August 9, 2023 — Manchester City are the overwhelming favorites to win a fourth straight EPL title, but for value, analysis from leading crypto casino and sportsbook Cloudbet suggests football fans should look further afield – to Saudi Arabia.
Thanks to the influx of top names from the EPL and other European leagues, the Saudi Pro League has emerged as a competitive space for bettors, according to research by Cloudbet traders. The four teams recently bought by the state’s Public Investment Fund are all in with a chance of the title, according to the study, which looked at positive or negative changes from the transfers to team ratings.
Newly promoted Al Ahli have made the most impactful moves, with an expected addition of more than 2.5 goals per game, the most of any team in the league. Allan Saint-Maximin will add the equivalent of 0.65 of a goal per game, supported by strong contributions from fellow transfers Riyad Mahrez, Roberto Firmino and Franck Kessie, according to Cloudbet.
Even though they’re new to the top division, Cloudbet’s analysis has given Al Ahli Saudi the fourth-highest team rating in the league, belying the squad’s title odds (18.5/+1754). That’s not the only surprise: Cloudbet’s team ratings have current league third-favorites Al Hilal ahead of second favorites Al Nassr FC.
Saudi Pro League Team Rating Changes
Data analysis and odds courtesy of Cloudbet (current as of Aug. 9, 2023)
* Cloudbet’s team rating: The top team’s rank is denoted by 0.0 with the other team scores reflecting their goal per game handicap
“Taking last season’s team ratings as a starting point, we added on to each club the positive impact of this summer’s transfers,” a spokesperson from Cloudbet said. “The team ratings that we’ve devised do cast a different light on what the odds indicate. There’s plenty of value for the savvy bettor to unlock this season.”
Cloudbet’s ratings and odds do agree on the main title contender: Last year’s champion, Al Ittihad from Jeddah. This summer, Al Ittihad added Karim Benzema, N’Golo Kante and Fabinho, who are expected to add 1.7 goals per game to a squad that already boasts Abderrazak Hamdallah, the Golden Boot winner in three of the last five years.
“We decided that the addition of Karim Benzema was the single most impactful transfer of the summer,” the Cloudbet spokesperson said. “One thing to be taken into consideration, though, is whether this will destabilize a settled, winning team.”
Last year’s runners up Al Nassr have made good signings in Marcelo Brozovic and Sadio Mane (0.8 goal per game, between the pair), but a lot will depend on whether Cristiano Ronaldo has regained his fitness over the summer. The Portuguese star looked out of shape and decidedly off pace towards the end of last season.
Al Hilal may see an increase in yellow cards as a result of Ruben Neves and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic joining, but their midfield can now hold its own against almost any club in world football. Neves, Milinikovic-Savic, and Malcom are worth a 1.4 goal uplift to the team, according to Cloudbet research. With Odion Ighalo bolstering the supply lines up front, the club should run close to last year’s winners.
“We expect to see Saudi Arabia’s famous old rivalry between its two most-storied clubs, Riyadh’s Al Hilal and Jeddah’s Al Ittihad, play out once again,” the Cloudet spokesperson said.
Al Ahli is the fourth team to benefit from the Saudi Public Investment Fund millions. The addition of Mahrez, Saint-Maximin, Firmino, and Kessie plus Edouard Mendy in goal, and Matthias Jaissle as coach, has bolstered their team by close to 3 extra goals.
Looking at the rest of the field – Steven Gerrard’s Al-Ettifaq FC may struggle beyond mid table. They were defensively weak last season and now need to face sides with the likes of Benzema, Firmino, Jota, and Saint-Maximin up top.
In fact, odds on the non PIF teams have lengthened versus those teams, so while there’s definitely value in the betting, it does look like a four-way contest.
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