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How to make accurate soccer predictions

The aim of betting is to make a more accurate prediction of what is likely to happen during an event compared to a bookmaker (and do it more often than not). While the premise is the same for all sports, soccer requires a very unique approach.

Start with an awareness of randomness and luck

Before delving into the complexities of soccer predictions, it’s important to remember the role that randomness and luck play in the outcome of your predictions. Sometimes you’ll benefit from good luck, sometimes bad but you should never forget the influence it has.

Soccer is one sport that is arguably the most susceptible to randomness having an impact on the outcome of a match, a tournament or even an entire domestic season. Due to its low scoring nature, the difference between a win, draw and loss for a team (or a winning and losing bet) could be determined by the bounce of a ball.

Although it is difficult to account for luck when making soccer predictions, you can still account for it in your results. Our natural reaction is attributing a correct prediction to skill and an incorrect one to bad luck whereas in reality this isn’t the case. This isn’t to say skill isn’t involved, it just takes a fairly large sample of results to prove it - assuming success in the short term is based on skill can be very dangerous in betting (especially if you don’t use the right staking method).

Focus on what you want to predict

One of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to soccer predictions is trying to predict everything that might happen; the result of the match, whether both teams will score and the number corners or cards awarded are just a few examples of popular betting markets.

Instead of trying to predict everything that might happen in a soccer match (some people will bet on who will score, who will get booked and how many shots a particular player will have), focusing on one aspect of the game will help achieve better results.

A bookmaker will have plenty of resources to help them manage the odds in any given market so while trying to compete with them across the board will be a waste of time, targeting one specific market will go some way to levelling the playing field.

In practice, the more granular you are with selecting what to bet on the better. The first step should be your sport, then the league (maybe even individual team) and then the market. The more people (bettors) competing in the market you choose, the more difficult it will be as more bets provide the bookmaker with more information to sharpen their odds. Choosing a niche market will be of benefit, however, you still need to be able to access information that will help inform your predictions.

Why the past is as important as the future

In betting you are trying to predict the outcome of an event taking place in the future, and it is the past that provides the best indicator for that. Although many bettors like to think they are experts in their own right, there is no substitute for the benefits of using data when trying to make accurate soccer predictions.

Data is imperative when it comes to soccer predictions, this will then help build a betting model that can be used to test your predictions and see if they make a profit.

Most bettors will use things like form, head-to-head results and a team’s record against the spread. Other basic forms of data mean we can calculate averages for other outputs related to betting markets but there is plenty of more detailed data available online to take this approach to the next level.

Expected goals (xG) is a metric that is now commonly used in soccer analytics and more recently, soccer betting. As opposed to judging a result on goals scored (which can be heavily influenced by luck), xG is a measure of chance quality that paints a clearer picture of what has happened. Although a retrospective measure it can also be predictive as a team would be expected to regress to the level of performance shown by their xG figures.

You can also create your own metrics from past performance data, with a bit of maths, to calculate the probability of an outcome. Poisson Distributionis one such example, where two teams’ average number of goals scored and conceded per game can be used against the league average to calculate the most likely score-line in an upcoming match.

Compare your predictions against the odds

It is important to remember that your soccer predictions don’t have to be exactly right in order to make a consistent profit from betting - they just need to be more accurate than the bookmaker and rest of the market. You also need to be right more often than you are wrong (losing is part of the process of winning in betting).

Once you have a method to make your soccer predictions, they need to be converted into probability and compared against the odds offered by the bookmaker. When you have inefficiencies (your estimated probability of something happening is higher than what the bookmaker thinks) it is referred to as an “edge” - you can then stake amounts relative to your edge.

Measuring your return on investment from betting is a clear gauge of how successful you have been. However, this doesn’t give any indication of to how much skill is involved. Analyzing your betting through a closing odds comparison can highlight how often you find value. If the bets you place have value, over time the profit will follow.

Set your aim, measure success and adapt

The difficulty in making soccer predictions shouldn’t be underestimated. There are steps one can take to inform these predictions and make them more accurate, but making a consistent profit from them is another task altogether. Before you start you need a clear aim of what you want to try and predict and how you intend to do it.

Data is imperative when it comes to soccer predictions, this will then help build a betting model that can be used to test your predictions and see if they make a profit. Whether or not you make profit using your model, it needs to be constantly refined, maintained and continually tested to ensure long-term success.

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