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23/02/2007 No.5
Kevin Pullein
Friday February 23, 2007
  Backing mean defences can earn generous pay-outs for punters betting on teams to keep clean sheets

In almost half of all football matches, at least one team fails to score. It is a startling illustration of what former England manager Sir Walter Winterbottom regarded as the essence of the game's appeal. That is it asks the players to do something very hard: get the ball into the net. It also points us towards a potentially profitable bet.

On odds comparison websites such as, you will find a small number of bookmakers who offer bets on whether or not both teams will score. The possibility that can sometimes represent value for money is that they will not. In 48.5% of Premiership and Football League games played during the past 10 seasons, at least one of the teams failed to appear on the scoresheet. In a typical match, therefore, it is not much bigger than an even-money shot.

In 10 of the 12 Championship fixtures played in midweek, you could back either or both teams not to score at even money or better. In most matches, the price is already close to fair - which means that bookmakers have to make only a very small error in assessment before the price quoted becomes less than fair to them and more than fair to you. This outcome is possible in games that are likely to be both one-sided and low-scoring. The more unevenly matched the teams, the less likely it is that both will score. The fewer goals that are scored in total, the less likely it becomes that both teams will manage at least one.

The teams whose games have consistently satisfied both those conditions in the Premiership are Chelsea and Liverpool rather than Arsenal and Manchester United, whose fixtures tend to produce more goals. All four of them, however, are much better than nearly everyone else that they meet.

In 65% of the Premiership games that Chelsea and Liverpool have played during the three seasons they have been managed by Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benítez, at least one team (usually the opposition) failed to score.

The figure for Arsenal and United games during the same period is only 54%. It is a difference that bettors might sometimes be able to exploit profitably, starting tomorrow when Liverpool play host to Neil Warnock's Sheffield United at Anfield. Kevin Pullein is football tipster for the Racing Post


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