#1 – Understand The Competition Rules And Format
This point may seem obvious, but all cup competitions have slightly different qualification rules and these rules can have a huge impact on how teams will approach individual matches. Understanding how a team will set up in a match can be invaluable in determining the outcome.
Unlike the “round robin” structure of most leagues around the world, cup competitions are mostly “knockout” format, which often means that a single loss ends a team’s participation in the cup. There can also be double elimination rounds, and particularly in the latter stages of some cups, there can be two legged ties as well. Drawn matches in England’s FA Cup for example, are famously decided by a replayed match.
Therefore, before betting on cup matches we must first be absolutely sure of the qualifying parameters for progression to the next round. Will these parameters cause a team to set up differently, often in contrast to the expectations of the average punter? In a two legged tie, a less fancied away side could well be happy to take a draw in the first leg in preparation for playing the second and decisive match in front of their home fans. Away goals are often a decider in two legged ties as well. Occasionally, a team with a lead and an away goal from the first leg can afford to draw or even loose the second leg and still go through.
Furthermore, during busy periods of fixture congestion, larger sides will often be especially keen to avoid a replay. This may be a good opportunity to bet on an open encounter as the larger club looks to put the smaller one to the sword, but could in effect leave themselves open on the break.
These are just some examples of how cup rules can affect team mentality. Each domestic cup competition is likely to have some formatting rules which make it unique to others. Be mindful of all competition rules and use this knowledge to find an edge.
#2 – Evaluate A Club’s Mentality
Modern football teams need to spread their resources over many competitions. Domestic cups can therefore fall into varying places on each club’s priority list. Before betting, it’s important to gauge a club’s ambitions for the competition overall and each round of fixtures. Keep an ear out for managers’ comments in the lead up to cup matches. Pre-match press conferences will often yield valuable information on how seriously clubs are taking the upcoming ties. Intentions however, are sometimes less obvious, as managers will merely pay lip service to his team’s ambitions. With enough experience, you’ll soon be able to tell when a manager is sincere in his comments and when he is not.
Further, managers of clubs that are embroiled in relegation scraps, those setting their lofty sights on European qualifying places, or those involved in tight league races, may see domestic cups as a burden to their primary season objectives. Conversely, there are many managers who put a great deal of emphasis on cup competitions. Some teams will use these matches as a welcome opportunity to build momentum and a chance to end a run of poor results by taking their frustrations out on weaker, lower league opposition. In these cases, managers may look to keep an unchanged side from their best eleven, looking instead to build chemistry and momentum.
Also, pay special attention to the team news and look at historical trends as well. This information can help you determine how adventurous a club may be when they run out onto the pitch.
#3 – Be Mindful Of Likely Team Selection
After you have considered the level of a club’s aspirations, it is useful to envision how this will influence the squad that each manager will send out. For clubs that view cups as distractions to loftier goals, it is likely that there will be heavy squad rotation. It’s common to see managers use cup matches to acclimate young players to the first team, to keep fringe players at match fitness, or as a chance to play second choice goalkeepers. When betting on cup matches, it is important to determine if one manager is likely to field a relatively stronger line-up than the other. There may be value in backing a less fancied side against a seemingly stronger opponent simply because the lesser team is more likely to play their best players while the favoured team may field mostly youth.
Also, do not forget that certain key players may be ineligible for the competition outright. It is quite common for clubs around Europe to loan out promising young players to smaller sides in order for those young prospects to gain first team experience and regular football. Many of these loan contracts however place limitations on ancillary competitions in which their players can take part. Occasionally, on-loan players will not be available for selection in cup games. Additionally, after the January transfer window, it is possible that certain players will be “cup tied”. Which is to say that players who have changed clubs mid-season forgo eligibility to play in the cup for their new club by virtue of having already taken part in the competition for another team during that season.
When you are considering backing a side in a cup match, make sure that any on-loan players, or transferred players who have performed well in the league are indeed available for selection for the cup match. One or two key starting players could make all the difference in whether or not an inferior side stands a chance of earning a result against a heavyweight.
#4 – Bookmaker Offers
Be sure to check which bookmakers are offering the best odds for the cup competition you are wanting to bet on. Due to the less predictable nature of cup competitions, for many of the reasons we have discussed, some bookmakers will take a higher commission on their odds than they might normally do for matches featuring in league play. So make sure you do your homework. Bookmakers you have regularly used to bet on league games, may not offer you the best prices for cup matches. This is especially the case for more obscure cup competitions in leagues around Europe.
It’s also worth taking a look at which bookmakers are offering special offers for cup competitions, especially when tournaments reach the later rounds and especially for cup finals such as the FA Cup. You may find it the perfect opportunity to sign up with a new bookmaker, simply to take advantage of a particular cup final bookmaker offer.
When betting on cup competitions, make sure you consider all relevant factors. Know that sides will often line up differently and play with alternate motivations. Do not let this discourage you from betting on cup competitions. Instead, apply yourself and use it to your advantage. If you can do this, you are sure to find value.