By Sean Cain
I want to open this blog by saying that my first lean of the 2021-22 English Premier League season was incredibly wrong. I thought, that despite the absence of Arsenal’s main threats Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, the Gunners would still be able to scrape a 1-0 victory over a newly promoted club in Brentford. Well, I was very wrong (shhh, I also took a flyer on the Draft Kings boost for both teams to score… yikes).
But, nonetheless, we roll into the first of 38 matchday weekends of the greatest soccer league in the world! I don’t claim to be an expert, but I played and coached this game at a very high level and I watch a F*** ton of international soccer. For the opening weekend, I have two locks… a couple of longshots, and a parlay that is sure to boost your bank account. Let’s win some money!
Manchester United/Leeds United Both Teams To Score (-135 Draft Kings)
Get your coffee ready because our first lock of the season comes at 7 am EST on Saturday morning! I hate supporting either of these teams, mainly because I have no idea what lineup Man U will throw out there for their 21-22 debut. A few of the Red Devils’ stars have already been ruled out for their game against Leeds including Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Dean Henderson, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Edinson Cavani (doubtful), and more. So it is tough for me to take United here in any capacity with so many question marks of their Starting XI.
For Leeds, it is a little more straightforward. The Peacocks (yes that is their nickname) stormed onto the scene from the Championship last year and earned the most points by a newly promoted team in the EPL since 2001. What makes this even better is that Leeds quite frankly does not give a F*** when it comes to defending. Leeds opened their EPL campaign last year with a stellar 4-3 loss to the Holders, Liverpool. After that, they beat relegated Fulham by the same score, and they instantly became everyone’s Cinderella team.
If you had to make me pick aside, I would probably advise you to take Leeds no lower than +1, but this United team is so deep they could produce a 2-3 goal victory even without some of their stars. On the other end, Leeds is such a high-tempo side that the midfield of United might not be able to handle the pace of Leeds. Finally, xG (expected goals) and some other stats tell the tale of how this game could go. United last season had a respectable xG of about +18.0 (.47 xGDiff/90 minutes) and Leeds only failed to score in 26% of their matches from 21-22.
This matchup screams fireworks to kickoff the EPL Saturday slate. I also lean the over 2.5 goals (-160 odds) but that comes with a lot of juice knowing these two combined for eight goals in United’s 6-2 thrashing when they played at Old Trafford last year. I say, throw in BTTS, kick your legs up, eat your bagel and enjoy this fast-paced game of two of England’s most thrilling squads.
Aston Villa ML (+130 MGM)
Saturday Aug. 14th @ 10:00 AM EST
Aston Villa @ Watford
I am following the same concept that I did with Arsenal/Brentford in that a newly promoted team should not dominate a seasoned team in the EPL on matchday 1. Aston Villa asserted themselves as a
veteran EPL side last season finishing 11th in the league after a 17th place finishes in 19-20. While much of that success was thanks to British star Jack Grealish who left for Man City this summer, the Villa more than bolstered their roster with acquisitions of score-at-will striker, Danny Ings and defensive youngster Axel Tuanzebe from Manchester United.
Watford on the other hand have not made any significant signings to improve their squad following their second-place finish in the Championship last season. Watford did finish on a flyer last year, winning their last seven matches without conceding a single goal, but most of those games were against bottom-half teams in England’s second-tier (which is no comparison to the offensive juggernaut of Villa and other teams in the EPL).
More reasoning? Watford enter the 21-22 season as the most likely team to be relegated (-115 odds), Aston Villa took care of business last season against the bottom three teams in the EPL going 4-1-1, and, record-wise, Villa were one of the best road EPL teams in the league only trailing Chelsea and Liverpool with nine victories away from home.
Don’t overthink it, take Villa.
These are not bets I am necessarily taking, but I definitely see value in these lines at anything above +200.
Leeds (+500 Draft Kings)
As stated in the earlier write-up, Manchester United will be missing its ideal Starting XI and without some of its big-name transfers as they prepare for their arrival to English soccer. Leeds took points from the likes of big-name clubs last season including Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham, Liverpool, and, yes, Manchester United. A more realistic bet would probably be Double Chance – Leeds or Tie (+155 MGM), but scared money doesn’t make money, bet Leeds.
Burnley/Brighton to Draw (+210 MGM)
I think the numbers speak for themselves on this one. Burnley has not won a home game in the EPL in ten tries and Brighton is not much better. With the Clarets (Burnley) being the most defensive-minded team in the league under manager Sean Dyche, I think they hold an offensive-capable Seagulls side goalless, but don’t have enough firepower to take 3-points.
Cain’s Championship Catch
Blackburn ML (+240 MGM)
Blackburn finished in the Championship last season 15th despite having the fourth-best expected-goal differential in the league (each of the top 3 got promoted). The Rovers were also the second-best road team in the Championship, with a +8.4 xGdifferential, which only trailed Brentford. Blackburn handled Swansea relatively easily in their league opener, 2-1. I think this is way too overpriced and would play it at anything above +200.
(P.S. I am 100% betting this)
Cain Saturday Soccer Special Parlay (+345 Draft Kings)
Leicester City ML
Ride these favorites to the promise land.