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Are soccer teams getting smarter with their money, or has the lack of action in the January transfer window been a result of circumstance? I remember being inundated with graphs and charts at this time last year showing the Premier League spending eleventy billion dollars on players in January (and not only because Chelsea was throwing $100 million at anybody who waved to them) and how it dwarfed the amount of money spent by the rest of Europe's top leagues. The graphs were used to showcase The Crisis surrounding the sport.

This January hasn't seen much crisis. All things considered, it's been a rather dull transfer window this year. This is probably the more intelligent approach, as history suggests spending a bunch of money in January isn't the wisest decision. Teams make panic moves to fill what they see as deficiencies, but the overwhelming majority of players available in January have been deemed expendable by their clubs for a reason. Put those factors together, and it leads to plenty of regret when you wake up in February and realize what you've done.

But is this the start of a more pragmatic approach, or simply a down market? Considering the analytical approach from more top clubs worldwide, the former is possible, but I have trouble believing this will be the case again next season. With so much money on the line, it's always a matter of time until somebody panics.

Let's try to keep our heads while making this weekend's picks.

Mainz vs. Werder Bremen

Date: Saturday, Feb. 3 | Time: 9:30 a.m. ET | Watch: ESPN+

We haven't had the best luck recently with our Bundesliga plays, but I remain undeterred for at least another week. If we get kicked in the teeth again this weekend, maybe I'll reconsider, but this is another excellent spot. Mainz is currently in a relegation spot, but they've played much better than their results indicate. While they have a goal differential of -16 on the season, their expected goal (xG) differential of -2.6 ranks eighth in the league. Having said that, the xG differential is so much smaller because Mainz cannot finish to save their life. That's a problem!

But Mainz have been a much stronger team at home, particularly defensively. Werder Bremen are hanging around the middle of the league primarily due to their home form. They've won only once in 10 matches and hemorrhage goals on the road. There's a good chance Mainz will pick up three massive points on Saturday. The Pick: Mainz (+110)

Arsenal vs. Liverpool

Date: Sunday, Feb. 4 | Time: 11:30 a.m. ET | Watch: Peacock

These teams met a few weeks ago at the Emirates Stadium in an FA Cup match, with Liverpool winning 2-0. The result was somewhat of a surprise because Arsenal have been tough at home this season. While Liverpool are atop the Premier League, they're much more vulnerable away from Anfield, where they've been practically invincible. In 11 home matches in league play, Liverpool have nine wins and two draws with an xG differential of +21.8. They've only lost once on the road, but their xG differential in 11 matches drops to +2.1.

What's more important to me than that, though, is that since that 2-0 win over Arsenal, Liverpool have played five matches. This match will be their fourth in 11 days. Meanwhile, Arsenal have played only two matches since the loss to Liverpool and have much fresher legs. They've also looked outstanding in those two matches, so at home, with fresher legs, it's hard to pass up on the Gunners. The Pick: Arsenal (+125)

Inter vs. Juventus

Date: Sunday, Feb. 4 | Time: 2:45 p.m. ET | Watch: Paramount+

I wrote here last week that Inter are on a different level from everybody else in Serie A and that I was firing blindly on them until further notice. It worked last week, as Inter beat Fiorentina, but we got a bit lucky. You can argue Fiorentina were the better team most of the match. This week, Inter are back home facing the one team that poses a threat in the league. Juventus are only a point behind in the standings and has gone against type this season. Juve have a bit of a youth movement going on, and it's paying dividends.

But I'm not backing off Inter. As impressive as this Juventus team has been, this is still a trip to San Siro, and Juve couldn't get much of anything going against Inter in their November meeting in Turin. We continue riding the Nerazzurri bandwagon. The Pick: Inter (-125)

Weekend Parlay

This weekend we have a four-leg parlay paying +172

  • Bayer Leverkusen (-390)
  • Newcastle United (-255)
  • RB Leipzig (-275)
  • Benfica (-700)


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