The new year so far is as unprofitable as the year prior was. But I still believe in what I’m doing, especially since so many of these outcomes are determined by things that no one could ever foresee no matter what sort of data bank is available.
Last weekend on this site I picked the Philadelphia Eagles to lose to the Chicago Bears but to cover 6.5 points. It was actually a rocking chair cover as these things go — the Eagles were down 5 late in the game before Nick Foles saved them again. Well, Foles and former Eagle Cody Parkey (with some help from current Eagle Treyvon Hester):
The NFL officially changes Cody Parkey's missed field goal to a blocked kick by Treyvon Hester
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 7, 2019
Parkey’s kick goes through and my prediction is basically spot on — Eagles loss, cover, you’re welcome. I’ve never been happier to be wrong…but it doesn’t get much stranger than that.
In my first soccer picks column of 2019, after splitting my first two picks, I only needed league-leading Liverpool to win or draw away to Manchester City to give me a second consecutive winning week. Liverpool was in line to take an early lead, which would most likely have led to them winning or at worst earning a draw, when this happened:
John Stones' goal-line clearance denied Liverpool the chance to maintain their undefeated record in the Premier League.
And on further inspection, the ball was inches from crossing the line! 👀
— FOX Sports Football (@FOXFOOTBALL) January 3, 2019
The tweet doesn’t even mention that Liverpool’s Sadio Mane had hit the post seconds before Stones miraculously volleyed that ball out in the last split second he had left. It’s tough to be on the wrong side of the result when the analysis going into the pick is sound.
The only solace is just that: The analysis is sound, and the results are due to come good. Here come your Week 22 winners:
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 11, 2019
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v. MANCHESTER UNITED
United has treated me quite well since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over for Jose Mourinho as manager of the biggest club in England. As a City supporter, though, I have been waiting for the right time to bail out on United and make some money doing it. That time is now.
Tottenham Hotspur had an unsightly blip against Wolverhampton Wanderers on December 29, but that defeat was preceded by five straight wins in the league. Spurs comfortably dispatched Cardiff City on New Year’s Day, and since then have advanced to the fourth round of the FA Cup and won a crucial first leg against Chelsea in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has Spurs scoring goals for fun and winning a lot.
It’s really tempting to just pick a goal total wager (over 2.5 goals feels like free money at 8/13 because United hasn’t kept a clean sheet against a top-5 team this season), but a Spurs win is just as likely and carries a better payoff, so take Spurs to win at 21/20.
MANCHESTER CITY v. WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS
City is still my team but I didn’t much care for their antics over this most recent domestic cups break. City’s opponent in the Carabao Cup, Burton Albion, saw that City hung a 7-0 beating on Rotherham United in their FA Cup match, and had this to say:
— Burton Albion FC (@burtonalbionfc) January 7, 2019
Little could anyone know that 7-0 was a scoreline Burton Albion would envy by the end of the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final:
Manchester City will take a 9-0 lead into the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final against Burton Albion.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) January 9, 2019
A little context: City is one of the richest and most powerful sides in the world. City is favored to win the Champions League (which is ridiculous, but those are the odds). City is the defending Premier League champion. Rotherham is in danger of falling out of the Championship, which would put them in League One with Burton.
Pep Guardiola might have been feeling himself a little bit after (barely) beating Liverpool. And it is indisputable that there is no room for mercy or for not trying in professional sport. But that assumes comparable opponents. That’s not what these matches were. These were empty routs. I’m not the only one saying this:
"I thought it was cruel. Humiliating"
Andy Hinchcliffe felt sorry for Burton Albion this evening.
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) January 9, 2019
Pride goeth before a fall, it’s written, and in a perverse way I would love to see City dragged for its arrogance in this matchup with Wolves. Unfortunately, all of the indicators are going the other way. Wolves drew with City earlier this season, so City will be motivated to correct that error. Wolves posted wins over Chelsea and Spurs in past month — but they also drew with Fulham and lost to Crystal Palace at home.
Wolves are just too uneven to trust. Throw in City’s inability to keep a clean sheet in the league (eight straight matches conceding since December 1) and this looks all the world like 2-1 or 3-1 to City. So take City to win AND over 2.5 goals at 8/13.
CARDIFF CITY v. HUDDERSFIELD TOWN
We can’t spend all our time (and money) in the upper tier of the league. Sometimes you have to slum it. So here we go, making a selection in a match featuring 17th-place Cardiff City and DFL (20th-place) Huddersfield Town. I feel a little dirty…not for the first time.
Cardiff is no prize, but give the Bluebirds this: They know which matches they absolutely must take points from. Against the three teams above them in the table (Crystal Palace, Newcastle United, Burnley) and the three teams below them (Southampton, Fulham, Huddersfield Town), Cardiff’s results this season are two wins, three draws, and a loss. Additionally, Cardiff beat Leicester City on December 29 before their understandable loss to Spurs. Cardiff knows this is a six-point match from a relegation standpoint, they’re better than Huddersfield and they’re at home.
🗣 @Sol14Bamba: "We talk to away players after games and they say that coming here is always intimidating…"
— Cardiff City FC (@CardiffCityFC) January 11, 2019
Meanwhile, Huddersfield has plunged to the bottom of the table on the strength of eight straight league losses. They have scored 13 goals in 21 matches and have only one road win in the league this season. The dream isn’t dead for the Terriers, but it’s on life support and fading fast. Take Cardiff to win at 5/4.
Good luck this weekend.
Week 21 results:
Manchester United to win at Newcastle United at 6/10: WIN
Wolverhampton Wanderers to beat Crystal Palace at evens: LOSS
Liverpool to win or draw at Manchester City at 8/11: LOSS
WEEK 22 TOTAL: -$140
SEASON TO DATE: -$1237