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NBA Picks December 2017 (December 11-17)

December has not started as well as I had hoped and I have taken a couple of days off from the NBA Picks to get back on track. I missed an...

Friday, 15 December 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (December 16-18)

You do begin to understand how much football is being played by the top Premier League players at this time of the year when noting another round of fixtures are ready to be played so soon.

It is a big time for rotation and trying to get the best out of the players as teams look for vital points at the top and bottom of the Premier League table.

Before the Bournemouth game on Wednesday, I had written a short piece about Manchester United which can be read here.

Now onto another round of picks before we can all have a little break between this weekend and next Friday when it all goes again. The League Cup Quarter Finals are played on Tuesday and Wednesday, but for the majority of the big names this will be a week of rest before a run of four more games in the space of ten days to conclude the festive period.

Leicester City v Crystal Palace Pick: With the fixtures coming as quickly as they are at the moment, it can be difficult to know how much rotation Claude Puel and Roy Hodgson want to put into their starting elevens. Both will be looking at this as a very winnable fixture for Leicester City and Crystal Palace respectively, and the early Saturday kick off should be one in which both teams push for the win.

It is a big week coming up for Leicester City who play three home games against Palace, Manchester City and Manchester United. The middle game comes in the League Cup and Puel will take that seriously having guided Southampton to the Final last season, and I think the Leicester City players can come in with plenty of confidence to an important week for them.

Having 4 straight wins behind them helps and Leicester City have been playing very well at home. They have won 4 of their last 5 games at the King Power Stadium and so this is a team who will believe they have the ability to put another three points on the board and get a little closer to the top four.

They will have to work hard to break down a Crystal Palace team who are unbeaten in 6 games in the Premier League. However this is a team who have struggled for goals away from home and I think that could be a problem for Crystal Palace here at a ground where they have lost on their last couple of visits.

The lack of goals is something Hodgson is working on and even though they have earned back to back clean sheets at West Brom and Brighton, I do think Leicester City have more firepower which can be difficult to contain. It may be that Crystal Palace try and soak up the pressure and use Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend on the counter attack, but defensive injuries won't help the visitors here.

I imagine it will be a competitive game with little between them, but Leicester City have the confidence of plenty of wins in recent weeks and I think that helps them find a winner in this fixture.

Arsenal v Newcastle United Pick: There have been a couple of excuses offered up by Arsene Wenger as to why his Arsenal side have underperformed in the draws at Southampton and West Ham United over the last eight days, but privately the Frenchman cannot be happy. While it can be difficult to keep fatigue out of the bodies of the players, Wenger and the Arsenal fans would have expected so much more.

Slipping down to 7th in the Premier League table is not a concern for now considering Arsenal are a point behind 4th placed Tottenham Hotspur, but The Gunners cannot afford to drop more points this weekend. They will feel they have to take advantage of the fact that Tottenham Hotspur travel to Manchester City and both Manchester United and Liverpool play away from home on Sunday, and Arsenal will at least feel better in familiar surroundings.

Arsenal were beaten 1-3 by Manchester United last time out at the Emirates Stadium in the Premier League, but they have been very strong here going back a few months. Goals have been an issue on their travels, but that has not been the case at home and I really do feel like Newcastle United could be on the end of another tough day in the office.

If Arsenal fans feel their team is out of form, they will have to spare a thought for Newcastle United fans who have seen their team lose 7 of their last 8 League games to land just outside the relegation zone. The new ownership cannot take over quick enough and it has been a huge task for Rafa Benitez to get a tune out of a squad that currently does not look good enough at this level.

Newcastle United have recently taken the lead at both Manchester United and Chelsea, but on both occasions they were well beaten in a 4-1 and 3-1 loss respectively. I think they will find it tough to contain Arsenal too despite the tactical advice Benitez will give and Arsenal definitely play better at the Emirates Stadium than they do on their travels in the League.

Goals have not been a problem at home and Arsenal can extend their run to 6 straight wins over Newcastle United at the Emirates Stadium. I expect The Gunners can match both Manchester United and Chelsea in winning this fixture by at least a couple of goals on the day and I will look for the home team to cover the Asian Handicap here.

5 of the 7 Arsenal home wins in the League have come by at least a two goal margin and 3 of their last 4 home wins over Newcastle United have done the same. I will look for that to occur here too.

Brighton v Burnley Pick: This is one of those games where you can't get your head around which team is favoured and that has made the 'underdog' an appealing team to back on the Asian Handicap.

Before I saw the price for this match, I actually thought Brighton would be around 2.88, the draw around 3.30 and the Burnley win to be around 2.50 considering how well the latter have been playing. Add in a poor run for Brighton and I really couldn't see anything other than Burnley being favoured to win here and at those prices it would have been a watching brief as far as I am concerned.

Instead Brighton are favoured and you can get a decent price on Burnley with a start on the Asian Handicap which seems ridiculous. Yes Burnley lost at Leicester City recently, but they have won matches at Everton, Southampton and Bournemouth over the last couple of months and no one will be able to tell me that Brighton are superior to those teams.

In fact Brighton were perhaps a little fortunate to draw with Stoke City at home recently and the 2-0 loss at Huddersfield Town last weekend says a lot about the confidence.

Burnley don't score a lot of goals which can make it difficult to trust them, but it is hard to see them losing at the Amex Stadium. That makes the start appealing enough which will return a winner in the case of the draw and Burnley are the more likely winners overall in my opinion and so look the right team to back.

I can imagine Burnley are tipped up quite a lot and we know that can burn everybody at the same time, but they look the right side for me.

Chelsea v Southampton Pick: There were a couple of angles I considered for this fixture and both involved seeing a few goals on Saturday afternoon. I considered backing at least three goals to be scored and also considered both teams to score, but ultimately I have settled on backing Chelsea to keep their strong run at home going.

The Blues may have drawn with Atletico Madrid last time out at Stamford Bridge, but they had won 5 straight here in all competitions prior to that. There has been an improvement in recent performances from Chelsea barring the 1-0 loss at West Ham United and I also think having an extra day to recover for this fixture will work to the hosts favour.

Alvaro Morata should be back to lead the line for Chelsea having been rested during the win at Huddersfield Town, while Antonio Conte has the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian showing positive form. That should mean Chelsea are able to dominate the play against a Southampton team who can be well organised, but who have to pick themselves up from a heavy 1-4 home defeat to Leicester City.

I do think Southampton can cause some problems on the counter attack with the pace they have, but they had some key players last the full ninety minutes on Wednesday. Chelsea had the chance to give Hazard and Morata a rest and I think that can make a difference here.

You have to respect Southampton for the way they have played in narrow losses to Manchester United and Manchester City, while they also earned a home draw with Arsenal last weekend. However they were crushed at Liverpool recently and I think Chelsea will be able to take advantage of any tiredness that may exist in the Southampton squad.

Both games last season were won by a couple of goals by Chelsea and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap in this one.

Stoke City v West Ham United Pick: Games in December aren't going to be considered 'deciders' but this one has all the makings of a relegation six pointer for both Stoke City and West Ham United. It is of particular importance to Mark Hughes who is beginning to feel the pressure as manager of Stoke City and this is sure to be a big game on Saturday afternoon.

It is going to be interesting to see what kind of reaction the Stoke City players get having been confronted by some of the fans after the 5-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium. They were much better in the 1-0 loss at Burnley during the week and Hughes has to see if he can extract a similar level of performances from his players.

They can't afford to go behind though as the fans may make this a toxic atmosphere for the home team in that situation. However this looks to be a good spot for Stoke City who played on Tuesday while West Ham United produced another huge effort in their goalless draw with Arsenal on Wednesday.

That extra day of recovery from a game in which Stoke City were arguably considered the better side at Turf Moor can be huge compared with West Ham United who were putting plenty of effort in their games against Chelsea and Arsenal.

It will be interesting to see how West Ham United can freshen things up in time for this one, but I also think The Hammers can have more consistent success going forward. This time they are facing a Stoke City team who have conceded plenty of goals both at home and away and West Ham United can at least cause problems early in the fixture while the energy remains high.

There has been an improvement from West Ham United defensively in their last few games, but this is a team who have struggled away from home. West Ham United have conceded at least twice in their last 5 away games in all competitions and I can see both teams having their moments in this one.

It does feel the layers are underestimating the chance to see at least three goals shared out. The last 8 in all competitions at the Bet365 Stadium have seen at least that number of goals returned, while 4 of the last 5 West Ham United away games have done the same.

Before last season there had been 3 games in a row at Stoke City between these clubs which had featured at least three goals and I will back the odds against quotes for that to happen here.

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The big game in the Premier League this weekend comes from the Etihad Stadium and neutrals all around England will be hoping Tottenham Hotspur can stop the steamroller of Manchester City from continuing what looks like an easy march towards the Premier League title.

The recent form of Tottenham Hotspur will offer some encouragement, but Manchester City are playing at an extremely high level and they have already proven their worth with wins at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford this season. They have also recorded big wins over Liverpool and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium and it is tough to see how Tottenham Hotspur can slow them down.

As well as Tottenham Hotspur have done under Mauricio Pochettino's guidance as manager, this is a team who have struggled to match the top teams in England when having to travel to those grounds. This season Tottenham Hotspur have not played well in defeats at Manchester United and Arsenal, while Chelsea have also beaten them at Wembley Stadium.

The away record is the focus though and Tottenham Hotspur have lost 5 of their last 6 away games at the top English clubs (lost twice to Manchester United, lost at Chelsea, lost at Liverpool and Arsenal in that time). The one exception saw Tottenham Hotspur come back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium but suffice to say it is a completely different prospect trying to do that against this current Manchester City team.

Recent weeks have seen Manchester City find it a little tougher to win matches, but the confidence from the win at Old Trafford cannot be understated. I also don't think Tottenham Hotspur have been playing at their best defensively with three key pieces missing for them this weekend to add to those problems.

Tottenham Hotspur should be set out to at least challenge Manchester City on the counter attack and there is some pace in the squad that can cause problems for a backline that is not the best. However being that positive is likely going to mean Manchester City also have more spaces to exploit and I think they are going to be a little too good for their visitors on Saturday afternoon.

The defeats Tottenham Hotspur have suffered to the big clubs this season is a concern for them as they now face the one team who have been head and shoulders above all others.

Personally I would love to see Tottenham Hotspur find a way to stop the Manchester City winning run, but unfortunately I think they are not quite playing up to the level that is going to be required. With a poor recent away record in the Premier League, I think Tottenham Hotspur will need to ride their luck to avoid another away loss at a big six Premier League club.

With that in mind, I will back Manchester City to beat a third rival at the Etihad Stadium by at least a couple of goals and I will look for the home team to cover the Asian Handicap even if I would love to be wrong on this occasion.

West Brom v Manchester United Pick: There are a couple of ways you can play this fixture this weekend and I do think the first of the two live Sunday fixtures in the Premier League could be a surprisingly exciting game.

On the face of things it may not seem that way with West Brom likely to set themselves up to be hard to beat, but Alan Pardew has a different mindset to Tony Pulis. While Pulis would be content to frustrate Manchester United, Pardew will want his side to get forward and have a go at their visitors and I do think the additional space provided will work well for Manchester United.

West Brom have yet to score for Alan Pardew, but scoring goals has not been much of a problem for Manchester United of late. They have managed seven goals in away games at Watford and Arsenal, but Manchester United may also offer West Brom some encouragement having kept just a single clean sheet in the last 6 away from home in all competitions.

The chances that Watford and Arsenal created will make West Brom believe they can have success with a bit of positivity, while the home team should be a threat from set pieces. Both Manchester City and Bournemouth caused problems for Manchester United from set pieces so there are signs that West Brom could have success doing that.

I am a little concerned for West Brom considering the amount of energy invested in the goalless draw at Anfield though. While Manchester United also had to work harder than expected, the West Brom effort would have been both mental and physical in a tough environment and that is likely to have sapped some energy and with less options to rotate than Jose Mourinho has at United.

Both Manchester City and Chelsea have played here in the League this season and both managed to score at least three times. With Manchester United showing some real bite in the final third at Watford and Arsenal, they could become the latest to get in front at The Hawthorns and then pick off their hosts who will try and come forward.

That is why both the over 2.5 goals market and Manchester United covering the Asian Handicap appeal here. The tiredness factor could see United pull away in the second half with a couple of quick strikes to finish off their hosts, but I also think West Brom could play a part in this one before tiredness perhaps takes over.

I can see both markets hitting here at odds against.

The more likely feels like Manchester United to cover the Asian Handicap and I will back that to happen in another important win for Jose Mourinho's men ahead of another big week, but I will also look for at least three goals to be scored in this fixture.

Bournemouth v Liverpool Pick: This is an important game for both Bournemouth and Liverpool who have not had the best weeks in terms of results. Both teams will feel they should have had a few more points on the board than they have earned, and now both Bournemouth and Liverpool are looking for vital points at the bottom and top of the Premier League respectively.

Games between Bournemouth and Liverpool have tended to be very good viewing for the neutrals in the last couple of years and this is another that should feature a few goals.

With the way Bournemouth approach things under Eddie Howe, this is a team that will challenge Liverpool and the porous defence which has been very weak when playing away from Anfield. Only three Premier League clubs have conceded more goals than Liverpool away from home to this point, and Bournemouth will feel they can at least create a few chances in a bid for the upset.

On the other hand it will be tough for Bournemouth to contain a Liverpool team who have scored 20 away League goals which is only surpassed by Manchester City who have also played one more away game. The Reds have been rampant in recent away games which makes them very dangerous and an attack that has not been at their best in the last couple of games never feels that far away from getting things turned back around.

Liverpool have scored at least three goals in wins at West Ham United, Stoke City and Brighton in the Premier League, while they were also 0-3 up at half time in Sevilla in the Champions League. That makes me lean towards them opening up against a Bournemouth team that will allow Liverpool to express themselves and I expect the away side to create chances here.

That makes it a fun game and the layers are not offering great prices on at least three goals being shared out. I expect that will happen here, but I also think Liverpool win the game and you can put those markets together for an odds against quote on Sunday.

All 4 Liverpool away Premier League wins has come in high scoring games, and Bournemouth home games against the big six English clubs have tended to produce goals. Recently Chelsea won here 0-1, but over the last three seasons Bournemouth home games against the top six clubs have ended with a 10-4 lean towards three or more goals compared with two and fewer.

I do think Liverpool are a dangerous away side and they can bounce back for a win here on Sunday and I will look for that to happen in a high scoring fixture.

Everton v Swansea City Pick: There has to be some real discussion at the Liberty Stadium as to whether they should be making a change in the manager's office as Paul Clement has struggled to get a consistent run together. Being bottom of the Premier League at Christmas has historically been a tough position to recover from and Swansea City have not shown the kind of form to think they can get out of their current predicament.

Now they have to travel to face an Everton team who have been rejuvenated by Sam Allardyce and have subsequently won 4 of 5 games in all competitions. The wins in the Premier League have come behind some strong defensive efforts and Everton are going for a fourth straight win at Goodison Park in the Premier League.

You have to think they can do that, although the short odds on Everton suggests the layers have completely forgotten about how much this club was suffering before Allardyce arrived.

That makes it hard to back Everton at short odds, especially as Swansea City have been a well organised team away from home. The problem both at home and on their travels has been the lack of goals being scored and that may be the difference here with Wilfried Bony potentially missing too.

Bony has scored the last couple of Swansea City League goals so his absence would be a blow and I do think Everton are the more likely winners.

Instead of taking them at a short price, I will have a small interest on Everton continuing their recent trend of clean sheets in their wins. All 4 wins in the last couple of weeks have come with a clean sheet including at Newcastle United during the week.

Swansea City have only scored 4 away goals in the Premier League and half of those came in a 0-2 win at Crystal Palace. I will thus have a small interest in Everton winning this one with a clean sheet at a nice looking price.

MY PICKS: Leicester City @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.73 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Burnley + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.93 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stoke City-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.96 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
West Brom-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Liverpool to Win & Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Everton Win to Nil @ 2.70 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

United Corner- Derby Day Disappointment (December 13th 2017)

United Corner- Derby Day Disappointment (December 13th 2017)
The reality is that most of us Manchester United fans would have accepted that Manchester City have the superior eleven starting at the moment, but that doesn't mean we have to accept being second best as we were at Old Trafford on Sunday.

It has taken a couple of days for the defeat to really sink in and the stories of the tunnel fracas and subsequent press conferences both Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola has kept the wound a little fresher than I was hoping.

The thing that really grates is that, despite being second best, and despite the feeling United are not as good as City at this moment in time, United should not have lost in the manner they did. Two horrible mistakes from set pieces and the game was gone, but looking back it was only when United began to chase the game that City really had the openings to put the game away and I can't think of too many great chances created before that.

I'm not saying United were playing better.

But I am saying that City were mainly kept at arm's length and those two mistakes from set pieces are haunting me in a game where I feel United could have got a result.

Even with that in mind, there are clearly some way to go before United can really match those lot across the way and I think the next summer transfer window is going to be a really big one for Jose Mourinho. A legitimate number 10 and another wide player have to be the priority, but it can't just be a functioning player but one that can really turn a game.

That would seriously help with the maintaining of possession against a City team who try and starve teams of the ball, while also providing a more effective counter attack.

Some of the tactics may need to be questioned with the long, direct ball clearly not working bar one mistake from the City defence, but that can be a decent plan if mixed in with a little more courage to take the ball down and get around the press.

It can happen and that extra quality will help, while I still believe Paul Pogba was a huge loss for the team and one that may have turned enough in our favour to get something from the game.

This season it is tough to get the ball down and play when you see some of the starters from Sunday, but I do hope the entire team plays with a little more belief in what they are doing the next time we meet City.

That might not be too long with both clubs progressing in the League Cup which reaches its Semi Final Round after the Quarter Finals are played next week. Both United and City also have decent Champions League draws and a chance to open up in the FA Cup with home wins so there is every chance we have to meet again to determine more silverware later in the campaign.

A bit more bravery and a better performance from set pieces and I think United will be closer, especially as City begin to rack up the games and the fatigue later in the season.

Some of that will depend on the title rivals getting closer than the 11 point gap which currently exists. I think United just have to do what Mourinho has been emphasising and that is take each fixture as it comes and see how it plays out.

Games against Bournemouth, West Brom, Leicester City, Burnley (twice), Southampton, Everton and Stoke City represent a good chance for Manchester United to get back on the horse and see where they stand when they head to Wembley Stadium to play Tottenham Hotspur at the end of January.

It is very much within the realms of possibility that United can win all 8 game League games in that time during which Manchester City host Tottenham Hotspur and have to visit Liverpool and suddenly the gap may look more manageable.

I am clutching at straws somewhat, but we have seen United both reel in and blow big leads after Christmas in the last twenty years and I don't want to be handing any prizes to City just yet.

It was also nice to hear from Louis Van Gaal in the aftermath of the loss to Manchester City- a good time for the overrated Dutchman to try and stick the knife in.

Unfortunately the suggestion that his United team were the 'great entertainers' went down faster than a lead balloon, while the fact he thinks he has his 'best year' as manager, despite the money he was handed, is laughable.

One, I've never been as bored watching United as I was under LVG when goalless home draws were the absolute norm as he put spectators and his own players to sleep.

Two, best year? The last two years have shown how important it can be for teams to produce their best in the Premier League without European distractions. Both Leicester City and Chelsea have won the League without European commitments.

Louis Van Gaal took United to 4th and 17 points off the eventual winners Chelsea.

We also lost 4-0 at MK Dons in the League Cup and a home loss at Arsenal meant United ended up without silverware.

The next season the great LVG couldn't get United back into the top four.

Best year? He honestly must have been at the Christmas wine again.

And every day he should thank a broken fax machine for being the reason his only real legacy at Old Trafford would have been selling David De Gea to Real Madrid for Keyler Navas and a bag of crisps!

The fixtures will come thick and fast during the remainder of December with United playing twice a week and that could continue through January depending on whether we get through to the League Cup Semi Final and any potential FA Cup Replay.

It's a tough time but Pogba is back next week and the squad has the depth to cope with the fixtures. I am hoping United can kick on with the wins to really put the Manchester derby defeat behind us and I am sure there is enough character in the squad to do that.

There is plenty of football and silverware to be played for and Sunday is not going to hold back the team. United can't afford to slip up though with the top four chase looking like one that could go down to the wire, but I believe the boys will get back to winning ways on Wednesday and that will help build some momentum to take into the new calendar year.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Midweek Football Picks 2017 (December 12-13)

The December Football schedule means there are not a lot of days to rest and recover and that is shown by another round of Premier League fixtures to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The last weekend was a big one in terms of the title race as it looks like Manchester City are going to be very difficult to pull back after winning at Old Trafford. It was a tough day for us Manchester United fans and I will have a short piece about United in the wake of that defeat which should be posted before the Bournemouth game on Wednesday.

On Monday the Champions League and Europa League Last 16/Last 32 Knock Out ties were drawn and it looks an interesting time for the Premier League.

I do think Arsenal can work their way through to the Last 16 without too many issues when they take on Ostersunds and the importance of the Europa League will depend on how The Gunners play in the Premier League between now and February.

The more intriguing ties came in the Champions League as the five English teams in the Last 16 received their opponents.

Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City should be very happy when they play the two Legs against Sevilla, Porto and Basel respectively.

Both Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have received the glamour ties against Juventus and Barcelona which will really appeal to the fans, and I think both will have their chances. I lean towards Tottenham Hotspur making a quartet of English representatives in the Quarter Finals and Chelsea being edged out, but those the situation could be much different when we come around to February when the Champions League recommences.

And of course most will be looking forward to Real Madrid versus Paris Saint-Germain which looks a tie that could easily determine the winner of the Champions League this season.

This weekend was one of the worst when it comes to the Football Picks in recent weeks and I have to say I was a little irritated things went south as badly as they did. The Christian Benteke penalty miss was costly, but it was a tough day all around and I am looking for a significant bounce back on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Crystal Palace v Watford Pick: Neither Roy Hodgson or Marco Silva were in a great mood on Saturday evening after feeling their teams had been hard done by, but both Crystal Palace and Watford have to pick themselves up immediately with another round of Premier League games this midweek.

Crystal Palace may rue the two points they dropped on Saturday when Christian Benteke decided to take a penalty that the manager or coaching staff did not ask him to. Benteke isn't the designated penalty taker for Crystal Palace with Luka Milivojevic having already scored one penalty on the day still on the pitch, and you do have to wonder how the players feel about the way things panned out.

There is also the concern that Wilfried Zaha could face a suspension having won the first penalty in controversial fashion, but that has not been decided at the time of writing. Losing Zaha would be a huge blow for Crystal Palace, but Hodgson has to be encouraged that his team can create chances at home.

Saturday was the fifth consecutive home game in which Crystal Palace had scored at least two goals and there are injury concerns and suspensions which make Watford vulnerable. However Marco Silva has to feel his side can create chances at Selhurst Park too with Watford being an efficient counter attacking team.

Crystal Palace haven't done clean sheets at home and I can see this being another high-scoring game for the home fans to appreciate. I am leaning towards a home win too with Watford perhaps a little tired after playing with ten men for a long time on Saturday, but I do think Watford can play their part here and will back at least three goals to be shared out.

Watford have scored plenty of away goals in the League, but have also conceded quite a few and an entertaining game could be the outcome.

Huddersfield Town v Chelsea Pick: These two teams come into this live Premier League televised encounter after contrasting feelings from the results they earned on Saturday, but Chelsea will still be big favourites to win at Huddersfield Town.

While Chelsea went down to a 1-0 loss on Saturday lunchtime, Huddersfield Town beat Brighton 2-0 here later in the day. However I do wonder how much energy the home team will have for this game having been hammered at Arsenal just a few days after an intense battle with Manchester City a couple of weeks ago.

The home form is key for Huddersfield Town, but the intensity with which David Wagner wants his players to play can be sapping. They were the far better team on Saturday when beating Brighton, and Huddersfield Town will look to exploit all the set pieces they have, but it may be tough to dominate in the same way against Chelsea.

Despite the disappointing performance against West Ham United, Chelsea have shown they can bounce back from poor results with much better ones soon after. Antonio Conte's suggestion the players were tired is a concern, but there is enough quality to make some changes and still be an effective threat, while this time they are facing a team who will have played with less recovery time.

That could be important for Chelsea who will also play again on Saturday with more recovery time than their next opponents. You do have to respect the Huddersfield Town home form which has seen them beat Manchester United and only narrowly lose to Manchester City, but I do think it is difficult for their squad to play two Premier League games in a short space of days like this.

Chelsea's experience of dealing with a couple of games in a three or four day period should help them here and I do think they can bounce back from the loss at West Ham United. It won't be easy, but I expect Chelsea can wear Huddersfield Town down with the domination of the ball and the home team might not have the same intensity in the second of two Premier League games in four days and I will look for Chelsea to win by a couple of goals on the day.

Newcastle United v Everton Pick: The one concern for any midweek fixtures off the back of a busy Premier League weekend is how much energy has been sapped in matches played. That has to be an issue for Everton after playing in the Merseyside derby on Sunday, but they can at least point to the draw as a positive and perhaps another confidence boost for a squad of players who had been struggling.

It certainly makes it a surprise to see Newcastle United as favourites to beat them after they were beaten here by Leicester City on Saturday afternoon. Having a few hours more of recovery time can be important, but The Magpies are out of form and Rafa Benitez is struggling to get a tune out of his players.

Newcastle United have lost 6 of their last 7 games and they are now just a couple of points clear of the bottom three and with some tough fixtures to come. They have lost 3 in a row at St James' Park and I just can't have them as favourites to beat Everton this Wednesday.

Sam Allardyce will look to make Everton hard to beat and challenge Newcastle United on the counter attack and I think they can have success doing that. Energy levels could be an issue, but Newcastle United are struggling and the visitors are in the kind of form where they can be backed with a start on the Asian Handicap.

Southampton v Leicester City Pick: There is a clear storyline in play when Southampton face Leicester City on Wednesday and that is the return of Claude Puel to St Mary's where his tactics were not appreciated by the home fans. In his time with Southampton Puel took them to a League Cup Final, but there was a perception of negativity that surrounded him and that saw Southampton decide to move on.

A few months later Puel has taken over at Leicester City and the fans at his new club may have been worried about what to expect when reading about his time with Southampton. However Leicester City have been far from a boring team to watch since Puel replaced Craig Shakespeare and the players seem very happy.

That should mean they are given even more motivation to put in a big performance for their manager in this game which will mean a lot to Puel.

Leicester City have been in a good run which will increase the confidence and they have been scoring plenty of goals in recent games both at home and away. The 2-3 win at Newcastle United on Saturday showed some of the determination in the squad after Leicester City had fallen 1-0 down very early in the contest and I do think they can provide problems for Southampton who have had a day less recovery time from the weekend fixtures.

Southampton have also been in improved form in recent weeks which should mean we have a decent fixture in prospect. They should have beaten Arsenal with the chances they had in the second half, but the final ball is still a problem for Southampton and I think that is still holding them back from really pushing on up the Premier League table.

Charlie Austin is providing a goal threat, but Southampton have only scored more than one goal in 1 of their last 8 Premier League games. That was in the recent 4-1 win over Everton at St Mary's but the lack of goals continues to be an issue that needs resolving and I think that gives Leicester City every chance to earn a result for Claude Puel.

The away side have scored at least twice in 3 of their last 4 away Premier League games and I think Leicester City can avoid a loss here. I was tempted to back the draw, but Leicester City have created enough chances to win games and if Southampton continue to struggle for goals there is every opportunity for Leicester City to win here.

Either way, I think Leicester City earn a result and I will back them with a start on the Asian Handicap to do that.

Swansea City v Manchester City Pick: It is still too early to put the fork into the Premier League title chase, but Manchester City have looked very strong and the win at Old Trafford moving them 11 points clear of 2nd placed Manchester United looks a huge lead already. Things can change quickly, but it is tough to see Manchester City hitting the kind of slump that will be needed for that gap to decrease and I really don't think that happens here at the Liberty Stadium.

Paul Clement just has to be happy that his side won on Saturday to ease some of the pressure he has to have been feeling as Swansea City manager. The rumours that the club were looking at Tony Pulis as a possible replacement didn't affect the players who helped Swansea City beat West Brom 1-0, but this is a completely different level of test.

You know Clement will try and set Swansea City up to be tough to beat and hit Manchester City on the counter attack, but it is the away side who will dominate the ball. The talent Manchester City have means they are likely to wear down Swansea City over the course of ninety minutes, and the lack of goals in the Swansea City squad has to be a concern.

Wilfried Bony has scored twice in a row and would love to do the same against his former club Manchester City, but this is a team who had failed to score in 3 home games prior to the win over West Brom. The lack of goals is the reason Swansea City are struggling in the Premier League and I think they will have their problems trying to get to the Manchester City backline in this one.

Manchester City have a strong recent record at Swansea City and the feeling is that they will likely win this one with a clean sheet which can be backed at odds against. That looks the most likely way this fixture ends as Manchester City likely have a couple of goals in the side to secure the victory and keep the pressure on their rivals to try and find a way to stay with them.

Liverpool v West Brom Pick: Jurgen Klopp was angry and irritated by the questions he was facing immediately after Liverpool could only draw 1-1 with Everton as he felt the officials had made the wrong decision for the late Everton penalty that was awarded. It was the frustration that came out of the day when Liverpool should have won the Merseyside derby with some comfort, but Klopp will likely recognise the penalty was the correct decision.

He will be hoping to be in a better mood on Wednesday evening after Liverpool host an out of form West Brom team who remain tough to break down even after Tony Pulis has moved on. Alan Pardew has not made an immediate impact with The Baggies though and this is a team who have struggled in the final third which is going to make it tough to earn a result here.

West Brom will likely hope to do the same as Everton and contain Liverpool as much as possible and take advantage of any set pieces or counter attacking opportunities they get. The Liverpool defence is one that is far from watertight, but it was still tough for Everton to get up the field and I think that is going to be the case for West Brom here.

As poor as Liverpool have defended at times, they seem to do better at Anfield where they have had 5 clean sheets in their last 7 here in all competitions. They have won 4 of their last 6 at Anfield and all of those wins have come with a clean sheet and I have to think that is very likely against a West Brom team who have lost 3 of their last 4 away Premier League games by the same 1-0 scoreline.

The Baggies have also failed to score in 4 of their last 6 Premier League games overall and I think that is going to be a problem for them on Wednesday. Backing Liverpool to win this one with a clean sheet is a big enough price to be involved and they have been better defensively at Anfield to think they can earn the three points behind a clean sheet here.

Manchester United v Bournemouth Pick: It was a disappointing day in the office for Manchester United on Sunday when they were clearly the second best team on the pitch against Manchester City, but the manner of the goals conceded will haunt Jose Mourinho. For all the talk of possession and shots, it was two blunders from set pieces which cost Manchester United and that will hurt considering that was supposed to be an area of strength.

It will hurt and the players and fans will be feeling a little sore on Monday, but they have to get back on the horse in a busy December.

All is not lost yet for Manchester United who have to put a winning run together and then see how things are looking in a few weeks time. They have a chance to do that with the next set of League games coming mainly against teams in the bottom half of the Premier League table and that begins on Wednesday when hosting Bournemouth.

I do expect Jose Mourinho to make some changes to freshen up his team although there aren't many options in the middle of the park. The likes of Phil Jones, Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian, Henrikh Mkhitaryan didn't play a minute on Sunday, while Juan Mata and Zlatan Ibrahimovic both had limited roles.

The squad should be able to cope with a Bournemouth side who were fortunate to escape Crystal Palace with a point when you think of the chances the home side had. Bournemouth do feel more comfortable at this level, but they have been second best when facing the top teams in the League for the most part.

This is a team who have lost at both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and suffered home losses to Manchester City and Chelsea and I do think Bournemouth are not quite so good on their travels. They can't make the same types of changes as Manchester United so tiredness could be a factor considering the effort made on Saturday, although an extra day of rest will help the visitors in this one.

Even with that in mind, they are facing a Manchester United team who will have something to prove on Wednesday. The top four places is the minimum everyone connected with the club will expect and they have to recover from a disappointing result.

Being at home helps considering Manchester United had won 12 straight at Old Trafford before Sunday, and they have been putting some of the lesser lights to the sword in front of their home fans. That is a marked improvement from last season and I think Manchester United will dominate the possession in this one and are able to score the goals to win by a relatively comfortable margin too.

Bournemouth will allow Manchester United to express themselves and that has led to plenty of goals conceded when visiting the top teams in England. There might not be a lot of goals in this one as Manchester United just want to get back to winning and Bournemouth may be looking to keep it tight as possible, but Manchester United have followed each of their previous 3 losses this season with wins.

2 of those have come by at least a two goal margin and I will back Manchester United to cover the Asian Handicap in this one.

Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton Pick: December is a test for clubs both at the top and bottom of the Premier League with the games coming thick and fast and that stretches squads. However teams at the top will feel they can make a few more changes to freshen things up and keep the quality at a high level which is an issue for those lower down the Division.

It shouldn't be a problem for Tottenham Hotspur this midweek, although they are likely going to keep the big names out there to try and build some momentum ahead of the Premier League game at Manchester City on Saturday. They may freshen up the full back positions and not lose too much, and I do think Tottenham Hotspur are going to be too good for Brighton who are struggling.

Chris Hughton won't be panicking just yet, but Brighton have taken some heavy losses of late and the disappointment of the 2-0 loss at Huddersfield Town will have dented the confidence. Travelling to Wembley Stadium may offer the motivation for a big effort, but I wouldn't be surprised if Hughton makes some changes with the weekend game in mind.

Back to back home games against Burnley and Watford could be the priority for Hughton and Brighton and I think that may show up on Wednesday.

Brighton did play well in a narrow loss at Old Trafford recently, but they have since lost 1-5 to Liverpool and 2-0 at Huddersfield Town. The Seagulls have also lost by a couple of goals against Manchester City and Arsenal this season and I do think Tottenham Hotspur are perhaps trending upwards after some recent negative results.

That should see Tottenham Hotspur create the chances to win this game and cover the Asian Handicap.

West Ham United v Arsenal Pick: The two teams had contrasting results in the last round of Premier League fixtures, but I think Arsenal can bounce back against West Ham United.

The home team should be very confident and coming in with a lot of positive feeling after beating Chelsea 1-0 here on Saturday and they have also had an extra day to prepare for this London derby. However West Ham United have a squad that is stretched and they had to put in a lot of work on Saturday to earn the victory over Chelsea and I do wonder if that has taken something out of the tank.

The players certainly looked short of energy at the end of the win over Chelsea and they are likely going to be doing a lot of chasing in this one against an Arsenal team who can dominate possession.

However West Ham United should feel they can create chances against an Arsenal defence which has looked very vulnerable in the last couple of League games. They were fortunate not to be punished by Southampton who had some very strong counter attacking opportunities, but Arsenal have the talent to break down any team in front of them when they are playing at their best.

Arsenal conceded early and West Ham United scored early over the weekend and I do think the opening moments will be important in this one. If Arsenal can just weather what is likely to be an early storm, I would fancy Arsenal to create chances against a West Ham United team who will have some fatigue to deal with.

In recent years Arsenal have enjoyed their trips to West Ham United including a 1-5 win at the London Stadium last season. I think they will be able to bounce back from the last couple of weaker Premier League results with a much better one on Wednesday and I still think West Ham United are a team who have issues at the back that Arsenal can expose.

It didn't work on Saturday, but I will back Arsenal to cover the Asian Handicap in a win at the London Stadium on Wednesday.

MY PICKS: Crystal Palace-Watford Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City Win to Nil @ 2.10 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Liverpool Win to Nil @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.88 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.12 Bet365 (2 Units)

December Update: 9-18, - 12.38 Units (45 Units Staked, - 27.51% Yield)

Monday, 11 December 2017

NBA Picks December 2017 (December 11-17)

December has not started as well as I had hoped and I have taken a couple of days off from the NBA Picks to get back on track.

I missed any picks from Sunday after the New York Knicks blew a big chance to knock off the Chicago Bulls on Saturday and I won't be making any picks from Monday this week either.

However I am putting the thread for the week's NBA games up now and will be adding Picks as the week progresses.

Monday 11th December
There are a few games scheduled for Monday but it is the case of having a watching brief for me as I look to get this month back on track. It has been a good start to the season for the NBA Picks, but nothing really appealed on Monday after what has been a rough opening to December.

Tuesday 12th December
LA Lakers @ New York Knicks Pick: Time restrictions means I will say a few words here for this one NBA Pick from the Tuesday offerings.

The Knicks have been so much better at home than on the road and they will be looking to put another win on the board during a period where so many of their games will have to be played away from Madison Square Garden. They have the shooting to trouble the LA Lakers who will be excited about playing here, but may be a little over-rated having won back to back games.

New York are 3-0 against the spread when favoured by less than 3 points and the superior three point Defensive work may just be enough for the Knicks to win this one and cover this number.

Wednesday 13th December
I would not have been impressed if the LA Lakers had scored their wide open three point attempt when inbounding the ball at 0.6 seconds left.

Down by 4 points, it made absolutely no sense for Luke Walton to call a timeout, and then have his players attempt that shot with the game over. Well it would have made sense in Vegas when the missed shot was the difference between the Knicks and the Lakers covering the number that had been set.

Thankfully the shot didn't go down, but I do wonder what Walton was thinking as there was never going to be the time to get the two possessions the Lakers needed. In usual circumstances the Kristaps Porzingis two free throws ice the game and the Lakers run out the clock themselves, but this was just a strange decision from Walton all around.

Charlotte Hornets @ Houston Rockets Pick: There is no doubting that this is a big number for the Houston Rockets to cover when they host the Charlotte Hornets and look to keep their winning run going. They have blown out the Hornets twice in a row on the road, including earlier this season, but this is a big enough number for Charlotte to secure a backdoor cover at the very worst.

The Rockets also have the San Antonio Spurs next up on deck in a big Western Conference game so there is reason to believe they may overlook the Hornets.

However, I am going to back the Rockets to win because they are clearly in good form and won't want to go into the Spurs game off a loss. They are laying the hammer down Offensively and I am not sure Charlotte have the talent to stay with them even off a good looking win at the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Charlotte return home after this game and they have a couple of key injuries which may make it difficult for the Hornets to challenge the Rockets on the glass like they would like. They haven't much enjoyed playing in Houston either with a 3-12-1 record against the spread in the last sixteen games here and the Rockets have a strong 4-1 record against the spread when being favoured by between 10 and 13.5 points this season.

It won't be easy, but if Houston continue finding their range from the three point arc, I do think they can win and cover here.

Thursday 14th December
Detroit Pistons @ Atlanta Hawks Pick: Wednesday was a disappointment with the one NBA Pick missing out by a single point from the cover. Houston were up by 19 points with a little over two minutes remaining which really did stick in the craw, but I got a little lucky with the first Pick this week.

Hopefully Thursday will be better.

The first Pick I have is going with the Detroit Pistons to snap their recent losing run with a trip to Atlanta which looks to be coming at the right time for the visitors. The Hawks are off a long road trip and are making one stop at home before heading to the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday and they have been struggling for the majority of the season.

Of course the Pistons are short of confidence at the moment, but I would expect them to have every chance of getting back on track after some inefficient shooting days in recent games. This Hawks Defensive unit is not one of the stronger ones out there and I would expect the Pistons to have a much stronger day all around.

The Pistons are 5-3 against the spread when favoured by 5 or less points this season and Atlanta are 1-4 against the spread when given up to 5 points as the underdog. Detroit already hold a win over Atlanta at home and they have been a strong road team when it comes to the window and I will look for them to snap a negative run ahead of a big game with the Indiana Pacers on Friday.

New York Knicks @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: The Knicks may have won back to back games, but both were played at Madison Square Garden and there is no denying how much weaker New York have been on their travels. Granted this is not a long trip for them as they go to the Brooklyn Nets, but I also think it is tough to back the Knicks to win when they have been so inconsistent on their travels.

This is a revenge spot for the Nets who have lost at MSG back in October, but who have won three of their last four games going into this one. Being a favourite is a weird position for the Nets, but Brooklyn are 4-0 against the spread as the favourite of less than 3 points this season which makes it easier to want to back them.

The Nets are playing the slightly better Defense at the moment and they have the ability to challenge New York on the boards and I think that is a good enough reason to back them here. Adding the New York factor of being on the road helps especially when the Knicks are just 1-2 against the spread playing a team with a losing record.

The home team is 8-2 against the spread in the last ten in this series and the favourite is 5-1 against the spread in the last six. The Nets have been a covering machine in home games recently compared with the Knicks who have had difficulties covering on the road and I will back the narrow home favourite to win this one too.

MY PICKS: 12/12 New York Knicks - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
13/12 Houston Rockets - 12.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
14/12 Detroit Pistons - 4 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
14/12 Brooklyn Nets - 1 Point @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

December 11-17 Update: 2-2, - 0.18 Units (4 Units Staked, - 4.5% Yield)

December 1-10 Final: 5-7, - 2.45 Units (12 Units Staked, - 20.42% Yield)