Betting on Soccer Without Fans

Betting on Soccer Without Fans

Whenever soccer returns, it's realistic it will be without a full stadium of fans. Whether that's in the next couple months to finish the 2019/20 campaign or in the fall when 2020/21 starts, it doesn't matter. The Bundesliga was the first major league to return to training and their goal is to start matches in early May. Others, like La Liga have looked at the end of May or sometime in June for a return.

No matter the case, it will be a tad weird for the players to take the pitch without the usual yelling in the background. The question is how much that changes home-field advantage, and if it effects the betting lines. 

Looking at the five major European leagues, there are few teams that have an equal or better record away from home. There are three in the Premier League, two in La Liga, 10 in Serie A, two in Ligue 1 and six in the Bundesliga. Given those numbers, it's a wonder if there will even be home-field advantage in Italy, while it's up for debate in other countries.

While there isn't a ton of prior information to analyze, I found 15 matches that were played with a limited number or without fans before the suspensions. Overall, the home team had six wins, seven losses and two draws.

Napoli -170Torino +4802-1
Juventus +110Inter +2602-0
Sassuolo -195Brescia +4803-0
Udinese +185Fiorentina +1650-0
Sampdoria +165Hellas Verona +1802-1
AC Milan -160Genoa +4701-2
Parma +105SPAL +2800-1
Borussia M'gladbach -115Koln +2902-1
Eibar +250Sociedad +1101-2
Valencia +170Atalanta +1353-4
PSG -130Borussia Dortmund +3002-0
LASK +390Manchester United - 1350-5
Wolfsburg -135Shakhtar Donetsk +3501-2
Eintracht Frankfurt -165Basel +4700-3
Olympiacos +190Wolverhampton +1651-1

You can't create a trend from so few matches, but there are things that stand out, and while some results may not be because of a lack of home fans, it's the little things that matter when betting soccer. 

The UEFA Europa matches may be the most interesting of the bunch because teams like Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg both lost at home despite being favored. And while Man United were favored, they had +300 odds to win by more than three goals. For some reason, three of the four away teams controlled the Europa matches without fans. 

The biggest surprise in league play was that AC Milan lost at home despite being a -160 favorite. It was a similar case for Parma against one of the worst teams in the league in SPAL, who had seven points from their prior 13 away matches. 

Of the 10 matches in which the home team was favored, the away team scored first in half of them. That's a somewhat surprising number given that three of the matches resulted in home clean sheets by teams like PSG and Juventus.

Sure, there's nothing definitive from these 15 matches, but there are some results that catch the eye and could lead to bigger upsets once play resumes. The bet I'd keep my eye on is for the away team to score first, as long as the home team isn't bigger than a -200 favorite. It's reasonable the home team won't have the same desire to hold serve on their home pitch without thousands of fans cheering and singing them on. It's not crazy to think some players will take a match or two to adjust to playing in front of no fans when they normally have an entire city backing them. That's when the advantage goes to the away team, who may not come in with much of a mindset change because they simply want to win away from home.

Otherwise, when two fairly even teams are playing each other, I'd lean on the away team first, especially if they are a slight underdog. In the 11 contests with a favorite no more than -135, the home team won four matches compared to five wins for the away side and two draws. 

These are far from tried-and-true methods, but I think looking at the few matches there have been with limited to no fans is worth a gamble or two when play resumes. This may blow up in my face and every home team could continue to win, but I'd be surprised if that remained the case.

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Adam Zdroik
Adam, a 2019, 2018 and 2017 Finalist for FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year, is RotoWire's assistant soccer editor. He also runs RotoWire's Bracketology, as well as writes on other various college basketball content. He has previously worked at ESPN and Sporting Kansas City, and he is a former Streak for the Cash winner and Michigan State graduate.
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