If you are going to bet on football, just like any other sport, then it is a good idea to devise a strategy first rather than just betting on games on a whim or a “feeling” of how it is going to go.
Here we look at some potential football betting strategies you could use to improve your betting. If you have your own football betting strategy you have used and found successful, please drop us a line at email@example.com and we would be happy to take a look at it.
Straegy One: Focusing on Home and Away Form
There are some teams that for one reason or another do much better on home turf and even a few that do better when travelling away. However, the odds for football matches are normally based on a team’s overall form and not on the specific home/away disparity they may have. Let’s have a look at some examples:
Shalke 04 are a particularly strong team at home and weak away from home.
They finished 6th in the Bundesliga in the 2014/15 season, a decent finish that qualified them for the Europa League.
However, it was their home form that really got them to this finish. They only lost 2 of 17 home games all season, winning 10 and drawing 5. Their home wins included some notable victories against teams like Wolfsburg, who finished second, Monchengladbach, who finished 3rd, Augsburg who finished 5th and a draw against runaway champions Bayern Munich.
Conversely, their away form was atrocious. They won just 3 away games all season, drawing 4 and losing 10.
They followed a similar pattern in the 2013/14 season, winning 12 out of 17 home games and only losing 3, whilst only winning 7 away games all season.
And so far in 2015/16 they have continued in the same vein.
The way to profit from this is that the bookies will price up Schalke on their overall form and their strength relative to the opposition rather than the considerable disparity in their home and away form. You can therefore get very good value on Schalke in their home games and value in laying them when they are away.
There are many examples like this. QPR in the 2014/15 season of the Premiership were an example of a very poor away side, winning just 2 out of 19 away games all season, drawing 1 and losing 16. That equated to a loss rate of 84%. Yet when playing mid-table sides, you would have got considerably better odds than 1.2 on QPR losing – which is the approximate odds they should have been based on an 84% loss rate.
On the other side of things, Valencia were incredibly strong at home in the 2014/15 season of the Primera Liga. They lost just one of their home games all season, winning 15 out of 19.
Their one home loss came against champions Barcelona, a forgivable result. But they had some superb wins at home, including against Real Madrid, Athletico Madrid and Sevilla.
Amazingly, they beat every single side from the bottom half of the table who traveled to the Mestalla – but more about records against certain types of team later.
However, Valencia have struggled greatly on their travels in recent seasons, winning just 3 away games in the 2013/14 season, 7 away games in 2014/15 and 2 so far in 2015/16.
This discrepancy may be down to the intimidating atmosphere at the Mestalla, a stadium usually packed to its 55,000 capacity and known as one of the toughest places to play at in La Liga. It may also be that Valencia’s playing style is particularly effective at home.
In any event, there is a clear pattern here and it represents a great opportunity to profit from.
Summary: by studying a website such as soccerstats you can get some very useful information about teams’ home and away records. There is great value to be had in focusing on these records and using them in your betting.
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Strategy Two: Opposing out-of-form “Big Name” Teams
One of the surest way to profit from football is to oppose big name teams when they are out of form. The markets generally do not catch up with their form and are pricing these teams almost solely on their name value.
A great example of this came in the 2014/15 season of the Premiership.
Liverpool towards the end of the season were having a torrid time on and off the pitch. They had very little to play for, having missed out on Champions League qualification. The ongoing sage of Raheem Sterling’s potential transfer to Manchester City was clearly unsettling for the club. Stephen Gerrard was coming towards the end of his glorious Anfield career and his best days were perhaps behind him as his mind turned to his next venture in the MLS. Liverpool’s key striker, Daniel Sturridge, was out injured. But perhaps most serious of all, the team and fans seemed to have lost faith in manager Brendan Rodgers and the team performances were therefore lacklustre.
All of this combined in a perfect storm to make Liverpool uniquely opposable towards the end of the 2014/15 season and into the 2015/16 season. After losing to Manchester United on 22nd March, which all but ended their hopes of Champions League qualification, Liverpool then proceeded to win only 2 of their remaining 8 games, losing to Arsenal, Hull, Crystal Palace and Stoke.
The last of those matches illustrates the great value you can get by opposing big name teams. In addition to all the aforementioned problems about Liverpool, the stats showed that Stoke had an impressive home record that season, with a W9-D3-L6 record whilst Liverpool’s away record was W8-D3-L7 – so broadly similar records.
Yet Stoke were priced at 5/2 for this game, whilst Liverpool were priced at 6/5.
There can be no logical reason for this pricing, other than that Liverpool have enormous “name value” for being one of the biggest clubs in the World based on their achievements over the last 50 years. But that counts for little in the here and now.
Well famously the result was a resounding 6-1 win for Stoke.
The mediocre form continued for Liverpool into the 2015/16 season, winning just 3 of their first 10 games in the Premier League. However, with the arrival of Jurgen Klopp as manager, there are signs that Liverpool’s fortunes may be improving and it may best to watch how things develop under the German rather than opposing them for the time being.
However, there are great opportunities all the time to profit from market overestimation of big name teams. AC Milan are a classic example of this. It has been a number of seasons since the Rossoneri mounted a serious challenge for the Serie A title.
Their last couple of seasons finished with positions in the league table of seventh and tenth and they currently sit 8th in Serie A at the time of writing. Yet they are often priced as if they are still one of the top teams in Serie A. This is purely based on their name value and their past achievements, not their form in recent seasons.
Manchester United under David Moyes were another example. They were priced up as if Alex Ferguson was still the manager, but the team played entirely differently and was a shadow of its former self.
This “name value” can also work in another way – by making very good teams with little name recognition go “under the radar” for quite some time before the market catches up.
Good examples of this were Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund, who came from relative obscurity of mid-table finishes to win back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12. Despite breaking many records in those seasons and finishing well ahead of Bayern Munich, they were often priced at considerable higher prices than their rivals.
Another example has been Athletico Madrid under Diego Simeone, who captured the Primera Liga title in 2013/14, as well reaching the Champions League Final and then finishing third in the table the next season. But for a long time, the market simply would not believe how well they were doing based on resources a fraction of the size of their rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The point is that the market does eventually catch up to teams like Dortmund and Athletico Madrid and prices them as they should be. You won’t find much value on these teams now, but there is often a good season and a half of value to be had whilst punters come to terms with the quality of these “lesser lights.”
Summary: There is great value to be had by opposing “big name” teams who are out of form and backing high quality lesser-known teams. This should not be based on just short runs of form like four or five games, when any team can hit a good or bad run of form, but stronger underlying trends over a season or even a number of seasons. The great thing is that value can be had over long periods by following this betting strategy.
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Strategy Three: Opposing Teams who Need to Win
One of the biggest myths in football is that teams who need to win, more often than not, do win.
This is simply not true and there is a great opportunity to profit from this popular misconception. The vast majority of the time, bookies will price up teams who have to win to secure promotion, avoid relegation etc, much shorter than they would normally be during the main season. This is in expectation of an avalanche of money for such teams as punters pile in, sure in their view that because these teams need to win, they will.
Writing in The Definitive Guide to Betting on Sport, Kevin Pullein comprehensively refutes this theory with data from 10 seasons of the English Championship and League One. Pullein points out that “these promotion-hunting teams did worse in May, when they played their last few games, than they did in any other month of the season.”
If the theory that teams who need to win generally do held up, then you would expect the opposite to be true – they should win more games in May.
Rubbing salt in the wound of proponents of this theory, Pullein goes on “Over the years in the Racing Post, I have produced a number of similar graphs, each one depicting the results achieved by a different group of teams who were either chasing promotion or running away from relegation. And they all pointed to exactly the same conclusion – that teams who need to win in the final few weeks of the season are no more likely to do so than they are at any other time.”
If you think about it, the theory rests on two presumptions – both of which the evidence suggest are likely to be false.
The first is that teams who need to win will be trying harder than they were for the rest of season. But that presumes they weren’t trying in previous weeks. Despite popular notions that footballers are overpaid and underworked, to suggest that they are consistently not trying when they run out in front of thousands of fans and millions watching on TV, doing the thing most of them love and are very competitive about, does not stand up to scrutiny.
Secondly, it presumes pressure will produce better performances. But often in life pressure can do the opposite – those who regularly watch sports like golf and snooker will be used to seeing players missing shots under the extreme pressure of winning a tournament or maintaining their tour status that they would never miss during a practice session or less intense playing situation.
The same may well be the case in football. Sven Goran Eriksson is quoted as saying he has seen a number of players who will make 99% of penalties in training but only make around 60% in actual matches.
Pressure may actually hinder players from producing their best then, rather than inspiring them. Certainly the statistics would seem to back this up.
Summary: At the end of the season, there is a great opportunity to profit from the strategy of opposing teams who need to win when their odds are shorter than they would normally be during the main season.
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Strategy Four: Backing Teams after Playing in Europe
There seems to be almost universally-accepted wisdom that teams are liable to suffer a dip in form after playing in European games – either the Champions League or Europa League – and should therefore be opposed.
You often hear pundits talking about how tired teams will be after playing in Europe, how it will have “taken a lot out of them” and there will surely be a reaction.
However, once again the evidence simply does not back this up. Kevin Pullein presents data from seven seasons of Premiership teams playing in European fixtures.
And guess what? Not only does their performance not dip after playing in Europe, but actually slightly improves. Teams won 49% of games after playing in Europe versus 48% over the course of the season.
If we think about it, is this really that surprising? We are talking about highly paid, elite athletes with some of the best training facilities and medical and fitness teams in the world making sure they are in prime physical condition.
Plus of course, half of European games are played at home, so don’t involve any travel. Even those that do, a lot of them will be to venues close by in Europe like France, Spain and Germany – not the most arduous places to visit.
Summary: There can be value in backing teams after they have played in Europe. There is a common misconception that their form will suffer following a European game, but the statistics do not back this up.
Strategy Five: Backing Specialist Teams
We mentioned above the example of Valencia, who had an astonishing record at home last season against teams from the lower half of the La Liga table, beating every single one of them.
There is clearly an edge to be found in backing teams who have a consistent record against a particular type of team. Manchester United under Alex Ferguson were past masters at beating mid and lower table teams, particularly at Old Trafford.
When you looked at their record against fellow top six teams, it was often fairly average and certainly not particularly outstanding. But they invariably beat the teams from 7th downwards – and it was that consistency in racking up points against these teams that won them so many league titles.
Now of course you may point out that United would have been short odds to beat a lot of those lower table sides at around 1.2-1.3 for a lot of home games. But the point is that statistically they should have been around 1.1 for a lot of these games based on their record at Old Trafford over many years. So it still would have represented value to have backed them.
A tipping service that has proved particularly effective at picking these specialist teams is Banker Bets. They tip at odds-on but have managed to achieve a very impressive record betting on football. An example of how they would break down a team’s form is below from the Ligue One match in 2014/15 between Lyon and Evian:
“A critical match for Lyon as they look to close the 3 point gap with Paris St Germain at the top of the table.
Lyon are an excellent home side with a record 13-2-2 for the season, having scored 37 goals and conceded 10.
Evian are third from bottom and have an away record of 4-2-11 with 19 goals scored and 32 conceded, all four of their wins coming against the bottom 7.
They’ve struggled tremendously against the better sides in Ligue 1, losing all 9 matches to date away to sides in the top half of the table by a total score of 23-6.”
Lyon ran out comfortable winners in the end, winning 2-0 and confirmed the form set out in this example. Taking the time to analyse form and see how results stack up against teams from different parts of the division can pay dividends.
Teams can conversely be better against top teams, often raising their game, then disappointing against mid and lower-ranking clubs.
This has often been the case with Liverpool in the Premiership over the years and so far seems to be holding true for the reign of Jurgen Klopp.
Astonishing wins against top clubs, including 4-1 away at Manchester City, 3-1 away at Chelsea, 6-1 away at Southampton, have been interspersed with losses at home to Crystal Palace and away at Newcastle. It is probably too early to conclude that this is a trend, but is worth watching to see if it does become a pattern. It may be Liverpool have the potential to raise their game when feeling inspired and given space to play, but struggle to replicate this when faced with more dogged, defensive teams who aim to frustrate them.
So a variety of strategies there for you to consider. Plus you can always try out some free football tips if you are struggling to devise your own strategy!