Nottingham Forest, Manchester City Among Soccer Best Bets

It’s a given that among the many things more interesting than Manchester City on the cusp of a fifth Premier League title in the last six seasons is the always entertaining sight of four teams trying to remain in the financial Eden that is the Premier League.

“Entertaining”—as long as you’re not fans of Everton, Nottingham Forest, Leeds or Leicester City. Because come next season—as the old military saying goes—look to your left and to your right, because two of you won’t be here for long.

Oh, and while we watch those four battle for two spots in next year’s Premier League, we drop in on presumed titlist Manchester City, who have to take a break from its Champions League obsession with a weekend game against one of those relegation scrappers. Then, we take a rare trip to this side of the Atlantic for a Major League Soccer game involving last year’s champion.

We return to Three Bets with these intriguing games that offer value and intrigue.

Foraging Survival for the Foresters

As is often the case, the relegation battle is more interesting than the battles on the other end of the table. Toward that end, on Monday, Nottingham Forest secured three of its biggest points of the season, edging last-place Southampton, 4-3.

This pulled Forest from 19th to 16th, taking it one point above 17th-place Everton and three points clear of 18th-place Leicester and 19th-place Leeds. Two of those four teams aren’t long for the Premier League, joining barely breathing Southampton as relegation bait.

For the Foresters to avoid that fate, they need a result here. Badly. Because looming on deck is current league runner-up Arsenal at home and the season finale at Crystal Palace. Points are doubtful in the former and could be problematic at the latter, courtesy of Palace’s resurgence under 75-year-old manager Roy Hodgson.

Enter Chelsea, the Premier League’s poster child for dysfunction and schizophrenic soccer. And with it, re-enter team legend/troubled manager Frank Lampard, who returned after the Graham Potter Experiment was abruptly ended by new team owner Todd Boehly. The Frank Lampard Experiment 2.0 resulted in six consecutive losses before the Blues got off  the schnide with a 3-1 beating of Bournemouth last out.

Put all this together and it’s quite possible Forest salvages a point here against an ill-assembled Chelsea team playing out the string. We see this staying close and we’ll take a goal for our troubles.

Prediction: Nottingham Forest +1 over Chelsea +108 at Caesars

Watch: Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Universo or fuboTV

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Short Order Cooking of the Toffees

Talk about your annoyances. Manchester City is in the middle of a Champions League semifinal battle with fellow European titans Real Madrid for the one jewel manager Pep Guardiola and the entire Manchester City brain-trust value above all others. Sandwiched around this week’s game at Madrid and next Wednesday’s game at Manchester is a Sunday trip to Liverpool for a Premier League game with an Everton team mired in a relegation battle.

Yes, City would love to put away a pesky Arsenal team it thought was finished after it blitzed the Gunners, 4-1 last month. Winning a fifth league title in six seasons is never a bad thing. But the real prize is Europe and that’s where Guardiola’s wizardry at managing his deep squad comes to us in 3D living color.

This went on display last week, when Ilkay Gundogan scored twice in an eight-minute span of the first half to spur City to a 2-1 victory over Leeds.

It’s a blueprint for what awaits Leeds’ fellow relegation bait denizens. Watch City get ahead quickly, using their penchant for fast starts and dominant possession edge to starve Everton’s sputtering offense. Then watch Guardiola tap his deep bench, saving his stars for Real Madrid’s Galacticos, without straining a synapse.

Everton needs all the points it can get to stay up. It will have to wait until a trip to Wolves next week, and/or the season finale back at Goodison against Bournemouth to get them. Because City needs only one half to put this one to bed.

Prediction: Manchester City first half -122 at BetMGM

Watch: Sunday, 10 a.m. ET, USA Network or fuboTV

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Not Keeping it Real

Yes, we’re giving MLS its due here. Really. And we’re giving it with this Western Conference battle featuring the defending MLS champion Los Angeles Football Club looking for its seventh consecutive victory in this series.

The last time Real Salt Lake salted away victory in this series was a 3-0 blanking—in September 2020. A month later, Los Angeles Football Club waltzed to a 3-1 victory that jump-started that six-game winning streak.

It’s not hard to imagine this going to seven. LAFC has allowed the second-fewest goals in the league (eight). It’s plus-nine goal differential is tied for second in the league, and four of its five wins came via shutout. And we haven’t mentioned forward Denis Bouanga, who is tied for the league lead in goals with eight. Or 2019 MLS MVP and playmaker-deluxe, Carlos Vela (three goals, four assists).

We’ll focus on all of that and draw a line through LAFC’s last outing, a 3-1 loss to fourth-place San Jose Earthquakes. The defending champions have too much firepower and depth for an inconsistent Real Salt Lake team that conceded 17 goals in 11 games.

No need to get cute here.

Prediction: LAFC +135 over Real Salt Lake at Unibet

Watch: Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET, fuboTV

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History Playbook

On This Day In Sports History

February 20, 1988 — South Carolina blows a 14-point lead and loses 98-88 to Louisville in double overtime at the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia.

On This Day In Sports History

February 21, 1993 — The West outlasts the East 135-132 in the NBA All-Star Game at the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. Michael Jordan (Bulls) is the leading scorer with 30 points for the East.