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Midweek Football Picks 2018 (March 13-15)

The Quarter Final line up in the Champions League and Europa League will be set this week and the draw for the last eight of both competitio...

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Weekend Football Picks 2018 (March 17-18)

I've got to get ready for some night time football this weekend as I am heading across to the Far East for a break at the same time the international break in European Football and that is the main reason this post is out a couple of days earlier than usual.

There is quite a bit of football to be played on Saturday and Sunday before the two week break and I won't be updating this page until I am back.

You will be able to see my Europa League Picks from the featured post, and then I will be back a few days before the next round of Premier League games at the end of the month with potential Tennis Picks from the end of the Miami Masters, as well as my next Boxing Picks from the Anthony Joshua versus Joseph Parker Heavyweight Unification Fight.

Bournemouth v West Brom Pick: A couple of weeks ago you would have been able to back Bournemouth at odds against to win this fixture, but the recent West Brom performances means the home side are now odds on.

That comes despite Bournemouth blowing a 1-0 lead in a 1-4 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday. However that result came a day after West Brom had done the exact same thing in their defeat to Leicester City on Saturday which looks to be the kind of result that a side destined for relegation would be dealing with at this time of the season.

Nothing is cemented for West Brom just yet, but they are going to find it very hard to bridge the 8 points to safety in their final 8 Premier League games. The Baggies have lost 7 straight games in all competitions and the fixture list sees them face some of the better teams in the remaining weeks of the season.

This is almost a 'must win' game for West Brom as anything less would make it hard to believe they can go into those tougher fixtures with any kind of confidence to earn the results they need.

Getting a result at the Vitality Stadium won't be easy as Bournemouth have been scoring plenty of goals here in recent weeks and had been unbeaten in 6 in all competitions before Tottenham Hotspur came to town. There is a defensive vulnerability about Bournemouth which may encourage West Brom, even though they haven't scored in their last 3 away Premier League games, as Alan Pardew's team have created chances.

However their own defensive issues are likely to be exploited by Bournemouth and they are the more likely winners.

This could be an entertaining game with both teams likely to have some chances and both managers will want their teams to get forward and try to earn an important three points. Bournemouth are likely to have the edge with home advantage and better recent form behind them, but West Brom can play a part this weekend and I will look for these teams to combine for three or more goals.

Huddersfield Town v Crystal Palace Pick: This is a fascinating game at the bottom of the Premier League table between two of the bottom six and the implications of the fixture won't be lost on either David Wagner or Roy Hodgson. With the likes of Southampton, West Ham United and Newcastle United out of action this weekend, both Huddersfield Town and Crystal Palace will be very keen on earning the morale boosting three points on offer.

Picking a winner is not easy with Huddersfield Town showing battling qualities of late but now facing a Crystal Palace team who have some key performers back.

The biggest name is Wilfried Zaha and you could see the entire team lifted by his presence when he came on in the second half of the 2-1 loss at Chelsea last weekend. That is part of a 4 game losing run for Crystal Palace, but those have come against Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Chelsea.

The recent away record has not been very good for Crystal Palace either, but again you would have to point out the Stadiums in which they have been playing.

Huddersfield Town are unlikely to dominate Crystal Palace in the same way even if they have picked up some solid results of late. They created plenty last week in their goalless draw with Swansea City and Huddersfield Town will feel they can hurt a Crystal Palace team who have conceded too many goals of late, but the same can be said for The Eagles with some key attacking players back from injury.

The layers are not expecting too much goalmouth action in this fixture, but I think it could surprise. Both teams have shown some quality going forward, but have not convinced defensively and I don't think either manager will be happy with a point in this one. That should mean both Huddersfield Town and Crystal Palace are pushing for a win and I can see both teams scoring in a game where the two teams combine for at least three goals.

Stoke City v Everton Pick: Just because a game is a 'must win' one for a team it doesn't automatically mean that team will respond to what is a pressurised situation.

However I do think Stoke City can earn what will be a big result at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday when they face an Everton team who have not been the same on their travels as they have at home.

It is a 'must win' game for Stoke City because they have underperformed this season and there is no guarantee they can produce now the pressure is on. Paul Lambert does have them playing with more defensive shape though and Stoke City have been close to earning more wins than they have managed under Lambert's guidance.

No one should be too concerned about the defeat to Manchester City, but prior to that Stoke City had been unbeaten in 6 League games under Lambert's guidance and had taken the lead in 4 of those. Some poor composure in the final third has prevented more than 1 of those games turning into wins, but Stoke City will feel they can produce the three points against an Everton team who have lost 6 away games in a row.

Those defeats have come at teams much higher up the League table than Stoke City, but Everton have not travelled well in the Premier League for some time. Everton have won 1 of their last 23 away games in the League and it would be a surprise if they improved that record this weekend.

I have to respect the fact that 4 of the last 6 games between these teams on this ground have ended in draws but I think Paul Lambert can help Stoke City get the better of this one.

I won't back them in the win-draw-win market because of the history of the fixture and Stoke City's recent form just seeing them come up short from earning the wins. Instead I will back Stoke City on the Asian Handicap to win this fixture knowing half of the stake will be returned in the event of another draw between these teams.

Liverpool v Watford Pick: Going by the current form guide it is hard to imagine anything other than a comfortable Liverpool win when they host Watford in the live Premier League offering on Saturday afternoon.

While Liverpool have won 5 of their last 6 home Premier League games, Watford have lost 7 of their last 8 away League games and have scored just a couple of goals in that time.

In saying that, I thought Watford were a touch unfortunate to lose 3-0 at Arsenal last Sunday with some of the chances they created that day. A Troy Deeney missed penalty at 2-0 saw Watford lose any belief that they could earn a result at the Emirates Stadium, but they will feel they can put some pressure on a Liverpool defence that still has some vulnerabilities.

The bigger question is whether Javi Gracia can set up Watford to be a little stronger defensively and try and contain a ferocious Liverpool attack. That hasn't looked the case in recent weeks with Watford conceding at least twice in their last couple of away games at West Ham United and Arsenal and now facing a much more confident team who are looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss at Old Trafford.

Liverpool have scored at least twice in their last 6 home Premier League games and I think they are going to run out comfortable winners here. They have beaten Watford 4 times in a row at Anfield and I expect they are going to have too much for their visitors this weekend too.

I think you can back Liverpool to cover a big Asian Handicap where a two goal win would return the stake. Watford have visited half of the top six teams in the Premier League this season and have lost by at least two goals each time but they have trailed by three goals at both Manchester City and Arsenal.

A goal for Watford could make it hard for Liverpool to cover, but I think the home team have a big reaction to the defeat to Manchester United. Watford have shown they can cause problems for Liverpool though and I will look for both teams to score in this one with only a penalty miss preventing Watford from scoring at all three top six clubs they have visited in the League.

Anything other than a Liverpool win would be a big surprise though and so backing the home team to win a match in which both teams score has to be worth an interest. Watford may have struggled for goals away from home of late, but they have scored in 7 of their 8 games against the top six including in losses at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium and I think that could be the outcome of this one too.

Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The first FA Cup Semi Finalist will be determined in the early game at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday lunchtime and I think it is a much closer Quarter Final than the layers do who have Tottenham Hotspur as a clear favourite to win at the Liberty Stadium.

Losing Harry Kane to injury and potentially missing Dele Alli is a tough prospect for Tottenham Hotspur to deal with in this Quarter Final, while Swansea City have been in fine form under Carlos Carvalhal.

The Swans have lost just 1 of their last 14 games in all competitions and they have won 7 in a row at the Liberty Stadium including beating Liverpool and Arsenal. They have been defensively well organised under Carvalhal and I think the Spaniard may choose to pick a much stronger team than he has in previous Rounds knowing there is a two week break coming after this fixture.

Jordan Ayew is a loss for Swansea City but they are a team that can make life difficult for Tottenham Hotspur. They have also found a way to score goals in recent weeks having struggled earlier in the season, while Tottenham Hotspur have not been the best on their travels in recent weeks.

Tottenham Hotspur have shown they are tough to beat in their recent away run, but they were close to having 6 consecutive away draws before scoring late at Crystal Palace in a 0-1 win. Last weekend they were impressive in seeing off Bournemouth, but I don't think Swansea City will be as open as The Cherries were, and Tottenham Hotspur have recently failed to win at Newport County and Rochdale in away FA Cup ties.

They did win 0-2 at the Liberty Stadium in early January but I do think Swansea City are improved since then. I expect they can make it very difficult for Tottenham Hotspur and backing the home team with the start on the Asian Handicap and looking for them to at least force extra time is my pick here.

You can't deny Tottenham Hotspur have a very impressive recent record at the Liberty Stadium with 5 wins in their last 6 visits to this ground. However I think Swansea City will look to make life very difficult for their visitors who have not been winning a lot of away games of late and Carlos Carvalhal can set his team up to keep this one competitive.

There is a danger with this pick that Swansea City could be chasing the game and potentially picked off on the counter attack, but they have been playing well enough at home to back with the start on the Asian Handicap in this one. I am second guessing the manager and expecting a strong Swansea City team to start this one too, but I don't see why Carlos Carvalhal wouldn't pick his best team and that team have proven tough to beat at home of late.

Manchester United v Brighton Pick: Tuesday night turned into a nightmare at the Theatre of Dreams for Manchester United as they were shockingly dumped out of the Champions League by Sevilla.

Make no mistake about it, that was a tremendously poor result and two terrible performances from Manchester United in both Legs of a very winnable tie.

Now it is up to Jose Mourinho to pick up the players after the disappointment they would have felt as Manchester United look to stay alive in the one competition they could potentially win this season. Mourinho deserves the criticism that is coming his way for employing such a tepid style against Sevilla in both games against them but it is up to the players to also step up and show they belong in the red of Manchester United in the seasons ahead.

I do think Manchester United will make some changes to the starting eleven to freshen things up, but a strong team should be picked to make their way past an improved Brighton team. Anything less than a win would be a huge blow to Mourinho and may see the fans turn on the manager, but Manchester United should have enough for a goal-shy Brighton when playing away from the Amex Stadium.

Chris Hughton will look to make Brighton hard to beat but they have struggled when visiting the top teams in the Premier League. Brighton have really had issues in front of goal away from home and they have lost at all six clubs they have visited in the top nine of the Premier League table.

The Seagulls have lost all but one of those games by a couple of goals and failed to score in each of those so I think Manchester United can be backed to either win to nil or cover the Asian Handicap and win by two or more goals.

The exception for Brighton in that run was a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford, but the nature of the FA Cup will mean they will likely take more chances if chasing the game and Manchester United can punish them on the counter attack. I do expect a much better performance from Manchester United than we saw on Tuesday night and I think they can get the better of Brighton in this FA Cup Quarter Final.

Life could be much more comfortable for Manchester United if they can get on the front foot quickly in this Quarter Final and give the fans something to get behind. I think that could be the approach and Manchester United can win this one by a couple of goals on the day.

Wigan Athletic v Southampton Pick: It is going to be interesting to see how the Southampton players react if they kick off this FA Cup Quarter Final inside the bottom three of the Premier League.

The decision to sack Mauricio Pellegrino has come late in the season and it sounds like Mark Hughes could be appointed ahead of this fixture. That will mean he doesn't have a lot of time to implement his ideas and the more telling influence may come from any new manager after the international break.

The Premier League is the priority for whoever comes in, but Southampton did reach the League Cup Final last season and this is a FA Cup tie that represents a very good chance to reach the FA Cup Semi Final and return to Wembley Stadium.

Some may say that is disrespectful to Wigan Athletic who have beaten Bournemouth, West Ham United and Manchester City at this ground in the FA Cup already this season. However the layers have the home team as the underdog with 30 League places between the two teams and you can't argue with Southampton as the favourites considering they have already won at Fulham during the Cup run.

Recent form has not been the best though and I think the players are short enough on confidence to be challenged by this Wigan Athletic team. The Latics score plenty of goals at home and they showed against Manchester City that they can be defensively sound enough to cause problems for this Southampton team who have been in poor form of late.

However Southampton had been tough to beat away from home prior to the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle United last weekend which cost Pellegrino his job as manager of the club. With the additional Premier League quality they should still find a way to get past Wigan Athletic, but I think the team is short on confidence which could at least see the home team force extra time.

Wigan Athletic's 3 wins over Premier League teams in the FA Cup this season makes them a dangerous team and I will back the underdog with the start on the Asian Handicap. As much as I believe Southampton have enough quality to win here, Wigan Athletic are in better form and may have more belief and that can be enough to bridge the gap between the teams and perhaps even see yet another upset for the League One club.

Leicester City v Chelsea Pick: The last of the FA Cup Quarter Final ties is played on Sunday afternoon at the King Power Stadium and I think Leicester City are going to feel confident in their chances of upsetting Chelsea.

While their visitors have been having a tough Champions League Last 16 Second Leg to negotiate during the week, Claude Puel would have been working with his Leicester City team to make sure they know exactly what they need to do on Sunday.

Puel has Leicester City playing well and they have been strong at the King Power Stadium in recent weeks, although they will be challenged by a Chelsea team that do come forward with some menace.

However Leicester City can expose some of the defensive vulnerabilities Chelsea have displayed in their 5 game losing run away from home and I think this could be a fun Cup tie for the neutrals to enjoy.

Both teams should feel confident going forward, but neither Leicester City or Chelsea will have full belief in the way they have been defending in recent games. With the attacking players likely to have the edge in the tie, I can see both teams getting amongst the goals in this one and backing at least three goals to be shared out looks the right way to go with this.

The nature of a Cup tie could mean spaces open up when a team begins to chase the game and I think both teams have the pace to hurt the other if they are leaving spaces behind them. The home underdog tempted me considering they have been preparing for this game all week, but recent Chelsea away games have featured a fair few goals and I think there will be enough chances for three or more goals to be shared out.

MY PICKS: Bournemouth-West Brom Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Huddersfield-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.40 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stoke City - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.15 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool to Win & Both Teams to Score @ 2.70 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Swansea City + 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.11 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet365 (2 Units)
Wigan Athletic + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.08 Bet365 (2 Units)
Leicester City-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Indian Wells Masters Tennis Picks 2018 (March 14th)

It has been an up and down couple of days for my Tennis Picks from Indian Wells, but getting a positive sweep on Tuesday has at least moved the totals from the tournament back into a positive direction.

There is still some work to do to turn this week around completely, but this may be the last day of Tennis Picks until March 28th as I am heading for a vacation for a few days.

Some of the Thursday matches have already been set though with two women's Quarter Finals to be played on that day, but I have yet to look through those and see if there is anything of interest.

I do know I have a few Picks from the ATP Fourth Round and the WTA Quarter Final matches to be played on Wednesday though and those can be seen below.

Simona Halep - 4.5 games v Petra Martic: This has already been a huge week for Petra Martic who is going to be at a career high World Ranking when the new Rankings are released on Monday. She came through as the underdog on Tuesday against Marketa Vondrousova and Martic has been playing well in 2018 having returned from another injury in a career that has been held back by her injury issues.

This is a real step up in level of competition though as she takes on the World Number 1 Simona Halep who will remain as the top player in the world until April at least after seeing rival Caroline Wozniacki beaten in the Fourth Round. That means Halep can't lose the Number 1 World Ranking in Miami either and the Romanian is playing with a lot of confidence this season despite battling some injury concerns of her own.

It is the return game that has produced the most eye-catching numbers as Halep is winning over 50% of return points over the course of 2018. That has put a lot of pressure on her opponents and I expect she can do the same against Martic even if the latter has produced some solid looking numbers behind her serve.

Those have not come against players of this quality though and Halep will feel she can work into a number of opportunities to break the Martic serve.

Her own serve has not been working too badly either, although Halep is always vulnerable to some poor games. She has to work hard to look after her serve, but Martic's return against the very best players still has room for improvement while her own second serve should be attacked by Halep with a lot of success.

It is a big number for Halep to cover, but she is playing at an elite level and I think she can get the better of Martic in this Quarter Final.

Borna Coric - 2.5 games v Taylor Fritz: You have to appreciate the resolve Taylor Fritz has shown to get through to the Fourth Round at Indian Wells having won two of his three matches despite losing the first set.

The young American has some strong numbers behind serve on the hard courts and he will need that weapon to be at its best if he is going to see off Borna Coric who is playing at a very high level.

The Coric return has been the spark for his recent strong results and he has looked at ease in the conditions in Indian Wells. Coric has yet to drop a set in the tournament and the most games he has lost in a set is three while beating some quality operators like Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Roberto Bautista Agut.

This match will have a different feel for Coric though as neither of those players are possessing the same kind of first serve as Fritz. However Bautista Agut had been serving well before Coric took him apart in the Third Round and the young Croatian is really producing some impressive return numbers.

Coric's serve has been decent enough to think he can trouble an opponent who has not been at his best when it comes to the return side of the game. That is where I think Coric will have the edge over Fritz and I think he will be able to come through this Fourth Round match with a win and a cover of the games.

Philipp Kohlschreiber - 2.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: This Fourth Round match looks to be one that will be dominated by the serve with both Philipp Kohlschreiber and Pierre-Hugues Herbert producing strong numbers behind serve.

With both struggling on the return too I don't think there will be a lot between them, although it is Kohlschreiber who may get a little more joy from the return at the key times to win this match.

His opponent should be well rested having overcome Gael Monfils in the Third Round when the latter pulled out with an injury, but Herbert will know that he is under pressure to produce his best serving to remain competitive.

Kohlschreiber was a very good winner over Marin Cilic in the Third Round, although it was a close match and the German was perhaps a little lucky to get through that match. It should give him the confidence to make enough returns in this one to force Herbert to hit a number of volleys to win points though and I think that can see Kohlschreiber gaining the edge in the match.

The layers are right in expecting a close match, but I will back Kohlschreiber to just play the big points a little better than Herbert and that should give him a chance to cover this number of games.

Kevin Anderson - 2.5 games v Pablo Carreno Busta: The conditions in Indian Wells may be the best they could be on a hard court for someone like Pablo Carreno Busta to beat Kevin Anderson. However Carreno Busta has struggled for form since his run to the US Open Semi Final which was ended by the big serving South African.

Anderson was clearly the superior player that day and he has been in fine form in 2018 barring a First Round exit at the Australian Open. Confidence has to be high for Anderson even if he struggled more than expected in his Third Round win over Nicolas Kicker.

The serve continues to be a huge weapon for Anderson and I think that can put Carreno Busta under some pressure even if the Spaniard has found a way to break big serves with his hustle around the court.

A bigger problem for Carreno Busta is making sure he is able to hold serve enough times to capitalise on those breaks when they come his way. He was a comfortable winner over Daniil Medvedev in the Third Round, but Carreno Busta perhaps rode his luck a little bit having saved 11/12 break point chances the Russian created that day.

I expect Anderson will be able to generate some break points of his own having matched up well with Carreno Busta in their past meetings with two of those coming on the hard courts during the North American summer swing last year. Those were in faster conditions than the one we see in Indian Wells so Carreno Busta may be able to keep this one closer, but I think Anderson is going to be a little too good for him thanks to a strong serve and an ability to force break points in this one.

Roger Federer - 5.5 games v Jeremy Chardy: What can I say about Roger Federer that hasn't been said over the last twelve months? There are very few signs that Federer is slipping off the standards he has set in that time and it is no surprise that he is the favourite to win the title in Indian Wells this week.

The numbers are mind boggling with the serve being close to impenetrable and that has seen Federer able to take a few chances on the return of serve which has paid off on the hard courts.

You have to have the right mental mindset to challenge Federer at the moment and there are very few players who I think believe they can beat him on his current form.

I am not convinced Jeremy Chardy is that player despite a strong run here in Indian Wells although he may give Federer something to think about with a decent serve he possesses.

Unfortunately for Chardy, the return game has not really been at the level where you think he can beat Federer and I think that is going to be part of the reason he is unable to stay with the Swiss superstar. Struggles on the return can bleed into the service games with pressure on Chardy to not allow one of the best front runners in tennis history to get in front and I think that is going to be a reason Federer is able to cover a big number.

The Federer return has been working well enough to think he will have enough break points to convert into breaks of serve and win this one impressively.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: On first glance this looked a lot of games for Juan Martin Del Potro to cover against his compatriot Leonardo Mayer, but I do think the former US Open Champion is in good enough form to do that.

First off you have to credit Mayer for his three wins this week in Indian Wells which have all come in dominant fashion by the numbers. However he has been given a kind path through to the Fourth Round with the likes of Novak Djokovic going out before Mayer had to face them and this is a big step up in class for him.

What makes Mayer dangerous is the serve as he has been looking after this side of his game very effectively. Those numbers do decline, as expected, when Mayer faces a top 20 opponent on hard courts but I think they dip enough for someone like Del Potro to take advantage and secure a comfortable looking win on the scoreboard.

Del Potro should be able to look after his serve very comfortably for the most part and that should give him a chance to take some risks on the return which should be able to pay off. The big man has been returning pretty well in recent matches and he would have been a comfortable winner in the Third Round over David Ferrer if Del Potro had converted more than 1/16 break point chances he created in that match.

I would be surprised if Del Potro has that many break point chances in this one, but I think he is likely to be more clinical with the opportunities when they do come. The pressure from his own service games should build on Mayer and wear him down mentally in this one which should give Del Potro the chance to earn a cover of a big number of games.

MY PICKS: Simona Halep - 4.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Borna Coric - 2.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)
Philipp Kohlschreiber - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kevin Anderson - 2.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Juan Martin Del Potro - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Indian Wells Update: 17-18, - 6.12 Units (72 Units Staked, - 8.50% Yield)

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Midweek Football Picks 2018 (March 13-15)

The Quarter Final line up in the Champions League and Europa League will be set this week and the draw for the last eight of both competitions will take place on Friday.

Bayern Munich are the fifth team who will make up the eight in the Champions League barring a stunning defeat in Istanbul, but the other three ties are finely balanced this week.

The Europa League Last 16 Second Leg ties are mainly still up for grabs, although the two favourites Atletico Madrid and Arsenal look to be in very strong positions after big wins last week.

It is a big week for all of the teams involved before another weekend of domestic football ahead of a two week break for the top teams around Europe during which time the final international break of the season takes place.

Manchester United v Sevilla Pick: The goalless away draw in the Champions League is not the best result for teams these days considering the importance of earning away goals in this competition, but Manchester United are in a position where a win at Old Trafford will earn them a spot in the Quarter Final.

After wins over Chelsea and Liverpool in consecutive Premier League games at Old Trafford, Jose Mourinho has to believe his side can continue the momentum built up in recent games.

Defensively Manchester United look a tough team to break down and there is an attacking threat which has been shown in their recent wins.

A long unbeaten run at Old Trafford in European competition and 3 wins in the Champions League Group Stage gives Manchester United the edge, but they can't overlook a Sevilla team with plenty of European experience. However Sevilla have been in mixed form and they will have to show a lot of character to get something from this Second Leg.

You have to credit Sevilla for having lost 1 of their last 6 away games in all competitions, but this is a team who did have some difficulty in the Champions League Group Stage. The 2-2 draw at Anfield shows they are capable of picking up results unexpectedly, but Sevilla were outplayed for large parts of that game and were crushed 5-1 at Spartak Moscow.

Twelve months ago Sevilla were beaten comfortably by Leicester City in the Second Leg of their Champions League Last 16 tie which sent them out of this competition.

I can see this Second Leg being a little tense at times with the importance of the away goals not lost on the Old Trafford crowd, but Manchester United look to be in good enough form to get the better of Sevilla. They have won 5 in a row at Old Trafford in all competitions and Manchester United have scored at least twice in all of those wins.

I expect that will be good enough to see off Sevilla in the Second Leg of this Champions League tie. The Spanish side have not been as strong a traveller as they have been at home, despite a recent run of decent results, and Sevilla have lost on their last 4 visits to England while they have conceded at least twice in their last 5 visits to England.

Backing Manchester United to win and cover the Asian Handicap looks to be the right way to go with this Second Leg.

Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk Pick: This is a tough Second Leg to call with reasons to feel that both Roma and Shakhtar Donetsk can earn the necessary result to move through to the Quarter Final of the Champions League.

With an away goal and only a single goal deficit, Roma will have to feel they can do enough at home to beat Shakhtar Donetsk and make their way through to the last eight of the premier European competition for the first time in a decade.

On the other hand, Shakhtar Donetsk have had a lot more recent successes in European competition which could see them have the edge over their hosts who have to deal with the pressure of expectation.

My feeling is that Roma will do enough to win the Second Leg, but I would not be hugely surprised if extra time is needed in this Champions League tie. Roma have played well at home in the Champions League with wins over Chelsea and Qarabag and earning a draw with Atletico Madrid, while they also kept clean sheets in all 3 of those games.

Recent home form has been erratic to say the least with Roma losing 4 of their last 7 here in all competitions, but they have won 2 of their last 3 to try and turn things back around. Roma are also hosting a Shakhtar Donetsk team who have lost 6 of their last 7 away games in the Champions League and who were beaten 3-0 at Napoli in the Group Stage.

There is talent in the Shakhtar Donetsk ranks which makes them very dangerous in this one and I do think they will make life very tough for Roma. Shakhtar Donetsk have won all 5 games coming out of the Winter Break in the Ukraine and they have scored three times in their last couple of away wins, while they also won all 5 away games in the Europa League last season.

The layers understand the tie is finely balanced with both teams a pick 'em to Qualify for the Quarter Final. I think it will be very close too, but Roma have home advantage and a little bit of momentum with a couple of fine wins over Napoli and Torino coming into this one.

That may be enough to secure a win on Tuesday and one that could take them through to the Quarter Final. Shakhtar Donetsk have the talent to be very dangerous too, but I will back Roma on the Asian Handicap in this one.

Besiktas v Bayern Munich Pick: There were a number of Champions League Last 16 Second Legs which have proven to be dead rubbers after dominant First Leg wins. Last week we saw both Liverpool and Manchester City fail to win Second Leg ties after strong First Leg wins and I do think Bayern Munich could potentially fall into the same trap.

Unlike Liverpool and Manchester City, Bayern Munich have to visit Besiktas in the Second Leg and they may decide to rest some of their key names for more important games coming up.

It would be foolish to play any of the players who are a booking away from a suspension which would mean Bayern Munich are missing Sebastian Rudy, Joshua Kimmich and Robert Lewandowski, while Jupp Heynckes may also give some other fringe players an opportunity.

That will give Besiktas a chance to secure a morale boosting win in the Second Leg as they bid to redeem themselves after the poor result in the First Leg. The early sending off hurt Besiktas that day and they have been tough to beat in Istanbul in European competition in recent years.

The motivation of playing one of the European giants at home should be enough for Besiktas to really give this a good go. It is an opportunity for Besiktas if Bayern Munich make the wholesale changes that are expected and the away team needed late goals to win at Celtic and Anderlecht in the Champions League Group Stage.

Besiktas are better than both and I think they can play with the freedom of just taking this as a one off game. I will back the home team with the start on the Asian Handicap to at least avoid a big defeat and I do think Besiktas are capable of avoiding defeat against a demotivated visitor that could be looking ahead to the weekend fixture at Leipzig.

Barcelona v Chelsea Pick: There will be some regrets in the Chelsea squad that they did not manage to earn a lead in the First Leg of this Champions League Last 16 tie. They hit the woodwork twice at Stamford Bridge and also had the lead while containing Barcelona before a couple of mistakes at the back allowed Lionel Messi to equalise and leave West London with a 1-1 draw.

I don't think anyone will be surprised that Barcelona are a big favourite to win the tie and also a strong favourite to win the Second Leg at the Nou Camp. They have won 20 of their last 22 games at the Nou Camp in the Champions League and also have won 18 of 20 games here this season.

That's a record that would intimidate the very best teams in Europe when you HAVE to score in the Nou Camp to have a chance to move past Barcelona. It is a tougher task for Chelsea who have lost 4 straight away games in all competitions and who have lacked some confidence in recent weeks.

Antonio Conte will likely employ similar tactics to the ones used at Stamford Bridge where he will want his Chelsea team to set up to contain the spaces Barcelona can operate in. If Andres Iniesta is ruled out, it may make things a little more comfortable in blocking the supply lines to the likes of Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.

The counter attack is where Chelsea will be dangerous and this is a team that can defend well enough to at least prevent Barcelona from overrunning them. The recent away performances may not have shown the defensive strength that Chelsea will need, but Barcelona have hit a tough patch in front of goal.

Barcelona had scored at least twice in 16 straight games at the Nou Camp, but they have scored one or fewer in 3 of their last 4 here. On the other hand they have shown defensive toughness of their own and Barcelona have conceded just 2 goals in 10 home games in all competitions.

At some stage Barcelona have to expect Chelsea to come out and try and score the away goal they need, but I think Antonio Conte will play this in a manner that Italian Football fans will respect. Chelsea don't need to score in the first 10 minutes of this game so I expect Conte will look to prevent Barcelona from taking control of the match by keeping things tight and perhaps bringing some tension into the Second Leg.

As long as this game is 0-0, Conte will feel Chelsea have an opportunity to win the tie and I think I will go against the layers and look for two or fewer goals to be shared out. That would have been a winner in 3 of the last 4 Barcelona home games and Chelsea have shown they can limit the opportunities their opponents can create in the First Leg.

My concern has to be the poor recent performances from Chelsea, especially away from home, but they are similar to Atletico Madrid who recently lost 1-0 in the Nou Camp. I do think Conte can help Chelsea keep things tight going into the second half and I will back the under market in this one.

Of course an early Barcelona game can change the entire complexion of the tie and force this fixture to open up very quickly, but I think it will go the same way as the First Leg and be a tight game with little between the teams. At odds against, I will look for Chelsea to do enough to frustrate their hosts and give themselves every chance of a huge upset against a Barcelona team that isn't as strong as recent versions of their team.

Athletic Bilbao v Marseille PickLast week I picked there being at least three goals in the First Leg between these two teams, but even I was surprised by the incredibly quick start made by Marseille  which has given them the platform to take a 3-1 lead into the Second Leg.

The tie might look very much in their favour, but Marseille have shown they are not quite as strong away from home as they are in front of their own fans in the Europa League this season. They have lost 3 of their last 4 away Europa League games and Athletic Bilbao have shown they have plenty of quality at home having won 8 of their last 10 home Europa League games.

However it can't be ignored that they have also lost 2 of their last 4 in the Europa League at home, including a 1-2 defeat to Spartak Moscow in the Last 32 Second Leg, and so I do think both teams will have their opportunities in this one.

At some point Athletic Bilbao will have to take a few more chances which could leave gaps for Marseille to exploit, while the whole game could open up very much like the First Leg if we do see another early goal for either side.

Both teams do have goals in their squad and I will look for at least three in the Second Leg as I expected to come in the First Leg.

Dynamo Kiev v Lazio Pick: After coming from a goal behind, Lazio will be very disappointed that they have not been able to head to the Ukraine with a lead from the First Leg. The game in Rome came alive in the second half as Lazio and Dynamo Kiev played out a 2-2 draw with all four goals scored after half time, and that scoreline leaves potential for another entertaining clash when they meet again on Thursday.

The task is simple for Lazio as they have to get forward and score here, but that should mean Dynamo Kiev are able to employ similar tactics as they used against Lazio last week.

However Lazio have shown they can score goals away from home in the Europa League and that could lead to an open game with the situation dictating one of these teams will have to take chances at some point in this fixture.

Dynamo Kiev did manage to hold AEK Athens to a goalless draw here in the Last 32 which helped them get past the Greek side on away goals, but Lazio are a better team than that. They may have lost 1-0 at Steaua Bucharest in the Last 32 First Leg, but Lazio had scored at least twice in their 3 away Group games in this competition and Dynamo Kiev had not kept a clean sheet in 6 home European games before the draw with AEK Athens.

The Ukrainian team have usually scored plenty of home goals in Europe though and I think both teams will have their successes in another high scoring game.

Zenit St Petersburg v Leipzig Pick: This was another game where I picked at least three goals to be scored in the First Leg and once again I am going back to the same market as I am in the Athletic Bilbao and Marseille tie.

Anyone who watched the First Leg would have appreciated the attacking display of football that Leipzig produced and they may be disappointed to only lead 2-1 on aggregate. They created some big chances to extend that lead before Zenit St Petersburg earned a priceless away goal, but Leipzig are unlikely to change their game plan when they head to Russia for the Second Leg.

They may want to be a little more cautious when facing a Zenit St Petersburg team who have been much stronger when they have played at home. They have scored at least twice in their last 4 home Europa League ties and overcame a single goal deficit in the Last 32 when crushing Celtic 3-0 here.

Zenit St Petersburg have shown they can use plenty of goals at home, but Leipzig have to be respected too having scored four goals in Monaco and three goals in Napoli. Leipzig won both of those games and have shown they can overcome defensive vulnerabilities by getting on the front foot and it would be a surprise if they don't play with a similar ambition in this one.

I think the teams could combine for another game with at least three goals shared out as both look capable of hurting the other when they get forward. I really think the tie in on the knife edge here and either team could progress to the Quarter Final at the end of this one, while extra time and penalties can't be ruled out either.

I don't imagine Leipzig will be looking to contain their hosts and sit on the lead they have and that could lead to a pretty open game with three or more goals shared out.

Arsenal v AC Milan Pick: The scheduled opponent for Arsenal this weekend is in FA Cup action which means The Gunners can put all of their attention on this fixture which is the last game they play in March.

With the players away on international duty a week after this game is in the books, Arsene Wenger would be very foolish to risk the ire of the fans by rotating his squad. The Europa League is clearly the focus for Arsenal the rest of the season and Wenger has to have noted the way his side almost blew a 0-3 lead against Ostersund from the First Leg when they trailed 0-2 at home in the Second Leg.

Neither Wenger or the players will want to make the Emirates Stadium become a tension filled environment and so I expect to see as strong a team as Arsenal are able to field in this one.

In the First Leg Arsenal showed they still have far too much for this current AC Milan team who have been in fine form back in Italy, but are still some way short of the standards this famous club have produced. They have been producing some strong results at home, but the First Leg loss may mean AC Milan have turned their attention to finishing in the top four in Serie A rather than progressing further in the Europa League.

While I don't believe Gennaro Gattuso will want to see his side give up, he could rest players for the League game this weekend. It is a big ask for Milan to come to the Emirates Stadium and win by a two goal margin especially as Arsenal proved to be very dangerous on the counter attack in the San Siro seven days ago.

Arsenal have a number of players who will be very comfortable at the Europa League level and I think they have shown that with their second string team being good enough to reach the Last 16. Now I expect another fixture where Arsene Wenger picks the very best team available to him to avoid any tension on the way through to the Quarter Final and I like Arsenal to win the Second Leg at an appealing price.

Lyon v CSKA Moscow Pick: Having a First Leg lead from an away tie is clearly going to give the host of the Second Leg a big advantage, but Lyon will be the first to admit that their 0-1 lead over CSKA Moscow is not a decisive one.

They will respect the fact that CSKA Moscow had won 4 away games in the Champions League this season before their narrow defeat at Old Trafford. The same 1-2 win at Benfica and Basel would be enough for CSKA Moscow to earn their way past Lyon into the Europa League Quarter Final so the home team has to make sure they avoid any complacency.

Lyon have been playing well at home with a single loss in their last 7 games here in all competitions while they have won 4 of those games. They have also won 7 of their last 8 home Europa League games going back over the last thirteen months and Lyon are highly motivated to reach the Europa League Final which is being held in their own Stadium.

The situation is a good one for Lyon in the sense that they don't have to take risks and can look to pick off a CSKA Moscow team that have to score here. They also did look the superior team out in Moscow which will give them confidence and I can see them going in front at home and then being able to pick off their visitors as they chase a way back into the tie.

There is no doubt that Lyon will feel they can show better composure in the final third to create more opportunities at home and I will look for the home team to secure another win over CSKA Moscow. I will back Lyon to cover the Asian Handicap and pick off CSKA Moscow on the counter attack to earn a full payout with a win by a couple of goals on the night, even if a single goal win for Lyon will provide a profit here.

Salzburg v Borussia Dortmund Pick: You had to be impressed with the way Salzburg went about their work in the First Leg of this Europa League Last 16 tie and the top Austrian side are worthy of their 1-2 lead over Borussia Dortmund.

In fact better finishing may have given Salzburg an even bigger advantage in the Second Leg in front of their own fans. Even so, I do think Salzburg are capable of securing their place in the Quarter Final and I am not convinced they should be the underdog in this Second Leg.

We know Salzburg don't need to win this Second Leg to overcome Borussia Dortmund, but I think the situation is a good one for the home team. Their opponents have to come here and score twice at least and that should mean Salzburg can play this game very much like the First Leg and use the counter attack to expose the spaces Borussia Dortmund will invariably leave behind.

Borussia Dortmund are a team with goals in the side, but they were fortunate to draw at Atalanta in the Last 32 Second Leg. They looked to be going out of the Europa League that day, but managed a 1-1 draw which means Borussia Dortmund have not won any of their last 7 away European ties.

They have lost 4 of their last 6 and Dortmund are in a tough position as they need goals but have seen teams have a lot of success against them. Salzburg have been very strong at home both in Austria and in European Football and I think they are going to be very dangerous throughout this Second Leg and can win this fixture.

Salzburg are certainly a big looking price to do that, but I think Borussia Dortmund have to be respected for producing a 5 game unbeaten run away from home. We still have a chance to back Salzburg as the home underdog which means getting a start on the Asian Handicap and I will back the Austrian side to earn a positive result on their way through to the Quarter Final.

If Borussia Dortmund are chasing the game at any point, Salzburg could secure the victory for sure in this Second Leg with their speedy counter attacks causing plenty of problems in the First Leg. A bit more composure in front of goal would be nice, but I like Salzburg here with the start regardless.

MY PICKS: Manchester United - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Roma - 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Besiktas + 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.03 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Barcelona-Chelsea Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.37 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Athletic Bilbao-Marseille Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Dynamo Kiev-Lazio Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Zenit St Petersburg-Leipzig Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal @ 2.05 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Lyon - 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Salzburg + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)

Indian Wells Masters Tennis Picks 2018 (March 13th)

Monday proved to be a rough day with two selections never looking that comfortable and one being in a dominant position before losing all composure in the middle of the second set.

It has to be described as an irritating day in the office but I have two more days of Picks unless Tuesday goes in a similar direction to Monday.

We are moving onto the Fourth Round in the WTA Indian Wells event and completing the Third Round of the ATP Indian Wells tournament. That means there is plenty of tennis scheduled in Indian Wells on Tuesday and that has also offered up a few more selections compared with Monday.

Naomi Osaka - 3.5 games v Maria Sakkari: This has been a good tournament for both players, but it does feel like Maria Sakkari has overachieved to get to this Fourth Round.

On the other hand, Naomi Osaka seems to be fulfilling the obvious potential she has and I am going to back the young star to get the better of her Greek opponent and make it through to the Quarter Final.

Both players have been very much relying on the serve to set up the rest of their game and both have produced solid numbers on that side to give them the chance to win matches. However a key difference between Sakkari and Osaka is the return of serve and I think that is where Osaka will be able to separate from a tough opponent in this match.

The superior returning should mean Osaka is able to present herself with a few more opportunities to break serve during the course of the match and I think it will also give her every chance of covering this number of games.

It won't be easy if Sakkari continues to play with the confidence she has built up over the last week, but Osaka should be riding a crest of a wave herself and I will back her to come through with a solid looking win.

Venus Williams - 2.5 games v Anastasija Sevastova: A day after beating younger sister Serena Williams in impressive style, Venus Williams will return to the court to face Anastasija Sevastova in a contrast of styles.

The match up between the aggression of Venus Williams and the movement and defensive skills of Sevastova is a fascinating one, but I do feel much of this match will be on the racquet of the American.

Venus Williams has enjoyed the conditions which have allowed her to really time her return of serve and she should be able to handle the Sevastova serve. This serve is not as intimidating as Serena Williams and I don't think it is as strong as Sorana Cirstea's so Venus should be able to have plenty of joy against Sevastova.

She will have to show some real consistency on the ground as Sevastova will look to make her play one more ball, while the Latvian is a decent returner herself which should give her some joy in this match.

However Sevastova has yet to really consistently deal with the very best players on the Tour and her record and numbers against top ten opponents since 2016 have highlighted that. There is no doubt Venus Williams is playing up to her World Ranking so far this week and I like her to win this match and cover the number.

Gael Monfils - 3.5 games v Pierre-Hugues Herbert: The match with John Isner will have given Gael Monfils the ideal preparation to deal with another strong serve in the Third Round.

No one can serve quite like Isner, but it should mean Monfils has his eye in when he faces Pierre-Hugues Herbert, while you have to imagine he would have played his compatriot enough times in private to know what to expect.

It is not an easy match if Herbert is serving at his best, but you have to think the conditions in Indian Wells are not entirely the best for the Doubles expert. He has played well to get through to the Third Round, but Herbert should be challenged by a few more returns from Monfils which will at least force him to play some tough volleys in this one.

The return game is the main reason Herbert has not had a lot of success as a Singles player compared with his Doubles career. His return is below average and Monfils has been serving well enough to think he can look after that side of his game against someone who is limited by what they can do off the first shot they see.

A key for Monfils is going to be to try and put some pressure on Herbert and not allow him to stroll through service games. He was not really able to do that effectively against Isner, but I think Monfils will have more success in this one and I will back him to have a little too much and cover the games.

Marcos Baghdatis - 2.5 games v Dudi Sela: One of these players is going to make a surprising run to the Fourth Round in Indian Wells after both began in the Qualifiers.

Dudi Sela was able to make his way into the main draw as a Lucky Loser, but he has made full use of his fortune to earn his spot in the Third Round. On the other hand Marcos Baghdatis has looked very comfortable with a couple of Qualifier successes in dominant style and he has been the stronger player in both his wins so far this week.

The key for Baghdatis has been how effective he has been on the return of serve and he should be able to maintain those standards against a server like Sela who wins less than 60% of service points over the course of the season. That should mean Baghdatis has opportunities to break serve, although it is important that he produces slightly better serving numbers than he has in the first two matches here.

Sela is a very capable player of getting on top of his return games if Baghdatis is not quite up to the level he needs to be and that could make this a closer match.

However I think the Cypriot has been enjoying his time in Indian Wells and his impressive returning numbers against players with similar standards of serve with Sela should see him come through and reach the Fourth Round.

MY PICKS: Naomi Osaka - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Venus Williams - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis - 2.5 Games @ 1.72 Coral (2 Units)

Indian Wells Update: 14-18, - 10.66 Units (64 Units Staked, - 16.66% Yield)