Premier League Heavy Favorite Manchester City Facing Hectic December

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Bettors hopeful of Manchester City coming back to earth can take some solace from the Sky Blues’ approaching schedule.

City is now a -1000 favorite on the English Premier League outright winner board according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Rival Manchester United (+1000) and Chelsea (+2000) are the only teams in contact.

But Manchester City has 10 matches between Saturday and January 2, which will likely force manager Pep Guardiola to hold back some first-choice starters at some point. A loss could pump some value back into City’s price.

Manchester City has been so dominant that bookmakers have taken it off the board for a Top 4 finish and Champions League qualification. With that prop, Arsenal (-110) might offer the best realistic value since its energy will not be siphoned by Champions League knockout ties, unlike Chelsea (-400), Liverpool (-150) and Tottenham Hotspur (+125).

Liverpool also offers value since manager Jurgen Klopp is looking to upgrade his roster big-time during the January transfer window.

On the pitch, Arsenal (+150) takes a 12-match home win streak in EPL play into a feature matchup against Manchester United (+190, +230 draw). Man United looks depleted in the central midfield with Marouane Fellaini (knee) doubtful, so its best prospect might be getting a draw.

Stoke (-115) is leaking oil with 19 goals against over its last seven games, but Swansea City (+350, +235 draw) and bright young striker Tammy Abraham went 0-for-November in the goals department. A low-scoring game is likely in the offing, so the under on the 2.5 total at -145 is the percentage play.

Watford (+400) has lost its last four games against Tottenham (-145, +290 draw), but it is looking for a bounce-back at home and has finishers Troy Deeney and Abdoulaye Doucoure together again. Tottenham’s propensity for slow starts – it’s trailed at some point in each of its last four games – suggests there is upset potential.

Leicester City (-130) has been something less than airtight defensively at home, while Burnley (+385, +255 draw) has four away wins in seven starts. Burnley, with forward Chris Wood facing his former team, is a good bet to get a result. Both teams will likely push forward in a way that makes both likely to score, so the +115 for the over to hit on the 2.5 total is enticing.

Super Sunday concludes with a super mismatch as Manchester City (-1100) hosts West Ham United (+2300, +1000 draw). Manchester City looks eminently capable of winning by a multi-goal margin and covering the minus-2.5 goals spread, which offers -130 with West Ham coming back at +110 to cover

World Cup Odds: Portugal offers value against rival Spain

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With each team dealing with distractions, it might be worth taking a chance on Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo against rival Spain in the big matchup on the first full day of World Cup action.

Spain is listed as a +105 betting favorite on Friday’s World Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com with Portugal coming back at +305, while the draw is priced at +225 on the three-way moneyline and there is a 2.0 total.

Favored Spain had a shake-up on Tuesday when manager Fernando Hierro was airlifted in after the shock firing of Julen Lopetegui. Spain’s defensive strength is also touch-and-go with right-back Dani Carjaval (hamstring).

That said, form in international play over the last year points to Spain, which is 7-0-3 (wins/losses/draws) in its last 10 international games whereas Portugal is 1-2-2 in its last five.

Being in Group B with the aforementioned European squads means Morocco (+120) and Iran (+280, draw +195) will each need to play to win in their matchup in St. Petersburg. The over on the 2.0 total is enticing at even money.

Uruguay (-185) faces Egypt (+600, draw +275) in Yekaterinburg. Egypt has failed to win any of its last six outings and might not have a fully healthy Mohamed Salah (shoulder), suggesting a likelihood of Uruguay grinding out a result in a game that finishes under the 2.5 total.

Argentina (-300) will ride the Lionel Messi effect against Iceland (+900, draw +400) in a Saturday World Cup betting matchup in Moscow. Iceland, with an attack built around Johann Berg Gudmundsson of Burnley, won’t roll over easily and the over on the 2.5 total should hit.

France (-425) is among the contenders on the overall odds to win the World Cup, while Australia (+1000, draw +550) will be looking to exasperate Les Bleus with defensive tactics in their matchup at Kazan. It might not come easily, but France has a strong chance to cover the minus-1.5 goals line.

Denmark (+135) is favored, but Peru (+220, +220 draw) takes a 15-match unbeaten streak into the matchup in Saransk, compared to the Danes’ four-game streak. Denmark’s last four matches have all finished below this match’s 2.5 total and a well-played 1-1 draw seems eminently possible.

Croatia (-135), paced by Barcelona midfielder Luka Modric, will be looking for a statement win against Nigeria (+400, +265 draw) at Kaliningrad. Nigeria is winless in its last four outings. Eight of Croatia’s last 10 matches and six of Nigeria’s last 10 have finished with fewer than 2.5 goals.

Defending champion Germany (-205) begins its quest for a repeat against Mexico (+575, +345 draw) at Moscow on Sunday. Since reunification, Germany is 6-0 in opening games with a 23-2 goal differential, so the form would suggest manager Joachim Low’s side can win convincingly.

There isn’t much value on playing Brazil (-245) for a likely win against Switzerland (+750, +370 draw) at Rostov-on-Don, but the favorites come in having recorded a clean sheet in seven of their last eight matches. Switzerland has also had clean sheets in five of six outings, suggesting it’s unlikely both teams will score.

The matchup between Serbia (-110) and Costa Rica (+360, +225 draw) in Samara stacks up as projection vs. past performance. Serbia and Aleksandar Mitrovic of Newcastle United fame are overdue to convert age-group success to the senior level, while 2014 quarterfinalist Costa Rica has lost key defender Ronald Matarrita (hamstring) to injury.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top World Cup betting news check out the OddsShark FC podcast with Andrew Avery, Rob Trites, and Craig Cormier. Listen to it at OddsSharkFC.libsyn.com.

Lionel Messi, Neymar Betting Favorites for World Cup Golden Boot

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Capturing the World Cup’s Golden Boot award for scoring the most goals in the tournament is not linked to being on the winning team, or even being a household name.

Three weeks before the tournament kicks off in Russia, Argentina’s Lionel Messi is a +850 favorite on the World Cup Golden Boot odds with Brazil’s Neymar a narrow second favorite at +900 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The award includes all games in the tournament, group and knockout, so it is not surprising that 18 of the 20 recipients of the award have played for a team that finished either first, second or third. Eleven of the 18 played on the third-place team, whose final game typically will have more scoring and less cautious play than the final.

Ronaldo (Brazil, 2002) is the only Golden Boot winner in the last nine World Cups who also played for the winning team.

That history might work against Messi, whose Argentina team is not being given much of a  chance to make a deep run. Neymar is also working his way back from a knee injury, raising concern about how much Brazil will turn him loose, particularly in the group games. Brazil teammate Roberto Firmino (+6600) of Liverpool fame could be worth a darkhorse pick on the Golden Boot betting lines.

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (+1200) was second in goals scored at Euro 2016 and his country is likely to make it into the knockout round, although it has to contend with being in the same group as Spain.

The aforementioned “first, second or third” theory likely strikes wagering on England’s Harry Kane (+1600). Germany’s Timo Werner (+1600), whose team is the favorite on the odd to win the World Cup, has a much stronger likelihood of playing a full seven games. Germany typically also plays with only one striker, meaning service from the midfield won’t be split between two forwards.

France and Belgium are each being touted as strong possibilities to be semi-finalists, if not more. Antoine Griezmann (+1400) is the top Les Bleus player on the board, but young Kylian Mbappe (+3300) could have more breakout potential.

Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku (+2000) has the lowest odds of any Belgium player, but Dries Mertens (+3300) of Napoli in Italy’s Serie A is worth considering as a longshot due to his speed and skill as a winger.

Colombia’s James Rodriguez (+5000) is the reigning Golden Boot winner. No player has ever won twice.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.