Predicting the beautiful game can be a fool’s errand, but fortune favors the bold. As this extraordinary season of soccer continues, Yahoo Soccer has run the stats and analyzed the form books for its biggest games this weekend…
Chelsea vs. Manchester City
Thursday, 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN
The first top-four clash of the Premier League restart arrives this Thursday, as Chelsea hosts Manchester City. The Londoners marked their return to action with a win over Aston Villa on Sunday, thanks in no small part to a goal from super sub Christian Pulisic.
City, meanwhile, has looked sublime in their two games since the restart, which have returned an 8-0 aggregate score. It’s hard to see how any side, even one as brilliant as Liverpool, could be 20 points clear of Pep Guardiola’s charges.
The visitors are favorites with the bookmakers (they are -125 for the win on BetMGM), which is an easy conclusion to reach based on their superior recent form and the head-to-head record. Guardiola’s men have won six of the last seven encounters, most recently a comeback 2-1 win at the Etihad.
Chelsea have more at stake and more reason to fight. They will be looking to widen the gap between themselves and Manchester United in fifth place, and Guardiola is likely to heavily rotate his side (and not just because he hates your fantasy team).
The reigning Premier League champions will also be without star striker Sergio Aguero for their trip to Stamford Bridge, which is a blow considering the Argentine has scored five times in his last five matches against The Blues.
However, a City win remains the most likely outcome. They are that good right now.
Prediction: Chelsea 0-2 Manchester City
Best Bet: Man City to win and under 2.5 total goals (+400 with BetMGM). The temptation to bet on a big tally for City is strong, but there have been under 2.5 goals in City’s last four league away games, and in their last four league visits to Stamford Bridge. Those odds are too good to ignore for an under 2.5 goals market.
Celta Vigo vs. Barcelona
Saturday, 11 a.m. ET, beIN SPORTS
We have ourselves a real title race at the top of La Liga as Real Madrid and Barcelona go toe-to-toe. This weekend, Barca continue its title defense on the road at Celta Vigo.
The Blaugrana are unsurprising favorites in this one (-162 at BetMGM), which makes sense on the surface: Celta is hovering above the relegation zone and boasts only a single win in its last five matches.
However, an upset looms here.
Barcelona looked unconvincing in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Athletic Club and is likely still reeling from a scoreless draw against Sevilla last weekend.
Furthermore, they have a questionable record at the Estadio de Balaídos, failing to win in their last five visits and losing on three occasions.
A Celta side that mauled Alaves 6-0 last weekend may feel confident of handing Real Madrid a significant advantage in the title race this weekend.
Prediction: Celta Vigo 2-1 Barcelona
Best Bet: A Celta Vigo win is great value at +450 on BetMGM. The more cavalier bettor may also consider a Celta win and over 2.5 total goals at +700. Three of the last five encounters between these sides in Galicia have featured over 2.5 goals.
Juventus vs. Lecce
Friday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+
The award for Longest Odds For a Win in a Soccer Game goes to Lecce this weekend, which is a massive +1600 on BetMGM when it heads to Turin to face reigning champions Juventus.
Lecce — playing in Serie A for the first time in seven years and looking like contenders to return to the second tier — kicked off their restart with a 4-1 home pummeling from Milan.
But the minnows from Southern Italy are capable of a shock. In February, they stunned Napoli by leaving the Stadio San Paolo with a 3-2 win. It’s also worth noting that a Juve side without Cristiano Ronaldo was held to a 1-1 draw at Lecce in October.
The visitors, however, are unlikely to get a result in this encounter. Juventus will be looking to consolidate its narrow lead at the top of Serie A, and is rarely troubled at home by lesser opposition. Only Napoli has defeated them in the league in Turin since October 2017.
Furthermore, Lecce has lost on the road to the other four of Serie A’s top five teams this season, conceding four goals in each game.
This defeat may not be quite so heavy, but expect a routine win for the Old Lady.
Prediction: Juventus 2-0 Lecce
Best Bet: Under 2.5 total goals (+195 on BetMGM). Lecce may have a leaky defense, but they have already limited Juve to a single goal this season, and Maurizio Sarri’s side have only scored more than two goals once in its last nine outings.
Wolfsburg vs. Bayern Munich
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. ET, FS1
The Bundesliga’s Mesiterschale trophy will remain in Bavaria once again, as Bayern Munich has already sealed an eighth consecutive league title. To be fair, that’s a sentence that could have confidently been written at the start of the season.
Hansi Flick’s side are gunning for the treble and will stay warm for the July 4 German Cup final with a visit to Wolfsburg.
Wolfsburg has endured mixed results since the restart, but enters this encounter on the back of a resounding 4-1 win over Schalke. Bayern, meanwhile, will be looking for its 16th consecutive win in all competitions.
Bayern may be tempted to rotate and rest key players ahead of the German Cup Final, which may explain Wolfsburg’s relatively short odds (+290 on BetMGM) for the win. However, the smart money is on the recently crowned champions. They have won their last four visits to the Volkswagen Arena, and boast an 11-1 aggregate score from their last three league encounters.
Expect Bayern to wrap up a sublime second half of the season in appropriate style.
Prediction: Wolfsburg 0-3 Bayern Munich
Best Bet: Bayern to win both halves (+170 on BetMGM). Flick’s side have won both halves in their last seven away games.
More from Yahoo Sports: