Mark Stinchcombe: Last week is behind me and it's onward to the weekend FA Cup and Ligue 1 action

14 min

It was a poor weekend for me last week, suffering a 2.5 point loss. Firstly, Chelsea won 4-0 at Brighton, Arsenal destroyed Crystal Palace away 4-1 and Everton only managed a 1-1 draw with West Ham. Having watched Brighton v Chelsea, I thought the scoreline was unfair with Brighton creating good chances, as well a couple of decent penalty shouts. Indeed, the expected goals finished 0.95 – 1.38 so I’d like to think this is just variance and on another day 2-1 Chelsea would have been a fairer result.

Arsenal blew Crystal Palace away and were deserving 4-1 winners. Arsene Wenger changed formation to a back four, and it looks to have made an immediate impact with the Gunners also beating Chelsea en route to the League Cup final during the week. With Lacazette and Ozil as the only out-and-out attackers in a team featuring the likes of Iwobi and Elneny, Palace can feel a bit unlucky to have conceded so many goals early in the game, especially with two of the goals coming from corners.

Alex Iwobi (2nd L) of Arsenal celebrates with his teammates during last weekend’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace.

Looking at the two matches, I’m happy with my thought process in wanting to oppose Chelsea and Arsenal, I’m just wondering whether long-term it is better to lay the sides rather than taking the underdog on the handicap?

Football by design is a low scoring game, and goals breed goals, so by that logic, either a team wins comfortably or fails to win at all.

However, I think we all know that isn’t true, and in answer to the question; I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer, just be open-minded to the different possibilities and most importantly go with the value long-term.

I think the less said about Everton the better. They’re terrible, aren’t they?

They’ve spent £182M since the summer (£182M!) yet are getting outshot and outscored on the xG by West Brom. At home!

Everton manager Sam Allardyce appeals for a decision in last weekend’s draw with West Brom.

Despite spending all this money and investing in a new manager, Everton seem completely devoid of an actual plan. And now Sam Allardyce has come out and said Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney can’t play in the same team. They lack pace and creativity, particularly out wide, and have parted ways with Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, and Aaron Lennon all this month. Between them, Barkley and Mirallas got 14 assists last season and Mirallas to Lukaku was actually the joint 5th most potent partnership in the league.

I still think Everton -0.25 1.93 was a good bet, Everton just played at the bottom of their performance curve, and we still managed to get half our money back.

Game. Set. Match. Value?

In the tennis, it was disappointing to see Maria Sharapova go down so tamely to Angelique Kerber. She didn’t turn up and was comprehensively beaten 6-1 6-3. However, Sharapova was only the slight outsider in this match and with Kerber going outright favourite; I think I was on the right lines.

Simona Halep and Caroline Wozniacki will contest the final, with both having to save multiple match points to get there just to prove how much of a minefield the women’s game is. I hope Serena makes her comeback soon!

In the men’s, Roger Federer is into tonight’s semi-final and is now 1.46 in the outrights. I made a big point of how he was value with his consistency of making this stage. Those of you that trade might look at this as an opportunity to trade out, but from a personal point of view, I tend to let my bets run unless the price is obviously wrong. Federer is yet to drop a set, and if he makes the final he will face Marin Cilic who he leads 8-1 head-to-head so it’s very difficult to make a case to say 1.46 is too short.

Fill Your Cup

Onto this weekend and the FA Cup is back in action. My modus operandi is to avoid cup competitions since it’s impossible to predict team lineups and there may be a lack of motivation from certain teams, but with some all-Premier League cup ties; I think there is a couple of angles of value.

Liverpool take on West Brom at the unusual time of 7.45pm on Saturday night, and there was an interesting theory from Monday evening following Liverpool’s 1-0 defeat at Swansea, that the Reds don’t win football matches when they have lots of possession.

This season when Liverpool have had 70% possession or more, they’ve only won two out of six.

Small sample size but it got me thinking of their ability to break teams down, or lack of, especially with the departure of Coutinho. I’ve already written a blog on laying Liverpool every week but here I want to focus on goals.

Obviously, West Brom came here in December and got a 0-0 draw, and if we look historically, Liverpool has struggled over a long period to break West Brom down.

Under Klopp, Liverpool has only actually won two of five matches, seeing just 10 goals. If we go further back, the last 19 meetings have only seen 40 goals – just 2.10 per-game. Klopp has also struggled at Anfield in the FA Cup, drawing 0-0 with West Ham, 0-0 with Plymouth, losing 2-1 to Wolves and needed a late goal to beat Everton 2-1. That may have been due to rotation, and he could do again here, and alarmingly Monday’s bench had just two league goals between them.

West Brom could also rotate with their priorities being on staying up, but they’ll still be competitive, and opposing goals looks the best way to go with money back if three goals are scored.

This bet would only have lost twice in the last 19 meetings.

A Hazardous Encounter For Newcastle?

The other match I’m looking at is Sunday’s lunchtime kick-off between Chelsea and Newcastle.

This is completely about the price.

Chelsea were 1.23 when they beat Newcastle 3-1 last month. This weekend they’re 1.5. This may be down to injuries/perceived rotation, but a Chelsea team without Morata or Fabregas went off equal favourites against Arsenal midweek. And we’ve already seen Newcastle essentially ‘give up’ in big games this season, retreating territory and conceding possession, losing 6 of 7 against the ‘big 6’, and scoring only 4 goals (1-1 v Liverpool the other).

Newcastle sit just one point above the relegation zone, and face a huge game at home to Burnley on Wednesday, so with this game on Sunday, it could see Benitez focus more on the league game rather than the game against Chelsea. In terms of a bet, I think this is lineup dependent, but if Eden Hazard is named in the lineup at 12.30pm on Sunday; back the home side.

Last But Not Least…

My other bet this weekend comes from France, and for me, it’s the bet of the weekend.

Marseille take on Monaco at the Stade Velodrome on Sunday night in what should be a cracker featuring lots of goals. The market has a goal expectancy of 2.95 but I think it should be a lot higher.

Marseille’s 22 matches this season have seen 67 goals, 3.04 per-game, and Monaco’s have seen 73 goals, 3.32pg. PSG have scored 68 goals compared to Marseille’s 45 and Monaco’s 51, but these two are producing similar shot data.

Marseille manager Rudi Garcia is getting a tune out of a number of his players – Thuavin, Ocampos, Sanson, N’Jie, Payet, Germain, Mitroglou, goals coming from every attacking player – even Luis Gustavo is chipping in.

Despite the losses of Mbappe and Bernardo Silva, it’s a similar story for a Monaco team still creating and scoring with Falcao, Balde Keita, Carrillo, Rony Lopes, Thomas Lemar, Ghezzal, Jovetic, and Diakhaby providing a huge array of options. Both sides are just filled with goals and this fixture doesn’t disappoint.

Since Leonardo Jardim took over Monaco in 2014, this match has had 33 goals in 8 meetings – 4.13 per-game. We can get 1.97 for over 2.75 goals and I make the odds closer to 1.77.

Recommended bets:

  • Liverpool v West Brom under 3.0 goals ~1.97 – 1 point
  • Chelsea -1.0 ~1.81 – 1 point (if Hazard starts)
  • Over 2.75 goals Marseille v Monaco ~1.97 – 1.5 points