to be “surprises and upsets.” But we all know how dangerous underdog EPL sides can be during the opening few weeks…and that includes manager Pep.
Handicappers might be wise to expect less surprises overall. This isn’t the NBA or the NFL where the teams disappear and reemerge months upon months later with a new look. There aren’t that many dramatic changes in the overall look and feel of English football clubs headed into August. There can’t be, because despite the eternal transfer drama of Europe, there hasn’t been enough time for a million organization-wide overhauls to take place.
In some ways it feels as though the 2018-19 season never ended. The squads just toured around for a few weeks and now here they are again. Man City is still Man City, and West Ham is still West Ham.
However, I don’t see much upside in either squad bringing numbers forward early in this weekend’s match, and I’m not sure the skippers will. There will be fresh pace, emotion, and enthusiasm in the offing, and the last thing any EPL team needs is a goal-against in the 1st half of the 1st match.
The risk-reward doesn’t jive. City will attack, but goals won’t come easy, and Hammers will be too wary of the counter to take too many chances.
If you’re going by pure history and playing the odds, that (+525) Draw line at Bovada is tempting. But I much prefer the Under at BetOnline, which the book has put a juiced (-119) payoff line on in anticipation of each club playing the maiden 45+ minutes cautiously.
It’s not quite juiced enough to take the advantage away from a bet against (very) recent trends.