This article is part of our Betting on Soccer series.
It's been a while since teams had a break, with the last one coming more than three months ago in November. Throw in Champions League and Cup matches, and Premier League teams haven't had a chance to take a step back from the grind and analyze things ahead. That's helped teams like Manchester City because of their talent and overall health, while others like Southampton, who have no depth, have struggled to hold ground.
I think the extra week of rest will help a lot of the smaller squads get back to the form they had earlier in the season, which will be something to target ahead of Gameweek 30. But this week is for looking ahead and finding value in futures.
Instead of betting Leicester City or Chelsea at -305 to finish in the top four, I'd rather look at the long shots. If you want a true long shot, West Ham aren't getting any respect from the bookmakers, as they are +600 to finish in the top four, which is below Liverpool (+250) and Tottenham (+350). West Ham are currently above those two teams and have a fairly manageable schedule the rest of the way. Their two hardest matchups, Leicester City and Chelsea, are both at home, while they close with West Brom and Southampton.
The Hammers are in this spot because they're beating all of the bottom-half teams in the table. Helping this bet is that six of their nine remaining matches are against teams at 13th in the table or worse. If you want a safer bet, West Ham to finish top six is +110. For that not to hit, two of Liverpool, Tottenham or Everton would need to surpass them. As has been the case for at least a month, Liverpool seem to be putting all their chips into the Champions League, while Everton are prone to losing to anyone on their schedule.
Going further, I'd probably stay away from any bets for teams to finish in the top 10. Arsenal and Aston Villa are most likely to drop out of the top half, but that's still a stretch and the team with the best odds, Leeds (+175), are unreliable on a game-to-game basis. I think teams like Southampton will benefit from the break, but I don't expect a ton of rotation from the top to the bottom of the table.
If you like betting relegation, I'd consider Newcastle at around -138 to drop down. After their most recent loss to Brighton, they dropped below Fulham in terms of odds to be relegated. Fulham and Newcastle probably have the most difficult schedules the rest of the way, and they conclude with a matchup against each other at Craven Cottage. It'd be fun if the rules changed and fans were allowed at that game, with the loser being relegated to the Championship.
Most Goals and Assists
In terms of player odds, I think there is some value in betting against Harry Kane, who is favored to lead the league in goals (+140) and assists (-134). Kane is tied with Mohamed Salah at 17 goals, while Bruno Fernandes is one behind them. Salah (+200) is probably the smart play since he's still scoring goals even though Liverpool are struggling and the recent return of Diogo Jota should only open up opportunities. However, Fernandes at +500 to lead the league in goals seems a bit too high. Manchester United can't afford to let up in their quest to finish in the top four, especially with Chelsea continuing to win, and that means Fernandes will remain in the XI even with Europa League in full swing.
I also think there's value in taking Kevin De Bruyne at +180 to lead the league in assists again. Kane has been near the top of the list all season, but a recent hamstring injury to Son Heung-Min doesn't help, and he's assisted in just one match since Jan. 2. There is some worry De Bruyne will be rested more because of Champions League play, but he's always in play to assist multiple times in a match. Otherwise, I'd stay away from Fernandes (+550) and Jack Grealish (+700) to surpass Kane for most assists. They are decent long shots if Kane doesn't have another assist, but both will need at least four over the final stretch of matches.
Champions League Futures
There aren't a ton of things to bet on for Champions League, but it's still something that's fun to bet on. Manchester City are the favorite at +225, with Bayern Munich right behind at +300. The best thing about Champions League is that anyone can win it. Sure, it seems like Man City are destroying everyone, but Borussia Dortmund aren't a free win, while Bayern have to get past PSG in their quarter-final matchup.
Liverpool are the third-biggest favorite at +500, but that still doesn't seem like great odds. In addition to getting past Real Madrid, they'll need to beat either Porto or Chelsea and then likely face either Man City or Bayern. Chelsea are kind of in that same mold at +525 to win it all even though they have an easier quarter-final matchup against Porto, according to the odds.
I think the fun bets would be to bank on either PSG or Real Madrid at +900. Real Madrid have the better draw with Liverpool up first, while PSG are the team no one seems to be talking about. A lot of people have concluded that Man City and Bayern Munich shouldn't have to meet in the semi-finals. But what about PSG, a team that just ran through Barcelona? Helping matters, they should have a healthy Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Angel Di Maria after the international break.
Roughly seven months ago, PSG and Bayern met in the Champions League final. Despite being at a severe disadvantage because the Ligue 1 season was canceled, PSG battled the entire way in a defensive contest. Kingsley Coman got the winner, but PSG allowed just two shots on target in the 1-0 loss. Not many give respect to Ligue 1 compared to other European leagues, but PSG undoubtedly have the talent to win Champions League. The problem is that they probably have to go through Bayern Munich and then Manchester City before getting to the final. But at +900, why not?