- The major European football leagues have started to return to action following a suspension of play due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The English Premier League suspended play on March 9.
- The EPL returns to action on Wednesday and will broadcast all 92 remaining fixtures live.
If you’re tired of having to make do with niche sports and marginal leagues you should be happy at the return of the English Premier League. There’s nothing ‘marginal’ about the EPL in terms of popularity or betting interest. The Premiership is a huge spectator event and matches were broadcast to 188 countries last season. Since there are only 193 countries recognized by the United Nations that’s a big deal. With many sports and leagues still in ‘shutdown mode’ the audience for the Premier League should be even larger as they restart play with a match between Aston Villa and Sheffield United at an otherwise empty Villa Park at 1:00 PM Eastern on Wednesday.
If you know anything about the worldwide sports betting industry you realize that wagering on the English Premier League is huge. As in massive. Due to the decentralized nature of the international sports betting ecosystem it’s tough to come up with concrete numbers but the English Premier League is very likely the sports league with the most betting action in the entire world. The ubiquitous nature of sports betting in England definitely helps boost betting handle and it also makes it a very attractive sport for American fans. There’s plenty of betting, handicapping and statistical information in English.
NO DRAMA AT THE TOP AS LIVERPOOL DOMINATES
The longstanding conventional wisdom about teams that come close to winning a championship but fall short is that it will ‘light a fire under them for next year’. Of course it seldom works out that way. And then there’s Liverpool. Liverpool finished 1 point behind Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table in 2018-2019. So did that motivate them…er….’light a fire under them’….for 2019-2020. You might say so. As the EPL resumes play they’ve all but wrapped up this year’s championship. Liverpool is 27-1-1 for 82 points. The next closest team is Manchester City at 18-3-7 with 57 points. While Liverpool hasn’t quite clinched the crown–they need to win twice or win once combined with a Manchester City loss–but given the way they’ve played this season it’s all but a foregone conclusion.
Liverpool does have the opportunity to make history and that could serve as a motivator down the stretch. The English Premier League records for wins (32) and points (100) were set by Manchester City in 2017-2018. With 9 games remaining you can do the math–they need to win out to break the record for wins and take 19 out of a possible 27 points to break the points record. Assuming that they return anywhere near their form prior to the suspension of play both are well within reach. The party line in the UK media is that the team is focused on breaking City’s points record though what else would they say? Keep in mind that Liverpool is the defending winner of the Champions League and that could be a bigger priority.
PLENTY OF EXCITEMENT WITH EUROPEAN TOURNAMENT QUALIFICATIONS AT STAKE
The major European club tournaments are the Champions League and the Europa League. The Champions League is not only the more prestigious but ridiculously lucrative for teams that do well. Liverpool earned more than $84.6 million for winning the Champions League last year which the Las Vegas Review Journal notes is more than the National Hockey League’s entire salary cap limit.
The top four finishers in the Premier League qualify for Champions League play next year. Liverpool is obviously a lock to get in and Manchester City is also in good shape. After that it gets extremely interesting with six teams within 12 points of each other fighting for two spots. The fifth place finisher will head to the Europa League which isn’t a bad consolation prize but nowhere near the level of the Champions League. Incidentally, this year’s Champions League tournament will be completed in Lisbon, Portugal in August. The format will be a bit different with a ‘mini-tournament’ format culminating in the Champions League Final on August 23. The final rounds of the Europa League will be an 8 team knockout tournament contested in Germany between August 10 and 21.
FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL AT THE BOTTOM OF THE TABLE
There should also be plenty of drama at the bottom of the table as teams battle to avoid relegation to the Football Championship. The bottom three teams get sent down and currently there are six with 29 or fewer points. Norwich City is at the bottom with 21 points, Aston Villa has 25 points, AFC Bournemouth, Watford, West Ham United each have 27 points while Brighton & Hove Albion (29) is in the catbird seat–relatively speaking at least. Burnley (39), Crystal Palace (39), Everton (37), Newcastle United (35) and Southampton (34) are likely safe but anything can happen with 9 games remaining to conclude a completely unprecedented season format.