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Cream of the crop - and a 70/1 carrot...

Thursday 11th March 2021

In Across the Leagues today:

  • Europa League tonight…
  • Man Utd v AC Milan…
  • Biting the hand that feeds…

Cream of the crop – and a 70/1 carrot…

It was 8-2 to the young guns in the Champions League round of 16…

Across the two legs, Lionel Messi got two goals for Barcelona, and missed a penalty. Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t find the net for Juventus. Both are now out of the competition.

The future stars are really starting to shine…

Kylian Mbappe and Erling Braut Haaland helped themselves to four goals each across the Last 16 ties, for PSG and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

Age 20, Haaland becomes the first player to reach 20 Champions League goals before turning 21. With Mbappe the youngest to reach 25 goals. Barring injury, both will be in action in the quarter finals. And it’d be hard to back against them scoring again.

  • The Champions League 2nd legs continue next week. The quarter final draw will be made next Friday, 19th March

After the party…

After Liverpool secured the Premier League title last season, they lost their first appearance back out on the pitch – comfortably beaten 4-0 at Manchester City.

I’m not suggesting Rangers have been partying behind closed doors or downing vodka & Irn-Bru chasers this week. But having wrapped up the Scottish Premiership title at the weekend, today’s trip to Slavia Prague in the Europa League might find Steven Gerrard’s vulnerable to some kind of anti-climax.

Prague knocked out Leicester City in the last round. The oddsmakers have Slavia priced as the 7/5 (2.4) favourites to win this evening’s 1st leg. Rangers are 8/11 (1.73) favs To Qualify over the two legs.

Cream of the crop…

We’ve spoken a bit recently about ‘backing the best.’ In the big matches, and the UEFA cup competitions, the cream tends to rise to the top in terms of the goal-scorers…

There aren’t many players that get the top-drawer nod. Right now, Mbappe and Haaland are up there. And of course, over the past decade, Messi and Ronaldo have been remarkable.

On top of the goal-scoring form, we also need to get decent prices in the Scorer markets…

For example:

Harry Kane has scored in 19 out of 36 appearances in all competitions for Tottenham this season. He’s odds-on at 8/11 (1.73) at best to find the net Anytime against Dinamo Zagreb tonight. Backing Kane at that price in every game this season to level stakes, you’d be running at a loss.

And then you have to consider the possibility that Harry might not get much time on the pitch this evening. Jose Mourinho often rotates his squad – and the North London derby at Arsenal is coming up in the league this weekend.

The numbers remind us to pick our battles carefully…

Man Utd v AC Milan

5.55pm, BT Sport

This tie is for a place in the Europa League quarter finals, but on paper this fixture is big enough to grace any European cup final.

There are a stack of first-team regulars missing for both teams today. Including Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ante Rebic for Milan, and strikers Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani both reported to be out for United.

One player that fits the bill very much for the occasion is Manchester United’s Mr Reliable, Bruno Fernandes. There has been radio phone-in waffle about Bruno ‘not showing up’ in the big games. I’m not having that. This guy is the real deal.

And, as is more and more relevant this season, in the age of VAR – he takes penalties, too.

In comparison to that Kane example, Fernandes has scored in 19 of 41 apps for Man Utd this season. At today’s Anytime Scorer prices of 7/5 (2.4) and 11/8 (2.38), that makes Bruno a profitable proposition over the course of the campaign (10% ROI).

AC Milan have only kept two clean sheets in their last 11 in all comps. And three in 11 in Europe this season. Fernandes is the class act for Man Utd from set pieces and outside the box in open play, too. He’s one to follow today, following the cream-rises-to-the-top theory.

He couldn’t, could he?

Backing the best is one thing. And it’s a sturdy tactic when the situation suits, as with Fernandes tonight. I’m always on the lookout for more off-the-beaten track angles, too. Especially when there are some massive prices to be had…

Here’s one that takes us to the far end of the odds spectrum. You have to scroll a long way down the Scorer list for this game to find the name of Diogo Dalot

The 21-year-old Portuguese full-back is on-loan at AC Milan from Man Utd. His future remains in doubt. Dalot has got the all-clear to play against his parent club today. Could that backfire on Man Utd? Could young Diogo return to bite the hand that feeds?

Here’s what he said in an interview with Milan-TV:

“I’m happy to see my friends from Manchester United again, and a stadium that has given me a lot. But now I’m a Milan player and if I’ll play, I will give my best for this club”

You can’t read much into that. Footballers don’t give much of themselves away in interviews these days. What we can note, though, is that Dalot scored a lovely goal in Serie A at the weekend – his first league goal for Milan. You can watch the match highlights here. The goal comes at 1:40 mins in the video.

Aside from a dead 2nd leg against Real Sociedad in the last round, which ended goalless after Man Utd won the 1st leg 4-0 away. Each of United’s seven other games in Europe this season have gone Over 2.5 Goals, with opponents finding the net in five of them. There’s potential for a couple of names to get on the scoresheet here.

Dangling the 70/1 carrot…

It’s a long-shot, for sure. But standout odds of 25/1 for Diogo Dalot to score Anytime and 70/1 to score First just get my big-price antenna twitching a little today…

When it comes to the end-of-season highlights reel, our best nights are made up of speculative bets and exciting prices like this.

And if Dalot does score against his parent club, then you can hear the commentator’s voice already: ‘What a story’…

Usually I’m a level-stakes man all the way. But this is a case where I’m splitting a stake half & half on the Anytime & First Scorer prices. If the outsider does manage to find the net early, that 70/1 upside would be a shame to miss…

Paddy Power’s 25/1 & 70/1 quotes certainly catch the eye. Bet365 are a lot more cautious, at 12/1 & 33/1.

TODAY’S PICKS

From the analysis above, here are my picks for today…

Man Utd v AC Milan

  • BRUNO FERNANDES – ANYTIME SCORER @ 7/5 (2.4) Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook, 11/8 (2.38) Bet365

And for something big…

  • DIOGO DALOT – ANYTIME SCORER @ 25/1 Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook, 22/1 Skybet, BetVictor, Ladbrokes, Coral. And FIRST GOALSCORER @ 70/1 Paddy Power, Betfair Sportsbook, 50/1 Skybet, BetVictor, Ladbrokes, Coral, William Hill, Betfred

I’ll be back tomorrow with a weekend preview, pulling out some of the standout stats from our website for the Premier League and Football League.

Enjoy the football…

Best wishes,

Oliver Upstone

Oliver Upstone

Across the Leagues