CHAPMAN: Keep your eye on odds for Fulham, Crystal Palace

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If you’re partial to betting on sports, you may want to look at the odds for Fulham and Crystal Palace this weekend. They take on Chelsea and Manchester City and whose league standing will make them prohibitive favourites, but with both clubs holding the advantage after the first leg of their Champions League semi-finals, they may be rotating heavily and be a little distracted.

After the debacle of the Super League, there are interesting themes in the final quartet of the Champions League. Three of the four finalists, (Chelsea, Man City, PSG) are the three richest clubs in the world with oil-laden owners who pump endless cash into their clubs. Funnily enough, if the advantages hold from the first leg and there’s a Chelsea-City finale, the nickname for the fixture in England, El Plastico, will apply to the big final. Imagine Real Madrid being the pauper of the bunch.

My dear departed Aunt Beryl used to tell me all the time, “you’re making a rod for your own back”, meaning I’m creating a problem down the road for myself. This is what’s happening in European soccer at the moment, the Richie Rich clubs think nothing of driving prices up beyond comprehension and the imbalance in the game is what is fuelling the desire to create a new league. Clubs like Real, Barca, Juve, Manchester United, Liverpool etc. are struggling to keep up with the super spenders and are looking for new ways to create revenue.

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As for the other games this weekend, it’s hard to look past the hatred usually involved in Manchester United v. Liverpool. The Reds have all but blown their shot at a Champions League spot by coughing up two late goals last week against Leeds and Newcastle, dropping four points in the process and leaving them outside the top four by a margin. If they want to steal the last spot this is a must-win game.

While United will be licking their chops at the defensive frailties of Liverpool, it’s their lack of finishing that’s really hurting them. They squandered five grade-A chances in the first half alone versus Newcastle, the game should have been out of sight by halftime. This is always a massive game on the fixture list but without fans it just won’t have the energy or emotion that it usually does.

West Ham will hope to keep their Cinderella-shot at the Top Four going as they visit Burnley, who are coming off a shocking 4-0 win over Wolves. All games in the Premier League are available exclusively on DAZN. https://www.dazn.com/en-CA/l/european-soccer

FRIDAY: Southampton v. Leicester City
SATURDAY MAY 1: Crystal Palace v. Manchester City; Brighton v. Leeds United; Chelsea v. Fulham; Everton v. Aston Villa.
SUNDAY MAY 2: Newcastle United v. Arsenal; Manchester United v. Liverpool; Tottenham Hotspur v. Sheffield United.
MONDAY MAY 3: West Bromwich Albion v. Wolverhampton Wanderers; Burnley v. West Ham United

La Liga

What a season they’re having in Spain. After Real Madrid beat Barcelona two weeks ago, the valiant fight back this season by the Cataluyans looked to be on its last legs. But with leaders Atletico Madrid losing last week, and Real drawing with minnows Osasuna, there are just three points separating the top four. Atletico can’t seem to close the door, Real Madrid look exhausted, and Barca are finally getting results from their recent pricey buys. The two goals from Antoine Griezmann in Barca’s win last week are a great sign for Ronald Koeman’s lads. Barca and Real are level on points, two back of Atletico but Barca have a significant lead in goal difference. Don’t sleep on Sevilla either as they are just one point back of Spain’s big two.

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If you look at the fixtures this week, you would likely bet on wins for all of the Top Four. Real’s decisive date with Chelsea in the Champions League semis, where they are level 1-1 but have given up an away goal, may dictate them resting some key players this weekend which could open the door for opponents Osasuna.

FRIDAY: Celta Vigo v. Levante.
SATURDAY MAY 1: Eibar v. Alavés; Elche v. Atlético Madrid; Huesca v. Real Sociedad; Real Madrid v. Osasuna.
SUNDAY MAY 2: Real Valladolid v. Real Betis; Villarreal v. Getafe; Granada v. Cádiz; Valencia v. Barcelona.
MONDAY MAY 3: Sevilla v. Athletic Bilbao

Serie A

The first half of the season promised such great things for this year’s Serie A campaign. It looked like AC Milan were revitalized, partially on the strength of club legend Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s return to the club.

While the talismanic Swede has been nothing short of remarkable, age has been a factor. Milan have faded drastically in the back half of the season and while they are only two points back of second-place Atalanta, they are currently out of the Champions League spots in fifth. Yes, they’re in a three-way tie with Juventus and Napoli on 66 points, but have a dramatically lesser goal difference.

Ironic because the area that has failed Milan over the last several season has been goalscoring. Napoli have scored 13 more goals than Milan, Atalanta 18 more.

And while Ibrahimovich has signed up for another year, which is spectacular considering his 25 goals in 35 games for Milan, it’s clear that there needs to be more impact for Milan. The Krzysztof Piatek project was a failure, but COVID has left the European giants without a ton of cash to spend. Names that keep being linked to Milan are Torino’s Andrea Belotti and Fiorentina’s Dusan Vlahovic.

They must land at least one of them if they want to emulate the rise of Inter this season, who will stroll to the title, and you know Juventus is going to reload this summer to get their title back. All games in Serie A are available this weekend on DAZN. https://www.dazn.com/en-CA/l/european-soccer

SATURDAY MAY 1: Hellas Verona v. Spezia; Crotone v. Inter Milan; AC Milan v. Benevento.
SUNDAY MAY 2: Lazio v. Genoa; Bologna v. Fiorentina; Napoli v. Cagliari; Sassuolo v. Atalanta; Udinese v. Juventus; Sampdoria v. Roma.
MONDAY MAY 3: Torino v. Parma.

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