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Chelsea FC vs. Liverpool Premier League Picks, Odds, & Preview 11/20/11

You aren’t going to find two teams that battle it out fiercer than Chelsea FC and Liverpool. The two bitter rivals play in a match that is often referred to as the most intense rivalry in English soccer, and we are set to make our Premier League scores predictions for one of the toughest matches to handicap of the weekend.

As always, when these two teams meet, it is Fernando Torres who is on the biggest display. Torres made a name for himself with Liverpool in its fantastic Champions League run of a few years ago before making the switch to the Blues last January.

Chelsea vs. Sunderland Date/Time: Sunday, November 20th, 11:00 a.m. (ET)
Chelsea vs. Sunderland Television Coverage: FOX Soccer Channel

The Blues are fighting hard to keep their position near the top of the Premier League table, though we must admit that chances of catching table toppers, Manchester City are slim to none with the Citizens boasting a nine point edge on fourth place, Chelsea. Instead, the Blues are going to be focused on maintaining their spot in next year’s Champions League, something that isn’t nearly guaranteed with Liverpool just three points behind and Tottenham level on points with a game in hand.

Recent form is an issue for the Blues, though they did win their final game before the European break, a 1-0 win at Goodson Park against Blackburn Rovers. The last Premier League game here at Stamford Bridge came on October 29th, a 5-3 drubbing that Arsenal laid on the hosts.

However, if you’re looking for an eight-goal outburst this time around, don’t be all that sure. There have only been a grand total of nine goals scored in the last eight matches combined when these two teams have played against one another on the Premier League schedule.

Liverpool remains without captain, Steven Gerrard, but the team has been playing relatively well without him. A scoreless draw against Swansea at home on November 5th was a dud, but before that, the team logged two straight wins on the road. In fact, over the course of the last four road games, the Reds have been perfect, going 4-0-0, as opposed to their last three home games, where they are 0-3-0.

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A team that was once known as having a potentially leaky back four, Liverpool hasn’t allowed a strike in 210 minutes of football since Grant Holt equalized for Norwich three Premier League fixtures ago. If the defense can stay in form, it is going to have a real chance of stealing points at Stamford Bridge.

Though we do think that the Blues are going to be getting back in better form in the weeks to come, we don’t think that they are deserving of being odds on favorites. The Reds are +0.5 on the Asian Handicap line, and you can get +110 odds on them at that price. The outright victory would pay +345.

Posted in English Premier League, Featured

MLS Championship: 2011 MLS Cup – LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo Picks

The 2011 MLS schedule started way back in March, and now, only two teams remain for the right to win the 2011 MLS championship. The Houston Dynamo have their work cut out for them, as they go on the road to take on the Los Angeles Galaxy, and we are set to make our 2011 MLS Cup picks for the biggest duel in American soccer of the year.

The Galaxy are the team with all of the pomp and circumstance surrounding it at the moment. Names like Robby Keane, David Beckham, and Landon Donovan are all over the place, making this a heck of a lot like an “MLS Dream Team,” and it is great to have these men on display on soccer’s biggest stage in this country.

LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo Date/Time: Sunday, November 20th, 9:00 p.m. (ET)
LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo Television Coverage: ESPN

Don’t think that they’re just names, though. Donovan netted a whopping 14 goals this year, while Beckham had 14 assists. Both are on the MLS Starting XI team, and had Keane been in Tinseltown for the whole year, he probably would have made the roster as well.

There’s no doubt that the Galaxy were the best team in the MLS all season long. They ended the regular season with 67 points and 19 wins, both of which were tops in the league, and they really stormed through the postseason without much fuss. The club took down the New York Red Bulls on aggregate 3-1, and it followed that up with a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Final a fortnight ago.

Meanwhile, Houston had to scratch and claw for the right to play in the Eastern Conference Final. The team only barely made the playoffs, needing a win against these Galaxy on the final day of the regular season just to ensure that it would be in the postseason, and the three points turned out to be just enough to survive having to play in the first round of the playoffs as well.

In the playoffs, the Dynamo have been… well… dynamo! They already have two road wins, one coming at the Philadelphia Union, while the other was in the Eastern Conference Finals against Sporting Kansas City. The 2-0 win at Livestrong Sporting Park was a lot closer than the game suggests, and Head Coach Dominic Kinnear knows that his team had to fight through some real adversity just to reach this point in the season.

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This season, Houston took a 3-1 decision in the Lone Star State on October 23rd, but its trip to the Home Depot Center didn’t turn out as well. A Donovan penalty kick gave LA the 1-0 victory on a day in which Beckham was not in the lineup. Including the playoffs, Los Angeles is a whopping 14-5-0 at home, but it has a major score to settle after losing in the Western Conference Final last year to FC Dallas 3-0.

It should come as no surprise that the Galaxy are comfortable 1 to 3 favorites to lift the MLS Cup. Whichever team wins on Sunday will claim their third MLS championship in franchise history. Houston won the titles in 2006 and 2007, and it has never lost in the finale, while the Galaxy are 2-4 in four visits, winning in 2002 and 2005. This is the first of those matches though, that will be played in front of their hometown crowd.

Posted in Featured, MLS

Villarreal vs. Manchester City Preview, Picks, Tips, & Analysis 11/2/11

We always knew that Group A was going to be one of the toughest groups in the Champions League group stage schedule this year. However, we didn’t know just how difficult this group was really going to be. On Wednesday, we might be facing a bit of a de facto elimination battle between Villarreal and Manchester City, as these two teams are trying to get out of the gutter in Group A.

For Man City, a 1-1-1 start to the Champions League slate was unimaginable. The team has been just so insanely efficient in the Premier League, it isn’t even funny. It went on the road and absolutely thrashed Manchester United at Old Trafford, a feat that is never easily accomplished, and it has scored 36 goals in 10 fixtures in domestically as well. The Citizens are 9-1-0 and have a +28 goal differential, and they really are off to one of the best starts that a team has ever had in this league.

It’s clear that there are just riches and riches of talent on this team. Sergio Aguero has nine goals this year, as does Edin Dzeko. Mario Balotelli has five strikes, while David Silva has three. That doesn’t even include the power of Carlos Tevez, whose antics have seen him essentially jettisoned from the squad. Perhaps getting the Tevez drama over and done with after losing at Bayern Munich earlier in the Champions League will be just what the doctor has ordered for the Citizens if they hope to get out of Group A this year.

It’s tough to say that Villarreal really needs to get three points out of this fixture, but that unfortunately, really is the case. The team is in the gutter, and it is going to be a decided underdog in this fixture, and without any real freebee matches to come, the team can’t afford to sit here at the bottom for very long.

The truth of the matter is that the faster this team gets out of European competitions, the quicker that it can focus on La Liga. This year has been a certified disaster for the Spanish side, going 2-4-4 in its first 10 matches. Before Saturday’s win against Rayo at home, the team had lost back to back matches by 3-0 counts.

In the second of those matches against Real Madrid, the team’s top striker, Giuseppe Rossi was knocked out with an ACL injury that could cause him to miss the rest of the year. He certainly won’t be around in this match and likely will not be on the bench for support either. Without Rossi, who already has three goals domestically this year and netted two just to get the team into the Champions League this year, there is a real void that Villarreal just will not be able to fill.

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These two teams met on October 18th on English soil, a match that nearly ended in disaster for the hosts. They were behind 1-0 just four minutes in, and it took an Aguero goal in the 90th minute just to pick up the three points in that crucial tie.

Villarreal doesn’t have a point yet in the Champions League, and a loss parlayed with a win for Napoli over Bayern Munich ensures that its European campaign is finished. Even a win will still keep it in last place, though at least qualification is fathomable at that point.

For Man City, a win will most likely boost it back into the qualifying territory for the UCL knockout rounds. It is currently one point back of Napoli and three behind Bayern Munich. Goal differential could be key as well, as the Citizens are currently at a -1, and even a one goal victory could still leave them on some tenuous ground going forward for the rest of this competition.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

Champions League Predictions – KRC Genk vs. Chelsea FC Picks 11/1/11

Chelsea Football Club has a chance to lock up its place in the second round of the Champions League if it can take all three points against KRC Genk when the two duke it out at Cristal Arena on Tuesday night.

It has been a frustrating season thus far for Racing Genk. The Belgian representatives from last year are stuck in the middle of their table domestically, as they are in sixth position through a dozen fixtures and look nothing like contenders for European competition once again this year. They are also seven points back of league leaders, Anderlecht, and they are three points back of being in Europa Cup qualifying for next season.

That being said, it has been a very, very frustrating European campaign as well. The team just barely survived getting into this competition against Partizan Belgrade (3-2 on aggregate) and Maccabi Haifa (3-3 on aggregate, winning in penalty kicks). Things started off well with a scoreless draw against Valencia, which had to make hopes high for at least a shot at survival in this tournament.

Unfortunately, then reality set in for the Belgian side, going on the road and getting smashed by both Bayer Leverkusen and Chelsea by the aggregate of 7-0.

Through three matches thus far on the Champions League group stages, only Genk and Dinamo Zagreb have yet to register a goal. That being said, Genk can still drop into the Europa League with a win somewhere along the way, as Valencia in third place in the group, only has two points to show for its work thus far.

And then there’s Chelsea, which really has very little doubt about being a superior side in this group. The Blues are going to cram in this match on Tuesday just three days after getting ripped 5-3 by Arsenal in front of its hometown crowd at Stamford Bridge, a match which surely didn’t sit well with the hosts.

Needless to say, there could be some anger taken out in this game at Cristal Arena. The Blues outshot Genk 27-5 on the day in the team’s first fixture on English soil, and in terms of shots on net, the tally was 12-0. Fernando Torres struck twice, and he was one of the four different goal scorers in the 5-0 romp that, quite frankly, could have been significantly worse.

Chelsea could be resting some regulars, just as it did in that match a few weeks back against Genk. Much maligned John Terry, the team’s captain, could be one of the players that is given the night off before the team’s trip to Ewood Park this weekend to take on Blackburn.

The Blues will eliminate Genk from the Champions League if they can take three points from this match on the road if Bayer Leverkusen knocks off Valencia as well. Anything less still at least leaves Genk mathematically alive, though we know in all practicality, the team is just hoping for a drop into the Europa League. Chelsea gets into the second round with a win parlayed with a Valencia loss mathematically, and effectively gets in with a win parlayed with a Valencia draw.

Regardless of any other results, the Blues know if they can take four points from these last three fixtures, that they will be in the second round of this tournament, a feat that shouldn’t be that hard for a superior team that struck eight goals in its first three matches to snare seven points.

Posted in Champions League (UCL), Featured

Internazionale FC vs. Juventes Italian Serie A Tips & Predictions

This weekend at the San Siro, the struggling FC Internazionale tries to get back on track when it hosts Juventes FC in a battle of two of the top sides in Italian Serie A.

Of course, things haven’t gone all that well for Inter thus far on the campaign. The team is only 2-2-4 to show for its first eight fixtures. The team has been outscored 14-10 in these fixtures, and the 14 goals allowed is the fourth most in the league. Shockingly, Milan is only two points clear of the relegation zone on the Italian Serie A table, and if in order to get back in competition for European competition for next year, it will have to make up a whopping six points already, and 10 on Juve.

With offensive weapons like Diego Milito, Lucio, Diego Forlan, and Wesley Sneijder, there is no way that teams should be outscoring this club. However, these four only have combined for seven goals in total in eight matches. This isn’t going to cut it to say the least.

The real question mark is whether or not there is going to be anyone that can step up to replace the 21 goals that Samuel Eto’o scored last season. Eto’o has since moved to Russia and become one of the richest men in all of sports, but Inter Milan has yet to really pick up the pieces.

Meanwhile, there is nothing for the fans at the San Siro to worry about right now. Sure, the team would love to be more than 4-4-0 through eight fixtures this year, but for as many draws as there have been on the Italian Serie A schedule this year, that’s not all that bad. There isn’t a team with more wins than Juve with four, though a slew of others have four as well.

The fear for Juventes is that it hasn’t played a heck of a lot of road fixtures. In fact, 11 of its 16 points have come at the Della Alphi, and the team only has two goals scored in three fixtures away from home. In total, Juve is only averaging one goal per game between for and against goals in away fixtures this year.

Again, one could make the argument that this is a team that has underachieved offensively this season. Andrea Pirlo has yet to find the back of the net, and Alessandro Del Piero and Luca Toni are both still searching for their first star of the season. Instead, it has been Alessandro Matri that has been doing the mass majority of the damage, as he has four goals. He and Claudio Marchisio have scored seven of the 11 goals on the season.

There is only one win for Juve in its last three matches, and it took a later winner to steal the victory in the team’s last match against Fiorentina.

There are definitely more problems with Inter in this match. The team was beaten on aggregate 1-0 in two matches by Juventes last year, and the last time that it won a game in this series was in January 2009 in the Coppa Italia.

These two teams are considered to be awfully close on the Italian Serie A betting lines. Inter is getting the very slight nod at pk -120, but both teams are considered strong underdogs to be able to claim three points. A draw is definitely the most likely result of the three in our free soccer punting opinions.

Posted in Featured, Serie A (Italy)

Chelsea FC vs. Arsenal FC: English Premier League Scores, Tips 10/29/11

Normally speaking, when Chelsea FC and Arsenal FC get it on, there is a heck of a lot of hype surrounding the Premier League scores for the game. Though this is going to be a heated battle on Saturday at Stamford Bridge, there is a sense that, at best, these two are competing to be the best team in England outside of the city of Manchester, as both Manchester United and Manchester City are clearly head and shoulders above the pack.

For Chelsea, it is sitting in a comfortable third place on the Premier League table, and there is really no doubt that it is going to be competing in the Champions League again next season. That being said, the Blues are also only a point off of the pace of Manchester United for second, but they have already been smashed by the Red Devils once this season.

The Blues suffered a defeat that they probably won’t live down last week on the Premier League scores, as they were beaten 1-0 against Queens Park Rangers in a match that should have been relatively easy for a road fixture. For a team that is blowing through its first round of Champions League action and is already into the fifth round of the Carling Cup, the defeat was a shock, as it was just the first setback of the season not against Man U.

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There is no doubt that this team is good enough to knock off anyone and everyone in England, especially here at Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard already has four goals this year, as does Daniel Sturridge. Petr Cech, now totally healthy after missing a few weeks with a training knock two months ago, is still one of the best goalies in the world, and in spite of all of the off the field questions revolving around John Terry, he is still a fantastic captain of this team and is one of the best defenders in the game today.

The Gunners were probably left for dead a few weeks ago, but they have almost eerily quietly rebounded to get back within just a few points of European contention for next season. Since a vicious 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford, Arsenal has played tremendously better football, beating Swansea City, Bolton, Sunderland, and Stoke to reach 13 points on the campaign. There is no longer a fear of relegation, and there is even a renewed sense that perhaps a deep run in the Champions League could come as well.

Thus far in three fixtures in the UCL, the Gunners have themselves seven points, including a tremendous road victory at Olympique Marseille last week.

Robin Van Persie has been in fine form as well in recent weeks. He netted a two bagger against Stoke City in a game in which he was used off of the bench in more of a gut shot call by Manager Arsene Wenger, which now gives him a tremendous seven goals in 10 fixtures in the Premier League schedule.

These two teams have understandably played each other quite a bit in recent years in cup matches and domestically. The home team won both meetings last year, with Arsenal winning 3-1 at the Emirates and Chelsea winning 2-0 here at Stamford Bridge. In 2009 though, the Blues swept this series, outscoring Arsenal 5-0 in the two games in the process. The last win for the Gunners on the road in this series came by the count of 2-1 in November 2008.

We’re fully prepared to make our Premier League tips on Arsenal in this one. It is catching a full goal on the Premier League odds, and we would even fancy in its form, that it has a decent chance of cashing the 5 to 1 odds that it can take all three points from this match.

Posted in English Premier League, Featured

Italian Serie A Table: Palermo vs. Lecce Football Tips & Predictions

The Italian Serie A 2011-12 season hasn’t exactly gotten off to a flying start for either Lecce Football Club or Palermo, but the two teams meet up on Thursday in a great clash that will help sort out the Italian Serie A table. This clash from the Renzo Barbera will start at 2:45 p.m. (ET)

Palermo has to be happy to be back at home, where it has three victories to start the season. One of those wins, the victory against Internazionale, has to be considered a fantastic victory. Over the course of the last two weeks though, the team has taken on both AS Roma and AC Milan on the road, and very expectedly, the team was beaten on aggregate 4-0 in those two fixtures.

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Manager Devis Mangia is one of the youngest coaches in Italian soccer, but if he can figure out how to get his Rosanero back into competition for a spot in one of the European competitions next year, it will be a huge triumph, and perhaps the team won’t be needing a more permanent successor to its axed manager from last year after all.

Last year, Palermo took 11 victories at home in the 19 league matches to put it in eighth position on the Italy Serie A table, and we tend to think that it will have to hold serve once again at home to be able to stay at least in the top part of the pack with teams like Roma, Juve, Lazio, and the likes. Finding some more offense will be key as well, as no one on the squad has more than three strikes so far on the season.

Lecce just barely avoided the drop into Serie B last year, and we have to wonder whether it will be able to survive for a second straight season. Right now, it appears as though the answer to that question is no. Likely relegation candidates, Atalanta, Novara, and Chievo Verona are all in front of Lecce in the Italian Serie A table, and the team only has one victory to show for its work in seven fixtures thus far on the season.

Surprisingly, four of the team’s five defeats have come at home, and its better results have been on the road. Lecce scored a 2-0 with at Bologna in its first road match of the year, but since that point, it has drawn at Genoa and lost at Siena without scoring a goal in either duel.

The offense woke up on Sunday against AC Milan, but in the end, a 3-0 lead just wasn’t enough to stop Kevin Prince Boateng and AC Milan from posting four goals in the second half without response to steal not just one, but all three of the points.

As expected, Palermo is the heavy full goal favorite at home against Lecce. We just don’t see how the visitors are mustering up enough energy after the dreadful second half against Milan to be able to put up all that much of a fight in this one.

Posted in Featured, Serie A (Italy)

Birmingham FC vs. Leeds United Football Club Tips 10/26/11

Our English soccer scores predictions continue on Wednesday afternoon with the clash at St. Andrews Stadium between Birmingham FC and Leeds United FC.

Birmingham might be in 14th place in the English League Championship table, but don’t let that fool you. The Blues are three fixtures behind most of the rest of the pack, and if they can take even a modest five points from those three extra games, they’ll be right back in the thick of things in the Premiership Promotion race.

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So far this year at St. Andrews, Birmingham has been spectacular. The team is 3-1-0 to show for its four fixtures in the second flight of English football, though the schedule hasn’t been anything to really write home about. Even in the Europa League, where the Blues are one of the rare Championship sides competing in the competition, they have a 3-0 win over CD Nacional de Madeira in the playoff round. However, the team has proven to be outmatched in the first qualifying round of the tournament, as it has three losses in a row, including two of which have come at home.

As always, you have to keep an eye on Chris Wood, Chris Burke, and Adam Rooney when you’re watching Birmingham FC. These three have combined for 14 of the team’s 17 goals on the season, and if the Blues can keep that type of offense up, they are going to be tough to keep out of the Premier League again next year.

Perhaps the best thing that Leedsunited ever did was go into administration. Sure, it took the team all the way down to League One for a number of years, and there was even a flirtation with League Two for awhile, but that was probably the only way that the club was going to have a chance of getting back to the top flight of English soccer again.

In 2009-10, Leeds United FC came back to the Championship, and now, they are in a position where they really could make their triumphant return to the Premiership.

United is 6-3-3 in its first 12 fixtures this year, and three points in this match, the extra match that it has in hand against some of the rest of the top contenders could put it back in the automatic promotion range instead of in the promotion playoff where it currently sits.

Leeds has gotten at least a result in five straight fixtures since getting blasted out of the Carling Cup by Manchester United. Even then, in the Championship, the last loss came at Ipswich Town by the count of 2-1 on August 27th. The only match this year in which the team didn’t make it into the scoring column came on August 13th against Middlesbrough.

We tend to think that we are going to see goals aplenty in this game, and we are shocked to see the ‘total’ at 2.5, even with an ‘over’ price of -130. Birmingham gets the slight nod over Leeds at +130, or you can bet on the Asian Handicap at -150 at a pick ‘em.

Posted in English Championship, Featured

Italian Serie A Table: FC Juventes vs. Fiorentina Tips & Predictions

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FC Juventes was supposed to be atop the Italian Serie A table this year. Seven matches in, that isn’t quite the case yet, but they can become table toppers if they can take three points over Fiorentina on Tuesday after at 2:45 p.m. (ET) at Juventes Stadium.

It has to be frustrating right now to be dressed in white and black. Alessandro Matri already has three goals on the campaign, as does Claudio Marchisio, and the talent is there for this team to really run away with the 2011-12 Scudetto. However, the team has had four draws already in seven fixtures, and though it hasn’t been beaten, it also hasn’t been able to fully take advantage of the slow start to the season that AC Milan and Inter Milan have both had.

These four draws have come in the last five matches, and the only win of the bunch ironically came against AC Milan right here at Juventes Stadium.

There could be some tough times ahead for the next week or two for FC Juventes as well. Gianluigi Buffon, whom many call the best goalkeeper in the entire world, suffered a shoulder injury in training and was held out of the lineup in the 2-2 draw against Lazio last week. His replacement, Marco Storari looked shaky to say the least with his two goals allowed against Genoa, and he hopes to be able to fix those problems against Fiorentina this week.

Stuck in the middle of the table, Fiorentina is going to be one of these teams that probably doesn’t have a heck of a lot to play for down the stretch of the season. We don’t see this team really scratching into the Top 5 this year, especially with the solid starts by Udinese and Lazio, but we also don’t see relegation being in the plans either.

The team hasn’t been in great form of late, failing to win four straight fixtures after reaming Parma 3-0 at the Stadio Artemio Franchi on September 21st. The 2-2 draw at home against Catania was a disappointing one to say the least for the hosts, especially after Stevan Jovetic was able to give the Viola a lead twice in the match.

Of the eight goals that Fiorentina has this year in Serie A competition, four have been scored by ovetic. Alessio Cerci has three straight, while Alberto Gilardino has a goal to his name as well.

Even though Juve has struggled and doesn’t have its net minder, it is expected to take all three points from this match. The hosts are half ball favorites at -150, and our soccer punters are expecting to see that price pay off.

Last year, these two teams played to two relatively lifeless draws, a scoreless result when the Viola were hosting, and a 1-1 draw here at Juventes.

Posted in Featured, Serie A (Italy)

Brighton and Hove Football Club vs. West Ham FC Tips 10/24/11

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The action on the England Championship table is going to be heating up on Monday night at Amex Stadium, where Brighton and Hove Football Club will take on West Ham United.

The Hammers are in good shape right now for a return to the Premier League. They’re tied for second in the table through a dozen fixtures, and they have the second best goal differential in the league at +11. West Ham is hoping for an immediate return to the top flight of England soccer after last season’s disastrous collapse that ended in bitter relegation.

This year, the team has really held it together with Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan doing the majority of the damage. These two have seven goals between them, and they have gotten a ton of help from Matthew Taylor, who has a goal and six assists.

Of course, it also helps the Hammers that they have a top flight caliber goaltender in Robert Green manning the pipes. Green has had all sorts of experience both with the England National Team and with other Premier League clubs over the year, and he is hoping to parlay all of that into a promotion run for West Ham this year. Thus far on the season, he has only allowed eight goals in his nine fixtures, and he has four clean sheets to his credit.

You have to go back to 1983 to find the last time that the Seagulls were in the top flight of English soccer, but the club hopes that this could be the year that it gets turned around again. However, we have to realize that this is still a club that is trying to recover from a lowly spell in which it just barely avoided the drop into Conference in the early 1990s.

Brighton has had back to back draws to its credit, taking a point both from Milwall on the road and Hull City at home. Before that though, its defense really struggled, allowing three goals in three successive games against Leeds United, Crystal Palace, and Ipswich Town, all of which have been Premier League teams in the recent past.

At 5-4-3 through a dozen fixtures, the Seagulls are just a point behind the rest of the pack in 3rd through 6th, the teams that will compete for the English Premier League promotion playoff. What has to be most impressive about this season, especially after promotion from League One last year, is that Brighton and Hove FC have a +2 goal differential. There’s a real question as to whether that will keep up for the duration of the year or not, but it is certainly a good sign that this team has assembled a solid squad that can compete at this level.

These two teams are basically on level pegging on the England Championship odds. West Ham gets the slight nod at +135, while the draw seems to be the most enticing result at +230.

Posted in English Championship, Featured

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