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One of the most exciting things that can happen in professional sports is a major upset. This is especially true when you've placed an unlikely bet and the stakes are high. Though betting against the odds pays off more rarely than betting on a favorite team to win, upsets do happen. If you follow Premier League football, you may remember these four upsets and famous underdog stories that have occurred throughout the sport's history.
Leicester City Beat Odds of 5,000 to 1
In 2016, Leicester City made history by pulling off one of the biggest upsets ever recorded in any sport. Before the season started, Leicester City were underdogs. This is a bit of an understatement — the odds that the team would win the championship were 5,000 to 1. When the season began, Chelsea were favored to win at odds of 13 to 8.
Long odds are rarely so extreme in any sport. In Major League Baseball, for example, the Miami Marlins faced odds of 1,250 to 1 that they would win the 2018 World Series. To put this even more into perspective, bookmakers have offered better odds on things like Elvis actually being alive and the Loch Ness monster being discovered than on Leicester winning the league in 2016.
The road to the team's victory began early in the season. A notable upset against Newcastle in November pushed Leicester to odds of 100 to 1. The team entered single-figure odds — 8 to 1 — when Leicester beat Stoke and Chelsea beat Arsenal in February. At that point, it looked like the Foxes would at least do well in the playoffs. Of course, Leicester City went on to win the championship.
Numerous factors contributed to the team's victory, including player recruitment and mistakes from the bigger teams in the league that year. However, many less tangible factors were at play as well. Player chemistry was a major factor, and key wins over favored clubs throughout the season helped the team maintain energy and continue surging. If you had the foresight to predict these developments and had bet on the team when they were long shots, you could have netted a sizable payout. Bookmakers allegedly paid $14 million to individual gamblers who bet on the Leicester City Foxes to win in 2016.
Crystal Palace Beat Arsenal in 2017
Prior to the 2016/2017 season, Arsenal had placed in the top four teams in the Premier League every year running for two decades. They broke their streak and got knocked out of the UEFA Champions League tournament after taking the pitch against Crystal Palace and losing 3-0. This was the first time Crystal Palace had beaten Arsenal at home since 1979.
Like many upsets in the Premier League, Arsenal's loss was credited to poor defense and Palace's ability to take advantage of the team's vulnerabilities. Energy and flow are also major factors in contests like these. Arsenal was shocked at their inability to score even one point, and Crystal Palace used the excitement of scoring goal after goal to keep Arsenal on their heels. Lack of preparation on Arsenal's part may also have contributed to the loss, which is often the case in underdog victories.
West Brom Beat Arsenal in the 2010/2011 Season
Arsenal's defeat to Crystal Palace in 2017 isn't the first time the team suffered a humiliating loss to an underdog. During the 2010/2011 season, Arsenal faced West Brom and lost by one goal. West Brom scored three times, and even though Arsenal's goalie stopped a penalty shot in the first half, the team's offense only mustered two goals.
Though Arsenal wasn't shut out in this contest, their defense was insufficient. Arsenal also had a couple of key players who were injured for that match. The team gave up all three goals in the first period, and West Brom was able to hold on to that lead for the remainder of the game.
Crystal Palace tie with Liverpool in the 2013/2014 Season
This match started as most book keepers expected. Liverpool, the favored team and a contender for the title title that year, faced an underdog team in Crystal Palace. Liverpool scored three unanswered goals and held that dominant lead until the waning minutes of the second half. Then, in an 11-minute flurry of goals, Crystal Palace scored three times to tie the game before the whistle blew.
Such matches are a reminder of what's at stake in professional sports. Though Liverpool were favored, all Premier League teams are equipped with world-class talent. In this match, Liverpool shifted their defensive structure, which ultimately proved to be a mistake that Palace's strikers fully exploited.
Though betting on the underdog is risky, these stories prove that it can pay off for wise gamblers who see something that bookmakers don't — or perhaps for those who are loyal fans or just get lucky.