The international break is over (thank goodness), and the EPL returns this weekend. Looking at the fixtures, it looks like a slate for Under bettors. This column will arrive for Thanksgiving, so happy holidays and let’s cash some tickets!
Luton vs. Crystal Palace
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. ET
Prior to the international break, Crystal Palace put in an uncharacteristic performance to leave my Under pick on their game with Everton all but over after eight minutes. That hasn’t put me off and I’m back for more in the return of top-flight domestic action in England.
No side has kept more clean sheets than Palace so far this season, with only high-flying Arsenal and Newcastle able to match their total of five. Sam Johnstone has been in fine form and has been in goal for all of those shutouts, leading the race for the Golden Glove with Nick Pope.
Looking at the Eagles’ matches this season against teams in and around them towards the bottom of the table, they don’t tend to feature goals. The bet here, Under 2.5 goals, easily cashed in games against Sheffield United, Brentford, Fulham, Nottingham Forest and Burnley. The only one going against was the Everton match where the early goal completely changed the complexion of the game.
When you look at the hosts Luton, they have started to perform a little better and above expectations, which means we should see a tight, competitive match.
The Hatters went to Old Trafford before the break and made Manchester United work very hard for a narrow 1-0 win. Their last game on home soil saw them come within seconds of an upset of the season leading Liverpool 1-0 until Luis Díaz snatched an equalizer in the sixth minute of added-on time. But another winner for Under backers.
Both managers will feel they can pick up at least a point here. As always, the first game back from an international break is a leveler. Palace have a lot of their squad returning tired from all parts of the globe, while Luton had most of their players stay at home. Their squad contains the second fewest internationals in the Premier League.
This has the making of a dull affair, as Roy Hodgson is known for his negative style, especially in road games. With the 76-year-old in charge, playing Unders has been a license to print money.
Three of Luton’s five home matches have seen fewer than three goals. When the visitors “boast” some of the worst metrics away from home, amongst the worst attacks and having one of the meanest defenses, this screams another low-scoring affair.
All the boxes are ticked. Let’s hope for a small amount of added-on time, and we can get back to cashing another Under bet in a Crystal Palace game.
Pick: Under 2.5 goals at -125.
Sheffield United vs. Bournemouth
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. ET
I’m riding the Under 2.5 goals train again here and let me immediately address the elephant in the room. All of Bournemouth’s road games have seen three or more goals so far this season, but look who they have played—Manchester City, Brighton, Brentford and Everton.
The only one there you would have been surprised at was possibly Everton. But a trip to take on a Sheffield United side who struggle for goals is very different.
I’m going back to the scene of one of the crimes of the season here. Cast your mind back three weeks ago to the Blades last home game versus Wolves.
Cruising to cashing an Under 2.5 goals bet, I was robbed by an 89th-minute equalizer and a converted penalty that should never have been given in the 10th minute of added-on time. Good thing the window to my room at the Bellagio was shut, and the bar was open!
This is a similar theme, with both managers under severe pressure as they fight to get out and stay out of the relegation zone. Paul Heckingbottom is the favorite to be the first Premier League manager sacked this season with Andoni Iraola fifth on the list, highlighting both of their side’s struggles so far this campaign.
Both teams will be content to add another point to their total and not lose ground to one of their rivals here. The fear of losing arguably outweighs the desire to go get a win.
This has the look of a fearful mid-season encounter, especially as both sides have had their positions improved following Everton’s 10-point penalty for financial reasons. Expect a very tight and cagey battle, particularly in the first half. Once again, take a look at the position as we approach the 90-minute mark.
Pick: Under 2.5 goals at +104
Everton vs. Manchester United
Sunday, 11:30 a.m. ET
Spare a thought for the beleaguered Everton fans who have suffered a terrible international break. Just as their team put a decent run of form together, they were hit with a 10-point penalty for financial irregularities.
The possible silver lining is that if it happened in either of the last two seasons, they would have been massive minus money favorites to get relegated. This term, there are three or four teams performing so badly, it shouldn’t cause them too many sleepless nights.
I think the decision can galvanize the club. Bringing the fans and players together can create a siege mentality, as we have seen so effectively in recent campaigns.
On to the bet which is another Under 2.5 goals play. The visitors to a raucous Goodison Park will be Manchester United, who have made a habit out of winning ugly recently.
They beat Luton 1-0 at Old Trafford last time out, a result which will hardly excite their fans. It’s no real surprise to see Erik ten Hag as the second favorite in the managerial sack race I mentioned earlier.
The Red Devils are still a side in turmoil, and they have a huge Champions League fixture coming up on Wednesday away in Turkey at Galatasaray. I actually think that match will be their priority rather than this clash on Merseyside.
Sean Dyche had his side playing superbly well prior to the break winning six of their last nine games in all competitions. Sitting sixth in the Premier League form table over the last five match days.
The home support will make Goodison Park a really tough venue for any side to visit, and as I have said, the 10-point penalty will only galvanize the club, making them stronger. The manager, who is a defensive-minded coach will look to make his side even tougher to beat, given that point deduction has put them back in the relegation zone. They are only off the bottom of the table via goal difference.
Every match coming up will be seen as a “must not lose” fixture, which plays into his usual strategy. That game plan could be made easier with the visitors having one eye on the trip to Turkey.
Everton’s first three home league games saw just one goal in each, with four of their six fixtures so far cashing for Under 2.5 goals bettors. As for United, their last two Premier League games have seen them win 1-0. Including a late, late winner at Fulham in their last road game.
I don’t see where the Red Devils’ goal threat is coming from. Rasmus Hojlund is facing a race against the clock to be fit from his hamstring injury to feature on Merseyside, but he is yet to score in nine Premier League outings for his new club.
A share of the spoils here wouldn’t surprise me. A point for the home side to start their challenge to claw their way out of the bottom three. One for the visitors to keep their mini-unbeaten run going as they head to keep their Champions League campaign alive.
In short, a nervy battle between two sides who struggle for goal-scoring opportunities but who have looked better defensively recently and are desperate to add a point to their tallies. Another Under 2.5 goals play in a big weekend for Under bettors.
Pick: Under 2.5 goals at +106