EPL Picks Final Matchday! July 26th
It’s the last weekend of Premier League football until September 12th. As a general matter, I don’t like putting money on games between two teams who don’t have a reason to win. It’s nearly impossible to predict lineups and, more importantly, the motivations of the teams are hard to know.
Some players are dedicated professionals who want to see out the season with class and effort; some players have their minds on their 7 PM flight to Mykonos. This final week, there are four “nobody cares” games that don’t have any implications for relegation, Champions League, or Europa. There are two juicy matches where both sides have a lot to play for, and four matches teams where one side has something to play for and the other doesn’t.
Burnley vs Brighton
Both teams will have to view this as a relatively successful season. Burnley’s mid-table could see them finish above more established clubs like Arsenal, and Brighton will be in the Premier League for a fourth season. I wouldn’t put any money on this match, but if forced to:
PICK: Brighton Win (+210).
Man City vs Norwich
Norwich is being relegated irrespective of what happens Sunday. But, they seem likely to be back eventually given their yo-yo approach to promotion/relegation. Today, though, ManCity has sufficient depth and talent to roll out a scrub squad and still run Norwich off the pitch, but maybe, like Samson at the Philistine pillars, Norwich has one final burst in it before bowing… but probably not. That said, -1400 is terrible on the risk/value given that ManCity has nothing to play for and pride is one helluva drug.
PICK: ManCity WIN (-1400)
Newcastle vs Liverpool
Newcastle fans can look forward to mountains of Saudi money making their squad European giants… but in the summer of 2020, Liverpool should still handle this game pretty easily. At -250, I like this pick.
PICK: Liverpool WIN (-250)
Southampton vs Sheffield United
Of all the “who cares?” games in the schedule, this sure seems like the most “who cares?” of all.
High-Stakes for Both Sides
Chelsea vs Wolves
Okay, now it gets tasty! To be honest, it would take something bordering on shenanigans for Wolves to make up the points and goals necessary to leap Leicester, but Chelsea needs this match if they want to stay in the Champions League. I think that maybe finally Frank Lampard removes his head from his ass and realized that his team is better with Pulisic in the lineup.
PICK: Chelsea WIN (-115)
Leicester v. Man Utd
On paper, the best and most meaningful match of the day. Winner has a guaranteed Champions League slot, the loser could be in Europa, and a draw would also be good enough for Manchester United. Leicester needs the win, so I hope/think they’ll go for it. Manchester United has been mercurial all season, but Leicester has also sputtered down the stretch. I can’t get a good read on this, but my bet is:
PICK: DRAW (+260)
Crystal Palace vs Spurs
Spurs have often looked indifferent in playing out the season even though they had everything but a Premier League title to play for. I like Crystal Palace to get an upset here.
PICK: Crystal Palace WIN (+320)
One Side Playing to Win; the Other Side Thinking of Cancun
Arsenal vs Watford
Many Arsenal players laid eggs in their last match, an embarrassing, anemic, and flaccid 1-0 loss to Aston Villa in which Arsenal did not put a single shot on target. In theory, you might think that lots of players would want to make a good account of themselves to get on the FA Cup roster… on the other hand, Brian’s Rule #1 of Soccer Gambling: don’t bet on Arsenal. Watford needs at least a point to clear relegation safely, and I think they’ll get it. I like a win-or-draw pick for Watford if your book offers that play. Otherwise,
PICK: DRAW (+295)
Everton vs Bournemouth
Bournemouth needs a win and either a Watford loss or an Aston Villa loss to clear relegation. I think that they’ll do their part.
PICK: Bournemouth WIN (+205)
West Ham v. Aston Villa
Don’t let the win over Arsenal fool you: that was more about Arsenal lacking professionalism than Aston Villa suddenly turning into a good squad. That said, I think they get the win to stay out of relegation.
PICK: Aston Villa WIN (+130)