What are we supposed to do this summer? I’ve had a bit of an existential crisis this week as the end of the season approaches in Europe’s club leagues. The COVID pandemic disrupted the 2019-20 season, and one of the ripple effects was non-stop soccer for nearly the next two years. When the leagues finally finished, there was hardly any time to pass before the 2020-21 season began. The final matches of the Premier League’s 2019-20 season were played on July 26, 2020. The following season began 48 days later, on Sept. 12.
While last summer’s offseason was roughly the same length as a typical offseason, we had the Euros and Copa America to help pass the time. This summer would normally be the time for a World Cup, but since nobody is dumb enough to schedule matches during the summer in Qatar, the World Cup won’t begin until late November.
That means we’ve got a lot of time to kill over the summer, and I don’t know if transfer rumors will be enough to get us through. If only Erling Haaland and Manchester City would have let it play out longer! Anyway, the lesson here is that we better cherish the memories of these last few weekends of action because we aren’t getting our typical summer of soccer this year.
All odds are via Caesars Sportsbook.
Chelsea vs. Liverpool
Date: Saturday, May 14 | Time: 11:45 am ET | Watch: ESPN+
It’s not easy trying to figure out Chelsea these days. They’re a team that’s expressed a level of indifference at times so intense that even a moody teenager might try and cheer them up. It’s all understandable, too, as Chelsea have been dealing with so much off the field and many questions about their future as a club and individuals. Now, even with a new owner in place, there are still plenty of questions left to be answered, but can this team rally around winning an FA Cup, or do too many people already have an eye towards the summer?
I don’t have the same questions with Liverpool. Their mission is clear. They want to win the Champions League, the Premier League and the FA Cup, and I don’t think Jurgen Klopp is willing to sacrifice any for the other at this point, but if he were, the Premier League is the goal likely on the chopping block. An FA Cup is right within their grasp, and while I worry about tired legs, Klopp has done an excellent job rotating players in recent weeks to keep them fresh. With Chelsea’s problems on the back end, the Reds get this one done in regulation more often than not. Pick: Liverpool (+105)
AC Milan vs. Atalanta
Date: Sunday, May 15 | Time: 12pm ET | watch: CBS Sports Network/Paramount+
While the obvious storyline around this match is AC Milan trying to hold on to first place in Serie A, Atalanta have plenty to play for themselves. Entering the season’s penultimate weekend, Atalanta are outside the European spots in Italy. Like Roma and Fiorentina, they have 59 points, but they’re 0-2 against both of them in league play, which is the tie-breaker in Italy (if the league used goal differential like some other leagues, Atalanta would be ahead of both). So they need a win here just as badly as Milan do (though technically Atalanta could still finish eighth and be off to the Conference League if Roma wins this year’s edition, thus moving themselves up to the Europa League).
But they’re not likely to get it. Atalanta find themselves in this position because they have been a mess defensively for the last month. They’ve allowed 17 goals in their last nine matches across all competitions and haven’t kept a clean sheet. It’s a run you could see coming based on expected goals (xG) because even in three successive clean sheets before the run, Atalanta had allowed an average of 1.3 xG per match. That makes this an awful time for Atalanta to run into a Milan team firing on all cylinders. This weekend, the Rossoneri move one step closer to their first scudetto since 2011. Pick: AC Milan (-126)
Leeds United vs. Brighton
Date: Sunday, May 15 | Time: 9am ET | Watch: Peacock
One of the more entertaining aspects of following a relegation battle — when a team you support isn’t involved, anyway — is that it’s no different from a title race in a lot of ways. There are always teams with the mental strength to compete, and there’s usually one that cracks under the pressure. While they haven’t been perfect, Everton and Burnley fall more in the former category. Leeds United, however, are very much in the latter. This is a club falling apart at the seams. According to 538’s projections, Leeds had an 18% chance of being relegated at the end of April and were a few points away from safety.
Leeds have lost three straight since then and have been outscored 9-1 in the process. Now 538 says there’s a 64% chance Leeds are going down. Considering that they will be without Luke Ayling and Daniel James against Brighton Sunday (both are suspended for dumb red cards, part of that whole “cracking under pressure” thing), the odds will likely increase this weekend. While Brighton can’t reach a European spot, finishing in eighth place would be a major achievement for the club. They enter the weekend off two wins over Wolverhampton and Manchester United, outscoring them 7-0. In other words, this is a team on fire against a team that can’t put out any fires. Pick: Brighton (+160)
We’re sticking with a three-leg parlay this weekend because it’s hard to find enough teams with the incentive to go all-out for a win. These three should do just fine and it pays +119.
- RB Leipzig (-400)
- Rome (-450)
- Wolverhampton (-230)