European Soccer Forecast: Best Bets, Projected Odds for Bundesliga, La Liga & Ligue 1 Matches (August 13-16)

European Soccer Forecast: Best Bets, Projected Odds for Bundesliga, La Liga & Ligue 1 Matches (August 13-16) article feature image
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Getty Images. Pictured: Alphonso Davies (left) and Iñaki Williams.

The European soccer season kicked off last weekend, with France’s Ligue 1 getting things going on the domestic front. Now, we welcome Germany’s Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga to the picture, as both start their respective 2020-21 seasons this weekend.

There is a ton of intrigue surrounding each league, but the biggest story of the soccer world has been Lionel Messi — the world’s greatest player — moving from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain this week to play along side fellow stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappé.

Lionel Messi joins PSG… HERE WE GO! Total agreement completed on a two-years contract. Option to extend until June 2024. Salary around €35m net per season add ons included. 🇦🇷🇫🇷 #Messi

Messi has definitely accepted PSG contract proposal and will be in Paris in the next hours. pic.twitter.com/DiM5jNzxTA

— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 10, 2021

With Messi leaving Spain, the La Liga title race has become wide open with with Real Madrid and Barcelona looking to offload players to meet the rules and regulations of the Spanish top flight. This means we could have our first champion outside Real Madrid, Barcelona or Atlético Madrid in more than a decade.

The Bundesliga is obviously dominated by Bayern Munich, who will be going to an historic 10th consecutive championship this season and enters place as the overwhelming favorites at -550 odds at DraftKings. Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig are the only real challengers to dethrone the Bavarians, so we’ll see if they once again run away with another title under new manager Julian Naglesmann.

If you’re new to our soccer coverage, I will be providing my projections for every match from the Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1, plus Champions League and Europa League action when they kick off in September.

If you’d like to see my Premier League projections, you can read them here. Also, if you’d like to read more about how I determine my projections, you can check it all out here.

You can use these projections to identify betting value on current lines, plus follow me in The Action Network App to see any bets I make during the week.

Bundesliga Projections 

Best Bets

Gladbach vs. Bayern Munich

Gladbach Odds +450
Bayern Munich Odds -185
Draw +380
Over/Under 3.5 (-125 / +105)
Day | Time Friday | 2:30 p.m. ET
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Odds updated Thursday afternoon via DraftKings.

Borussia Mönchengladbach might have had a down year in 2020-21, but they have a ton of talent on this roster with the likes of Marcus Thuram, Alassane Plea, Lars Stindl and Matthias Ginter, who was a key part of Germany’s defense during the Euros. And quite possibly the best player at the European Championships — goalkeeper Yann Sommer — is between the goal posts, so this is a really good roster.

A lot was going on off the field last year with former manager Marco Rose announcing in the middle of the season he was leaving for Borussia Dortmund, so the Foals kind of quit on him.

Most of Gladbach’s struggles last season came on road, but at home they had a +9.18 xGDiff and only allowed 1.04 xG per match, which was the third-best mark in the Bundesliga.

Bayern Munich has a lot of question marks coming into the season. New manager Julian Naglesmann has arrived from RB Leipzig, but there have already been some growing pains, as they lost three of their four friendly tune-up matches, with one of them coming to Gladbach. The Bavarians have new center back pairing in Upamecano and Sule, so we’ll see how that goes.

Offensively, Bayern’s also due for a lot of negative regression. They scored 99 goals last season, but only created 75.93 expected goals, which is ridiculous. Also, Gladbach actually beat Bayern, 3-2, last season at home and has won three out of the last four meetings between the clubs at Borussia Park.

I only have Bayern Munich projected at -103, so I think there’s plenty of value on Gladbach’s spread of +1 at +105 odds via DraftKings and would play it down to -115 odds.

Pick: Gladbach +1 (+105)

Arminia Bielefeld vs. Freiburg

Arminia Bielefeld Odds +195
Freiburg Odds +155
Draw +230
Over/Under 2.5 (-105/-115)
Day | Time Saturday | 9:30 a.m. ET
How To Watch ESPN+
Odds updated Thursday afternoon via DraftKings.

Arminia Bielefeld, which was one of the worst teams in the Bundesliga last season, was really lucky to survive relegation. They had a -27.84 xGDiff in 34 matches, which was second worst in the Bundesliga.

Their issues really were on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they only averaged 0.92 xG per match. Arminia Bielefeld also had the second fewest shot-creating actions, third-fewest touches in the opponents’ final third and fewest carries into the final third (per fbref.com) of the pitch.

Defensively, the club is due for a lot of negative regression. Arminia Bielefeld only allowed 52 goals, but allowed their opponents to create 58.98 xG, which was the second-highest mark in the German top flight. Also, they have the third-lowest squad value of anyone in the Bundesliga, according to transfermarkt.com.

Freiburg finished in 10th place and was a very average team with a -7.87 xGDiff, but a lot of their poor play came during a trial-and-error period with their formations.

Manager Christian Streich, who has been there for over a decade, has tried out a number of different formations in his tenure, but last season he had the most success playing out of a 3-4-3 setup. Using that tactical approach, Freiburg averaged 1.61 xG per 90 minutes and allowed 1.53 xG per 90 minutes. Plus, it was the only formation in which they actually had a positive xGDiff as well.

The formation can easily and quickly be morphed into a trendy 4-2-2-2, which is a formation they had a lot of success in during the 2019-20 season, averaging 1.86 xGF per match. Steich also has the benefit of having a lot of same starters at Freiburg for a number of years now. That said, they have the experience and tactical flexibility to figure how break down one of the worst defenses in the Bundesliga last season.

I have Freiburg projected at +137, so I think there’s some value on their moneyline of +155 at DraftKings, but I would only play it down +150 odds.

Pick: Freiburg ML (+155)

Wolfsburg vs. Bochum

Wolfsburg Odds -180
Bochum Odds +500
Draw +340
Over/Under 3 (-110/-110)
Day | Time Saturday | 9:30 a.m. ET
How To Watch ESPN+
Odds updated Thursday afternoon via DraftKings.

This line is way too low to open the season. While Wolfsburg is due for some negative regression after finishing fourth when they had almost 10 less expected than actual goals, teams coming up from the second division in Germany haven’t faired well.

On average since 2005, promoted teams have seen a 52.3% decrease in scoring and 37.9% increase in goals allowed in their first season in the top flight.

Bochum won the 2.Bundesliga last season, averaging 1.63 xGF per match and allowing 1.35 xG per outing. So, if we do some math and reduce their scoring rate by 52.3% and increase the xGA by 37.9%, we get projected average for the Bundesliga of 0.85 xGF per match and 1.86 xGA per contest.

For those reasons, opening up against a team like Wolfsburg, who were one of the most disciplined teams in the German top flight, isn’t what you’d call an “ideal” debut fixture.

Wolfsburg trounced the bottom 10 teams in the Bundesliga at home last season, going 8-1-1 and outscoring their opponents by a 23-7 margin.

I have Wolfsburg’s spread projected at -1.56, so I think there’s plenty of value on their current spread of -1 (-105) at DraftKings and would play it up to -134 odds for this game.

Pick: Wolfsburg -1 (-105)


La Liga Projections

Best Bets

Cádiz vs. Levante

Cádiz

Odds

+175
Levante Odds +170
Draw +225
Over/Under 2.5 (+105/-125)
Day | Time Saturday | 1:30 p.m. ET
How To Watch ESPN+
Odds updated Thursday afternoon via DraftKings.

This is going to be a very defensive match, with dueling 4-4-2 formations going up against each other. What’s funny funny about these teams meeting on opening weekend is they actually played each other to end last season, with that game ending in a 2-2 draw. In fact, their first meeting of the season also ended in a 2-2 stalemate.

Both Cádiz and Levante were underwhelming last season, but what I want to focus on is how they ended their respective campaigns. Cádiz ended on a positive note, going 4-4-4 from March 19 to their final game. That was fantastic for a club trying to survive relegation, while Levante went 1-3-7 with a -8.08 xGD in their last 11 matches.

I have these two ranked dead even in my projections, so with fans back in the stands, there’s going to be a more significant home-field advantage in Spain. That’s why I have Cádiz projected as a slight favorite in this match.

Therefore, I do think there is some value on Cádiz in their home opener on the Draw No Bet line at -110 odds via DraftKings, but I wouldn’t play that number any higher than that entering this showdown.

Pick: Cadiz — Draw No Bet (-110)

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Elche vs. Athletic Bilbao 

Elche Odds +275
Athletic Bilbao Odds +110
Draw +225
Over/Under 2 (-135/+110)
Day | Time Monday | 4:00 p.m. ET
How To Watch ESPN+
Odds updated Thursday afternoon via DraftKings.

This is going to be an extremely low-scoring match featuring two of the worst offenses in La Liga last season.

Offensively, Elche was completely anemic and wound up with the lowest xG per match average (0.80) in the league. The club plays a very defensive 4-4-2 formation, much like a lot of Spanish teams do, but struggles to create high-quality chances. Elche was dead last in shots inside the penalty area; shots inside the six-yard box; shot-creating actions; and, passes leading to a shot.

In fact, Elche didn’t have anyone on its roster who averaged more than 0.25 xG per 90 minutes, so I don’t know how they’re going to score against an incredibly well-organized side like Athletic Bilbao that allowed only 1.01 xG per match last season.

Athletic Bilbao’s offense wasn’t much better, averaging 1.13 xG per match. They were also middle-of-the-road in shot-creating actions, touches inside the opponents’ final third and carries into the opponents’ final third, per fbref.com. So, Elche is likely to just sit back in their 4-4-2 and look to hit Bilbao on the counterattack.

Also, matches involving either Elche or Athletic Bilbao went under 2.5 goals 61% of the time last season. There were only 3.74 xG total (1.87 per match) created in the two meetings between these two as well a campaign ago.

I only have 2.00 goals projected for this contest, so I think there’s a little bit of value on Under 2 goals at anything +110 or better at DraftKings in my opinion.

Pick: Under 2 Goals (+110)


Ligue 1 Projections

Best Bets

Lille vs. Nice 

Lille Odds -115
Nice Odds +370
Draw +250
Over/Under 2.5 (+110/-130)
Day | Time Saturday | 11 a.m. ET
How To Watch beIN SPORTS
Odds updated Thursday afternoon via DraftKings.

Lille got their campaign off to an interesting start last Sunday, settling for a 3-3 road draw with Metz. It was an uncharacteristic defensive performance from the defending Ligue 1 defending champions, who last season only allowed three or more goals on one occasion. Metz was very lucky to get three past the Lille defense, as they only created 0.92 xG in the tie.

Lille plays a very defensive 4-4-2 formation, which is the reason they won the league. They had the best defensive record in Europe, allowing only 0.63 xG per match. Most of that success came at home as well, with them only allowing 0.53 xG per game. When  they faced Nice at home last season, they earned a 2-0 victory and didn’t allow their foe to get off a shot.

Nice had a mid-table finish during the last campaign and, quite honestly, weren’t that impressive at all, finishing with a -9.81 xGDiff on the season. Their offense had the sixth-fewest shot-creating actions in the league, so I have a hard time seeing how they’re going to get one past Lille’s defense.

I have Lille projected at -152, so I think there is plenty of value on them at -115 via DraftKings and would play it up to -136 odds.

Pick: Lille ML (-115)

Reims vs. Montpellier 

Reims Odds +170
Montpellier Odds +180
Draw +215
Over/Under 2.5 (+105/-125)
Day | Time Sunday | 9 a.m. ET
How To Watch beIN SPORTS
Odds updated Thursday afternoon via DraftKings.

Reims is one the biggest regression teams for the 2021-22 season, due to the discrepancy between their actual and expected results. On paper, Reims finished in 14th place with a -8 goal differential, but had the second-fewest xG and the second-most xGA. Honestly, they really should have been relegated.

A lot of that discrepancy came on the road, where they averaged 0.95 xGF per match and allowed 1.78 xG per game, which was far worse than their actual goal differential of -3 on the season. In fact, their first match was a perfect encapsulation of their entire 2020-21 season as they ended up playing to a scoreless draw with Nice. They also were out-created by 0.97-0.16 xG margin.

Reims also lost striker Boulye Dia, who was their entire offense with his 14 goals. Dia, who also created 13.29 of their 33.23 xG last season, is now with Spanish outfit Villarreal. Reims doesn’t have a capable replacement for him, so there’s going to be a massive offensive regression for them.

Montpellier blew a 2-0 lead at home against Marseille in the opener, suffering a 3-2 defeat. However, Montpellier was a much better team than Reims last season, finishing eighth with a -9.95 xGDiff compared to Reims, who finished 14th with a -28.56 xGDiff.

I have Montpellier projected as +118 favorites, so I think there’s value on their Draw No Bet line of -105 at DraftKings and would play it up to -122 odds.

Pick: Montpellier — Draw No Bet (-105)

Lens vs. Saint-Étienne

Lens Odds +105
Saint-Étienne Odds +275
Draw +255
Over/Under 2.5 (+100/-115)
Day | Time Sunday | 11 a.m. ET
How To Watch beIN Sports
Odds updated Thursday afternoon via DraftKings.

Lens was one of the best stories in European football last season. After being in Ligue 2 for five consecutive campaigns, they finally earned promotion and finished in seventh place in Ligue 1. The biggest reason for their success was a prolific offense, which averaged 1.48 xG per match that carried a fourth-best mark in the French top flight.

Typically, Lens lines up up in a 3-4-1-2 formation, which is a setup that has been made famous by manager Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea. They’re very effective when playing out of it, accumulating a +0.47 xGDiff per 90 minutes. The club drew Rennes in a 1-1 road result on the in their opener last weekend, but completely dominated the match from an xG perspective, out-creating them by a 2.05-0.59 margin.

Saint-Étienne is one of my positive regression teams heading into the season, but they inexplicably lined up in a 4-4-2 formation to open the campaign against Lorient. That’s a formation they didn’t have a lot of success playing last season, putting up a -2.24 xGDiff overall.

In more than 700 minutes when utilizing a 4-2-3-1 formation, Saint-Étienne averaged 1.69 xG per 90 minutes, while only allowing 0.82 xG per 90 minutes. So, until they make the 4-2-3-1 their permanent formation, I’ll have a hard time backing them.

I have Lens projected at -110, so I think there’s a small edge on them at +105 or better at DraftKings in this meeting.

Pick: Lens ML (+105)

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