This article is part of our Betting on Soccer series.
It's always hard betting games following the international break. For starters, you don't know how many players are fully fit and ready to go a full 90 following a two-week club absence in which the team doesn't give injury updates. Even if a player isn't injured, there's a chance he played 270 minutes in a bigger role for his country in a period of seven days.
The best part of this international break is that there was less flying because of COVID-19, as none of the South American players took part. Because of that, guys like James Rodriguez and Roberto Firmino recovered over the break and are hopefully ready to go. Also, the break saw Jack Grealish back in training, and he may be the most important player returning to his team.
While I'm still favoring unders, there are a lot of situations that either got worse or better over the break. Most relevant is maybe Newcastle after they looked inept in their last loss against Brighton. Steve Bruce remains in charge, and Newcastle could either come out of the break revived or they could continue to ride the relegation line.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Chelsea were playing as well as anyone prior to the break, and the odds show that as a -530 favorite against West Brom. That seems like a lot, but if you look at their results prior to the break, it probably should be higher. I prefer Chelsea to win to nil at -139. They aren't the best odds, but Chelsea haven't allowed a goal in their last seven matches in all competitions while West Brom have failed to score in their last three. Sure, Chelsea's players may have had a busier international break, but it's hard to ignore those numbers. The Blues are cruising under Thomas Tuchel and the Baggies won't have enough to slow them down.
I kind of want to bet against Leeds, but I'm not sure losing money on Sheffield United is the best route. You can get the Blades at +525 for the outright win, and while I probably wouldn't do that, it's something to consider. The Blades are set for relegation, but all of their players still have something to prove in the top league and they only have a few more opportunities. I like fading Leeds because they seem to disappoint when you least expect, like at home to a Grealish-less Aston Villa side a few matches ago.
If you prefer backing good teams, Manchester City are always in play to win to nil, which is a solid +165 against Leicester City. I'm not worried about Man City winning, it's more about how Leicester always seem to score even in losses, at least in the last few months, as they failed to score at home against Everton, Villa and West Ham earlier in the season. The other part is how Leicester City dominated the prior matchup, a 5-2 result. While that's not happening again, it's undoubtedly a worry for any kind of Man City bet. On the positive side, Man City won this matchup 1-0 last February, and they've won their last three to-nil in all competitions, none of which were at home.
Speaking of good teams, I think Arsenal and Liverpool are on the same level, at least in league play. The Gunners have lost just three of their last 15 league matches, including two weird results (two red cards against Wolves and 1-0 versus Villa) and the other being 1-0 against Man City. Liverpool are playing better than a couple months ago, at least when you include non-league play, as they've lost six of their last eight in the Premier League. As long as Arsenal are at full strength, they're an equal team in this matchup, especially at home. They've taken points in four of the last five meetings, and as long as guys like Bukayo Saka and Martin Odegaard are healthy, I think they're worth a bet at +215 to win or at -143 for a win or draw. If you want to play things safer than a straight-up win, a draw no bet is +135.
Dipping back into teams filled with mediocrity, both teams not to score between Aston Villa and Fulham is -117. Villa may get back Grealish, but that doesn't mean anything for Fulham and their goal scoring, having failed to hit the back of the net in three of their last five. On the other hand, I'm not convinced Villa will automatically be back to normal with a possibly unfit Grealish in the side. They have three goals in their last seven matches and Fulham's back line has been stout in the second half of the campaign.
Manchester United are capable of beating anyone by a couple goals, but they're also capable of losing to anyone. Add in a couple injuries to their forwards and what has been a solid Brighton group, and this game should be competitive. Brighton were dropping points despite controlling matches the last couple months, but they figured things out before the break in wins against Southampton and Newcastle, and that's enough to consider them at +450 to win. If you want to win money, you can get decent odds on them at +1 (-122) and a win or draw at +143.
If you want to bet the Everton and Crystal Palace match, go for it. I've been wrong on those teams all season and there's no telling how that match will play out. I'd rather look at Monday's later match because Wolverhampton are easy to read. They want to defend for 90 minutes and score a goal against the run of play. That's not always easy to bet on, but West Ham have consistently beaten bottom-half-of-the-table teams all season and this is no different at +150 to win. Wolves aren't a top-half team without Raul Jimenez, and that's been evident the last few months. It doesn't hurt that the Hammers won the first meeting 4-0 when Jimenez was playing.
Chelsea win to nil against West Brom -139
Arsenal draw no bet against Liverpool +135
Villa/Fulham both teams won't score -117
Brighton +1 against Manchester United -122
West Ham to beat Wolves +150
Parlay: Chelsea/WestBrom under 3.5 goals (-220), Leicester/Man City over 2.5 goals (-134) = +155