We don’t go in for gimmicks here. The picks haven’t been as successful as I wanted them to be, but they’ve always been premised on sound analysis and on what the data indicated was the most likely thing to happen.
Just for a week, we’re throwing that formula away. It’s been a wild midweek in world football. The Champions League saw two very, very heavy favorites eliminated from the tournament.
Real Madrid had won the Champions League four of the past five seasons and carried a 2-1 lead after the first leg of their round-of-16 tie against Ajax into the Bernabeu. Not only did Real Madrid not advance — Real Madrid got torn apart, losing 4-1 at home and causing the rumor mill to churn about whether manager Santiago Solari can survive this collapse and whether Jose Mourinho may resurface. Tuesday’s defenestration of Los Blancos was perhaps the upset of the season. You know, until Wednesday.
Paris Saint-Germain, of Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria and Dani Alves and Thiago Silva, held a 2-0 lead against an injury-ravaged Manchester United side going into Wednesday’s second leg of their round-of-16 matchup in Paris. But bad things happen when you give up goals like this:
The goal of Romelu Lukaku Manchester United is nothing impossible
Psg vs manchester united 1-2 pic.twitter.com/IB2mOuh3Vl
— Steven Samallo (@samallo_steven) March 7, 2019
Still, PSG were going through as the match entered extra time. All PSG had to do was avoid doing something else self-destructive and silly.
They couldn’t even manage that:
Controversial VAR penalty in injury time for Man Utd stuns the world https://t.co/WozwJUGoVR
— The Sun Football ⚽ (@TheSunFootball) March 6, 2019
Defending in soccer isn’t easy, but there is one thing you should never, ever do, and that’s to turn your back on the ball. PSG’s Presnel Kimpembe made that high school error, and the penalty that ensued knocked PSG right out of the Champions League.
This is a long way to go to explain what the first two picks are this week, but soon enough all will be clear. Onto this week’s winners:
MANCHESTER CITY v. WATFORD and LIVERPOOL v. BURNLEY
There isn’t much to recommend Watford in this match at the Etihad against your new leaders at the top of the league table, Manchester City. Watford went to Liverpool on February 27 and lost 5-0. They lost at Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on January 30. City beat Watford 2-1 at Vicarage Road on December 4, and Liverpool hammered them 3-0 as the road team on November 24.
The case for Burnley isn’t a lot better. Sure, Burnley eked out a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur on February 23, but that was during Spurs’ seemingly annual slump. And yes, it was Burnley who held white-hot Manchester United to a 2-2 draw on January 29 at Old Trafford. But Burnley’s most recent form is bad, with losses away to Newcastle United and home to Crystal Palace. Liverpool (like Manchester City) is rested and has everything to play for.
Here’s the thing, though: The odds on both of these clubs to either win or draw are way, way too long given what’s going on with City and Liverpool.
City have injury concerns. Defender Aymeric Laporte and midfielder Fernandinho are two of City’s best players, and apparently they are both going to miss this match with Watford. Liverpool have dreadful form concerns. The Reds have dropped 11 points in their last nine league matches. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is snapping at media members and doesn’t look so jubilant these days.
So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to accept the risk that both of these elite teams will do what they ought to do, which is to easily dispatch with Watford and Burnley. We are going to do this because, well, this is a title race. The events of midweek show that heavily favored teams are fully capable of completely screwing up a good thing. And we are going to split the wagers to make the most of these ridiculous odds on offer.
Take Watford to win (50 units) at 16/1 and take Watford to draw (50 units) at 7/1. Take Burnley to win (50 units) at 20/1 and take Burnley to draw (50 units) at 13/2.
This game was ABSOLUTELY INSANE… 🤯
Rennes upsets Arsenal 3-1 in Leg 1 of the Round of 16 pic.twitter.com/MaIJwtLnKA
— Bleacher Report Live (@brlive) March 7, 2019
ARSENAL v. MANCHESTER UNITED
That’s Arsenal above, losing to something called Rennes in the Europa League on Thursday. Bleacher Report called it an upset, and by the odds it probably was, but that’s the corpse of Petr Cech in goal for the Arsenal in that match. As Gianluigi Buffon proved in his exploits for PSG (detailed above), you take a keeper who should have retired three seasons ago into European competition at your own risk.
Manchester United’s injury problems are still a very real thing. None of the men who were questionable or who missed the PSG match are suddenly going to be fully healthy. But we are miles past questioning United manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer at this point. He’s so hot, he reminds me of the old quote attributed to American football coach Bum Phillips about Bear Bryant: “He can take his’n and beat your’n. Or he can take your’n and beat his’n.” Take Manchester United to win at 19/10.
Good luck this week.
WEEK 29 RESULTS
Watford to win against Leicester City at 29/20: WIN
Chelsea to win AND over 2.5 goals at Fulham at 23/20: WIN
Liverpool to win against Everton at 4/7: LOSS
WEEK 29 TOTAL: +$160
SEASON TO DATE: -$1313