This weekend will see Chelsea take on Manchester City for the often underrated EFL Cup. Both sides will go in search of their sixth League Cup win at Wembley on Sunday, while City manager Pep Guardiola is also seeking his third major cup during his time at the Etihad Stadium.
Rather than anticipating a close and keenly-contested final, however, most pundits are expecting City to sweep aside Maurizio Sarri’s struggling Chelsea side. This is reflected by the odds, with the Manchester club quoted at a price of 1/2 by most bookies ahead of the final.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at this match-up and see which side is most likely to prevail in front of 80,000 spectators.
The Form Book – Why City are Favourites
In many ways, it’s Chelsea’s recent form and struggles that have governed the prices presented by UK bookmakers.
After a stellar start to the season that saw the Blues go undefeated for 18 matches until November, the much-vaunted “Sarri-ball” philosophy has failed as Chelsea have become increasingly ineffective at both ends of the pitch.
This has been borne during the Blue’s recent run of games, which have seen them lose three of their last five outings in all competitions and ship a troubling 13 goals in the process. At the same time, they’ve only scored seven goals during these matches, with five of these coming in a single game against the Premier League’s bottom club Huddersfield.
Chelsea’s limp surrender at home to Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round seemed to embody the club’s obvious attacking and defensive deficiencies, while the club’s fans were mocking the increasingly forlorn Sarri and calling for his dismissal long before the end of the game.
In contrast, City’s recent form has been incredible, as they’ve clawed back a seven-point deficit to Liverpool at the top of the EPL and remained in contention for all four major honours.
Including their nail-biting win against Liverpool on January 3rd, City have won 12 and lost just one of their last 13 outings in all competitions, while Guardiola’s free-flowing side have scored a staggering 49 goals during this run. This included a 10-0 aggregate win against Burton Albion in the EFL Cup semi-final, which highlighted the increasingly ruthless nature of City’s attackers in front of goal.
The Recent Head-to-head Record – Does This Provide Comfort to the Blues?
It’s interesting to note that these two sides also clashed in the Premier League at the Etihad stadium less than two weeks ago, with City romping to a 6-0 win in front of Chelsea’s stunned away contingent.
In fact, the Blues were blown away by four goals in the first 25 minutes by City’s marauding forwards, before Sergio Aguero’s second-half penalty and a late Raheem Sterling goal sealed Chelsea’s worst defeat since a 7-0 reversal at Nottingham Forest in April 1991.
This is one of four wins that City have recorded in their last five matches against Chelsea, dating back to September 2017. During this time City have scored 10 goals and conceded just two, with both of these coming in the Blue’s single 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge earlier in the season.
Even this game saw the Blues outplayed for long periods by a slick and stylish City, although Chelsea’s resilience and ruthlessness on the counter-attack should at least provide some source of comfort ahead of the Wembley clash this weekend.
Of course, it would be typical of the club’s recent history for the Blues to upset the odds and defeat City at Wembley, with the side having carved out a deserved reputation for digging deep and snatching unlikely wins in big games ever since the first managerial tenure of Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho.
To achieve this, however, Sarri will have to somehow unify his side and restore their confidence after a series of morale-sapping defeats, while using the 2-0 league win in December as a tactical blueprint for how they can nullify City and inflict damage on the counter-attack.
Sarri will also have to deal with the obvious vulnerability in his side’s midfield, with Jorginho clearly being targeted by opposition players and the Italian international struggling with the pace of the English game.
All-in-all, this seems like too much of a leap for an increasingly frustrated and famously intransigent Sarri, particularly against the smooth, formidable and well-oiled machine that is Manchester City. With this in mind, we can only see one result on Sunday, with the size of City’s winning margin likely to be the most interesting betting market for punters.
Next week sees the long-awaited return of the UEFA Champions League, with eight round of 16 matches scheduled to take place on February 12th, 13th, 19th and 20th.
There’s certainly some mouth-watering contests scheduled to take place on these dates, with a resurgent Manchester Unite taking on big-spending PSG and last years’ beaten finalists Liverpool doing battle with Bayern Munich.
In this post, we’ll see which sides are most likely to reach the promised land of the quarter-final.
How will the English Sides Do?
We’ll start with Manchester United’s clash with PSG, with the first-leg of this content scheduled to take place at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
When the draw was made at the beginning of December, PSG fans would have been licking their lips at the prospect of taking on a wounded and conflicted United side that was flailing under Jose Mourinho’s stewardship.
Since sacking the Portuguese and hiring former playing star Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, however, United have won nine of their 10 games in all competitions while beating both Spurs and Arsenal on the road. At the same time, PSG have confirmed that the talismanic Neymar will miss both legs with a fractured metatarsal, depriving the Parisians of one of their key attackers.
PSG retain plenty of firepower in reserve, of course, while the bookies continue to make them narrow favourites to progress. The odds of a United win are shortening, however, and a good result at Old Trafford could go a long way to continuing their form and PSG’s poor record in the knockout stages of the UCL.
Next Wednesday, Mauricio Pochettino’s patched-up Spurs side will take on Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.
Both Harry Kane and Dele Alli will miss this match due to injury, and while Tottenham have managed to win three consecutive league games since losing to United at Wembley, they’ve exited both domestic cup competitions and struggled without their star attackers during the same period.
The absence of Kane and Alli has certainly weakened Spurs’ resolve ahead of their clash with Dortmund, particularly with their opponents in sparkling form and currently seven points clear at the top of their domestic league.
The German side also possess immense pace and a fluid passing game, which could well thrive in the wide open spaces of Wembley. With this in mind, Mauricio Pochettino may well be counting the cost of his high-profile absentees come Thursday morning.
Liverpool’s clash with Bayern Munich will headline on Tuesday, 19th February, with the Reds looking to balance another Champions League run with a bid to win their first top-flight domestic title since 1990.
This two-legged tie will pose a challenge to Liverpool, despite their excellence so far this season and Bayern’s patchy domestic form. After all, Jurgen Klopp’s men have flattered to deceive of late, whilst losing a five point lead at the top of the EPL. They’ve also struggled to hit the performance heights of last season, with this years’ consistency founded on a solid defence and greater squad depth rather than individual attacking brilliance.
With that being said, they’ve reserved two of their best performances for Europe this season, with home games against PSG and Napoli revealing the Reds at their offensive best.
If they can showcase the same levels of intensity and aggression against a far from dominant Bayern side, we’d back them to secure a crucial advantage in the tie at Anfield and proceed to the quarter-finals.
The last English side in action is Manchester City, with the champions in buoyant mood having recently returned to the top of the Premier League.
They’ve also been blessed with a slightly more straightforward trip to FC Schalke in the first leg of the UCL knockout stages, with the German side languishing in 12th place in the Bundesliga with just 22 points from 20 matches.
It’s hard to look beyond a City win here, with Pep Guardiola’s men having won nine of their last 10 games in all competitions and scored 38 goals in the process.
So, we’d expect them to secure a comfortable win in Germany on February 20th, before completing the job in the return leg at the Etihad Stadium.
What About the Other Ties?
From the other ties, one of the standout fixtures will see a free-scoring and youthful Ajax side take on defending champions Real Madrid.
Ajax secured a thrilling 3-3 draw with Bayern Munich during the group stages, while their pace and slick passing game will pose a threat to any side left in the competition. However, they’ll be hard pressed to beat an improving Madrid side, who are looking for an unprecedented fourth consecutive European title and continue to showcase consistency both at home and on the road.
Madrid’s Spanish rivals Barcelona will also travel to take on French side Lyon on 19th, with the Ligue 1 outfit looking to build on their superb performances against Manchester City during the group stages (they took four points off the English champions and won convincingly at the Etihad).
With Barca struggling to hit their very best form, Lyon may sense an opportunity to spring an upset and the home leg at the Olympic Stadium will prove crucial if they’re to achieve this aim.
We’ve also got our eyes peeled for the clash between Atletico Madrid and Juventus on 20th February, which is likely to produce a fascinating tactical contest between two immovable objects.
This could well be a low scoring tie where defences reign supreme, but we should not forget that Juve now boast the all-time record high Champions League goalscorer in their ranks. Even though he has now left La Liga, it would be typical of former Real star Cristiano Ronaldo to return to Madrid and put Atletico to the sword.
We’re fast approaching the first Wembley showpiece of the year in English football, with the Carabao Cup final set to take place on February 24.
This week will see two teams confirm their place at Wembley next month, although it’s fair to surmise the defending champions Manchester City have already achieved this aim following a devastating 9-0 win over Burton Albion in the first leg of their semi-final.
Still, Pep Guardiola’s men will have to dot the i’s and cross the t’s at the Pirelli Stadium on Wednesday, whilst Spurs will head to Stamford Bridge to defend a slender 1-0 lead 24-hours later.
We’ll review these ties below while asking which sides will be making their merry way to Wembley next month.
Can Spurs break their trophy duck? You’ll forgive us for focusing primarily on the second leg clash between Chelsea and Spurs, which is evenly poised following a tight and keenly-contested game at Wembley.
Mauricio Pochettino’s men prevailed 1-0 thanks to Harry Kane’s first-half penalty, though Chelsea dominated the second period and left Spurs hanging on at times. The Blues even hit the woodwork twice in the first-half, with N’Golo Kante’s near-post flick and Callum Hudson-Odi’s deflected cross both beating stopper Paulo Gazzaniga.
Defender Andreas Christensen also missed a glaring opportunity from six yards after the break and while Kane drew a smart save from Arrizabalaga late on, there was little doubt which team was in the ascendancy come the final whistle.
Given this and the fact that Chelsea have home advantage in the second leg, we may be tempted to make Maurizio Sarri’s men favourites for the tie.
This was the culmination of a difficult run for the Blues, who have also struggled to a 0-0 home draw against Southampton prior to the first leg defeat at Wembley. These results, coupled with concerns about Sarri’s style of play and his insistence on playing both Eden Hazard and Kante out of position, has left them vulnerable at a challenging stage of the season.
The question that remains, is: are Spurs are well-placed to capitalise? After all, they struggled to impose themselves during the first leg, while recent home defeats to Wolves and Manchester United in the Premier League have also undermined their form of late.
With talisman Kane also nursing an ankle injury and the talented forward Son Heung-min away representing South Korea in the Asian Games, Spurs’ lack of squad depth and forward options is being exposed as they look to reach their first domestic cup final since 2015.
This leads us onto another issue, as for all of Spurs’ undoubted quality and the brilliance of Pochettino, the club have yet to translate their promise into tangible success. These failings have been embodied by consecutive FA Cup semi-final defeats in 2017 and 2018, along with a failure to sustain burgeoning title challenges in 2016 and 2017.
Pochettino has also publicly questioned the merit of winning domestic cup competitions, suggesting that his priorities lie with lifting the Champions League or the EPL title. While some say that this is indicative of the club’s burning ambition, it may also betray a fragile mentality that struggles to thrive on the biggest of stages.
Stamford Bridge will provide another of these stages on Thursday, and with both teams struggling it may well come down to factors such as desire, focus and an underlying will to win.
Experience may also play a part, and this could well help Chelsea and their team of seasoned winners to edge Spurs in the second leg and book a Wembley place.
Is there any chance that City could lose? As for the second semi-final, this should be little more than a precession for Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering team.
After all, the 9-0 victory in the first leg was a record for the League Cup semi-final, and one that highlighted the incredible gulf that exists between the two sides.
We’d expect City to field a slightly weakened side in the second leg, although Guardiola’s plans may be hampered by the fact that his U-21 side is scheduled to play at Sunderland in the Checkatrade Trophy just 24 hours previously.
So while Pep may select a one or more of Phil Foden, Arijanet Muric, Eric Garcia and Philippe Sandler to start at the Pirelli Stadium, he’ll have to field far more first-team regulars than he would like.
This is bad news for Burton, who despite harbouring no hope of reaching Wembley would at least have been optimistic about finishing their Carabao Cup run with a victory.
There appears to be little chance of this now, with City likely to seal the deal on Wednesday with a comfortable victory.
If you’re an avid console gamer, we’d wager good money that you’re more than familiar with the first-person shooter game Call of Duty.
Having originated as a PC title on Microsoft Windows 15 years ago, it has since formed the basis for one of the most successful gaming franchises of all-time. To underline this, the Modern Warfare 3 edition of the franchise sold a staggering 30.71 million units globally upon its release in 2011, while six other titles have also broken the £20m barrier.
Given this and the nature of the game, it stands to reason that this second world war-inspired title should have emerged as a popular addition to the competitive eSports market. We’ll explore this below, while asking what format the game takes during tournaments.
All about the game
There have been 15 games released in the Call of Duty franchise since 2003, the most recent being Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. This was launched on October 12th 2018, following collaboration between the separate development teams at Infinity Ward, Treyarch and Sledgehammer Games.
This is an example of the franchise evolving during the last 15 years, with these three developers all playing a key role in diversifying the game and its story arcs.
Infinity Ward was the team that created the original game back in 2003, while Treyarch came on board two years later. Sledgehammer Games have been involved for the last seven years, and they have proved influential in moving away from the second world war theme and bringing the franchise into the modern age.
The latest release will underpin the hotly-anticipated Call of Duty World League 2019 Season, with the game the first in the franchise to feature a “Solo Missions” mode.
This focuses on the backstories of individual multiplayer characters, who are known as specialists and will be required to undertake a number of death-defying challenges.
What’s the format of a competitive Call of Duty tournament? Activision and developers Treyarch have recently announced details of the upcoming World League Season, which will see a significant format change and a dramatic increase in the total prize fund (to an estimated $6 million overall).
This will require teams to compete in teams of five against one another. Though it has prompted scorn from professionals like two-time world champion Patrick “Aches” Price, it has been welcomed by those who want to encourage others to play the game professionally.
This year will also see all competitions played in three distinct game modes: Hardpoint, Search and Destroy and Control.
Control is a new signature game mode in the eSports arena, and one that has been designed to bring out the best in tactical gameplay. In essence, it combines the best elements of Search and Destroy and Hardpoint, while this format will also see each competing team alternate between attacking and defending two predetermined objectives based on specific maps (featured here).
At the beginning of every match-up, the teams receive a collective 25 lives per round, while competitors can claim victory when they either capture both hills on offense, run the out the clock on defence, or kill off their opposition team members.
Teams will also have to compete with various weapon restrictions in 2019, with the use of Titan, Hades, VKM 750, MOG 12, SG12 and Hellion Salvo being limited across all game modes.
The same rule applies to specialist equipment such as sensor darts and tactical deploy, although the use of these items will only be restricted in the Hardpoint and Search and Destroy modes in this year’s World League.
For fans of the Pro League, this will continue to feature 16 teams spread across two divisions, while this competition will get underway in February.
This remains one of the most popular and widely-viewed Call of Duty tournaments, while its play-offs will now be called the “CWL Finals” and hosted in a major arena.
Call of Duty betting and wagering requirements The format changes and new restrictions will fortunately be of little consequence from a betting perspective, as the switch to 5×5 gameplay will not impact how or where you place your wagers.
UK and EU bettors are also fortunate in that they can wager on the leading Call of Duty eSports tournaments without restriction, regardless of whether they’re competing directly or simply streaming the event online.
However, it’s still important that you select a betting operator that is both licensed in the UK and capable of offering you access to a wide array of eSports and Call of Duty markets.
Betway offer a relevant case in point, as this highly reputable brand remain heavily involved in the competitive eSports space and even sponsor a number of teams and events.
In terms of strategy, you’ll probably be best served by betting on a relatively simple market and game mode like Search and Destroy (there’s a restricted range of markets available anyway for now, but this is one that offers relatively good value for money).
This mode requires one team to defend and another to attack a predetermined target, making it easier to determine outcomes and identify which group of competitors is more likely to succeed.
With the festive season drawing to a close and the decorations packed away, football fans can shake off the January blues watching the third round of the FA cup.
Coming hot on the heels of some stunning festive fixtures, the world’s most thrilling and beloved cup competition returns for its 138th iteration. Below, we preview three of the most hotly anticipated ties scheduled for the weekend….
Tranmere Rovers vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Friday, 4th January
We start at Prenton Park on Friday night, when League Two side Tranmere Rovers will do battle with Mauricio Pochettino’s impressive Spurs outfit for a place in the fourth round.
Die-hard fans will know there’s more to this tie than meets the eye, with Tranmere renowned for a couple of exceptional cup runs during the 2000/01 season. The Rovers celebrated the millenium by defying their second tier status an reaching the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, before eventually losing to Liverpool at home.
This run included a superb 3-0 win at local rivals Everton in round four, and a thrilling 4-3 victory against Premier League Southampton just three weeks later – during which the Rovers had trailed 3-0 at half-time against the Saints.
Ironically, it was during this season that the club were relegated to the third tier of English football. This triggered a decline that ended with Rovers being relegated from the league altogether in 2015.
However, Rovers finished second in the conference last season to return to the football league, while a 1-1 draw at Macclesfield Town last weekend left them in the relatively healthy position of 9th in League Two after 26 games.
Tranmere have also been particularly strong at home this season. This form has helped them to retain a position in the top half of the table, despite five consecutive league defeats prior to their visit to the Moss Round.
This will certainly give them a fighting chance against Spurs, who despite being second have already lost five EPL games this season and are likely to rest a raft of players after a hectic festive schedule.
So although the White’s Jake Caprice has stated publicly that the club’s league form must take precedence over any cup run, particularly with Tranmere in the hunt of a play-off place, this is likely to be a keenly contested game that will prove to be extremely uncomfortable for Pochettino’s men.
Manchester United vs. Reading, Saturday, 5th January
At 12.30 the following day, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s rejuvenated Manchester United side will entertain a struggling Reading outfit at Old Trafford.
The Royals have endured a torrid time since sacking the former United legend Jaap Stam last March, after last season’s promising early season form ended with a run of just one win in 18 games.
Following a 4-1 defeat by Swansea on New Year’s’ Day, Reading slumped to 23rd in the Championship, leaving them five points from safety and with a paltry four wins from 26 league games this season.
This is therefore hardly the ideal time to face an in-form Manchester United, who won their first three matches by an aggregate score of 12-3 after Solskjaer took over on December 18th. With key players suddenly returning to form and Alexis Sanchez now back in contention, it’s hard to imagine any other result than a comprehensive home win.
Sure, we expect United to rotate the squad ahead a trip to Wembley to face Spurs on 13th January, with the talented academy graduate Angel Gomes likely to start alongside players such as Juan Mata, Andreas Pereira and Diego Dalot.
However, Reading will also rest players in anticipation of a relegation battle in the spring, so they’ll need more than a little luck to reach the fourth round here.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Liverpool, Monday, 7th January
The FA Cup third round ends on Monday night, when Nuno Santos’ impressive Wolves side take on an all-conquering Liverpool team that has established a dominant lead in the Premier League title race.
This is a repeat of the league fixture contested on December 22nd, which saw a comfortable 2-0 win for the Reds that ensured they’d enter the festive period on top of the EPL table.
Wolves put up a spirited showing, however, while their superb 3-1 win at Wembley against Spurs on December 29th highlighted their quality, eye-catching style of play and outstanding ability to punish top teams on the counter-attack.
They’ll certainly fancy their chances of springing a surprise here – particularly if Jurgen Klopp decides to rest players after a hectic Christmas schedule. Star centre back Virgil Van Dijk could be line for a well-earned rest, while fringe squad members Daniel Sturridge, Naby Keita, Adam Lallana and Nathaniel Clyne are also poised to start strong.
Despite the renewed depth of Liverpool’s squad, this could disrupt the flow and momentum of Klopp’s side, creating a tight and competitive game that has the potential to go either way.
With these points in mind, odds of 3/1 for a home win may offer value to punters and this will certainly be one of the most exciting ties of the entire third round.
The concept of free bets is a widely discussed one in the UK marketplace, particularly following a detailed investigation by The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in February of this year.
This has enabled both operators and punters to benefit directly from concepts such as matched betting, which is a technique that allows individuals to profit from free wagers. We’ll explore this concept further below, while asking how much money you can really make from this practice?
What Exactly is Matched Betting?
Matched betting, which is also known by a number of different names including arb or double betting, is an extremely popular wagering technique that allows punters to leverage the potential profitability of free bets.
Widely considered to be a risk-free form of betting, it’s actually based on the application of a simple mathematical equation and largely removes the element of chance.
This equation can be used to estimate the average return from a matched bet. More specifically, the typical return for a standard matched wager is 85% of the free bet value, with this number falling marginally to 70% in instances where the stake is not returned directly.
If we apply this to a simple, £10 free bet, we can surmise that punters will have an opportunity to unlock £7 of this value as pure profit.
This can then be returned to your betting account, and under the new regulations concerning withdrawals used to fund additional wagers in the future.
Simple Ways to Leverage Matched Bets
As matched bets have become increasingly popular and well-regulated, so too operators have sought to promote these aggressively to their customers.
This has created further opportunities for punters who want to maximise the value of free bets and optimise the amount of money that they make in the process.
One of the best examples of this is the ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’ offer, which is a concession that’s typically applied to horse and greyhound racing. This essentially means that when you take an early or a fixed odds price on a particular selection, the bookmaker will recognise instances where there the starting price is greater and pay out at the biggest possible rate.
This will optimise the value of each individual matched bet, ensuring that you’re given the best real-time price and the highest possible return in the event of a win.
Similarly, each-way bets can also be deployed to make matched betting profitable, particularly when gambling on horse racing meetings and events.
Not only does this enable you to enter into flexibles wagers that deliver consistent returns, but in some instances you may even be able to benefit from extra place promotions.
In this instances, bookies will pay out for the top six places in a horse race, rather than the standard number of five. This ultimately means that your matched bet will payout if your selection finishes in the top six, increasing your chances of generating a return and boosting your matched betting profits.
Finally, price boosts are an excellent way of making serious money from your matched betting activities. It’s certainly one of the best techniques for boosting profitability, especially over an extended period of wagering.
Price boosts essentially enhance the odds on selected wagers, with this type of bet typically available on accumulators that include several different outcomes. This serves as a great incentive to punters, while it also increases the amount that you can win on individual wagers.
With matched betting, you’re guaranteed to make a profit in instances where the back odds are higher than the lay odds, so the key is to compare the market for the best price boost promotions on offer. This can be relatively time consuming, of course, but hopefully we can help you to find the most relevant offers here at BetHut!
The Last Word
Ultimately, matched betting and free wagering has been heavily scrutinised of late, but the changing landscape of the market is creating far greater value for knowledgeable punters.
Making a profit from this technique requires knowledge and understanding, while you also need to identify specific promotional offers that actively help you to make money. Click here to explore our best free bets and bonuses.
Sports betting brands have been under the microscope of late, following the decision of gambling chiefs to impose a blanket television advertising ban during live sporting events that are broadcast prior to the watershed.
According to key market players like Ladbrokes and William Hill, this ban is a simple response to sustained public concerns, highlighting the changing nature of sports betting and the way in which it’s perceived outside of the industry.
Little looks set to change for punters, who will continue to lay down in-play wagers on a host of popular sports including football, boxing and tennis. They’ll also be able to place a diverse range of different wagers, with handicap betting particularly popular in football and competitions such as the Premier League.
What is Handicap Betting?
To explain handicap betting, we’ll focus on the Premier League, in which there are perceived differences between the abilities of respective teams and players – particularly when you compare the top six clubs with the rest.
If Manchester City were to host Fulham at the Etihad Stadium, for example, the Citizens would start as odds-on favourites and with a price that delivers a relatively small payout on a modest wager.
This represents a delicate balance, however, as while operators want to minimise their losses they must also present odds that offer some form of incentive to punters. This is where handicap betting comes into play, as operators use a numerical figure (in this instances goals) to counter the lack of equality between two competitors and create more competitive odds.
There’s more to this market than meets the eye, however, with different types of handicap bet available to punters. We’ve listed a few of these below, each of which can help you to seek out more frequent and sizable wins over time.
The Level Handicap
We’ll start with the level handicap bet, which is one of most underrated wagers in modern-day sports betting.
With a level handicap, there’s no perceived difference between two teams. This means that no handicap bias is assigned prior to the game, so each side starts with zero goals and on a level playing field.
As with a standard bet, punters are required to identify the team that they think will score the most goals and win the game, but the key advantage here is that it eliminates the draw from the equation.
This means that all bets are refunded in the event of a tied game, as the terms of a zero or level handicap wager are binary and dictate that neither team has an advantage in the absence of a clear winner.
So while this type of wager is not necessarily suited to one-side encounters, it can prove to be extremely lucrative and increases your chances of winning by removing one of the potential outcomes from consideration.
A Single Handicap
The most common iteration of this wager is a single handicap bet, which is applied when there’s a clear difference in abilities between two competing sides.
This is determined through an array of factors, including the division in which each side competes, their respective form and the quality of players at their disposal. The handicap is then set according to the perceived difference between the competitors, while it generally increase in increments of 0.5.
In the case of our previous example, let’s say that you choose to back Manchester City to beat Fulham with a handicap of -1 goal. In this instance, City must win by more than one goal to cover the handicap and realise the full value of the wager.
In the event of a single goal win, your stake is refunded as the result is technically a draw. Should City actually draw or lose the game, however, you’ll lose the bet and the amount that you’ve staked.
This type of bet is used widely on matches where one competitor has a clear and obvious advantage, as it offers access to better odds without necessarily compromising your chances of winning.
A Split Handicap
For more seasoned bettors, a split handicap may well be a popular wager than can be applied when there’s a small and barely discernible difference between two competing teams.
With this bet, you can effectively split your stake over two handicaps. For example, you may back Manchester City to win at handicaps of 0 and -0.5, as this will create more competitive odds while still paying out in the event of a win for the Citizens.
This is an extremely tempting prospect, even though a draw in this instance will only see half of one stake returned to your account. Ultimately, this is the most complex iteration of handicap betting, and one that must be used cautiously and only used to wager on relatively tight matches.
The recent EPL clash between Liverpool and Manchester United would typically offer a relevant example, as while the Reds were clearly favourites this is historically a tight game with small winning margins.
While there’s a tendency to view the Europa League as the less affluent cousin of the Champions League, it remains an extremely popular tournament outside of football’s elite.
It also continues to offer solace to larger clubs that have stumbled on hard times and tumbled out of the Champions League, with both Chelsea and Manchester United having won the tournament during the last seven years. Arsenal also reached the semi-finals last year.
This year’s group stage is now drawing to a dramatic close, with the two remaining Scottish participants hoping to secure a place in the last 32. In this post, we’ll look at their prospects and offer an insight into the final round of fixtures…
What has yet to be Decided for the Brits?
Ultimately, Chelsea and Arsenal have already secured qualification to the knockout stage of the tournament, with the Blues topping Group L with a perfect record of 15 points in five matches.
With nine points separating them from second place, their final game against MOL Vidi FC is little more than a formality, although the Hungarian side will be hoping to secure a win that will help them to pip BATE Borisov to the second qualification spot.
The Gunners, who are currently in the midst of an impressive 21-match unbeaten run under the stewardship of new manager Unai Emery, have also confirmed first place in Group E, despite the relative proximity of second place Sporting Lisbon.
Arsenal are three points ahead of the Portuguese giants in second with one game to go, but will qualify in first regardless of their result against bottom club FK Qarabag thanks to their superior head-to-head record. The Gunners won 1-0 at the Estádio José Alvalade back in October, before drawing 0-0 in the return game at the Emirates last month.
As for Sporting, they’re also guaranteed to qualify in second place, as they currently have a seven point cushion over their final day opponents Vorskla Poltava.
Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic side will also be hoping to secure qualification to the knockout phase, despite the fact that it looked unlikely just a few weeks ago. A narrow, 1-0 win over Rosenberg last time out saw the SPL side move three points clear of RB Leipzig in Group B, while a single point from their final game will confirm their passage to the next stage.
However, Celtic must entertain an excellent FC Red Bull Salzburg side on Thursday, with the Austrian team already qualified in first place with 15 points and a 100% record to their name after five matches. In contrast, Leipzig will visit a Rosenborg outfit that is both bottom and pointless in the Europa League so far.
Celtic also have a negative head-to-head record with Leipzig, whose away goal during a 2-1 defeat at Celtic Park has afford them a critical edge. So, if Celtic lose to Salzburg, Leipzig will simply need to claim three points in Norway to pip the hoops to second place.
Then we come to Group G, where all four teams are capable of qualifying for the knockout stage. This number includes third place Rangers, who have six points from five games and will close their campaign with a trip to second place Rapid Vienna.
In simple terms, a win for Rangers will see them qualify in either first or second place, depending on Villarreal’s result at home against Spartak Moscow. Conversely, a defeat in Austria will see the Gers eliminated, so this at least provides some clarity for Steven Gerrard’s men.
A draw won’t be enough for Rangers either, courtesy of the nature of the group and final day fixtures. While a tie would leave Rangers with seven points to their name in the group, there’s no result in the corresponding fixture that will leave them ahead of either Villarreal of Spartak Moscow.
Tying up the Other Loose Ends with the Final Round of Fixtures
There’s a handful of other loose ends that need tying up during the final round of fixtures, with Bayer Leverkusen and FC Zürich both competing for top spot after previously securing qualification.
Group F is also an interesting one, as while Real Betis are assured of qualification, Italian giants AC Milan and Olympiakos will do battle for the second spot at the San Siro. Milan have a three point lead and a 3-1 victory in the head-to-head reckoning in their favour, however, so only a heavy win for the Greeks will deny them.
Milan could also top the group with a win, so long as Betis fail to achieve victory at bottom club F91 Dudelange.
Group I is also fascinating from a neutral perspective, as once again all four sides can still qualify for the knockout phase.
The game between Besiktas and Malmö FF is particularly fascinating, as these teams are separated by a single point and will contest an extremely close match-up in Turkey.
This year’s Champions League is fast approaching the first major cut of the season, with the final fixtures of the group stage scheduled for this week.
12 teams have already claimed a coveted place in the last 16 of the Champions League, with a total of six sides competing for the final four spots. A handful of teams are still in pursuit of a Europe League berth, so there’s all to play for as the group stages draw to a close.
Below, we’ll consider the outstanding qualification issues, review the final round of fixtures and see who the likely winners are…
What has yet to be decided?
Many of Europe’s leading lights have already qualified for the knockout stages, including Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Manchester City and Juventus.
These clubs have been joined by FC Porto, Schalke, Ajax, Roma and Manchester United, with the latter qualifying with a game to spare despite their indifferent home form.
Interestingly, two of the Premier League’s four representatives are still fighting for their Champions League, with Spurs facing a particularly difficult challenge in their bid to reach the knockout stages.
So while Spurs only need to match Inter’s result at home to PSV Eindhoven tomorrow, they also face the difficult task of taking on Spanish champions Barcelona at the Nou Camp.
Spurs will draw comfort from the fact that Barca have already qualified for the knockout stages and won the group, but with Inter expected to win at the San Siro, Pochettino may still have to mastermind an unlikely victory against the in-form Catalans.
Liverpool also face an incredibly difficult challenge if they’re to qualify from an ultra-competitive Group C, with the Reds currently third in the table and three points behind leaders Napoli.
Even if they do beat the Serie A side, they’ll need to do so by two clear goals if Napoli score at Anfield. This is because a subdued Liverpool lost 1-0 in Naples courtesy of an injury-time strike by Lorenzo Insigne, so away goals will prove crucial in determining the final head-to-ahead.
This is assuming that PSG gain a positive result in Belgrade against Partizan, of course, with a point good enough to secure the Parisians qualification given their superior head-to-head record with Liverpool.
Incredibly, the group is so tight that Liverpool could just as easily come first as be eliminated, and there’s a great deal of work to do if Klopp’s men are to qualify.
The final qualification slot will be contested between Lyon and Shakhtar Donetsk in Group F, with these two side set to do battle at the Metalist Stadium in Kharkiv.
Lyon, who have performed superbly in taking four points off Manchester City during the group stage, currently hold second place with seven points, although their rivals could overtake them with a victory (they currently have five points from five games).
The head-to-head can’t come into play here, so a win or a draw for Lyon will take them through to the knockout stages, whereas a simultaneous defeat for leaders Manchester City at Hoffenheim could even see them top the group.
Tying up the Other Loose Ends with the Final Round of Fixtures
Tomorrow’s fixtures will also see first and second place determined in some instances, with a win for Atletico Madrid at Club Brugge enough to give them the honours in Group A. However, a draw or a defeat here would enable Dortmund to claim top spot with a victory at struggling Monaco.
With first and second place decided in Group D, all that’s left is for Galatasaray and Lokomotiv Moscow to compete for a Europa League place. Group E is even more settled, with Munich and Ajax having qualified with ease and Benfica having secured third place.
In Group G, both Real Madrid and Roma have already qualified, while Los Blancos are also sure to top the Group courtesy of their three-point advantage and superior head-to-head record with Roma.
This makes their respective games against CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen largely inconsequential, although both of these teams are locked on four points and chasing a place in the Europa League knockout stages.
In Group H, Juventus will top the group with a win against the already-eliminated Young Boys. However, if Juve draw or lose here then Manchester United will be able to claim top spot, so long as they beat Valencia at the Mestalla Stadium (the Red Devils’ have a better head-to-head record thanks to their 2-1 in Turin last month).
As for Valencia, they’re already assured of a place in the Europa League, regardless of how they fare against United on Wednesday.
Football betting remains the dominant driver of sports betting in the UK, which is no surprise given the popularity of the sport and the innovative range of markets available.
Sports betting currently accounts for 37.1% of the virtual gross gaming yield, after growing by a compound annual growth rate rate of 7% between 2012 and 2015. This, along with the consolidation of offline sports betting in the UK, has helped form a growing industry that shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.
But how can you increase your chances of making money through football betting? In this post, we’ll show you how…
Understand the Relationship between Odds and Probability
When football bettors lay down their wagers for the weekend, they usually focus on the probability of the potential outcome, rather than the listed odds. This probability tends to be influenced by the tribal nature of football, with fans likely to back their teams regardless of their opponents or the surrounding circumstances.
However, this could be seen as an oversight: while the odds provided by bookmakers reflect the most likely outcome, they’re also designed to safeguard against large-scale losses.
For example, let’s say that EPL leaders Manchester City are playing League Two side Swindon in an FA Cup tie at the Etihad Stadium. While all but the most ardent Robins fans would place their money on a City win, bookmakers may provide a prohibitive, odds-on price that offers little in the way of value.
While we’re not saying that you should back Swindon in such a scenario, this means that you may be better served by seeking out in-game markets, or wagering on another match altogether.
The key is to consider the odds associated with each potential outcome, and try to identify the wagers that offer the most value and highest potential returns.
If it helps, you could consider looking at football odds in decimal format rather than traditional fractions. While this is not how odds are commonly displayed in the UK, it’s quicker to scan prices in this format and makes it easier to understand the value propositions associated with each potential bet.
Use Information, Rather than Emotion, as your Inspiration
As we’ve already touched on, football is an extremely competitive sport, with some fans betting on their favourite teams without taking into account the odds. This is a clear example of emotional sports betting, which is inherently based on predetermined notions, rather than the desire to make money from a wager.
It can be difficult to predict whether these bets will deliver a return over the course of a season, so it may be better to primarily bet on neutral matches where you have no team preference.
If you don’t use emotion to inform your bets, where should you turn? The primary factor for any bet should be data, particularly in an age where so much sports betting information is available online.
By analysing team form and individual player data, you can develop a better understanding of individual games and determine the most likely outcomes.
Listen to the Experts
Considering the opinions of former professionals or commentators can create a unique and helpful perspective, that in turn will help you make a more informed betting decision. The key is to identify these experts carefully. It’s important to review past performances and consider the criteria used to predict outcomes.
If a team is considerably weakened and without one or two of its key performers, this could change the value proposition of specific odds. This may enable you to back higher priced outcomes without compromising your chances of winning.
You can also find helpful information elsewhere: local writers who cover specific clubs may receive official team news before it’s made public, for example, while monitoring your team’s social media can offer a helpful insight.
With football betting growing more and more popular, knowing how to increase your chances of making money can make supporting your favourite team even more rewarding. To make the most of your bet, take a look at our football predictions and tips and follow us on twitter @bethutuk to keep up to date with the latest football news.