Predicting the beautiful game can be a fool’s errand, but fortune favors the bold. Yahoo Soccer has run the stats and analyzed the form books for five of the biggest games this weekend …
Liverpool vs. Manchester City
Liverpool and Manchester City do not share a long and storied rivalry, but right now, this is the biggest game in the Premier League. With a win, reigning Premier League champions City can halve the six-point lead the Reds are enjoying at the summit. This would put the title race firmly back on track — a win for fans of narrative worldwide.
The odds, however, are stacked against Pep Guardiola’s side here. Liverpool are undefeated in their last 43 Premier League home games, they have dropped only two points in their last 20 league matches, and they’ve only lost one of their last 28 home league matches against City (that loss came back in 2003).
The visitors, who trailed Southampton for the majority of their match last week, also have injury concerns. Starting XI stalwarts David Silva, Leroy Sane, Aymeric Laporte, Rodrigo and Oleksandr Zinchenko are ruled out, while goalkeeper Ederson will be fighting for fitness.
But City fans will take solace in the fact that they have beaten Liverpool in their last two meetings: the Community Shield and their league meeting at the Etihad in January. The latter was The Reds’ only league defeat in their last 50 matches.
And lest we forget, Liverpool also have a history of squandering leads at the top of the league, which will give Pep’s men plenty of confidence.
One may instinctively place Liverpool as favorites, but the bookmakers are mostly giving the same odds to both sides for the win (around +155). Hence, the smartest play would be to assume they will cancel each other out — which is exactly what happened the last time these two sides met at Anfield.
Prediction: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester City
Best Bet: Under 0.5 goals (+1300 with Draft Kings). Neither side has a watertight defense, but this is likely to be a cagey affair, where not losing is more important than winning. This fixture ended goalless the last time they met at Anfield — and odds of +1300 are extremely generous, given the circumstances.
Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC
Seattle finished 16 points behind Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC, while Toronto trailed Eastern Conference leaders New York City FC by 14 at the conclusion of the regular season. But the Canucks and Cascadians are no strangers to going deep in the playoffs: They both expertly navigated the tempestuous new single-elimination format to meet in the MLS Cup final for the third time in four seasons.
The Sounders edged past Toronto in the 2016 on penalties, only for the Canadian side to take the long-awaited glory the following campaign.
Greg Vanney’s charges beat the favorites NYCFC and No. 2 seed Atlanta United en route to this season’s final, despite the absence of star forward Jozy Altidore.
The Sounders, however, are the bookies’ favorite to land the trophy. Not only do Brian Schmetzer’s counter-attack specialists boast home field advantage — something they lacked in the previous two MLS Cup finals against Toronto — but they own a superior head-to-head record.
They west coasters have won nine of their 14 regular season meetings with Toronto, including the two most recent matchups. The Canadians have only won twice in eight trips to Seattle.
The Sounders also enter the match in hot scoring form, having found the net nine times in their three playoff matches. Toronto may stand on the reputation of their solid defense, but they have kept only one clean sheet in their last 18 outings in all competitions.
This match won’t necessarily be one-sided, but nor should it be expected to be free flowing. A low-scoring win should see the Sounders take the glory.
Prediction: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Toronto
Best Bet: Jordan Morris first goalscorer (+600 with Sugar House). Seattle top scorer Raul Ruidiaz may have three goals and two assists in the playoffs, but Morris has the same playoff goal tally and much more attractive odds.
Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund
Elsewhere in relatively recently established rivalries, Bayern Munich will host Bundesliga title rivals Borussia Dortmund on Saturday. Der Klassiker will be broadcast using 25 cameras, including corner flag cameras and a drone, which might make for a more interesting viewing experience for those who tune in on FS2 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Bayern are a wounded animal right now, having fired coach Niko Kovac following last week’s 5-1 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt. The 29-time German champions bounced back with a midweek victory over Olympiakos under the management of caretaker Hansi Flick, but there is plenty of room for improvement in Die Roten’s ranks. Philippe Coutinho, for example, will likely be dropped due to his poor form.
Lucien Favre has also been under fire for Dortmund’s below-par results. BVB have drawn four of their last six league matches and have generally lacked ideas in the final third. The visitors, however, will be buoyed by their Champions League comeback win over Inter Milan. It marked the second consecutive game in which they scored three goals, suggesting their gun shy patch is over.
Despite the lack of a full-time manager and the absence of Jerome Boateng through suspension, Bayern are heavy favorites to take three points and leapfrog their guests in the Bundesliga table.
Bayern have won their last three home league matches against Dortmund, in which they scored 15 goals. BVB’s last league win at the Allianz Arena came in 2014, and Bayern have won 14 of their last 16 league home matches.
Neither defense is impermeable, so expect a Bayern bounceback win, with both teams finding the net.
Prediction: Bayern Munich 3-1 Borussia Dortmund
Best Bet: Robert Lewandowski First Goalscorer (+250 with SugarHouse). The odds are surprisingly good for a player who has 14 goals on the season, and who has scored in 10 straight league matches.
Juventus vs. Milan
Milan may no longer be world beaters, but their rivalry with Juventus remains strong. The two Italian sides with the most titles meet in Turin on Sunday evening, where the Rossoneri will have the opportunity to launch themselves back into the top half of the table. Juve, meanwhile, could go four points clear at the top with a win.
Milan’s most recent victory over the Old Lady came in October 2016, when teenager Manuel Locatelli’s goal closed the gap at the top of Serie A to two points.
Since then, however, Milan have fallen out of title contention. Juve have won their last eight meetings with Milan, who have not earned a single league point at the new Juventus Stadium.
Stefano Pioli’s side have lost five of their last eight league fixtures and kept only one clean sheet in that period. The visitors are at a very long +650 with several bookies, but given their form and head-to-head record, there’s not much value to be had there.
Juve also have just one clean sheet in their last seven outings, so look for a home win with both sides scoring.
Prediction: Juventus 2-1 Milan
Best Bet: Paulo Dybala first goalscorer (+480 with 888sport). The Argentine scored Juve’s first goal in their last meeting with Milan, and has managed three in his last four starts in all competitions.
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