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18/04/2008 No.42
Kevin Pullein
Friday April 18, 2008
A useful thing to know about expected mismatches is that they will not necessarily produce an avalanche of goals. Tomorrow fourth-placed Liverpool travel to 19th-placed Fulham while third-placed Arsenal host 16th-placed Reading. In games such as these, the best team is likely to score more goals but the worst team is likely to score fewer goals than usual. The net effect is that they are likely to produce only slightly more goals than most ordinary fixtures. It is something that many bettors do not realise.

The average number of goals scored in Premier League games during the past 10 seasons was 2.6. In games between teams separated by between 13 and 15 places - the gap in tomorrow's fixtures - the average was only slightly higher at 2.8. In games between teams separated by 16 or more places, the average was still only 2.9.

In this season's two fixtures between Manchester United and bottom-of-the-table Derby, there were six goals. In all games between the current top and bottom four, the average number of goals was 2.8. If you asked fans how many goals are scored, on average, in the most lopsided games, how many would give you an answer of less than three?

In top v bottom games in any competition the bets that sometimes represent value for money are those that reject exaggerated expectations and involve a not extraordinary total of goals. In the Premier League during the past 10 seasons, 52% of games finished with fewer than 2.5 goals - the commonest goals betting line. When teams were separated by 13 or more places, 47% of games finished with fewer than 2.5 goals. Yes, these games were less likely to be low-scoring, but not all that much less likely. For every time that a team such as Liverpool score six goals, as they did at home to Derby, there will be a time when they are involved in a goalless draw, as they were at home to Birmingham. Kevin Pullein is football tipster for the Racing Post

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