Mark O'Haire: Two bets for the weekend

9 min


Wolves v Southampton

It might look a little strange, recommending a punt on a newly-promoted club against a seasoned Premier League outfit just six games into a new campaign at an odds-on quote. But there’s plenty of reason to believe Wolves aren’t just here in the Premier League to make up the numbers.

The Old Gold have made a remarkable statement of intent during the opening eight weeks, despite a treacherous fixture list. The Black Country boys have already faced both Manchester clubs, Everton, Leicester, Burnley and West Ham, sides that concluded 2017/18 in first, second, seventh, eighth, ninth and 13th.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have lost just once, and it was grossly unfair. Wolves were beaten 2-0 at Leicester by a fluke own goal and a shot from outside the penalty area. In that encounter, Wanderers reduced their hosts to less than 0.20 Expected Goals and dominated almost all aspects – it was one of those games.

Indeed, the Old Gold have only really failed to fire once – their opener against Everton.

But you can’t fail to have been impressed by their efforts against Manchester City – holding the record-breaking champions here at Molineux – or last weekend’s performance at Old Trafford.

Wolves won the shots on-target and xG count at Manchester United seven days ago and Adama Traore almost clinched the contest for Nuno’s troops late on. His introduction off the bench in the final third of games is giving the group the pace, power and legs required to stretch tiring defences, complimenting what’s already on offer.

From the outset, results have been positive. However, it’s the underlying numbers that are causing analytics fans to take real notice. Taking into account the strength of opposition, only three clubs have attempted more shots than Wolves, while the Old Gold rank third for shots in the box ratio, third for xG ratio and third for xG from open play ratio.

Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Joao Moutinho celebrates scoring Wolves equaliser at Old Trafford.

In fact, no top-tier team can match Wolves’ wonderful xG from open-play conceded figure of just 0.40 xG per-game and their 75% ratio return in the same metric is really quite stunning. I would have backed them to win at Molineux on Saturday against any bottom-half side at a fair price, and Southampton fit the bill.

The Saints waved the white flag at Liverpool last weekend and Mark Hughes men will be buoyed by the return of Danny Ings. Nevertheless, Manolo Gabbiadini and Mohamed Elyounoussi are missing and Southampton’s form and performances have left little to be desired.

The visitors’ only success this season came against a Crystal Palace outfit missing their talisman Wilfried Zaha. The only other points Southampton have collected came at home when welcoming wretched travellers Brighton and a Burnley side that was in the midst of a Europa League qualifying campaign. Both were drawn.

Four of the six goals the Saints have scored arrived via shots from outside the box or penalties, while at the other end they’ve shipped two goals or more in four of their past five outings despite Liverpool being the only Big Six club in opposition. And that’s before we mention their awful road record.

Southampton have won just four times on their travels since the start of last season – two of those triumphs came at relegated clubs Swansea and West Brom, with the other two weirdly taking place at Selhurst Park.

So Wolves are my recommendation.

If you’re unsure on the odds on offer – the 1.84 implies the Old Gold take maximum points in this encounter 54% of the time. My numbers and intuition suggests a home win has more of a 58%-60% chance and I think the odds in two to three months will reflect that.

Real Sociedad v Valencia

Real Sociedad have secured only two victories from their opening six games (W2-D2-L2) but with the Basques playing four of those fixtures on the road, they’ll be happy to be based at their newly-renovated home Anoeta on Saturday.

However, Asier Garitano’s group will be without the suspended Theo Hernandez and Juanmi, while Diego Llorente and Adnan Januzaj remain sidelined through injury and La Real missed their influence in Tuesday’s enjoyable 2-2 tussle here against Rayo Vallecano.

The hosts tend to be strong operators in San Sebastian, although a more eye-catching trend is their penchant for high-scoring encounters. A remarkable 19/21 (90%) outings here since the start of last season have collected for Over 2.5 Goals backers with 12 (57%) surpassing the Over 3.5 Goals line.

Sociedad have fired a solitary blank at Anoeta since the beginning of 2017/18 and with star striker Willian Jose fit and firing once more, they’ll be hoping of at least unsettling an astute, but as yet winless, Valencia outfit on Saturday.

The visitors are the only La Liga club yet to taste success (W0-D5-L1) – a late Iago Aspas strike robbed Los Che of the chance to snatch three points at Mestalla last time out – but Marcelinho’s squad is returning to almost full strength with Dani Parejo back from a ban and Geoffrey Kondogbia fit enough to return.

Valencia won this contest 3-2 last term and have scored at least twice in their past four meetings with Sociedad.

Despite a recent downwards trends in the total goals markets, there’s enough offensive potential in the guests to strike twice this weekend, while La Real should never be opposed in the attacking stakes in their Basque base.

Over 2.5 Goals is overpriced at 1.95.

Recommended Bets

  • Wolves v Southampton – Wolves to win (1.84)
  • Real Sociedad v Valencia – Over 2.5 Goals (1.95)

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