Friday, 24 April 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (April 25-26)

Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Unless Aston Villa beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Final, which would be a big surprise, both of these teams will be playing in the Europa League next season. While that will be exciting for Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur fans will be disappointed they haven't found a way to challenge for a place in the Champions League.

Both of these teams weren't that far away from the top four places a couple of months ago, but neither Southampton nor Tottenham Hotspur have been consistent enough to keep up with the pace set by those sides. That is the main reason that there are now 7 points between these sides and Manchester City in the top four and games have run out to really expect either to challenge at this late stage.

The game was picked for television coverage at a time when it could have had huge Champions League implications, but both Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino might already have begun work on next season behind the scenes.

Tottenham Hotspur did win 1-3 at Newcastle United last weekend, but they had won just 1 of 5 away games in all competitions prior to that, while they had failed to score in 3 of 4 on their travels. That might be an issue as they visit St Mary's where Southampton have won 3 in a row in the Premier League and have kept clean sheets in each of those victories.

Suffice to say that Burnley and Hull City are not as good as Spurs going forward, but Crystal Palace were also prevented from scoring and that is more impressive from Southampton. Koeman will likely make sure his Saints team is hard to beat again this weekend, but I also expect the home team to have some chances because I don't trust this Tottenham Hotspur defence to keep teams out.

A small interest might be worth taking on Southampton to keep up their recent positive home form and backing them to win with a clean sheet looks a big price.

Burnley v Leicester City Pick: The term 'relegation six pointer' has been made for games like this- with five games left for Burnley and six left for Leicester City, it is no exaggeration to suggest the team that loses this weekend will occupy one of the bottom three places in May.

That will almost certainly be felt by the players too and this match could come down to which of the sets of players deals with the tension and pressure the best.

You could make a reasonable argument for any of these teams, but I am stunned to see Leicester City as such an underdog considering they are clearly the form team of the two. You do have to put in a disclaimer for Burnley in that they have faced the top seven in the Premier League in recent weeks, but I am not entirely convinced about them in the final third and now Ashley Barnes is suspended too.

A lack of goals has to be a real concern for Sean Dyche, especially as Leicester City will come to Turf Moor having scored 10 goals in their last 4 Premier League games. That includes hitting three goals at both Tottenham Hotspur and West Brom, while Leicester City also scored twice at Everton in a recent away game.

I'd fear for Burnley if Leicester City can score twice here, although the defence is still far from watertight and the home team will have chances. However, the expectation and need to win will force Burnley out of their own defensive shape of recent weeks and I think Leicester City have a huge chance of winning this game, far more than the layers seem to think anyway.

Nigel Pearson has seemed to have found the formula that has produced goals for Leicester City and I think that confidence can see them win this game and find a way to move out of the bottom three at a vital time.

Crystal Palace v Hull City Pick: I was very surprised to see Crystal Palace beaten last weekend, but perhaps even more surprised that their attacking talents were blunted as effectively as they were by West Brom. Much of that might have been down to the insight that Tony Pulis would have had having worked with these players last season, but Crystal Palace also didn't get a little bit of a break with the chances that fell to their players.

It might not be the case this weekend as they take on an out of form Hull City team that are under increasing pressure from the three teams below them in the Premier League table. The fact that those three teams occupy the relegation zone only makes it even harder for Steve Bruce and his men, while injuries have been hurting the side.

Bruce might have been grateful for the unexpected break that Hull City have had thanks to Liverpool playing in the FA Cup Semi Final, but they need to start picking up points if they are going to avoid the drop. With the owner threatening to withdraw from the club, the financial implications of relegation could be huge for a club like Hull City, but it is hard to see where they are going to get the points to survive.

Games like this are likely being circled as they face Liverpool and Arsenal at home next, but visiting Selhurst Park is far from easy with the pace and power Crystal Palace have in forward areas. The end of their 4 game winning run might have broken some momentum, but I am expecting Crystal Palace to get back to form this week and I think they will put Hull City under intense pressure.

If Hull City score first, they might get something here, but they have lost 3 of their last 4 away games in the Premier League and defeats at West Ham United, West Brom, Stoke City and Swansea won't fill Hull City with confidence. At odds against, Crystal Palace might be a better option this week than they were at odds on against West Brom last week.

Queens Park Rangers v West Ham United Pick: This is a big game for Chris Ramsey and his Queens Park Rangers team and a victory could see them move out of the bottom three which has become a real battle thanks to Leicester City's form. It was supposed to be the form at Loftus Road that was going to keep Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, but they have lost 6 straight home games in the Premier League although they have come against sides in the top seven and Everton.

However, I do like the chances of Queens Park Rangers this weekend as they entertain a West Ham United team that looked disinterested at best at the Etihad Stadium last weekend, The uncertain future of Sam Allardyce is having a negative impact on a team that has also been hit hard by injuries and they do look a team that is there for the taking.

Leicester City took advantage of the problems at Upton Park by beating West Ham United at home and Queens Park Rangers have to match that result if they are going to survive in the Premier League. Performances have certainly improved in recent weeks for Queens Park Rangers and they were unfortunate to lost 0-1 to Chelsea in their last game here.

With Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora up front, I expect Queens Park Rangers to cause West Ham United problems and they have to be worth a small interest to earn a priceless three points this weekend.

Stoke City v Sunderland Pick: I'll be the first to admit that certain teams in the Premier League should never be odds on to win a game of football, but Stoke City might just be playing well enough at the Brittania Stadium to make those count this weekend. The concern has to be Dick Advocaat getting an extra week to get a solid gameplan in place and Sunderland can be quite compact defensively, but their lack of goals and some of the heavy defeats has to have dented confidence.

There is a very similar situation to Hull City for Sunderland in saying they have a difficult run in this season and this is the one away game that they might have circled as one they can earn points from.

However, Stoke City have really turned their form around at the Brittania Stadium and are playing with a clear goal on improving on their 9th place Premier League finish from last season. The players are clearly focused having come from a goal behind to beat Southampton here last weekend and Stoke might have enough to earn the three points in this one.

As I said, the biggest issue may be Advocaat putting in a solid gameplan that allows Sunderland to battle to a point, but Stoke City have a strong home record in recent weeks and against Sunderland. First goal is always crucial in these kinds of games and hopefully Stoke City can get that on their way to three points.

West Brom v Liverpool Pick: The disappointment of this season has led to some Liverpool fans calling for the sacking of Brendan Rodgers, which is remarkable when you consider they were a slip away from winning the Premier League twelve months ago. Rodgers has to take some of the criticism for the season Liverpool have had because some of the signings were simply not up to scratch, but I don't think he has been helped by the early decision made by Steven Gerrard that he would be leaving and the long-term injury to Daniel Sturridge.

Up until the a month ago, Liverpool were considered the form team in the Premier League, but losing to Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League ended their Champions League ambitions, while the defeat to Aston Villa in the FA Cup was a huge blow.

It will be interesting to see how the players react to these blows over the last month of the season with not much left to play for. It is almost certain that Liverpool will be playing in the Europa League next season as long as Arsenal win the FA Cup, but even falling out of that competition might be better for their long-term prospects.

West Brom also come into the game with a lot of confidence having earned a surprising win at Selhurst Park last weekend and that result should be enough to keep them in the Premier League. Their last couple of games at The Hawthornes have been disappointing though as they have lost to Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City and West Brom might be preparing to face a wounded Liverpool who have the pace in forward positions to cause this defence some problems.

On the other hand, I would expect the Baggies to give Liverpool a lot of issues when they get forward too and it might produce a game where a number of chances are created. As long as the teams aren't wasting those chances, West Brom and Liverpool can combine for at least three goals in this one.

Manchester City v Aston Villa Pick: No matter what you think about Tim Sherwood, he deserves to be praised for guiding Aston Villa to the FA Cup Semi Final as well as the way they are fighting to avoid relegation in the Premier League. Sherwood has reinvigorated Christian Benteke, while the rest of the team are playing with a confidence that was severely lacking under Paul Lambert and makes Aston Villa a dangerous game for Manchester City.

However, this is a ground where Manchester City have really been performing well over the last few Premier League games and that comfort should lead to another win.

Manuel Pellegrini will be happy to hear that David Silva is unlikely to miss any playing time after a nasty looking injury picked up last Sunday, and Sergio Aguero looks like a player that might have returned to form just in time.

It isn't in time for a Premier League title challenge, but Manchester City can't afford to fall out of the top four in the table and Aguero's goals are vital for them to do that. The Argentinian might be able to add to his recent successes in front of goal considering the injuries that Aston Villa are dealing with at the back could be exposed in this one.

Aston Villa have struggled at the Etihad Stadium in the past, but they are arguably coming here with more confidence than at any time in recent seasons. However, Manchester City have won 4 in a row here in the Premier League, have played better defensively at home and all of those wins have come by at least two goals. I will back them to do the same this weekend.

Everton v Manchester United Pick: Even in defeat at Champions elect Chelsea, Manchester United showed enough to suggest the future could be very bright at Old Trafford, especially if more is spent to strengthen the squad in the summer. Personally I don't want to get ahead of myself with the additional games of the Champions League sapping more energy from the squad than they have had to face this season, but it is still exciting times.

For the fans, this is a chance to really exorcise the demons of the David Moyes era as Manchester United travel back to Goodison Park where Moyes' time was up a little over a year to the day. Last season Manchester United were beaten here 2-0 and barely looked interested, but things have changed for both clubs since then and the away side come here in a different frame of mind.

If the game had come a couple of months ago and Manchester United were displaying the form they are at the moment, they would be big favourites to win. However, Everton have just turned their own form around and have won their last 5 games at Goodison Park in all competitions which will give them a lot of confidence too.

The fans are always up for the visit of Manchester United so the atmosphere won't be lacking on Sunday and I can see both teams looking to get on the front foot. Manchester United should have an element in control of the midfield if Everton are without the likes of Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar, but the away side are still not completely convincing in defence.

Marouane Fellaini has been having a big impact at Old Trafford this season and might be the key player again against his former club and I can see both teams having their chances in this one. A draw isn't really anything for either team so I will back at least three goals being shared by them as both teams push for a big victory.

Arsenal v Chelsea Pick: Arsene Wenger has never beaten Jose Mourinho and Arsenal failing to beat Chelsea on Sunday will mean the Blues can win the Premier League title by winning their next two games and have it wrapped up a week on Sunday.

They have met five times at Arsenal with Mourinho in the Chelsea dugout and it is 2 wins for the away team and 3 draws and you would say that Chelsea will be very happy with a point in this one. Jose Mourinho will likely set his team up to defend well and hope to nick something on the break, but it has to be pointed out that Chelsea have drawn 3 of the 4 games at Arsenal in the League under Mourinho.

Arsenal are in very good form heading into the game and you can understand the confidence some of their fans will have for this game. They have won their last 11 home games in all competitions against English opposition and Arsenal have enough attacking talent to move this Chelsea team around.

On the other hand, I am not sure how Arsenal will cope with Eden Hazard who has been magnificent for Chelsea all season and likely to have some space for his speed and dribbling ability to exploit if Arsenal push too far ahead. The absence of Diego Costa does take away a real focal point for Chelsea and I won't be that surprised if they end up playing a 'false nine' system this weekend as both Didier Drogba and Loic Remy are also doubtful.

This just feels like the kind of game that Mourinho has thrived upon through his career as a manager and I expect Chelsea play Arsenal tough all game and take a point which will put them on the brink of becoming Champions of England once again.

MY PICKS: Southampton Win to Nil @ 3.50 Coral (1 Unit)
Leicester City @ 3.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Crystal Palace @ 2.10 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Queens Park Rangers @ 2.40 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Stoke City @ 1.95 Sky Bet (2 Units)
West Brom-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.98 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal-Chelsea Draw @ 3.30 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

April Update15-21-1, - 10.79 Units (69 Units Staked, - 15.64% Yield)

March Final30-18, + 30.66 Units (88 Units Staked, + 34.84% Yield)
February Final20-24-2, + 3.19 Units (75 Units Staked, + 4.25% Yield)
January Final10-22-1, - 10.54 Units (57 Units Staked, - 18.49% Yield)
December Final25-19-1, + 18.70 Units (81 Units Staked, + 23.09% Yield)
November Final17-21, - 0.59 Units (69 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
October Final8-18, - 14.79 Units (47 Units Staked, - 31.47% Yield)
September Final12-18, - 2.28 Units (41 Units Staked, - 5.56% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/15130-162-4, + 4.43 Units (509 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Tennis Picks 2015 (April 24th)

It's Quarter Final time at the three tournaments being played this week across Europe and the biggest surprise has to be the absence of Rafael Nadal from the draw. I really believed Nadal was in for a big week in Barcelona as he looks to restore his confidence ahead of the French Open, but Fabio Fognini has to be given credit for battling through some tough periods to win that match in straight sets.

Nadal is going to have two big tournaments in Madrid and Rome to prove to himself that he is ready to challenge Novak Djokovic and retain his grip on the French Open that he has dominated for so long. However the loss in Barcelona will only have strengthened the belief that Djokovic is favourite to win the second Grand Slam of the season and that will only be hardened if he wins the next two Masters events as he has dominated the first three.

I'd go so far as to say Novak Djokovic is likely to go into the French Open as the odds on favourite to win the tournament as we get closer to that event and that will definitely be the case if he wins the titles in Madrid and Rome.

Kei Nishikori - 4.5 games v Roberto Bautista-Agut: With Rafael Nadal out of the Barcelona Open for a second season in a row at a very early stage of the tournament, Kei Nishikori is once again the strong favourite to win the event. As the defending Champion, Nishikori has won his first two matches here very comfortably and he dismissed the challenge of Roberto Bautista-Agut last season and I expect he will be too strong again.

That isn't to disrespect Bautista-Agut who had an impressive win over Pablo Cuevas in the last Round and who gave Tomas Berdych all he could handle in a narrow loss last week in Monte Carlo. However, Nishikori plays in a similar manner to Bautista-Agut but is just simply a more consistent player in most departments and I think that is why he will have the edge in this Quarter Final.

There were a high number of breaks of serve when these players met last season and this match is likely to have a similar pattern as neither Nishikori nor Bautista-Agut have a huge serve. I am expecting some long rallies between these players, but that is where I believe Nishikori will have the edge more often than not.

After some twists and turns, I like Nishikori to secure a 75, 63 win.

Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Pablo Andujar: The big question will be how Fabio Fognini can perform the day after the high of beating Rafael Nadal, especially as he was crushed by David Ferrer earlier this season following a victory over Nadal in Rio De Janeiro.

However, the match up looks a good one for Fognini as he has never previously lost a set to Pablo Andujar and I can understand why that might have happened. For all the mental let downs that Fognini has on the tennis court, he is still a player that has good athleticism and can force opponents to play a lot of balls, while Andujar also doesn't possess a serve that will earn him too many cheap points.

On the other hand, Fognini can get something out of his first serve and his dominance over Andujar can give him some extra confidence to get through this Quarter Final and back up an impressive win over Nadal.

He isn't always the most mentally focused, but I will back Fognini to find a 63, 64 win.

Angelique Kerber - 3.5 games v Ekaterina Makarova: There has been a clear turnaround in form displayed by Angelique Kerber over the last month compared to the first three on the Tour and playing in front of the home crowd should inspire her a little more.

It seemed to do the trick in a battling display to recover from being a set down against Maria Sharapova in the last Round and an eight match winning run will have restored any lost confidence she may have had.

The match up with Ekaterina Makarova is a decent one on this surface in my opinion as I am not convinced the Russian is most comfortable with the slippery surface under her feet. The head to head between them reads 6-4 in favour of Kerber too on surfaces that might see the level of competitiveness more even, but rarely are matches between them anything other than a straight sets victory.

As I said, I like Kerber on this surface compared with Makarova and I think she moves into the Semi Final following a 64, 64 win.

Caroline Garcia - 3.5 games v Madison Brengle: I was impressed in the manner that Caroline Garcia held herself together in her Third Round win over Carina Witthoeft as things were certainly not all going for her in that match. There were a few problems for Garcia in terms of looking after her serve in that match, but that is to be expected on the clay courts and the Frenchwoman was dominant for much of that match.

It won't be easy against the American Madison Brengle who has the tendency to make life awkward for opponents, although I am not sure she is best suited to the clay courts. An impressive win over Petra Kvitova might have more to do with the match rustiness of her opponent than Brengle's ability on clay, but it still has to be respected.

However, I think backing that up won't be easy against an in-form Garcia who is the better player as long as she doesn't get frustrated and lose focus.

I don't expect that to happen to a player that should be amongst the best in the world in the years to come and I believe she will find a way to come through with a 64, 64 win in this one.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori - 4.5 Games @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Angelique Kerber - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Caroline Garcia - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 4-6, - 4.88 Units (20 Units Staked, - 24.4% Yield)

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (April 23rd)

Caroline Garcia - 3.5 games v Carina Witthoeft: Caroline Garcia has got something over Ana Ivanovic as she beat her for the third time in a row in the First Round which has also given her a good chance to pick up some vital Rankings point during the remainder of the week.

Any time you knock a Seed out of the draw, there will be room that is not expected in that section and Garcia has to find a way to take advantage of that now. It won't be easy with the home support that Carina Witthoeft will receive, but I think Garcia has the higher potential on a clay court with more consistency from the back of the court.

That isn't always a strength of Garcia who can quickly lose heart if things are not going completely to plan, but I still believe she can out-last Witthoeft in this match. Witthoeft was an impressive First Round winner over Mona Barthel, but she is still finding her way on the main Tour and Garcia can use her extra experience to ease through.

I will be looking for Garcia to serve well to keep the pressure on Witthoeft and eventually find her way into a 64, 64 win and a place in the next Round.

Kei Nishikori - 5.5 games v Santiago Giraldo: The last three times these players have met on the Tour has resulted in very easy wins for Kei Nishikori including when they met in the Final in Barcelona twelve months ago.

There are times that Santiago Giraldo has played at an extremely high level which takes the racquet out of his opponent's hands, but those days are not the common theme which is the reason the Colombian is not higher in the World Rankings. His erratic style can also explain why he has struggled so much against Nishikori, a player that can turn defence into attack very quickly, while also forcing opponents to hit one more ball than they would like.

Nishikori should make sure he returns plenty of serves which will force Giraldo to look to hit closer and closer to the lines and extract the mistakes that will just make the World Number 5's life that much easier.

As long as Nishikori can keep control of his own unforced errors, I think he is capable of coming through this match with some ease and a likely 64, 62 scoreline.

Victor Estrella + 3.5 games v Martin Klizan: Both of these players have won a title on the clay courts already this season and both will look at this match as a chance to progress and earn some big Ranking points.

Both Victor Estrella and Martin Klizan have come through with impressive wins under their belt as Marin Cilic and Juan Monaco were seen off respectively in the last Round. Neither player would have been a favourite to win those matches so the victory will give them a real confidence boost, although how they handle that victory is going to be important.

Martin Klizan has been in better recent form and I can understand why he has been set as the favourite, but Estralla battered him in Quito earlier this season and might be a little under-rated in this one. As much as Klizan can go through some real solid purple patches on the court, he is also never that far away from throwing in a tremendously poor set and I think Estrella doesn't go through the same peaks and troughs to the extent that Klizan does.

If Estrella can play his solid game, he should give Klizan some problems and may even take a set, if not the match, from the contest. That makes the 3.5 games he is being given look very appealing and worth backing.

Rafael Nadal - 5.5 games v Fabio Fognini: Take away the last game of the last match against Nicolas Almagro and you can't be anything but impressed in the manner of victory for Rafael Nadal. Now he gets the chance for a measure of revenge against the Italian Fabio Fognini who beat Nadal on the clay courts of Rio De Janeiro, but there were added factors going against Nadal in that match.

For example, Nadal had to play until the early hours of the morning the same day he was due back out to face Fognini and that had to have played a part in his defeat. He should be well rested this time and I also think Nadal's confidence is in a much stronger place having reached the Semi Final in Monte Carlo and finally beaten another top ten player.

You have to have respect for Fognini who is very capable on the clay courts as long as he remains mentally focused in the match and that is where the crowd comes in. They should be very pro-Nadal and that could potentially wind up Fognini and bring out the worst in his game, which won't help considering who he is facing on the other side of the court.

If Fognini does lose his mind, it might make things all the easier for Nadal and I expect the latter to move through to the Quarter Final off the back of a 64, 62 win.

MY PICKS: Caroline Garcia - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)
Victor Estrella + 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 2-4, - 4.56 Units (12 Units Staked, - 38% Yield)

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (April 22nd)

Not been a very good start to the week with three losers and one voided, but there is still time to get back on the road to recovery with a lot of tennis scheduled for the next few days.

I will actually be having a week off from the tennis picks from the weekend with the tournaments next week not the best ahead of the Masters/Premier Events in Madrid and Rome and then we will only be a couple of weeks away from the French Open.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 3.5 games v Andrey Kuznetsov: Philipp Kohlschreiber is clearly a player on the wane having passed his 30th birthday, but I think he is very comfortable on the clay courts and should be too good for Andrey Kuznetsov. The latter does have a slight advantage having played a match in Barcelona already, but I think Kuznetsov is going to have to dig very deep to see off Kohlschreiber.

These two did have a very tight match here in Barcelona two years ago, but I think the surface is one that should give Kohlschreiber an advantage. I believe he is going to be the more consistent player off the ground and that is a key when it comes to the slower surfaces, while Kohlschreiber has a decent serve which should set him up in a strong position in those games.

You don't want to completely dismiss Kuznetsov's ability on the clay considering he has performed well in Challenger events, but he has failed to bring that form into the main Tour level and that is an issue.

After a poor start to 2015, I think there are signs that Kohlschreiber is picking up his play and I like him to come through 64, 64 in this Second Round match.

Belinda Bencic v Julia Goerges: The home support will be behind Julia Goerges in this match and she has had previous success on the clay courts, but her last three appearances in this event has seen the German go out earlier than anticipated.

The match up with Belinda Bencic is a really tough opening match for both players and I think the Swiss Miss will be looking for a bit of revenge having been battered by Goerges at the Australian Open in January.

Neither player has spent a lot of time on the clay courts this season so far, but I think Bencic is the better player, although Goerges can play some pretty unplayable stuff at times. However, I also think Goerges can be very erratic on the court and giving away free points to Bencic might give the latter the edge in the match.

I can see this match going the distance, but Bencic to be a little more consistent and move through to the Second Round.

Garbine Muguruza + 3.5 games v Simona Halep: The big question for Simona Halep is whether she has had enough rest to recover from a very busy period on her schedule. Some have criticised Halep for missing Fed Cup duty, but she has to do what is right for her and that means preparing for the clay court season which culminated in a French Open Final appearance twelve months ago.

The first match on a new surface is always a difficulty and it saw Halep beaten in her first match in Stuttgart last year and she has a very tough draw against Garbine Muguruza who had a comfortable First Round win.

Muguruza was a Semi Finalist at Roland Garros and should be comfortable on the clay courts having grown up in Spain, while she has the power to move Halep around the court. I think the key for Muguruza will be to attack the Halep serve and keep the Romanian on the back foot as much as possible and prevent her from dictating the points.

The indoor clay court may also mean Muguruza is able to hit through the ball more comfortably and there is a real chance she can cause the upset, but I will take the games in a match that might go the distance.

MY PICKS: Philipp Kohlschreiber - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Belinda Bencic @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Garbine Muguruza + 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 0-3, - 6 Units (6 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Midweek Football Picks 2015 (April 21-23)

The Champions League and Europa League Semi Final line up will be set this week as the Second Legs of the Quarter Finals are completed. A couple of teams will already feel they have done enough from the First Legs last week, namely Barcelona and Napoli, but the other six ties to be played this week are finely poised.

Most eyes will likely be on Munich on Tuesday to see whether Bayern Munich can overturn a surprising 3-1 deficit against Porto, while on Wednesday the eighth Madrid derby of the season is played after a goalless draw last week.

Big games should produce some big moments over the next three days.

Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain Pick: It was a remarkably one-sided game in the First Leg as Barcelona dominated proceedings and deserved their victory in Paris. Barring a late defensive mistake, Barcelona would have already wrapped up their place in the Semi Final, but this is still a huge advantage and it will take something special for Paris Saint-Germain to earn a result.

The problem for the French side will be trying to get enough possession to score the three goals they need in the Nou Camp, while of course the big threat from the Barcelona front three means it is almost impossible to imagine a situation where the home team don't score.

Gaps are likely to open up if Paris Saint-Germain decide to chase the game, while injuries to key defensive figures mean it will be tough to contain what Barcelona throw at them. The returns of Marco Verratti and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from suspension means Paris Saint-Germain have two crucial figures back, but that won't help them keeping the backdoor closed and I think Barcelona are going to be far too strong for their visitors again.

In the last Round, Barcelona missed a host of chances to really hammer Manchester City and there is that to be concerned about as they won't need to win this game to progress. However, you have to think if those chances come again, the likes of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi won't be as proliferate again and with Paris Saint-Germain having to push on there should also be spaces to exploit.

I don't think Paris Saint-Germain will push forward too early, but Barcelona will really take advantage if they get in front in this tie and record a third comfortable victory over Paris Saint-Germain this season.

Bayern Munich v Porto Pick: I don't think I was the only person surprised by the manner of Porto's win over Bayern Munich last weekend, although the 3-1 margin wasn't enough for the layers to consider the Portuguese side the favourites to progress to the Semi Final.

However, it is a big advantage and I think the layers are perhaps overestimating Bayern Munich on past experiences, although it has to be said that they are dominant in front of their own fans.

The first goal is going to be so important in this Second Leg- you'd feel a Bayern Munich goal could inspire them to earn the win by at least two goals to try and book a place in the Semi Final. The Porto players could retreat and look to defend what they have which is very difficult at Bayern Munich and I'd favour the German side to qualify.

However, a Porto goal could see them counter-attack Bayern Munich and pick them off as they search for the three goals they would then need to progress. It is a tight balance in the tie, but I can't imagine Bayern Munich playing as badly as they did last week for the second time in this Quarter Final and I do think they will win this game.

Will it be enough to progress? I think there is every chance Bayern Munich will be too good for Porto this time around, but the pace in the forward positions that Porto have can't be ignored. Still, I fancy Bayern Munich to turn this tie around and win by a couple of goals at least.

Monaco v Juventus Pick: This might be the perfect position for Juventus to be in heading to Monaco as they look a team that is very comfortable playing on the counter-attack as they did in their victory at Borussia Dortmund in the last Round.

I also believe Monaco are much more comfortable when they are not being asked to push forward in search of goals and that is not something they can do with a deficit to chase. They prefer playing on the counter-attack themselves, but this might be a reverse of the First Leg with Juventus hanging back and Monaco perhaps being caught on the break.

Last week wasn't a great performance from Juventus, but they have the star striker on the field in Carlos Tevez and he will take the chances that he receives on the break and I do think Juventus can win this Second Leg.

Monaco just don't come off as a team that is going to score a lot of goals and while they have pace in forward areas, space might not be available like last week as Juventus draw them on and punish them on the break. That was the way Juventus hammered Borussia Dortmund in the last Round and I think they will be too good for Monaco in this one.

With the home team chasing, Juventus can grab a winning goal in this one and move into the Semi Final.

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid Pick: The First Leg of this Quarter Final had to be one of the more entertaining goalless draws you can get as both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid created chances in the game at the Vicente Calderon.

Neither team really settled for the goalless draw either as they both attacked until the final minute and you have to think an early goal could really open this Second Leg up.

Real Madrid are the obvious favourites as they are going to be backed at home regardless, but they look remarkably short for a team that has yet to beat Atletico Madrid in seven attempts this season. Add in the fact they have won 1 of their last 6 home games against Atletico Madrid and lost half of those games and all of a sudden backing the visitors to avoid defeat at odds against looks a decent price.

Losing Luka Modric is a big blow to Real Madrid and their chances of winning trophies as the midfielder really bridges the defence to attack very effectively. Gareth Bale is another big loss, although he potentially takes part in this game and Atletico Madrid will believe one goal gives them a great chance of going through.

However, games between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in this Stadium usually do feature goals as there are spaces to be exploited. An early goal will only make it more open and this could be the fourth time in five games at the Santiago Bernebeu that we see at least three goals shared by the teams.

As I say though, an early goal would really open that chance up as teams will have to be a little more proactive. The longer it goes goalless, the more tension will come in and the fear of making a mistake that costs their team a place in the Semi Final will begin to affect the players.

There were enough chances last week to think the first goal can come within the first half hour of this game and that might lead to at least three goals being shared by the teams.

Dnipro v Club Brugge Pick: The game might have finished goalless in Brugge last week, but it was far from a drab affair and Dnipro might be kicking themselves for not grabbing an away goal having had the majority of the chances in the contest.

The feeling will still be that they are in a strong position to advance to the Semi Final, but they can't underestimate a Club Brugge team that has won 6 of 7 away games in the Europa League. The Belgian side will look to get more out of the counter attack in this one, but they also have to try and breach a Dnipro defence that has kept 7 clean sheets in a row at home and also has clean sheets in their last 3 home games in the Europa League.

Dnipro have won those 3 games including in both of the last two Knock Out Rounds and I think the Ukrainian team will have enough to progress to the Semi Final.

They are a decent enough price to back at odds against to win this Second Leg in the ninety minutes, but I think Club Brugge have shown enough through the competition to not be disregarded easily. Instead of just backing Dnipro to win, I am going to keep faith in their defensive performances too and I do think a small interest is warranted on them winning this one with a clean sheet to boot at a big price.

Fiorentina v Dynamo Kiev Pick: A goalless draw might be enough for Fiorentina to move through to the Semi Final, but it would be a real surprise if they want to risk sitting back in this Second Leg after the dominance they showed last week in Kiev. On another day, Fiorentina would have had a lead to take back home and they might also find themselves with more space as their opponents are going to have to score at least once and can't just sit deep like they did for much of the game at home.

Dynamo Kiev just haven't been as good on their travels and I think Fiorentina have a real edge in the tie. However, the confidence in the home dressing room as to have been dented from recent performances. Fiorentina have lost their last 2 home games in all competitions, while they have won 1 in 4 at home in the Europa League so there is plenty of life left in this tie, even if Dynamo Kiev have lost 3 of their last 4 away from home in this competition.

Any team getting ahead should open up spaces again as the team conceding will have to chase the game and this could be quite a fun game, especially if the first goal comes in the first half.

Both teams will have their chances in this one you would think and goals have been something of a feature of Dynamo Kiev's away games in the Europa League this season. Last week would have featured at least three goals with some better finishing in front of goal and this one will see spaces perhaps open up as the game develops which might see more opportunities created.

At odds against, I think backing at least three goals to be scored looks like it could be the right call from this game.

Napoli v Wolfsburg: The tie is over from a competitive standpoint, but Wolfsburg have had a strong season and won't want to exit the Europa League without showing Napoli they are far better than what they produced at home last week. They will likely get a chance to express themselves here as Napoli won't feel the urge to get forward and instead will look to exploit spaces on the counter attack which will suit Rafa Benitez just fine.

It was the high line that Wolfsburg played last week which ended up being a main factor in their downfall, and that might be the way Napoli expose them again this week. However, Wolfsburg are a team that can create chances and any complacency in the home squad thanks to a large lead might also help the German side score goals.

The layers clearly are offering some tempting prices for both teams to win because of the situation of the First Leg and I could make a case for either team winning. Napoli will have a chance on the counter-attack, while Wolfsburg will be looking to save some pride and the home team can take a narrow defeat and still progress.

They are also taking no chances of there being goals in this Second Leg, but I still think it might be worth backing there being at least three goals shared. Wolfsburg will play in a way that Napoli can get some opportunities on the counter-attack, while the German side are far better than what they produced last week. Both Napoli and Wolfsburg home/away games respectively have produced plenty of goals in the Europa League this season and I think this one will follow suit.

Of course there is a chance that some heads will drop in the away team if they fall behind early, but that might see Napoli run away with another big win as long as Rafa Benitez isn't ultra-conservative like he can be in Knock Out ties in European Football. I can see this game going in the 'open' direction though and I will back there being at least three goals shared.

Zenit St Petersburg v Sevilla Pick: It was a real surprise that a Zenit St Petersburg team missing four key players had played so well in Sevilla and the return of the likes of Danny and Hulk has to give the home team real belief they can overturn the 2-1 First Leg deficit.

You would be a fool to think that is a given against the defending Champions of the Europa League and Andre Villas-Boas has made it clear that he still thinks the edge rests with Sevilla. Of course holding a lead is important, but Zenit St Petersburg have been pretty strong defensively, especially at home, and keeping a clean sheet will give the Russian side every chance of stunning Sevilla.

That is also easier said than done as Sevilla have regularly found the net, but they don't travel as well as they play at home and were beaten in away games in the Quarter Final and Semi Final of the Europa League last season.

I do fancy Zenit St Petersburg's chances of coming through this tie when you consider they have clean sheets in 6 of their 7 home games in Europe this season. Earning another will give them every chance of securing the win in the Quarter Final, but I wouldn't be that surprised if this one goes into extra time either. I will back Andre Villas-Boas' men to secure the win in ninety minutes in the Second Leg.

MY PICKS: Barcelona - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.17 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bayern Munich - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.98 Bet365 (2 Units)
Juventus @ 2.40 William Hill (2 Units)
Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Dnipro Win to Nil @ 3.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Fiorentina-Dynamo Kiev Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Napoli-Wolfsburg Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.67 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Zenit St Petersburg @ 2.30 Bet Fred (2 Units)

April Update11-17-1, - 10.93 Units (54 Units Staked, - 20.24% Yield)

March Final30-18, + 30.66 Units (88 Units Staked, + 34.84% Yield)
February Final20-24-2, + 3.19 Units (75 Units Staked, + 4.25% Yield)
January Final10-22-1, - 10.54 Units (57 Units Staked, - 18.49% Yield)
December Final25-19-1, + 18.70 Units (81 Units Staked, + 23.09% Yield)
November Final17-21, - 0.59 Units (69 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
October Final8-18, - 14.79 Units (47 Units Staked, - 31.47% Yield)
September Final12-18, - 2.28 Units (41 Units Staked, - 5.56% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/15130-162-4, + 4.43 Units (509 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Tennis Picks 2015 (April 21st)

There are three tournaments taking place this week which means there is a lot of tennis scheduled for Tuesday as the majority of those events really get going.

I only had the one pick from Monday, which was a poor one on Victor Troicki, but hopefully Tuesday will be a better day.

Fernando Verdasco - 5.5 games v Andrey Rublev: Andrey Rublev is a 17 year old Russian who won the Junior French Open last year so has to be respected, especially as he has won two matches to qualify for the main draw in Barcelona. The clay courts might be his favoured surface at the moment, but Fernando Verdasco is a big test of his credentials and might have too much experience and power for Rublev to deal with.

Rublev has won a couple of main Tour matches on the hard courts in North America so he won't feel overawed after winning a couple of matches here. However, I think his second serve could be a big weakness against someone like Verdasco and he might be facing more break points than Rublev can eventually deal with.

A lot of this match is down to how Verdasco approaches things too- he can't come to the court and expect Rublev to roll over, while the uncertainty of what to expect can be a concern for players. Nevertheless, I think Verdasco has enough power to keep Rublev from getting too much rhythm in the match and I like the Spaniard to win this First Round match.

I am expecting it takes Verdasco a little time to get used to what Rublev is bringing to the court, but eventually he prevails 63, 63.

Nicolas Almagro - 5.5 games v Paolo Lorenzi: Nicolas Almagro has been knocked out of the top 100 in the World Rankings and it might get a little worse before a lot better for the Spaniard. He has to defend his Semi Final points from last season here in Barcelona and faces Rafael Nadal in the Second Round if he can beat Paolo Lorenzi.

This should be a match up that works for Almagro even if Lorenzi is very comfortable on the clay courts, but the one concern would be how the Spaniard is feeling as he continues his recovery after a long lay-off.

It's all about being mentally tough in the big moments and perhaps that is the hardest thing to recover when off the Tour for a long time. However, it shouldn't be a match up that will surprise Almagro and he has the better power on his side of the court which may allow him to dictate the tempo of the play.

Lorenzi can be awkward at times, but I like Almagro to come through with a 64, 62 win in this one.

Carla Suarez Navarro - 5.5 games v Evgeniya Rodina: The tournament in Stuttgart brings some of the best players on the WTA Tour together as they get their clay court season truly underway so the biggest concern has to be the change in surface and perhaps being caught early on.

That is especially the case when you face a qualifier who has won three matches to get into the main draw as Evgeniya Rodina has- those wins will mean the conditions are no surprise to Rodina, while confidence is in a good place as it will be when putting a winning run together.

Rodina has also shown she is very strong on the clay courts, albeit at the level below the main Tour and she will give Carla Suarez Navarro plenty to think about. However, the Spaniard is playing with a lot of confidence herself having reached the Final in Miami and Quarter Final in Indian Wells last month and she is very comfortable on the clay courts.

The serve is less of a concern on the slower surfaces as Suarez Navarro will feel she can out-rally Rodina for much of the match and she is playing with the consistency and belief that has been built over the last couple of years. That has pushed Suarez Navarro into the top 10 of the World Rankings and I think she wears down Rodina in a 64, 62 win.

MY PICKS: Fernando Verdasco - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Nicolas Almagro - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Carla Suarez Navarro - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 0-1, - 2 Units (2 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

Monday, 20 April 2015

Tennis Picks 2015 (April 20th)

The first clay court Masters event of the 2015 season is in the books and it has just served to underline the fact that Novak Djokovic looks to be the player to beat heading into the French Open, a Grand Slam he has been desperate to win. His Semi Final win over Rafael Nadal was impressive and this was a week in which Djokovic dispatched everyone he faced without too many errors until the Final, but I am going to put down his performance against Tomas Berdych as 'spending too much emotionally' into beating Nadal the day before.

Djokovic still got the job done and became the first player to win the first three Masters events of a season, which is a remarkable feat no matter how it is dressed up. The next two big events in Madrid and Rome will harden Djokovic's position as favourite to win the French Open if he can continue his dominance at the Masters level, but I am expecting Rafael Nadal to perhaps offer a little more at both events.

Despite the loss to Djokovic, I think there were enough signs that Nadal is getting back to his best and the clay is where he feels most comfortable. Nadal himself spoke of the positives of this week as his performances were getting back to the standard we expect of him, but I think the tournament this week in Barcelona is essential for his mindset going into the next six weeks.

It might be an ATP 500 event, but Nadal has to re-establish his dominance on the clay and win a big title, especially in a decent looking field where he will be tested very early on. He potentially has to meet his conqueror from twelve months ago, Nicolas Almagro, in his first match, while both David Ferrer and Kei Nishikori will be looking to add more titles to their resume so this is a real chance for Nadal to show he is going to peak in time for the French Open.

This is arguably a more important tournament than the Masters in Madrid at the beginning of next month too as the conditions there don't always suit Nadal that well. If Nadal can win in Barcelona, which I think he more than capable of doing, then he can certainly start increasing confidence and becoming a bigger threat going into the next Grand Slam.

I will say something though, it isn't going to be too many times that you can back Rafael Nadal to win a tournament on clay that has the field that has assembled in Barcelona- two years ago I would have been recommending that price, but his lack of recent success makes him look far too short.

Kei Nishikori is the second favourite to defend his title and that does make sense, but again I think he is slightly short.

In Bucharest, the tournament looks a wide open one even if Gael Monfils is a fairly strong favourite to win the title- personally I couldn't trust Monfils and his lack of titles in his career is down to his inconsistency. However, other names are big prices because they are making their first appearances on the clay this season or they have tough draws and you can understand the prices being offered.

The WTA Tour also makes its first stop at a really big tournament on the clay courts in Stuttgart this week- Maria Sharapova and Simona Halep lead the field as well as the market, but that tournament is jam packed with top quality players and hard to pick a winner. Some players are coming back from Fed Cup duty, and this is the first appearance of many of them on clay, so it is better to avoid making an outright pick from that event too.

Victor Troicki - 3.5 games v Daniel Gimeno-Traver: The first Monday of a new week is always tough to find picks from as some of the events conclude their qualifying. This isn't the case this Monday as there is a full schedule in Barcelona, but my sole pick comes in Bucharest where I expect Victor Troicki to be a little too good for Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver.

It would be wrong to underestimate Gimeno-Traver who spends most of his time on the Tour playing on the clay courts and who was a recent Finalist in Casablanca. At least two of those wins came as the underdog and the Spaniard has also won a Challenger on the surface earlier this season.

Clay might also be Victor Troicki's favourite surface after winning a couple of titles at Challenger level on the surface last season on his return to the Tour following suspension. He was disappointingly beaten early in Monte Carlo by John Isner, but did record a couple of wins over Gimeno-Traver last season too which should give him more belief.

However, the last match was incredibly close because Troicki didn't serve as well as he might, while also being extremely poor on his break point chances and he will have to be better in both departments to win this one. However, I think Troicki has more about him and has been playing well enough to battle through with a 64, 64 win.

MY PICKS: Victor Troicki - 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Final: 11-11, - 0.06 Units (42 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)

Season 2015+ 37.07 Units (559 Units Staked, + 6.63% Yield)

Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units