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Cup Competitions: Where the Money Is

(Originally posted 28 February 2004)

To keep things exciting, soccer teams participate in cup competitions to determine which the best club in Europe. Teams from different countries compete against each other -- not national teams but league teams (like if the Atlanta Braves played the Yokohama Baystars, for example). Rich, strong clubs can tire of playing their national league counterparts, so tournaments like the Champions League are a refreshing change. Heavyweights such as Arsenal, Real Madrid, Milan and Bayern Munich, just to name a few, battle it out until only one team is left standing. Those failing to qualify for the Champions League often play in the UEFA Cup, a second-class but significant and exciting competition.

As a soccer handicapper, these types of tournaments are a real treat because several factors are involved that are largely absent in normal league play. One of them is travel distance. In the national leagues, teams rarely travel longer than a couple of hours by bus. The European cup competitions, however, can see teams from England and Spain flying as far as Moscow, Kiev or Istanbul. Most bettors will blindly play on the top teams without considering the many disadvantages they face on the road. Bad, unhealthy food, strange people in strange countries, and climate variations are all uncomfortable and prevent a team from fully focusing on the match.

Certain places are more intimidating than others. Turkey has some of the rowdiest fans in Europe and it's never easy for a visiting team. Climate plays a big role too. Teams from southern Europe aren't used to playing soccer in two inches of snow with below-freezing temperatures. Because of climactic variations, national leagues in several countries start and end at different times of the year. This can result in a team that hasn't played for three months matched against one which is fit and in-form.

Some teams take these competitions more seriously than others. Fourth-placed teams with no hope of winning their national leagues will want at least some silverware during the season. Conversely, if there’s a tight race for a national championship you often see watered-down squads fielded for a cup match. Even if a team plays at full strength they often won’t try very hard for fear of picking up injuries.

Draws are very common in cup competitions because of the somewhat perverse scoring system used. Usually two teams will play each other twice, so each team plays one game at home. But the winner is determined by the total goal difference or “aggregate” of those two games put together. To make things even more bewildering, away goals are worth more than home goals for tiebreaking situations. The end result is that home teams play a lot more defensively, because they don’t want to let in a goal that could prove costly in the second leg. And visiting teams sometimes care more about scoring than winning, because they can put the round away if they score a few goals in their road game.

All of these factors create value, often in the home team. This Wednesday’s UEFA cup match between Barcelona and Brondby is a good example. Barcelona are fourth in the Spanish league, owning a mediocre 5-5-3 record at home. Brondby are first in the Danish league and they boast an impressive 8-2-0 record away from home. But the Spanish league is one of the strongest in Europe, and Brondby would find it difficult to compete with even the worst teams in La Liga. Barcelona take the UEFA Cup very seriously and will field a full team. Brondby are out of shape; their league ended three months ago. This one looks like a comfortable home win.

Other Articles About Soccer Betting:

» Soccer Wagering: Point Spread or Money Line?
» UEFA Champions League Prediction: Group Stage
» World Cup Qualifiers 2006: European Zone
» Carling Cup Prediction: Second Round Preview
» Italian Soccer Prediction: Serie A Preview 2004/2005
» French Soccer Prediction: Singing Les Bleus
» Spanish Soccer Prediction: Primera Liga Preview 2004
» German Soccer Prediction: Bundesliga Preview 2004
» English Premier League Prediction 2004/2005
» Olympics Soccer: Redemption Time
» Copa America Prediction: Samba or Last Tango in Peru?
» Asian Cup Prediction: Here We Go Again
» Copa America Betting: At the Copa...
» Betting Euro 2004: The Final Four
» Euro 2004 Gambling: Propaholics and Rooney-Mania
» Euro 2004 Predictions: Handicapping Secrets Revealed
» Euro 2004 Tips: Props - Part 1
» Euro 2004 Bets: Props - Part 2
» International Friendlies: How to Cash In
» Road Dogs and Big Profits: How to Find Both
» Uefa Champions League Betting Tips: The Final Four
» Man Utd v Arsenal Prediction: Clash of the Titans
» Premiership Predictions: EPL Roundup
» UK Bookmakers: Where the Action Is
» Legal Betting: A Gambler's Paradise
» Cup Competitions: Where the Money is
» Profit from Home Field Advantage

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