When the new season began, my editors asked me if I would be continuing Corner Picks. Without hesitation, I said yes because I’d never planned to stop to begin with, but I had one important caveat. I didn’t want to pick any matches before September because I don’t bet soccer in the first few weeks of the season.
After a summer of transfers and manager changes, I like to understand better what teams will look like in matches that count before I bet on them. So I said I’d return the first weekend in September, and now I’ve put myself in a different kind of bind.
Sure, I know more about the teams overall, but we’re returning from an international break; a break that will keep some players out of lineups this weekend due to COVID protocols as they return from other parts of the world. So that’s a fun wrinkle to work around.
Thankfully, there are plenty of matches, so it wasn’t hard to find three I like. Unless these turn out to be incorrect picks. If that’s the case, it was the international break’s fault. All odds are via Caesar’s Sportsbook.
Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham, Sat. 7:30 a.m, NBCSN
- Odds: Crystal Palace +310, Draw +230, Tottenham -103
Oh, what a time to be a Tottenham fan. Not only did Harry Kane stay after you spent your entire summer worried about him leaving, but you’ve won your first three matches and are atop the Premier League table. It must be a thrill. At least, to those Tottenham fans who ignore the underlying metrics screaming this start is not sustainable.
Yes, Tottenham have won their first three matches, but they’ve won all three 1-0. When we look at expected goals (xG), Tottenham have a higher xG allowed (3.9) than for (3.7). In other words, they’re giving up more shots and better scoring chances to opponents than they’re getting themselves, even if the results haven’t shown it. This weekend Spurs are on the road against a Crystal Palace team that was horrible in one road match against Chelsea but has been solid in its other two. I won’t be surprised if Palace nicks a point or three on Saturday. The Pick: Crystal Palace or Draw (-120)
Napoli vs. Juventus, Sat. 12 p.m, Paramount+
- Odds: Napoli+140, Draw +235, Juventus +200
The one thing about Serie A that most outsiders don’t get is how high-scoring of a league it is. There’s a narrative that Italian soccer is slow and defensive, but that hasn’t been the case in Italy’s top league for a while. There were more goals scored per match in Serie A last season than Europe’s other top leagues. Entering this weekend, there’s been an average of 3.3 goals scored per match in the league, again more than any of Europe’s other top five leagues (Germany’s Bundesliga is second at 3.19).
Yet it remains easy to find totals for Serie A matches that are lower than they should be, and this is one of those times. There was concern that Napoli would be without striker Victor Osimhen after he received a two-match ban following a red card, but it was reduced to a one-match ban upon appeal. That means he’s available to play, which is a significant boost to Napoli’s attack. And while Juventus look to be without Federico Chiesa, Napoli’s defense has looked leaky to start the season, and first-choice goalkeeper Alex Meret is injured. This could quickly become a shootout. The Pick: Over 2.5 (-110)
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Sampdoria vs. Inter Milan, Sun. 6:30 a.m, Paramount+
- Odds: Sampdoria +420, Draw +295, Inter Milan -155
OK, so I said I don’t bet soccer early in the season, but that’s a bit of a lie. I’ve been betting on Inter to start the year because the market wildly overcorrected for the loss of Romelu Lukaku, Achraf Hakimi and manager Antonio Conte. After two matches that have seen Inter outscore opponents 7-1 on the field and 3.3-1.8 in xG, I still don’t think it has given the price against Sampdoria.
Inter are still a team with a boatload of talent and still one of the league’s favorites. I’m riding this undervalued wave until I’m thrown off, and although I know it’s going to happen eventually, it isn’t likely to be Sunday morning. The Pick: Inter (-155)
Because three matches just aren’t enough, here’s a four-leg money line parlay paying +186.
- Manchester United (-550)
- Arsenal (-215)
- PSG (-370)
- Chelsea (-335)