Outright Football Markets: Playing the Long Game? – Part 3 – European League Focus

I have now looked at outright markets for the Premier League and explored the minefields that are the Championship, League 1 and League 2. It is these four leagues that punters tend to gravitate towards when looking for outright markets. With so many betting markets, however, could it pay to look overseas? Let’s take a look at a few European leagues to find out.

‘Big 5’ European Leagues

In Europe, there is a hierarchy of leagues. The ‘big 5’ consists of England, Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. The winners of these five leagues are Top Seeds in the Champions League draw, along with the winners of the Champions League, Europa League, and the champions of Russia (although Porto’s recent exploits mean Portugal is close).

I’ve already covered England, so now it is the turn of the remaining four leagues to fall under the outright market microscope. The trouble is, all four leagues have been uncompetitive for the last few years.

German Bundesliga

Bayern Munich has won seven Bundesliga titles in a row and 15 of the last 21. They are 1.25 favourites to retain it again and 1.005 to finish in the Top 4! Borussia Dortmund is the only realistic contender having thrown away a big lead last season. Dortmund was busy in the transfer market and welcome back Mats Hummels who has left Bayern. If you fancy a changing of the guard, Dortmund is 5.50 to win the league.

Otherwise, the main value to be had comes from the Top 4 market. Bayer Leverkusen is one of the most exciting sides in the league, and have finished in the top four in 4 of the last 7 seasons. A price of 2.25 looks reasonable since many of the club’s rivals have failed to replace star players. 

At the other end of the table, Paderborn is the likeliest side to suffer relegation as odds of 1.57 testify. Including the 2014/15 season, Paderborn has been relegated three times and promoted twice since! In 2016/17, the club should have been demoted to division four but survived as another club couldn’t obtain a license. 

Consecutive promotions and a Phoenix-like rise mean they are back in the top flight but are unlikely to stay there. They sold their top scorer from last season and have a few lower league players in to pad out the squad. Union Berlin isn’t much better, but if you can find decent odds on Paderborn to finish bottom, they are worth taking on.

Spanish Primera Liga

La Liga is traditionally a two-horse race, but Barcelona has won 10 of the last 15 titles, including four of the last five. Only Atletico Madrid has upset the party (2013/14) since Valencia under Rafa Benitez in 2003/04. Aside from one more Valencia title, and one for Deportivo La Coruna, no one outside of the five sides mentioned have won La Liga since Bilbao in 1983/84.

Atletico lost Rodri and Griezmann but reinvested heavily, and also enjoyed a 7-3 win over Real Madrid in a pre-season romp. Barcelona remains favourites at 1.61 while Real are at 2.62 and Atletico are 13.00. Everyone else is 101.00 and worth ignoring. In fact, the only likely outright value you’ll get is on the Top 4 market.

The problem is, you are betting on a team to finish fourth because unless Atletico has a bad year or Real capitulate, no one is breaking into the top 3. Sevilla missed out by just two points last season and could be value at 3.50 if Europa League commitments don’t hinder them. 

Bear in mind that 60-65 points will be enough so Villareal could be outstanding value at 9.00. The Yellow Submarine had a dreadful season in 18/19 but have finished in the top 6 in the previous five seasons before their recent slump.

As for relegation, the bookies don’t bother giving odds for the big two, and probably shouldn’t for Atletico either. The problem here is that La Liga has several poor sides. Aside from the promoted teams, Levante could be value at 4.00. During their two seasons in La Liga since promotion in 2017, they have notched 46 and 44 points respectively. Levante is a yo-yo club and could become embroiled in another bottom of the table fight.

Italian Serie A

Italy is yet another country with a dominant club. Juventus has won the last eight titles in a row and is almost impossible to oppose at odds of 1.44. Large winning margins are normal for The Old Lady so once again; it is a question of who will finish in the Top 4.

Inter Milan have strengthened significantly, and Lukaku will probably score plenty of goals. A fourth-placed finish last season and the subsequent additions mean Inter are well placed to challenge Napoli for the second spot. AC Milan has an exciting goalscorer in Piatek but will need him to stay fit to be in the fight for fourth. 

Roma might be a value bet at 3.20 given their recent experiences although the club has regressed in the last few years; going from a genuine title challenge and 87 points in 2016/17, and a Champions League semi-final in 2017/18, to 66 points and sixth place last season.

The three newly-promoted sides are all odds-on to go down, but all three have prior experience in Serie A. Genoa could be very good value at 3.50 since their last few seasons have seen them perilously close to relegation. They survived last season by one goal on goal difference, and their 2016/17 season total of 36 points would send them down most years. 

If you fancy a long shot, Fiorentina is a side on a serious downward trajectory which makes 41.00 seem a little long. Aside from £9m signing Erick Pulgar, they have not invested heavily and were just three points clear of relegation last season. Realistically, there are enough poor sides to keep Fiorentina safe, but a bad start could result in those relegation odds tumbling. 

French Ligue 1

In what is a depressingly familiar story, France’s Ligue 1 champion in 2019/20 is almost certainly going to be PSG again. Odds of 1.14 may be too long for a side that will probably have the league wrapped up by October. PSG has won six of the last seven titles. A last season ‘on the beach’ run of form meant they only won the league by 16 points. 

Again, it is a different market that may offer value. In France, the market is for the Top 3, so in other words, two teams to join PSG. Lyon has once again lost major players, and while this is how the club operates, there is a danger of an ‘off’ season, which makes odds of 1.50 unattractive.

Lille finished second last season, and while they outperformed expected goals stats by a fair margin, they were still the third-best side in France according to those metrics. The loss of Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal will hurt, but Lille still seems a fair bet at 5.00. 

At the other end, Dijon won their relegation playoff and are joint-favourites to go down with newly-promoted Brest at odds of 2.75. Strasbourg finished 11th last season but massively overperformed on goals scored. The surprise Coupe de la Ligue winners must also contend with the Europa League. If they get through to the group stages, the fixture pile-up could see them become good value at 9.00 to go down. 

Bordeaux is also great value at 10.00. They finished 14th last season, won just three of their last 17 matches, and were the fourth-worst team in Ligue 1 according to xG statistics. To compound matters, they have sold an important defender and are yet to replace him at the time of writing. 

What About Other European Leagues?

There are markets for a lot of other leagues, but you’ll need to have a fair bit of time on your hands to research them all. Here is a quick overview of the odds of five other European leagues for which there are markets.

Czech First League

Slavia Prague is 1.66 favourites to win the league, followed by Viktoria Plzen at 3.25 and Sparta Prague at 6.00. There are no other realistic contenders with Banik Ostrava next at 67.00. 

Austrian Bundesliga

It is all about FC Salzburg who are 1.16 favourites. LASK Linz could push them some of the way having finished 12 points behind last season in runners-up spot. Linz is available at odds of 10.00. While Sturm Graz is next at 11.00, it is hard to see them making an impression.

Dutch Eredivisie

It looks like another two-horse race between Ajax (1.72) and PSV (2.10). Both sides are miles ahead of the rest, but it could pay to side with PSV as Ajax has lost Matthijs de Light and Frenkie de Jong from last season’s wonderful side.

Portuguese Primeira Liga

In what is another two-horse race, Benfica is slight favourites at 1.90 while Porto is next at 2.25. Sporting Lisbon is the third favourites at 7.50 followed by Braga at 15.00. In reality, the big two are well ahead of the rest. 

Russian Premier League

The bookies can’t see past last year’s champions, Zenit Saint Petersburg, who won by eight points. They are 1.40 to win again this season but are CKSA Moscow (5.50) and 2017/18 champions, Lokomotiv Moscow (11.00) being overlooked? Time will tell. 

Final Thoughts

If you have enough time on your hands, you may find a lot of value in the lesser-known European leagues, assuming the odds are available. As for the major four leagues I looked at, next season’s champions seem all but guaranteed in Italy and France. There may, however, be value in the top 3 or top 4 markets, not to mention the relegation battles. 

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