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Corner Picks, best soccer bets, odds, predictions: Will Bayer Levekusen finally lose? Brentford saved by Toney

We’re dealing with a limited menu this weekend. For the second week in a row, the Premier League has only five matches this week (it split the matchweek in two in an apparent nod to the fact we’re asking these teams to play too many matches), and we’re short-handed in Serie A as well. The Supercoppa expanded to four teams this season, so Napoli, Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter are all in Saudi Arabia. Why did they add two teams to the Supercoppa instead of the traditional league winner versus the Coppa Italia winner matchup and have them play in empty stadiums 3,000 miles away? Prestige, I’m sure!

The result is we don’t have a lot to choose from in either league, so Corner Picks is spreading itself a bit further throughout Europe. While the Premier League and Serie A have been this column’s bread and butter, we’ve been stacking 2-2 weeks for over a month now. Perhaps changing things up will be exactly what we need to get out of this little rut.

If not, I’ll add two more picks next week and move it to Riyadh.

RB Leipzig vs. Bayer Leverkusen

Date: Saturday, Jan. 20 | Time: 12:30 p.m. ET | Watch: ESPN+

Bayer Leverkusen remain atop the Bundesliga table, and while I still believe it’s only a matter of time before the Bayern Munich Death Machine overcomes it, it’s not because of anything Leverkusen have done. Xabi Alonso’s team hasn’t lost a league match this season, and it hasn’t done this by getting lucky. It’s merely good. But the run has to end eventually, and this weekend strikes me as a ripe opportunity.

First, Leverkusen haven’t been nearly as strong on the road. The have a goal differential of +12 in eight road matches, but their xG (expected goal) differential is only +3.2 in those matches. The two road draws have come against the best teams it has faced, while the wins have come against far lesser sides. Leipzig blew our parlay last week with a 1-0 loss to Frankfurt, but the xG in that match (3.5-1.1, Leipzig) tells a far different story. Leipzig are very tough to beat at home, and there’s a good chance they send Leverkusen home without points. The Pick: RB Leipzig (+140)

Brentford vs. Nottingham Forest

Date: Saturday, Jan. 20 | Time: 12:30 p.m. ET | Watch: NBC

Brentford are in an awful place right now, and I’m looking to take advantage of it. The Bees have lost five straight in the Premier League and seven of eight. They’re in 16th place, behind Nottingham Forest, but they’ve been one of the unluckiest teams in the world. They’ve been outscored 12-4 during their five-match losing streak, but the xG of those matches has been 7.1-6.2. During the season, the Bees have a goal differential of -5 in the Premier League and an xG differential of +7.3. That +7.3 xG differential is the sixth-best mark in the league!

A big reason for that has been Brentford’s inability to finish in front of goal and the absence of Ivan Toney, who has been out since last season due to a suspension for breaching gambling rules. He’s back this week, and Brentford are a much better team with him leading the line. The Pick: Brentford (-115)

Real Betis vs. Barcelona

Date: Sunday, Jan. 21 | Time: 12:30 p.m. ET | Watch: ESPN+

There’s consternation surrounding Barcelona, which usually happens when the team is in fourth place and just lost 4-1 to Real Madrid. However, as is usually the case, the drama is overblown. Barcelona are not having a strong encore to last season’s La Liga title, but nothing about what happened last year was sustainable. Barca allowed only 20 goals in league play despite an xG allowed of 33.2. Essentially, Barcelona’s defensive platform was “Marc-Andre ter Stegen is on a heater in goal and stopping everything,” and it worked. It’s not working right now, though! Barca’s star keeper hasn’t played since mid-November due to a torn ACL, and Barcelona have allowed 9 goals on 6.6 xG in six league matches without him.

In other words, the scales are balancing after last season.

Now it’s on the road to face a Real Betis team that’s much better at home and has managed draws against Girona, Real Madrid, and Atlético Madrid. They may manage another result here, but the play I like best is both teams to score. Barcelona’s chickens have come home to roost, but they have scored a goal in every league match but the season opener. Betis have had similar results, scoring a goal in every home match except its opener. The Pick: Both Teams to Score (-150)

Weekend Parlay

As I said, it’s a limited menu this weekend, which doesn’t leave much for the parlay. This four-legger will have to do, even if the payout is only +109.

  • Arsenal (-350)
  • Porto (-370)
  • Real Madrid (-750)
  • Juventus or Draw (-750)

League Play

30-30

+0.86

Champions League

0-0

+0.00

Overall 30-30 +0.86

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