Expert Soccer Predictions & Picks | Unexpected Goals
Cyriel Klitsie, BJ Cunningham/Action Network.
Soccer Picks & Predictions · Tuesday, February 20
For the remainder of the 2023-24 club soccer season, Action Network's soccer betting experts bring you odds, picks and predictions for a variety of games, including those across leagues that may not be frequently covered as extensively as the Champions League or Premier League.
Read on for Unexpected Goals, our daily soccer betting roundup.
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Man City vs Brentford
The Brentford defense has been terrible against good competition recently, but ever since they got Ivan Toney back in the lineup they have put the ball in the back of the net at least once. In fact, the last time that Brentford was held under one expected goal was against Aston Villa when they went down to 10 men.
What Brentford showed in that previous meeting with Manchester City is not only are they incredibly dangerous in transtition moments, but they are also incredibly good on set pieces.
Manchester City showed against Chelsea on Saturday that they are still really vulnerable in transition moments. There is also an aspect that Chelsea took advantage of with Ruben Dias. He often marks the opposing striker, so Palmer was constantly dragging him high and higher up the pitch into an uncomfortable position, which leaves space in behind for attackers to make runs off the back line. Ivan Toney is elite at doing just this, which will create space for the rest of Brentford’s attack to make runs and do what they do best, which is send longballs up the pitch.
Manchester City’s press has not been elite this season and teams have been able to punish them with longballs. The Cityzens are allowing a long ball completion percentage of 52.6%, which shows that opponents have had more time and space on the ball to pick out those passes.
Manchester City are also still in the bottom half of the Premier League in xG allowed per set piece, which is bad news against Brentford who have been one of the best set piece offenses for two years now and it’s how Brentford scored one of their two goals in the famous 2-1 upset at the Etihad last season.
So, with the valnurabliities in the Manchester City defense that are exploitable by Brentford, I like the value on Brentford to score in this match.
Pick: Brentford Team Total Over 0.5 (-108 via FanDuel)
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Inter Milan vs Atletico Madrid
Inter don't need to have the ball to be successful. They play out of a 3-5-2 and are reliant on being deadly in transition and dominating in wide areas to swing in crosses. They added Marcus Thuram in the summer, which has turned out to be one of the signings of the season across Europe given how well him and Laturo Martinez have been playing up top with each other.
What makes Inter elite though is their defense. Because they play a 3-5-2, they can very easily drop into a back five to prevent teams from overloading the last line of defense, but also make it incredibly difficult to play through the middle of the pitch. They’ve allowed only 10 goals all season in Serie A and 0.68 npxG per 90 minutes. In fact, during the group stage of the Champions League, they only allowed 5.3 expected goals in their six matches.
Atletico Madrid are going to be without Alvaro Morata for this match, which is massive loss because they don’t have another striker like him that can help breakdown Inter’s defensive block. Morata is having a fantastic season scoring 18 goals between the Champions League and La Liga. He also is one of the smartest tactical forwards in the world and knows how to drag defenders out of position to create space for Griezmann.
Diego Simeone has been more willing to play attacking football out of a 3-5-2 this season as opposed to the patented 4-4-2 low block that we have seen forever. He may very well set Atletico Madrid up to be very defensive without Morata, but the Atletico Madrid defense is nowhere near as good as it’s been in the past allowing 1.11 xG per 90 minutes, which I know doesn’t sound like a lot, but that is their highest mark allowed under Diego Simeone since expected goals started being tracked in 2015.
Atletico Madrid have been good this season putting up a +0.57 xGD in La Liga, but that is nowhere near Inter’s underlying numbers at +1.35 and by UEFA coefficients, Serie A is actually a more difficult league.
I have Inter projected at -161, so I like the value on them at -130.
Pick: Inter Milan ML (-130)
PSV vs Borussia Dortmund
Somehow, Dortmund finished on top of the group of death. I say somehow because they have been completely underwhelming for a majority of the season in the Bundesliga. They have hit a decent run of form, but it’s mainly been against bottom half of the table teams.
Since they got dominated in a 1-1 draw by PSG to close out the group stage, Dortmund have played one team in the top half of the Bundesliga table. They’ve been unbeaten and their underlying metrics have been pretty good. However, when we focus on what they’ve done defensively against some of the top teams in Germany it gets pretty alarming.
In four matches against Bayern Munich, Leverkusen, Stuttgart and RB Leipzig, Dortmund have conceded 12.3 expected goals. Even during the Champions League group stage they conceded four goals off of 10.6 expected goals.
PSV are absolutely running rampant in the Eredivisie this season and putting some downright outrageous underlying numbers. In 22 matches they have a +49.6 expected goal differential and are averaging 3.00 xG per 90 minutes, which is almost unheard of in modern football. Their success has translated to the Champions League as well. They were the second-best team in their group and really only played one bad match at Arsenal. After that 4-0 defeat to Arsenal they had a +1.2 xGD in their remaining five matches.
The reason things are going so well for PSV comes down to Peter Bosz’s tactics. He wants his teams to play as fast as possible with their transitions, using vertical passes to try and put pressure on the opposing back line. He encourages his fullbacks to push up and overlap, which allows PSV to overload the last line of defense.
PSV should be able to exploit Dortmund’s horrendous transition defense, so I like the value on them at home at +120.
Pick: PSV ML (+120)