Soccer picks, odds and predictions

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BEST VS. WORSE

Liverpool fans are getting an early Christmas present this weekend, as the English Premier League leaders look to extend their domestic dominance against last-place Watford. The hosts are overwhelming -600 favorites as they come into this one with 15 wins and a draw through their first 16 EPL matches this season – good for an eight-point advantage over runner-up Leicester City. Visiting Watford (+1600) aren't likely to offer much resistance; they have just one win through their first 16 league games, and have been outscored 13-0 in the last three meetings.

BOUNCING BACK

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Juventus missed out on a golden opportunity to reclaim top spot in Serie A – and oddsmakers don't see them making the same mistake Sunday as they host struggling Udinese. The defending champions dropped a 3-1 decision to red-hot Lazio for their first domestic loss of the season – and coupled with Inter's scoreless draw with Roma, dropped Juventus two points back in the race  when a win would have moved them into top spot. But Sunday is a perfect get-right spot for Juventus (-450), who tangle with a Udinese club (+1200) that has just four wins from 13 games and is winless in its past four.

 

KEEP CLIMBING

Valencia have surged back into relevance following a slow start in the Spanish League – and just in time for a pivotal home encounter with table co-leader Real Madrid on Sunday. Valencia have won four of five league matches to open the new match week in seventh place, but just one point back of No. 4 Getafe. That said, they're +280 underdogs against Real Madrid (-110), who have won four straight domestic matches to keep pace with fellow powerhouse Barcelona atop the standings. The teams split a pair of meetings last season, with the home side prevailing in each.

 

WALKING WOUNDED

Bayern Munich rolled through their UEFA Champions League group schedule, but things have been decidedly less pleasant in domestic play as they look to end a two-game losing streak against visiting Werder Bremen. The defending league champions are reeling following losses to Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen, and are down another player after winger Kingsley Coman suffered a torn capsule in his knee in a mid-week Champions League win over Tottenham. But the hosts are still -700 favorites against a Werder Bremen side (+1400) that has just three wins through its first 14 league games.

 

BETTING TRENDS

• Just how messy will things get for Watford this weekend? In addition to the visitors having gone three straight meetings with Liverpool without scoring, the table leaders have scored four or more goals in each of their previous three visits from Watford. Liverpool -2 seems extraordinary generous at +120, and it's our top recommendation of the slate.

• Tottenham and Wolverhampton renewed acquaintances in 2018 for the first time in six years – and the theme of their two EPL showdowns was goals-aplenty. The two sides combined for nine goals in two meetings, with six of those coming from the visiting team. We can't guarantee a similar road-heavy split, but we do like the O3.5 here at +220.

• Goals have been scarce in recent meetings between Genoa and Sampdoria as the Italian League rivals renew hostilities on Sunday. The sides have gone below the 2.5-goal barrier in each of their previous five meetings, averaging a paltry 1.4 combined goals per game over that stretch. The U2.5 isn't going to make you yacht-wealthy at -125, but it's a solid play.

• Atalanta and Bologna are used to competitive affairs – and fortunately for Sunday's visitors, they've all ended up in Atalanta's favor in recent years. The sixth-place Serie A club have won seven straight meetings in the head-to-head series, with four of those having been decided by one goal. We like the Atalanta one-goal margin of victory here at +300.

• Barcelona has racked up the victories in its recent head-to-head series with Real Sociedad, but the past few years have seen plenty of tightly-contested matches. Barca enter Sunday's encounter having won each of the previous seven tilts vs. Sociedad, but five were decided by a goal. We're leaning toward the O2.5/both teams to score prop at -120.

• Sevilla and Villarreal have been incredibly evenly-matched in their recent showdowns, though they're separated by a whopping 11 standings places going into their Sunday encounter. The sides have settled for a draw in five of their previous six meetings, with three of those ending in scoreless ties. The Draw-Under play is an appealing one at +450.

• Let's put a couple of solid trends together for Saturday's Bundesliga showdown between Borussia Dortmund and host Mainz. While the visitors have prevailed in eight of their previous 10 away matches in the head-to-head series, Mainz have been prolific of late with 2+ goals in eight of 10 home games. We favor Dortmund and the Over here, which pays out at +225.

• A little rest goes a long way in a rigorous Bundesliga campaign – and Schalke will certainly attest to that as they tangle with visiting Eintracht Frankfurt. Sunday marks Schalke's second game in a 16-day span, making them well-rested against a Frankfurt side playing is second of three games in a nine-day stretch. We like the home team to claim this one at -110.

 

TEAM NEWS

• Napoli have tabbed Gennaro Gattuso as their new head coach following a disappointing start to the Serie A campaign. Gattuso replaces former mentor Carlo Ancelotti, who was sacked despite leading Napoli to a 4-0 victory over Genk that secured their spot in the Champions League knockout round. Napoli sit seventh in the league table and are +200 to finish top-4.

• Red Bull Salzburg could look vastly different in short order. Amid talks that several clubs are interested in teen sensation Erling Haaland, Liverpool is reportedly prepare to sign midfielder Takumi Minamino during the January transfer window. The addition of Minamino would bolster Liverpool's chances of winning the league championship; they enter the weekend at -700 to win it all.

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