Corner Picks is on a run. We went 4-0 in our picks last week, giving us two perfect weeks in a row. I don't know what, if anything, has changed. Maybe stepping away during the World Cup helped bring things into perspective. Maybe I've got a horseshoe wedged deep where the sun doesn't shine. Again, I don't know.
I know that the column is hot, and when things are going well, you're better off not questioning it. You keep your head down and go with it. This week will provide a test. There's no Premier League action, so we're going on a tour of the continent. I've got picks from Italy, Spain and Germany, plus the parlay.
If Corner Picks puts together another perfect week, we'll know that the column has mastered soccer and that I'm the greatest soccer mind the world has ever known. And if that does turn out to be the case, I will make the rest of the world call it soccer too. These are my terms. Meet them or suffer the consequences. All odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
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Napoli vs. Roma
Date: Sunday, Jan. 29 | Time: 2:45 p.m. ET | Watch: Paramount+
Please understand that I know how condescending what I'm about to say sounds, but I'm sincere when I say it. As a Napoli fan, I am thrilled with the season the team is having. Napoli have dominated Serie A and have a 12-point lead in the league at the halfway mark. They're on pace for 100 points. They've also been dominant in the Champions League. It's wonderful. At the same time, I kind of wish the race for Napoli's first Seria A title since 1990 was a little more dramatic. Instead of living and dying with the results every week, the only thing I have to fear is an epic collapse. That's not fun. Nor is it likely, because another reason I wish the race were tighter is I believe the fact it isn't says more about the rest of Serie A than it does Napoli, but that's an entirely different story for another time.
What matters now is this match. We've made a lot of money in this column betting Roma against bad teams and betting against Roma against good teams, but we're changing the script a bit this week. Thanks to the 15-point penalty suffered by Juventus, Roma find themselves in the thick of the race for a Champions League spot, and they've played better lately. As with all Jose Mourinho teams, the impetus for the improvement has been defensively. Roma have allowed an average of 0.6 expected goals (xG) over their last 11 Serie A matches. They only allowed more than 1.0 xG in any of them. That includes the 1-0 loss to Napoli in late October, in which Roma was the first to truly fluster Napoli before they found a breakthrough goal. I expect this weekend's matchup won't look much different than the first. The Pick: Under 2.5 (-115)
Real Madrid vs. Real Sociedad
Date: Sunday, Jan. 29 | Time: 3 p.m. ET | Watch: ESPN+
It's a must-have for both teams. Barcelona have a three-point lead over Real Madrid and a six-point lead on Sociedad with a match in hand. If either team loses (Barcelona is playing Girona this weekend), there's a good chance their chances of winning the league will no longer be deemed realistic. And I think the odds will be a lot worse for Sociedad once this match wraps up.
Sociedad sits comfortably in third, thanks to having one of the best defenses in La Liga. While they've allowed 18 goals this season (8th in the league), their xG against of 14.8 ranks third. They've been a bit unlucky. Unfortunately, there is some level of bumslaying in those numbers. Sociedad have made life extremely difficult for the Spanish clubs not competing for anything, but they haven't been as effective against the teams at the top. No team in the league has scored more goals than Real Madrid, nor is their one averaging more xG per match. I don't think the Sociedad defense will hold up here. The Pick: Real Madrid (-150)
Hoffenheim vs. Borussia Monchengladbach
Date: Saturday, Jan. 28 | Time: 9:30 a.m. ET | Watch: ESPN+
I began a tradition a few years ago where I buy my favorite shirt every season from a team I don't support. Last year I bought the black, white and pink PSG alternate. This season I bought Monchengladbach's home kit. This has absolutely nothing to do with my play, it's just a nice shirt, and I like it a lot. I hope it has goals in it because we're betting the over here.
I don't bet the Bundesliga in the column often, but it's a fun league if you like goals. Bundesliga matches average 3.27 goals this season, which is 0.33 more goals per game than the next highest of Europe's top five leagues (France's Ligue 1 is at 2.94). This match is likely to add to that average. Hoffenheim has been outscored at home 13-14, but their xG at home is 16.1-10.8. They've been unlucky. Meanwhile, Monchengladbach's defending falls off a cliff when they hit the road. They go from allowing an average of 1.32 xG per match at home to 1.6 on the road. This line is too juicy to pass up, given the chance of a goal fest breaking out. The Pick: Over 3.5 (+120)
We're keeping things simple this weekend with a three-team parlay paying +111.
- Bayern Munich (-320)
- Atalanta (-310)
- PSG (-460)