Soccer Betting Strategy – Predicting Upsets

When you think about it, it’s actually the very unpredictability that makes soccer so exciting. Of course, know one wants to watch a game where we already know the winner. And in football, there’s always the added excitement of having an underdog emerge triumphant. You never know, as in soccer, there’s no such thing as a “sure thing”! And all this is what makes soccer betting so difficult and yet so much fun.

And it’s also this unpredictability that makes a healthy profit for the shrewd bettor. In soccer upsets are a common occurrence, so we know that betting on them is not a lost cause. The real challenge is to know when to bet on the underdog. Peering into the dregs at the bottom of the tea cup and trying to read them or looking into a crystal ball might be helpful. But let’s have a look at some basic factors that can influence a football match away from the favorites and into the open arms of the underdog.

Golden Rules for Predicting Upsets

You might be surprised by how many punters simply punt every time on the underdog. The logic goes something like, well, upsets occur all the time, so I might as well have that possibility covered. This is nuts! Never bet on the underdog simply because they are the underdog.
Whenever you place a punt, you need a good and solid reason WHY you’re placing it. And the fact that upsets do happen is certainly not a good enough reason. So how should you identify the right spot for backing the underdogs.

Essentially you have to access ALL the possible variations that might affect the game. By this we mean a deep, deep dive into all aspects. A cursory glance over the teams isn’t going to be enough research. You ave to be able to more or less, pinpoint exactly what the upset will be. And that’s a tall order. So let’s break it down to the key factors.

Key Factors to Consider

Obviously the prime consideration is the quality of the two teams involved. Having said that, it’s a bit too simplistic. if it was just this one vague factor, then we would always bet on the higher quality team each and every time. So no one would be betting on the underdog. Within the broad title of ” team quality” there are any number of other factors that can play an important role in determining the likelihood of an upset. Let’s go through some of them in some detail.

Team Motivation

Motivation is a massive factor on the football pitch. For any number of reasons, players can find that extra motivation to exceed their normal playing parameters and drive their game up a notch. maybe there’s a big old rivalry. Sometimes a bad performance can drive the team to play better the next time, and sometimes it’s the opposite. Often what’s at stake in the game, a cup or a possible relegation, can cause them to pull their finger out and get a move on. Keep in mind that games at the beginning of the season probably carry less weight than those at the end. On the whole, when a team or the players are very motivated, then this makes for a more unpredictable game. If you can find a game where the underdog is more motivated, or has more reason to be so, then that’s a valid reason for a punt.


Ask yourself, does the favorite team have a tenancy to “look down” on lesser teams? Is there a much bigger game on the horizon straight after this match? We’re looking for those teams that “play down” to their opponents. Even the greatest teams can do this. It’s another factor in the process of finding upsets.

Injuries & Suspensions

This is definitely a huge consideration. Whether it’s the top striker r the top defender who’s going to be missing, it will have an effect on the game as a whole. A missing key player also has an effect on team moral and can affect their confidence. The time to take advantage of this is when the news breaks, yet the odds aren’t yet affected. The bookies move quickly on this, so you need to be quick.

Style of Play

By style of play, we’re really referring to “defensive” or “offensive”. If two defensive teams are playing, then expect a defensive game (you might think about betting on a draw in these cases). But a stronger attacking underdog against a heavily defensive team can certainly lead to an upset. If a top team relies on a lot of possession is facing a weaker team with a concrete like defense, but a quick counter attack, then there’s another chance for an upset.

Team Records & Rivalries

Always check out the team’s records, both home and away. May be a rubbish team has never lost at home (and don’t intent to) no matter who they play. Another scenario is where a couple of teams have played and one has consistently lost to the other at every meeting. Maybe it’s time for a change and they’ll step up their game. All these actors are easy to assess. Just take some time out to study the form and history of each side to be better prepared.

Big Underdogs versus Small Underdogs

Most book makers make the betting process very simple in that there’s normally a favorite t win, with the other team being the underdog. Now, it’s the degree of favoritism that makes for either a big or a small underdog. So, is it better to back an underdog at very high odds? Or go for less likely upsets with correspondingly lower odds? In truth, things aren’t quite that simple. You should understand that an upset doesn’t occur in a vacuum. As with all bets, all that matters is whether we can find “value” in the underdog. Don’t just back an underdog because the odds are high. let’s look at an example. The first is with a relatively small underdog. So…a book maker is offering odds on the match results:

Small Underdog

Match Result
Barcelona Win – 2.10
Real Madrid Win – 2.80

Real Madrid is the underdog here, but only marginally. So it’s fair to assume that an upset is reasonably likely. Do the odds make it worthwhile to back the underdog here though? At 2.80, we stand to win $180 for a $100 bet. That’s not a bad return, but this is clearly expected to be a tight match that’s tough to call. What we really need to do here is calculate whether a bet on Barcelona has any value. Here we’ll need to compare our estimated chances of a Barcelona victory over the implied probability of the book makers odds on the winning. If our estimated chances are right, then we have found some value. In this case, the implied probability is around 35%. So we should only bet on Barcelona if we feel they have a greater than 35% chance of being the winners. In other words, if we feel that there’s a 40% chance of Barcelona winning, then we should back them. If that % is less than 35% then we shouldn’t. Easy!

Now let’s have a look at a match where the two teams are far from equal. Here are the bookies odds:

Big Underdog

Match Result
Athletico Madrid Win – 1.33
Bilbao Win – 8.00

In this case, Bilbao are the big underdogs. The odds suggest that they are very unlikely to win. But we stand to win $700 for a $100 bet with the odds at 8.00. That’s a great potential return. So betting on the underdog might be worth a consideration. BUT please note that we said “might be”. If a team that’s never won is going up against a team that has never lost, then it makes zero sense to bet on the underdog. Remember that’s it’s all about value. With these odds, the implied probability is just 12.5%. So we need to give Bilbao a 15% chance to win or better, if we’re going to back them.

The main takeaway here is that you can’t go getting on the underdog just based on the give odds. You always have to be looking for value. When you find it, then take the punt.

Alternative Wagers for Backing The Underdog

Up until now, we’re ignoring the possibility of a draw. The above examples are only dealing with either a win or a loss, just to make explaining things easier. But draws can’t be ignored in the real life. Every game of football has three possible outcomes: win, lose or draw. if you’re going to be backing the underdog, then two of those outcomes are going to cost you money. only if the underdog wins, do you win. When trying to predict upsets, then draws can be very frustrating. If the match ends in a draw, then in a way, we were half right, in that the favorite didn’t win. But such a result is of no benefit to us. That’s why it’s a good idea to use two alternative bets when you’re trying to predict upsets. These are the “draw no bet” and the “double chance bet”.

Draw No Bet & Double Chance

Use these when you feel that an upset is coming, but want to hedge your losses. With the draw no bet, we get our stake returned to us if the match ends in a draw. With the double chance, we can cover both the underdog and the draw. So basically, we get paid out as long as the favorite doesn’t win. It goes without saying that we will have to take reduced odds on both these wagers. But you might find them still to be better value than backing the underdog outright. You’ll find that nearly all book makers will have these options.

Conclusion: Betting On The Underdog

We all love soccer because of the possible upsets. And that’s why betting on the underdog can be so profitable. But just blindly betting on the underdog will see your bank roll reduced to zero pretty quickly. You need to wait for the right time and the right situation. It’s all about finding value between the teams. And that, requires research. Yes, you know by now how fond we are of you doing your homework. once you’re through with your studies, then you’ll have a much better understanding of the possibilities awaiting both teams. You’ll know, with a mathematical view, exactly what are the chances of the underdog creating an upset. Then armed with this, take a look at the odds being offered. It’s at that point you’ll know whether it’s worth your while to place a bet. We would suggest that you get your stakes relatively low when betting on the underdog. remember that these are essentially very risky wagers and there’s a good chance you’ll end up losing more than you win. Of course, you can still make a decent profit, but slowly does it!