Well, it’s here-the final weekend before the World Cup break. I don’t know how I’m going to handle it. While I enjoy major international tournaments like the World Cup and the Euros (like so many Americans my age, I was introduced to the sport during the 94 World Cup), I don’t enjoy it the same way I do club soccer.
Compared to club soccer, international soccer seems a bit basic. National teams don’t have the same time to work together as a club, and it limits how they can play. This year could be even worse. At least in a typical World Cup year, leagues end in the spring, and national teams have more time to ramp up toward the World Cup. This year it’s basically, play for your club this weekend, hop on a jet to Qatar, get in a practice or two and go.
I can’t imagine it’ll lead to the most exciting few matches to start the tournament. Also, it’s more difficult to build up excitement within myself. My soccer brain is currently overloaded with thoughts about how things are going with the clubs I support, and I’m suddenly being smacked in the face with team selection for the United States squad, and I have no idea how I feel about any of it! I haven’t had the time to invest in an opinion yet!
It’s all very, very strange. And who knows? Maybe this will be one of the craziest, most entertaining World Cups we’ve ever seen. Or maybe it’ll be a multi-week exhibition of risk avoidance and pragmatism. I’m hoping for the former and expecting the latter.
Either way, let’s stick to the summer from now on, all right? All odds via Caesars Sportsbook.
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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Leeds United
Date: Saturday, Nov. 12 | Time: 10 a.m. ET | Watch: Peacock
“Will he ever stop betting Tottenham?” Probably one day, but not this one. Spurs didn’t pull through for us last week against Liverpool, but we remain undeterred! Particularly in this matchup against Leeds, a team I cannot stand. Of course the lone Premier League team managed by an American is the least enjoyable one to watch. It’s a team whose style of play is best described using a word we cannot publish but rhymes with “with-housery.” Seriously, Leeds runs around with their hair on fire for 90 minutes, diving at your ankles and calls it a style of play.
Anyway, it’ll be Spurs’ ankles they’re diving at this weekend, but while it’s been effective against some teams this year, I don’t think it’ll be effective enough in this matchup. Spurs will be happy to let Leeds charge at them and pass the ball into all the open space they’ll leave behind. Leeds have won two of their last three matches (including a win over Liverpool) but hae allowed an average of 1.67 expected goals (xG) in those matches. You can’t keep winning when you play like that, no matter how many ankles you try to break. The Pick: Tottenham (-155)
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Atalanta vs. Inter Milan
Date: Sunday, Nov. 13 | Time: 6:30 a.m. ET | Watch: CBS Sports Network/Paramount+
Atalanta got off to an excellent start to the Serie A season, spending a lot of time in the top two and top four, but they have lost three of four matches and fallen to sixth in the league with Roma breathing down their neck. So what happened? Well, early in the season, Atalanta were one of the best defensive teams in the league. Over their first eight matches, they allowed only three goals on an xG of 7.5, and the chickens have come home to roost. Over the last six matches, Atalanta have allowed nine goals on an xG of 5.9. Unfortunately for Atalanta, what I’ve seen with my eyes tells me that it’s not just regression but simply allowing better chances and not having superhuman goalkeeping.
I don’t see the problem subsiding on Sunday against Inter. Inter lost to Juventus 2-0 last week but outplayed Juve for the most part, and Juve’s Wojciech Szczesny made some terrific saves. Inter have finished with at least 2 xG in six of their last nine matches, and only Bayern Munich held it below 1.0 in any match. I would take Inter to win, but their defense has been somewhat shaky lately, so the over seems like the smarter play here. The Pick: Over 2.5 (-145)
Featured Game | Atalanta vs. Inter Milan
Juventus vs. Lazio
Date: Sunday, Nov. 13 | Time: 2:45 p.m. ET | Watch: Paramount+
So I guess the emergency at Juventus is over? Juve have been knocked out of the Champions League, which is never good, but they’ve been running roughshod through Serie A. After beating Verona 1-0 earlier this week, Juve have won five straight Serie A matches, outscoring opponents 9-0. Granted, outside the 2-0 win over Inter last week, it hasn’t been against the cream of the crop in the league, but Juventus are now up to fourth place in the table after sitting outside the European spots not long ago. Now they get a Lazio team that find themselves in second place and are on a hot streak of its own.
There was a strange 3-1 loss to Salernitana two weeks ago, but that’s Lazio’s only league loss in their last nine matches. It’s also the only match in which Lazio have allowed a goal. Both of these teams come into the weekend playing wonderful defense, and I don’t imagine this will be a high-scoring affair. The Pick: Under 2.5 (-130)
We don’t have as many options to choose from this weekend with Spain’s La Liga already being on break, but we do have a chalky five-legger that pays +127. You get the sense these leagues wanted to get their most international rosters the softest matches possible.
- Manchester City (-800)
- Liverpool (-420)
- Bayern Munich (-675)
- PSG (-1100)
- Lille (-330)