10 football teams you should not bet on

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Betting on the beautiful game can be a tricky game. Whether you are used to wagering on a “sure thing” or whether you like to put a bit of money on a wild card, your bets will consistently put you in the red. If you are beginning to notice that an expert eye for football is not the same thing as a keen eye for bets, this article is for you.

Indeed, experience tells us that some teams are simply not worth the gamble. Although for very different reasons, certain teams are not the cash cow they appear to be at first sight. Here is a quick survey of every punter’s false friends and a few tips to define your own betting strategy.

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Absolute favourites

The bookies’ favourites are usually a poor choice for bettors. If they win most of the time, the occasional slip-up happens and usually it is when you have a bet riding on it – you can bet on THAT. Even if all goes well and they win the match, the odds are so minuscule that you walk away pocketing no more than a few quid. Definitely not worth it.

Manchester City

A favourite of bookmakers since the club has been heavily invested in by new owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al Nahyan, the team constitutes an impressive collection of stars. However, these top players regularly struggle against bottom-half sides and don’t shine on the European stage. Manchester City is a prime example of a team that is good, but is viewed as too good by the bookies.

Though they have a healthy bank account, Man City are not

Though they have a healthy bank account, Man City are not “money in the bank” for punters


The motto of these over-valued teams could be “good to watch, not good to bet on” and it is perhaps truer of FC Barcelona than any other team. Their spectacular football and dazzling results have led most bookies to mark them as favourites by default. However, certain sides have caught on to Barcelona’s possession-based football tactics and the Nou Camp no longer appears to be the impregnable fortress it once was. Nor is Barcelona the gold standard of betting odds as they once were. Times they are a’changing and its best to go with them if you want to keep a healthy bankroll.


The Roja, unstoppable since its 2008 European title, has risen to become an automatic favourite every two years whenever the next international tournament is to be held. With extremely low odds on their victory, they have become a punter’s most distrusted friend – a team that offers low gains – despite remaining a football fan’s top pick – a team with admirable talent. To avoid bitter disappointment this summer during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, best steer clear of betting on the title holders.

Red card pique

The Roja is a red card for punters

Complete outsiders

While it is wise to avoid picking an all too obvious contestant, for fear of low odds, it would also be wise, conversely, to avoid picking a total dark horse. This rule has an exception, which will be mentioned below, but picking an outsider to win in a regular game is virtually impossible. Apologies in advance to the fans, but the top teams to never bet on because they never win is as follows:


Their odds for the next World Cup 2014, for example, are handsome. However would you really bet on Honduras lifting the trophy on July 13, 2014? Not only is a World Cup title far out of their reach, but surrounded as they are by Brazil, Argentina and the no less impressive Colombia and Uruguay things are heavily compromised for teams like Honduras to win a continental title.

counterfeit world cup

The only chance they have to see a World Cup in Honduras is to buy one on eBay


Some say if someone offers you odds of 1,000 to 1, you should always accept. We disagree. Swansea’s odds to win the Premier League in 2014 were 2,000-1 in August, and only went downhill from there. Though they may have looked like a savvy investment at the start of the season, odds that high betray an inevitable truth: there is not a single chance that they will win. Ever.

Swansea's odds are 7-4

Swansea’s odds are a solid 7-4 for this title

Swansea City AFC fans – if you’ve read this far – there is reason for hope: cup matches.

Cup matches

The “avoid the dark horse” rule has its exception: cup matches. Part of the thrill of the cup is that, more than in any average game, anything can happen. The knock-out stage and the lack of pressure on the team’s shoulders as it goes head-to-head with a larger club means for the smaller team that it is affected only by a positive form of pressure to “rise to the event”. If it fails to do so, consequences are minimal.

Hull City

Hull City offers one such example. Recently in the 2014 FA Cup final against Arsenal it boldly played its chance, knowing that it had nothing to lose and everything to gain from doing so. Though it did not win, it came close with 2 early goals to steer ahead in the first half, only to be defeated in extra-time.

Tigers almost got out of their cage

Tigers almost got out of their cage in 2014 cup final


Swansea are another example: successful  against Liverpool and Chelsea in the League Cup, they carved their path to the 2013 Final in Wembley against Bradford City, victorious of Arsenal in the earlier stages. The 2013 Final, opposing Bradford City to Swansea perfectly illustrates small club’s propensity to defeat larger teams in the run up to the final, and occasionally win against all odds.

Those who have nothing left to play for

While small teams approach to Cup matches illustrates the benefits for punters to bet on teams that have nothing to lose, betting on teams that are mathematically saved from or condemned to relegation, like betting on teams that are not engaged in the struggle for the title or qualification to a European competition illustrates the disadvantages of betting on a team that has nothing to win. With nothing left to hope for from the season, these teams usually perform extremely poorly for the remainder of the season where they meet opponents still desperate for points. They are the bettor’s sworn enemy: a team that, though it may be better overall, will lose one game against a weaker opponent simply for lack of motivation.

difference in win % and PPG when teams have

difference in win % and PPG when teams have “nothing to play for”

The club you support

Nothing is further away from the outlook of a punter than that of a fan. Yet, gamblers can be and frequently are football fans. It then becomes very hard to differentiate which part of your judgement is calm and collected reasoning in light of facts, and which part is the impassioned supporter thirsty for glory. Our advice is to back off from this type of scenario. When in doubt, simply abstain. If you wish to live the heat of live football, go in your supporter kit, not with your punting shoes.

It can be hard to keep your calm when you're cheering on your team

It can be hard to keep your calm when you’re cheering on your team

Some expert punters go as far as to bet against their favourite team. This is a very sensible strategy as it means that, regardless of the outcome, you won’t be overly disappointed. More than bankroll management, experienced punters know that betting on the beautiful game can be about emotional management as well.

The Three Lions

The national team is, as such, a good example of betting too close to the heart. Sure, everyone wants them to win. Sure, everyone wants to see the game. But are they worth the gamble? Probably not.

The crucial difference here is that between a game that you want to watch and a game that you want to bet on. Between a game that you would not miss watching even if you had to sign your soul to the devil and a match that you would not miss betting on even if you had three mortgages on your house. These two things, experience says, are highly incompatible.

So, when it come to good ol’ England, keep your enthusiasm for the pub and save that tenner for a few extra pints with your mates. Remember that they haven’t won a World Cup since 1966 (were you even born then?) and haven’t ever won a European title.

three lions crying fan

I’m an England football fan, and that’s why I drink

Until FIFA agrees to let England host the competition, best hope for an honourable defeat in the quarter finals against a future finalist.

Bonus: the club you hate the most

You can never count on an enemy. Nor should you ever have to. If you want to place a bet, avoid doing so on a team you already despise. Your hatred will only grow when they leave you in the hole after another insipid performance. Remember there’s a reason you dislike them: its that you know they will never win.
thumbs up picto

What you should do

Now that we’ve reviewed what bets should be avoided at all cost, here are a few tips to grow the balance of your sports-betting account:

  • Look through bookies’ odds for:
    • odds between 6/4 and 3/1 for a single game
    • odds of about 7/2 for an outright winner of a competition

Tip: if you wish to bet on a favourite, do so at the start of the season to get the best odds possible

  • Keep an eye out for:
    • Cup matches
    • Teams to win away from home

Tip: if you get lucky, you might even find a “value bet” – a bet where the odds given by the bookmaker are superior to the probability you assign to a given event. 

  • Stay on the lookout for free bets and exclusive promotions.

Tip: Betfred offers new members a £30 free bet if they register using a promo code.

See also our article about transfer betting

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