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Best bets for Sunday's five biggest Prem League games

By Nicholas Hennion  (VSiN.com) 

July 24, 2020 04:33 PM
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The final matchday in the Prem is upon us, and with one -- maybe two -- Champions League spots in play, two relegation spots still to be decided and a potential disaster scenario for one Jose Mourinho, the day will certainly not lack drama.

Ten games will kick off all at the same time, but only five really matter in deciding key spots for next season. Here are those five games broken down in descending order of importance.

5. Tottenham Hotspur vs. Crystal Palace (at Selhurst Park)

I’m bending the rules a little bit for this fixture because it’s not as important as meets the eye.

However, depending on the conclusion of the FA Cup Final on August 1, whichever team is left in seventh place could be in for a rude awakening. Should Arsenal knock off Chelsea at Wembley, the seventh-place team would no longer qualify for the Europa League.

And wouldn’t you know it, Arsenal’s chief rivals are that team sitting in a quite precarious position.

On paper, this should be a very easy match for Mourinho’s men, who have defeated Palace in eight of the last 10 meetings. And since Matchday 30, Spurs have accumulated the third-most points in the league, while Palace have been a distant 19th, only managing one win out of eight.

Spurs have also grabbed 11 wins out of 19 against the bottom half of the table this campaign and have lost straight up (SU) on only three occasions.

However, Palace hasn’t once won at home against a top-half opponent this season. With virtually nothing to play for, Palace won’t care enough to steal points away from Spurs.

The play: Tottenham GL (-1)

4. Arsenal vs. Watford (at The Emirates)

Let’s be clear about one thing: This game doesn’t matter for Arsenal.

All the focus should justifiably be on the FA Cup Final next week for Mikel Arteta & Co., but this might be too good of a spot to pass up on Arsenal.

Against the bottom four at home in the last four campaigns, the Gunners have gone 13-1-2. Plus, you’ll have to harken back to the 2010-11 season to find the last time Arsenal failed to win on the final matchday of the season.

Additionally, Arsenal carries a two-match home winning streak against the Hornets -- who sit in the relegation zone on goal difference -- and are 3-1-1 in their last five SU against Watford.

Watford comes into this match having sacked their manager and needing a victory and then some to guarantee safety. Tactically speaking, Watford is going to have to go for it Sunday, leaving a lackluster defense with the second-worst goal differential in the EPL wide open against a potent Arsenal attack.

Combine those stats with the fact that Watford have only won twice on the road this season (against Bournemouth and Norwich) and Arsenal is left as the only play.

The plays: Arsenal GL (-0.5), LEAN Over 3 Goals

3. West Ham vs. Aston Villa (at London Stadium)

West Ham is safe, Villa is in danger.

However, if results go as I expect, Villa could be in a very dangerous spot. Villa and Watford are tied on points, with Villa carrying a -26 goal differential and Watford carrying a -27 GD.

Ultimately, the 18th position, and final relegation spot, might come down to who can hold the score line the closest against stronger opposition.

I lean with West Ham as a side in this match, but it likely won’t be a play for me. The Hammers have never lost at home against bottom-four opposition across the last three seasons, accumulating nine wins and two draws in those 11 matches.

Where I do have some conviction is with the total in this match. If you can find a total of 2.5, I like the over. West Ham is 11-7 on 2.5 goal totals at home, and of their 18 completed ties only four have seen both legs finish under 2.5

The plays: LEAN West Ham 0.5 goals (South Point), Over 3 Goals

2. Leicester City vs. Manchester United (at King Power Stadium)

What a season this could prove to be for Leicester.

At the midway point of the season, Leicester sat in second place, nine points clear of falling out of a Champions League spot and 11 points clear of Man U, then in eighth place.

Since then, Leicester has been the 12th-best team in the Prem, gathering a measly 23 points in 19 matches. Now they need to win -- or draw and have Chelsea lose -- to climb back into the fourth and final Champions League spot. And Leicester will have to do it without James Maddison, Ben Chilwell and Caglar Soyuncu.

Even turning a blind eye to all of Leicester’s struggles in the second half, it’s objectively challenging to bet against United, a team that hasn’t recorded a straight-up loss in their last 13 matches.

Plus, United is surprisingly better against top competition on the road this year, as four of six losses away from Old Trafford have come against bottom-half teams. Against Leicester, United has not logged a SU loss since September 2014.

If you’re asking me for some conviction, I’ll play United on the GL at -0.5 for a plus-money payout ( 125 at South Point as of this writing). But if you’re a little less convinced, it may not hurt to sprinkle half your bet on the Draw ML and half your bet on the Man U ML, both at plus money.

The play: Manchester United GL (-0.5)

1. Chelsea vs. Wolverhampton (at Stamford Bridge)

I’ll label this fixture as the best of the day solely because both teams desperately need to win.

In a world where Leicester defeats United and Chelsea loses to Wolves, Chelsea would fall out of a Champions League spot.

Anything but a victory for Wolves could see them fall into seventh -- assuming Tottenham takes care of business against Palace -- and be at the mercy of Arsenal to determine their place in Europe next season.

It’s a very tough fixture to handicap on the side, which is why I’m staying away.

Instead I’ll play the total. Of the 78 home-and-home ties this season that have seen at least one leg go over 3.5 goals, only 13 have seen both legs go over 3.5.

The last match between these two sides produced seven goals, and while you lose if the game lands on three -- because the system would technically still apply – I lean toward the under here.

Since the restart, Wolves have only seen one fixture go over 2.5 goals and although Chelsea tends to be a good over bet, I could see this being a very intense, cagey match with only a few goals.

The play: LEAN under 2.5 goals

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