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Midweek Football Picks 2017 (October 17-19)

The middle two rounds of the Champions League and Europa League Group Stage can be pivotal in determining the teams that are going to make i...

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

NBA Picks October 2017 (October 17-22)

Things seem to move at a rapid rate in life and you can start seeing that when you notice a new NBA season is just about to get underway. It feels like only yesterday we were watching the Golden State Warriors earn revenge over the Cleveland Cavaliers to win the NBA Championship, yet here we are ready to go again.

The season is actually starting a little earlier than usual as the League does its best to avoid the kind of schedules that have been criticised over the years. It should be reducing back to back games for teams over the course of the next nine months and that has been done in an effort to help player welfare which should be a concern of any sporting association.

Vegas is expecting more of the same this season with the favourite for the NBA Finals being another match up between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Not many would go against that, but other teams have started to make moves to try and get closer with the likes of the Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets making big moves to close the gap to the two teams who have dominated the NBA landscape.

The biggest news had to be Kyrie Irving demanding a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers and then receiving his wish by being moved to the Boston Celtics. Isaiah Thomas went the other way although he won't be available for a couple of months at least, but it was the move that raised the most eyebrows in the off-season.

Thomas himself wasn't impressed with the Celtics, although he might have moved into a better situation being teamed up with the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Love. The Cavs have made some other moves designed to try and get closer to the Golden State Warriors, although I am convinced the biggest threat to Golden State winning another title is going to come from within the Western Conference.

Houston have brought in Chris Paul to join James Harden, while the Thunder have held onto Russell Westbrook and brought in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to try and match the 'super team' the Warriors have put together.

You can never rule out the likes of the San Antonio Spurs while the LA Lakers will be fun to watch if only to see what kind of crazy talk LaVar Ball can produce.

There are some fun teams in the NBA that will provide entertainment, but picking against there being another NBA Final involving the Cavaliers and Warriors is brave with the current rosters.

One team that may not be so much fun to watch are my New York Knicks who are in a complete rebuild mode. There are some young talented players on the roster, but the NBA is a harsh learning ground and the Knicks look like one of the weaker teams in the NBA this season, especially on the Defensive side of the court.

As I did last season, I will break up the NBA Picks into smaller threads than the full month threads I did previously. I think it makes it easier to read and I will use the Featured Post to have them at the top of the pile whenever possible.

The first couple of months the NBA is really behind the NFL and College Football games that are played as well as the Major League Baseball Play Offs which are concluded over the next couple of weeks. That does mean the NBA may struggle for the same headlines, while this is also a learning curve for teams that have been put together and beginning to play competitive basketball together for the first time.

It can make for some weird results, but that is just the nature of the beast and always the pressure of trying to find the right angles when making your picks.

Anyway let's hope for a really good 2017/18 season.

Tuesday 17th October
Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: The NBA schedule came out before the major trade between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers had been put through, but the season could not have asked for a better start than Kyrie Irving returning to Cleveland with his new team.

Irving surprised everyone by asking for his trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers weeks after losing the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors, although there was a suggestion that loss had nothing to do with his decision. Instead Irving had made it clear he no longer wanted to play with LeBron James and instead wanted to join a team that would make him the focal point of any success they were going to have.

The Celtics gave up plenty to upgrade the Point Guard position and that included seeing Isaiah Thomas moving in the other direction. Thomas won't be ready to play against his former team, but Jae Crowder will be available for the Cavaliers having been another player used to sweeten the deal and bring Irving to Boston.

The Celtics have also signed Gordon Hayward this off-season as they try and edge closer to the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. Irving, Hayward and Al Horford might not have the same star power as other 'Big Three' teams around the NBA, but the Celtics do look stronger than they did a few months ago when losing in the Conference Finals to Cleveland and will be looking to make a point on Tuesday in the opener.

Like many teams in the NBA, Cleveland have also made some roster moves with veterans Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Jose Calderon joining the team which is dominated by the presence of LeBron James. That may not be the case on Tuesday as James has been banged up and his decision to play in this one will come down to the final hours ahead of the tip off.

Limited action in the pre-season means James is likely to be rusty anyway and the Boston Celtics have to see this as a chance to make a statement. The starting five for the Cavaliers has a new look compared with last season and missing their leader in James could be the kind of blow it is tough to recover from when trying to build chemistry.

You simply can't ignore that Cleveland are 4-23 when James does not play since he returned to the Cavaliers and they have lost their last 11 in a row in that situation. It feels like a game that means more to Boston regardless to show their trade for Irving is going to put them over the hump in the Eastern Conference and I like the fact that the Celtics are 3-0-1 against the spread in the last four at Cleveland.

The road team is 12-3-1 against the spread in the last sixteen in the series and I think the Celtics can play enough strong Defense to help them with the points they are receiving.

Houston Rockets @ Golden State Warriors Pick: Like many teams in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets were very much focused on what they could do to get closer to the Golden State Warriors who have dominated over the last three years. The decision to bring in Chris Paul from the LA Clippers was taken, but the Rockets couldn't add Carmelo Anthony as they tried to and they still look like they will be a little short.

Any team with Paul and James Harden won't believe that to be the case, and the Rockets do look stronger than last year. They are a dangerous team running the systems Mike D'Antoni insists and I do expect Houston to do a lot of scoring, while they have added some less heralded players to try and do the dirty work on the Defensive side of the court to slow down the Golden State Warriors.

It will take time for Paul and Harden to get on the same page though, especially when it comes to the ball-handling on key possessions, and Houston may have some teething problems to overcome. Paul has also suffered some key injuries during Play Off runs for the LA Clippers which may have some questioning the status of his health and whether he can get through a long and arduous regular season slog in the NBA.

An immediate test against the Golden State Warriors, the defending NBA Champions, will show Houston how far they have got to go. Opening games can be tough for teams in a position the Golden State Warriors are in too as they may not be completely focused for a regular season game when the plaudits from last season are still going to be ringing in their ears, but they look much more settled than most of their rivals.

Golden State just haven't made any moves to the starting rotation which means the consistency should see them get off the ground immediately. Adding the likes of Nick Young are a bid to improve the rotation of the team which was already at a high level and the Warriors are clearly enjoying their time together.

This time around they don't have to try and fit in a new piece like they did twelve months ago with Kevin Durant arriving. Now Durant will feel like one of the team and he showed in the NBA Finals that he may be the best player in a loaded Warriors team that can look to Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to give them a spark.

It is a lot of points to ask the Warriors to cover when you think of the Offensive power the Houston Rockets have. However I think the Warriors are more settled with their team all knowing what to expect from each other compared with the Houston Rockets who will be working Chris Paul into the system and who might be learning what him and Harden want to do in clutch moments.

Golden State have dominated the Houston Rockets in recent years and they are 5-1 against the spread in the last six in the series while also being 4-1 against the spread in the last five at the Oracle Arena against the Rockets. I will be looking for the Golden State Warriors to cover a big number in this one too.

Wednesday 18th October
I actually have no idea where to start with Gordon Hayward's devastating injury suffered just five minutes into his debut for the Boston Celtics. It's an injury that is a huge setback for the player and the Celtics in general and I think the most gruesome sports injury I have seen in a long time if not ever.

I just hope recovery can see Hayward come back to something like his best form, but it is a long road back for the All-Star and you can only wish the best for him.

Brooklyn Nets @ Indiana Pacers Pick: It looks to be a rebuilding year for the Brooklyn Nets and the Indiana Pacers who have lost their top players in the off-season. The Nets have seemingly been in a rebuild forever and that has seen their owner put them up for sale although he does want two billion dollars for the franchise and their lovely home.

Losing Brook Lopez in a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers has at least given the Nets something to build around as they were given D'Angelo Russell, a former Number 2 overall pick in the Draft. The Lakers have a new young core to build around, but Russell is a talented player that at least gives the Nets some hope for the future and the direction this franchise is trying to head.

The Nets are likely to be starting three new starters out of their five and that is going to mean a learning curve for the team. They have signed a couple of veterans to help out, but the Nets have a lot of ground to make up for after finishing with the worst record in the NBA last season.

The expectation is that Brooklyn are going to have a difficult season and the same can be said for the Indiana Pacers despite the Eastern Conference being an open one outside of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics. Paul George made it clear that he was not going to be extending his contract with the Pacers so the decision was made to trade him to the Oklahoma City Thunder and that means Indiana have a big hole to fill in.

Victor Oladipo came over in the trade that took George to Oklahoma City, while Jeff Teague was allowed to move on which means a new back court will begin for the Pacers this season. Oladipo is a player with potential to grow despite not reaching the heights some many have had for him, while Darren Collison has shown he is a solid veteran.

Myles Turner figures to be the key player for Indiana who are trying to speed up the Offense and I am not sure the Pacers are going to better despite the players feeling the movement is superior to last season. They are a young team that will likely make some mistakes, but this is a game the Pacers have to feel they can win and I do think they will do that and cover the spread.

The favourite and the home team have strong numbers against the spread in recent games between these teams and I think the Indiana Pacers may have the superior back court which can help them win this one.

Milwaukee Bucks @ Boston Celtics Pick: You could see it in the eyes of the players on the court and the Cleveland Cavaliers bench, who could not turn away quick enough, that Gordon Hayward had suffered a devastating injury on the opening night of the season. The loud crash saw Hayward break his ankle and his lower leg which has left his season in tatters and also put the Boston Celtics behind the eight ball having invested so much in bringing Hayward in this off-season.

The players and fans won't be concerned about the financial outlay, but they are worried about where Hayward's absence will leave the team. They will begin to find out as Boston don't have time to sit and feel sorry for themselves but instead are straight back on the horse in a back to back to open the 2017/18 season.

After rallying to take the lead against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics ended up barely on the wrong side of the loss on the opening night. Now they have to take on one of those teams in the Eastern Conference who have big things expected of them, even if they are not quite up to the standard of the Cavaliers.

The Milwaukee Bucks have stayed pat with the team that overachieved last season and that may be the best decision they could make. This was a team with a young core who would have learned from the experiences from making the Play Offs last season and I think the Bucks can certainly take another step in their development.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon are a stellar set of young players with Antetokounmpo ready to take the next step towards being a superstar in this League. Brogdon was the Rookie of the Year last year and the Bucks are feeling confident despite not having Jabari Parker who is recovering from an ACL injury.

Being back at home has to give Boston plenty of motivation, but I have to worry about this spot. They will have realised the full extent of the Hayward injury with the players likely to be worrying about their team mate rather than focusing on this game, while the Celtics also put in a huge effort to come up short in their loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.

Boston do have a solid record playing the second of a back to back, but Milwaukee are 11-5 against the spread in the last sixteen games played in Boston. The road team is 8-3 against the spread in the last eleven in the series and the underdog is 11-4 against the spread in the last fifteen in this series.

I hate opposing Boston after the devastating injury they saw to one of their team-mates on Tuesday, but this is not a good spot for them and that can't be ignored. I will take the points with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Thursday 19th October
Chicago Bulls @ Toronto Raptors Pick: The NBA season has gotten underway for most teams, but the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls have had to wait a couple more days before they get their opener going. There are completely different expectations for the two teams going into the new season with Toronto expected to be amongst the top contenders in the Eastern Conference and the Chicago Bulls potentially finishing with the worst record in the NBA.

Much of that is down to the moves the Bulls have made in the off-season with some of the veteran players on the roster being moved on. The biggest move had to be the decision to trade Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves and that means Chicago are going into the season with a young roster.

Those players are clearly not all on the same page at the moment though as evidenced by Nikola Mirotic being ruled out for the next few weeks with a fracture in the facial area. That came after he got into an altercation with Bobby Portis and resulted in the Bulls suspending the latter too which means they are likely to be shorthanded in this one and that is not good news when facing the Toronto Raptors who have managed to keep a significant portion of their core together.

Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Serge Ibaka remain in Toronto and that gives them the continuity that others team can miss early in the season. There is a new system in place which is going to ask the Raptors to inject more speed in their play and also look for more three pointers as they try to close the gap on the top teams in the Eastern Conference, although how quickly the likes of Lowry and DeRozan adjust is going to be a key.

These are two players that love to crash the paint and force their way onto the foul line so it may take some time for the new system to be accepted by the players. However the Raptors look in a good place to snap a 0-7 record against the spread in their last seven home games against the Chicago Bulls.

The underdog has been dominant in the recent series, but this time Toronto look to have a big edge on the court in terms of the experience and the quality of player they can call upon. Add in the issues Chicago have been having which has been highlighted by the Portis-Mirotic altercation and the Bulls could be shorthanded for this first game of the season and I am going to back the Raptors to cover a big spread.

New York Knicks @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: There is a lot of excitement around the Oklahoma City Thunder who have signed Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to join Russell Westbrook. Bringing three big players together is supposed to give the Thunder every chance to close the gap between them and the Golden State Warriors, although there remain some big questions as to which of these three players will dominate the shots at clutch times in the Fourth Quarter.

Those questions will be answered during the course of the season, but the headlines on Thursday will very much focus on Anthony facing his former team, the New York Knicks, in their season opener.

Melo was forced out of New York by management and the only surprise was that it took so long for a trade to be concluded that would send Anthony away from the Knicks. He still has a lot of love for the fans and his team-mates that have been left behind, but you can hear the anger and disappointment in the voice when Anthony speaks about how he was treated in the final months in New York.

That should mean Anthony is playing with a lot of motivation in this one and the Thunder are likely to be the much stronger team on the day. The New York Knicks now have a young core of players that they want to develop, but that means the 2017/18 season looks to be one of transition and one that is going to see their young players go through some teething troubles.

Kristaps Porzingis is expected to take over the Knicks as the young leader on the team, while Frank Ntilikina should be good to go in the opener as the new ball handler for the Knicks. However this is a team that looks like it will have some major problems on the Defensive side of the court and Oklahoma City certainly have the players to expose those vulnerabilities.

Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter are facing their former team too and could want to show the Thunder what they are missing, but I think the home team are clearly superior and should show that on the night. There will be a learning curve for the Oklahoma City Thunder moving forward, but I think they can score too many points for the Knicks in the opener and I will look for them to cover a big spread.

MY PICKS: 17/10 Boston Celtics + 4 Points @ 1.91 Coral (1 Unit)
17/10 Golden State Warriors - 9 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
18/10 Indiana Pacers - 3 Points @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
18/10 Milwaukee Bucks + 3 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
19/10 Toronto Raptors - 12.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
19/10 Oklahoma City Thunder - 12 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Oct 17-22 Update: 3-1, + 1.82 Units (4 Units Staked, + 45.5% Yield)

Midweek Football Picks 2017 (October 17-19)

The middle two rounds of the Champions League and Europa League Group Stage can be pivotal in determining the teams that are going to make it through to the Last 16/Last 32 of the two competitions.

It is also a time when you can begin to work out those teams who are likely to win their Group and earn a 'better' draw for the Last 16 and those teams who are perhaps reaching a desperate stage.

At the moment it does feel like all of the English clubs that don't play on Merseyside are in a good position to make it through their Groups as both Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have won their opening two Group games.

On the other hand Liverpool and Everton are yet to taste victory and both have important double headers in which they need to take at least four points if they are going to make it through to the Knock Out Rounds. Liverpool should be good enough to still come through their Group, but Everton are under pressure having dropped points at home against the weakest team in their section as Ronald Koeman's men continue to struggle at home and in Europe.

In a couple of days I will have a short post about the Manchester United game at Liverpool which seems to have divided opinions as to how Jose Mourinho approached things, and that will also cover the game in Lisbon against Benfica. Before that I have wrote about the strong start to the Manchster United season which can be read here.

The Weekend Premier League Picks started well but had a poor ending which was a disappointment. In the next Weekend Football Picks post I will have a full update with the season results which will include the results from the Champions League and Europa League Picks made this week. That post should be ready to go on Friday with the Premier League's opening fixture this weekend being played on Friday evening at the London Stadium.

Feyenoord v Shakhtar Donetsk Pick: It looks like Manchester City are the team to beat in the Group, but for Feyenoord and Shakhtar Donetsk the double header they have over the next two weeks may give one of them a real chance to finish second in the Group. Both have been beaten by Manchester City already, but Shakhtar Donetsk have a home win over Napoli to their name and will be confident of adding to the points earned already when they take on the Dutch Champions.

They definitely performed better against Manchester City than Feyenoord did and Shakhtar Donetsk will be confident of their chances here in Rotterdam. It won't be easy when you think of how poorly Shakhtar Donetsk have played away from home in the Champions League, but last season they showed their capabilities on their travels in the Europa League.

A team like Feyenoord may be more suited to the Europa League level and they have been in poor form with just a single win from their last 4 games in all competitions. It hasn't been any better at home where Feyenoord have also won 1 of their last 4 games in all competitions and they have been beaten twice in that time and they have failed to score in 3 of their last 4 games in front of their own fans.

Shakhtar Donetsk may have lost 2-0 at Manchester City, but they created chances in that game while it was still goalless. They also had won 5 straight away games in European competition before that defeat, albeit in the Europa League rather than Champions League, but I think they can be good enough to earn the victory in Rotterdam.

At odds against they have to be worth backing to move into a good position in the Group with a home game against Feyenoord to come in two weeks time.

Manchester City v Napoli Pick: The Champions League has already had some big games this season in the Group Stage and this is yet another as the current leaders in England and Italy meet on Tuesday evening at the Etihad Stadium. It is Manchester City who have made the superior start in the Champions League compared with Napoli, but both teams are still expected to work their way through to the Last 16 and the double header could determine which finishes top of the Group.

You can't ignore the fact that for Napoli the domestic title challenge is more important than the Champions League this season, but this is a team with plenty of momentum behind them which has to be respected. Going back to last season they have won 16 of their last 17 competitive games and the sole defeat was a little unfortunate when Napoli were beaten at Shakhtar Donetsk on Match Day 1 in the Group.

This is a big challenge for Napoli though as they face a Manchester City team in a very similar period of form as the Italian club are. Manchester City have been very strong at home where they have won 8 of 11 Champions League games and they have won 9 in a row overall since the 1-1 draw with Everton.

Pep Guardiola called the 7-2 win over Stoke City as the best performance since he came in as manager of Manchester City and that has to be a little intimidating for Napoli. As good as Napoli are going forward, they can look a little suspect defensively and a team like Manchester City in their current form will look to expose that.

On the other hand Napoli should be able to cause some problems for Manchester City as other clubs have. The clean sheets might look like Manchester City are strong defensively, but clubs have created chances against them and Napoli are a team who have scored plenty of goals to think they will take those opportunities when they do come their way.

The layers are on top of that with both teams to score and at least three goals to be scored short prices. I am leaning towards Manchester City earning the win with home advantage but even those prices are plenty short when seeing how well Napoli have played and who are very capable on their day. Goals should be the outcome of the fixture and I think it is worth backing at least four goals to be shared out which has been the eventual result in 3 of the last 5 Champions League games at the Etihad Stadium.

Real Madrid v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: There is a lot of confidence in the Tottenham Hotspur squad, but the next few weeks is going to be telling to see where they actually stand compared with the best teams both in England and Europe. In that time Tottenham Hotspur play Real Madrid twice, Liverpool and Manchester United, and Mauricio Pochettino says his team will head to the Santiago Bernebeu with a nothing to lose attitude.

Playing away from home in European competition has been difficult for Tottenham Hotspur who have lost at Monaco and Gent in their last couple of away games. Now they have to face the Champions League back to back winners and that is going to be a real test for the Tottenham Hotspur 7 game winning run away from home in all competitions.

Real Madrid look to be in much better shape than a few weeks ago and these two teams have dominated the Group so far. The winner of the double header will be in command of a top spot finish, but it feels like a really big ask for Tottenham Hotspur to contain a Real Madrid team who look to be improving all the time.

They have won 11 of their last 13 home Champions League games and can make up for the absence of Gareth Bale who would have loved to have faced his former club. Tottenham Hotspur can make life difficult for teams, but I still think they are going to be put under immense pressure here and have yet to take their Premier League form in European competition consistently.

Beating Borussia Dortmund at home and APOEL away are good, solid results for Tottenham Hotspur, but facing Real Madrid in front of their own fans is a different level of task. I expect Real Madrid to prove to be too strong on the day as they were for Manchester United in the European Super Cup back in August and Tottenham Hotspur won't be able to contain the home team.

I will look for Real Madrid to eventually wear down Tottenham Hotspur and I will back the home team to cover the Asian Handicap in a win on Tuesday.

Anderlecht v Paris Saint-Germain Pick: The 3-0 win over Bayern Munich on Match Day 2 is the kind of result and performance that will have made a mark around Europe that Paris Saint-Germain are for real. They are now in complete control of this Champions League Group and now they won't want to let go by dropping silly points against Anderlecht over the next two weeks.

It is going to be tough for Anderlecht to stick with Paris Saint-Germain and the quality the French side have. Anderlecht have already been heavily beaten by Bayern Munich and Celtic and they have found the step up to the Champions League level too high in recent years.

Since November 2012, Anderlecht have lost 8 of 9 home games in the Champions League and the real worry has to be the amount of goals they have shipped in those games. The 0-3 loss to Celtic means Anderlecht have conceded at least three goals in 6 of their last 9 home Champions League games and Paris Saint-Germain could easily be the next team to hit that number in Brussels.

Goals haven't been a problem for Paris Saint-Germain with the front three they can call on and I think this could be another big win for them in the Champions League. Both wins have come by at least a three goal margin so far and I will look for Paris Saint-Germain to match that margin again and will look for them to cover the Asian Handicap here.

Bayern Munich v Celtic Pick: There have clearly been some issues at Bayern Munich which has affected the performances the team have been able to produce on the field and ended with the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti as manager.

Ancelotti and the senior players were not seeing eye to eye and the arrival of Jupp Heynckes feels like it will be a much more positive atmosphere for the players to play in. The 5-0 hammering of Freiburg is a very small sample to underline that statement, but Bayern Munich should improve and they are clearly the favourites to join Paris Saint-Germain in the Last 16 of the Champions League.

After Match Day 2 the Celtic fans would have felt much more confident of their chances of progressing to the Last 16 and surprising outsiders. Plenty had come on national radio to let people know that Celtic could upset Bayern Munich, but I really think there is a big difference in talent between the two squads.

The arrival of Heynckes should mean Bayern Munich are motivated to perform for the new man in charge especially if you believe what players are saying at the moment. He will look for Bayern Munich to get on the front foot and take the game to Celtic and the latter did see what can happen if these big teams have a strong day in the office when they were crushed 0-5 by Paris Saint-Germain on Match Day 1.

Of course Celtic have to be respected for drawing at Borussia Monchengladbach and Manchester City last season in the Champions League Group, but Monchengladbach had a poor season and were suffering an injury crisis and Manchester City made wholesale changes with their Last 16 place secured. Neither factors are in play in this one and I think Bayern Munich will be too good for Celtic on Wednesday.

I expect the attacking threat Bayern Munich can produce to see plenty of chances created and I am looking for a team who have won 16 of 18 home Champions League games to win another. I anticipate it may come relatively comfortably by a team who have scored plenty of home goals even through their struggles and I will back Bayern Munich to cover the Asian Handicap.

Benfica v Manchester United Pick: It is going to be very interesting to see the kind of tactics Jose Mourinho will employ in Manchester United's Champions League tie at Benfica just days after the criticism the manager faced for the tactics used in the draw at Anfield. It might not have been the attacking performance the fans wanted at Liverpool, but it was a good result and Manchester United will likely take a similar approach to the game in Lisbon.

However there should be more spaces to exploit in a game that means a lot for Benfica as they try and get back into a Champions League after a couple of disappointing performances. The 1-2 home defeat to CSKA Moscow and the 5-0 defeat at Basel has left Benfica in a precarious position in the Group as they get set to face Manchester United twice.

The home game is huge for Benfica who have to find a way to earn the three points to get back into the Group and that means trying to attack Manchester United. That will bode well for Mourinho and Manchester United who may have more space to exploit on the counter attack in this one than they found at Liverpool who didn't really change what looked a solid system of their own.

Benfica have shown they can be defensively vulnerable in the Champions League and I think Manchester United will have a few more attacking players on display to try and exploit that. Without Eric Bailly Manchester United also don't look as secure at the back as they have in other games and I think the situation for Benfica will mean this fixture has more spaces than you would imagine.

Manchester United away games in Europe under Jose Mourinho have been more functional than exciting, but they were at their attacking best in CSKA Moscow and I think Jose Mourinho will be looking for his side to get forward in this one.

Both teams should have their chances and while I did consider backing Manchester United to win, I also think they are a very short price when you think of Benfica being what most people considered to be the second best team in the Group. I don't thin Benfica are as bad as their results, but they have looked weak at the back which suggests there could be goals in this one.

The home team have to get forward to try and win a game to work their way back into the Group and Manchester United have shown how strong they can be on the counter attack. The game at Anfield was a pragmatic display, but I expect Manchester United to be a little more up the pitch to try and get on the front foot and I will look for these teams to share out three goals at least.

Chelsea v Roma Pick: It has been a tough couple of weeks to be a Chelsea fan who saw their team outplayed by Manchester City in a 0-1 home loss and then became the first team to concede and subsequently lose to Crystal Palace this weekend. They are looking to get back on the horse in this Champions League tie as Chelsea have a chance to take control of the Group, while Antonio Conte will be hoping they can pick up some momentum with three successive home games to come.

The return of Alvaro Morata would be an obvious boost for Chelsea and it does sound like the Spaniard is going to return for this fixture. It gives Chelsea more of a focal point, but with the additional quality he has compared to the back ups in the squad and is likely to be a key to the success Chelsea do, or do not, have this season.

The absences of N'Golo Kante and Victor Moses are a blow, but Chelsea will feel they can make up for that in this game against a Roma team who have been caught a little short when facing the best teams. The 0-1 loss to Napoli on Saturday was a big one for Roma, and even their 9 game away winning run has not come against teams of the quality of Chelsea.

Being able to play on the counter attack will be a bonus for Roma as they will feel more comfortable doing that, but Chelsea have the quality to win this game and put their back to back losses behind them. They have been a tough team to play at Stamford Bridge in Europe and Roma are not the best travellers in the Champions League with their recent European away successes coming in the Europa League.

You can be a little wary considering the Chelsea results in the last couple of weeks, but I will look for them to have too much for a Roma team who have not been able to compete with the best teams they have faced so far this season. I will look for the home team to win by a couple of goals on the night and move into complete command of this Group and I will back Chelsea to cover the Asian Handicap.

Juventus v Sporting Lisbon Pick: After falling short in the Champions League Final in June, Juventus have made a fairly slow start to the new season. It was similar to their reaction after losing the Champions League Final to Barcelona in 2015 and back then Juventus were able to recover effectively.

They are back in contention in this Group having beaten Olympiacos 2-0 on Match Day 2 after their 3-0 defeat in Barcelona. The double header with Sporting Lisbon are a couple of big games for both clubs as they are locked on 3 points together.

Juventus have to win the home game if they have serious ambitions of making it through to the Last 16. They should be too good for Sporting Lisbon who had lost 6 straight away Champions League games before beating Steaua Bucharest and Olympiacos this season. Last year they were beaten in all 3 away games in the Group and there is no doubt that Juventus are much stronger than Olympiacos.

It is harder to back Juventus to cover the Asian Handicap when you think of the way their games in the Champions League tend to develop. This is a club that won't look to attack throughout but one who can sometimes settle with a lead and hope to pick off an opponent.

Sporting Lisbon are not likely to go gung-ho in this one which should mean a tight game, although one where I think Juventus will eventually have the quality to break down their visitors. Juventus have won their last 5 home Champions League games and 4 of those have come with a clean sheet, while Sporting Lisbon lost their last 2 away Group games without scoring last season.

At odds against I will back Juventus to have enough to keep the backdoor shut in this one and the quality to find a breakthrough.

BATE Borisov v FC Koln PickThe hope for BATE Borisov and FC Koln is that Arsenal can win their double header with Red Star Belgrade and give one of these teams a chance to finish 2nd in the Group. Neither BATE or Koln have made the kind of start they would have hoped in the Group and the two games against one another over the next two weeks are going to determine which one, if any, is able to challenge for a top two berth going forward.

It should mean the two teams are trying to put some attacking football together and try to win this game, although at this point it probably means more to BATE Borisov than FC Koln. The latter have been struggling mightily in the Bundesliga and they know that has to be the priority, while losing both Europa League games may make that an easier decision to make.

When things like that happen, it may mean that a team is not so bothered about chasing the game, but I think FC Koln will owe it to their fans to try and snap a poor run of form however they can. Picking up some momentum is important for FC Koln too and I think that is motivation enough to try and get forward and give BATE Borisov some problems.

On the other hand BATE Borisov will be looking to use home advantage to full effect. They have been a little inconsistent at home recently but goals have not been a problem for them and I can see these teams combining for at least three goals.

BATE Borisov have scored at least twice in 4 of their last 5 home games, but at the same time they have also conceded at least three times in 3 of those games. It certainly makes the prices for at least three goals to be scored in this one look a little too big and I will back that to be the outcome of this Group game.

Ostersunds v Athletic Bilbao Pick: When I looked through the Europa League fixture list this week, I was surprised to see Ostersunds still not getting the respect that they have perhaps earned. This is a team who have won all 4 home games in the Europa League and were the underdog the last 3 times, while Ostersunds have yet to concede a goal.

Of course you can understand the layers not taking any chances with Athletic Bilbao the visitors this week, but the Spanish club have not been in the best form. The win over Sevilla snapped a run of 4 losses in 5 games in all competitions and they have struggled in the Europa League Group having failed to score in the first couple of games.

Add in the fact that Athletic Bilbao have only won 1 of their last 7 away European ties and you have to wonder if they are a good thing at odds on to win here.

That price just looked wrong to me and I do think Ostersunds can earn a result here which can be backed at odds against. They have proven they can handle the step up in level of competition with wins over Galatasaray, PAOK and Hertha Berlin and I do think Ostersunds would be happy to take a point if they can get it.

With the pressure on Athletic Bilbao to produce, Ostersunds could have success on the counter attack to punish the Spaniards. The lack of goals for Athletic Bilbao and the clean sheets kept by Ostersunds in the Europa League leads me to backing the Swedish club with the start on the Asian Handicap.

Red Star Belgrade v Arsenal Pick: There will be some changes made to the Arsenal starting line up with the big game at Everton in mind and I think that makes the odds for The Gunners look unappealing. While I backed them to win at BATE Borisov, I think Red Star Belgrade are a better team than the Belarusian Champions and they can certainly test what will be a young defensive unit.

On the other hand, any time Arsenal can play the likes of Jack Wilshire, Theo Walcott, Olivier Giroud and potentially Alexis Sanchez in the forward areas, you have to think they can create chances. That is especially at the Europa League level with those players more accustomed to Champions League nights at this time of the season.

They should be able to give Red Star Belgrade something to think about, but we have also seen Arsenal looking far from secure defensively so far in the Europa League. With the confidence Red Star Belgrade have to have when playing at home, I think they can cause problems for Arsenal too and there could be a few goals shared out in this one.

Red Star Belgrade have to know that getting forward and testing a changed Arsenal backline is their best chance of securing a surprise result, but that may also play into the hands of Arsenal who should be dangerous on the counter attack. There is more on the line for Red Star Belgrade in this one, but I think Arsenal can have a free shot here knowing that they still have to host this opponent and I am looking for an attacking game to be rewarded with goals.

Zorya v Hertha Berlin Pick: This was supposed to be a Group in which Athletic Bilbao and Hertha Berlin would dominate, but both clubs have struggled. The layers aren't giving away any prices on those two teams though and I think Hertha Berlin are perhaps a little over-rated on their visit to the Ukraine.

They are facing a Zorya team who held both Fenerbahce and Feyenoord here in the Europa League last season and who have been given a boost in confidence in their 0-1 win at Athletic Bilbao on Match Day 2. Zorya have lost to Manchester United and Ostersunds in recent home European games, but I am not sure Hertha Berlin are playing with a full belief in their own system.

Hertha Berlin have not won any of their last 4 away games in all competitions and have lost 3 of those which makes it hard to pick them to win here. They look very short when you put that run of form down and I think Zorya are capable of at least holding them to a draw if not quite good enough to win this one.

You can get a start with Zorya on the Asian Handicap which will return a profit as long as the home team avoids defeat and I will back them to do that.

Dynamo Kiev v Young Boys Pick: Revenge has to be on the mind of the Dynamo Kiev players who were knocked out of the Champions League Qualifiers by Young Boys in August. In both games Young Boys scored in injury time which proved to be the difference in an away goals victory for the Swiss side, but Dynamo Kiev will want to show that upset was nothing more than a fluke.

The game in Kiev ended in a 3-1 win for Dynamo Kiev and they have scored three times in both Group games in the Europa League which will give them the belief they can earn a measure of revenge here. They are also facing a Young Boys team who have lost 8 of 11 away European ties and generally have been beaten by a comfortable margin in those games.

Young Boys may feel confident going to Kiev this time around considering they did win the Champion League Qualifier, but I think all of the pressure will come from the home team. A win for Dynamo Kiev would put them on the brink of making it through to the Last 32 in the Europa League and I do think they are going to be too strong for Young Boys.

With the added motivation of wanting to get the better of Young Boys after the Champions League Qualifiers I think Dynamo Kiev will get the better of their visitors. Young Boys have been beaten by by at least two goals in 7 of those 8 European defeats I have mentioned earlier and I will back Dynamo Kiev to cover the Asian Handicap.

Villarreal v Slavia Prague Pick: Both Villarreal and Slavia Prague have made a positive start to this Europa League Group and the winner of the double header over the next couple of weeks will likely secure a spot in the Last 32 of the competition.

Both teams will believe they are good enough to win at least one of the next two games, but in this one you have to give the edge to Villarreal who have been strong at home.

Compare that to Slavia Prague who have lost 4 of their last 6 away European ties over the last fifteen months and you can see why the edge has to be given to the home team. Slavia Prague are an improving team, but this is a significant step up to the usual level of competition they face and I think Villarreal will be able to show that on the day.

Villarreal have been a little inconsistent in recent seasons which can make it difficult to trust them, but I do think they will be too good on the day. I will look for Villarreal to secure a win by a couple of goals on the day and will back them to cover this Asian Handicap.

MY PICKS: Shakhtar Donetsk @ 2.15 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester City-Napoli Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.20 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Real Madrid - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.93 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Paris Saint-Germain - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bayern Munich - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Benfica-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Chelsea - 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Juventus Win to Nil @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
BATE Borisov-FC Koln Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Coral (2 Units)
Ostersunds + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Red Star Belgrade-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Zorya + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Dynamo Kiev - 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Villarreal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.12 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (October 14-16)

Let's face facts for a minute.

I am not the only one that finds the international football that takes place during the domestic season to be a pain that has to be dealt with rather than something of excitement.

That is nothing against the World Cup Finals and major tournaments the individual Confederations may run, but I am glad to have domestic football back this weekend.

It doesn't get much bigger than being twenty-four hours out from seeing Manchester United head out at Anfield and that is the opening League game of the weekend. It is a big one and I have written a short piece about Manchester United's stunning September which can be read here.

It has been a decent start to the month, hopefully the following picks from the Premier League can produce another winning weekend.

Liverpool v Manchester United Pick: The biggest game in English Football involves two teams who finished in the top six last season without challenging for the Premier League title. This season there were much higher expectations for Liverpool and Manchester United and both clubs will come into the weekend with something to prove.

For Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool it is all about putting a poor September behind them and using a win over Manchester United to give them some momentum to move up the Premier League table. The German is under a little bit of pressure as fans have begun to grow weary of the excuses and the strange team selections, especially in the defensive areas, which have affected the ability of Liverpool to earn results.

Some of that has not been Klopp's problem with the Liverpool forwards missing hatful of chances in games where they have dropped points both in the Premier League and Champions League. The injury to Sadio Mane is a big blow for a team that have not been as clinical in front of goal as they would have liked, although it may be one where the fans believe it could help Klopp in having a securer system in place for this game.

While there are questions for Klopp to answer, this game has to be seen as the first true test for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United in the 2017/18 season. The fixture list wasn't the most taxing, but Manchester United can only beat what is in front of them and now can prove they are in for the long haul task of challenging for the Premier League title.

The next month could be telling with three of the top four from last season ahead for Manchester United, while the injuries in the middle of the park has to be a concern for Mourinho. It could mean going back to a 3-4-3 system to get the best out of the players that Manchester United have available with Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic the only two fit midfielders that look to be passed for this fixture.

It is a system that has worked for Manchester United who will feel they have more of an attacking threat this season than they did when travelling to Anfield twelve months ago. The pace on the counter attack of the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford/Anthony Martial, and Romelu Lukaku should be able to provide a threat to a Liverpool backline which has been anything but watertight over the last month.

The game is likely to be tense as it always is when Liverpool and Manchester United collide, but I have had a feeling this is going to be the day the away team can prove they are 'for real'. Liverpool are a very dangerous team at Anfield, but the key is to be resilient in the first twenty or thirty minutes and Manchester United have certainly shown they can do that so far this season as well as in big away games at Anfield and the Etihad Stadium last season.

Manchester United will get chances against this defence and I think they can be backed on the Asian Handicap which will return the stake in case of a draw. It won't be easy and Manchester United can't allow Liverpool to score early when they really begin to flow with confidence, but frustrating the home team early and then hitting them on the break looks like a tactic that can work for Jose Mourinho's men.

It is a great way for the Premier League to get going after the two week international break, but I do think Manchester United fans will be the ones celebrating through the weekend.

Crystal Palace v Chelsea Pick: The international break has given Alvaro Morata the time to try and overcome the hamstring complaint he has been suffering with and Eden Hazard looks back to full fitness for Chelsea. Morata is likely to miss this game anyway, but Chelsea have to feel they can cover for the absence of the Spanish international as well as N'Golo Kante when visiting Crystal Palace.

This always feels like a difficult ground for teams to visit with the home fans making Selhurst Park a loud ground, but it has not been as intimidating for teams on the pitch. Roy Hodgson has been tasked with improving the confidence of a Crystal Palace team that could be without what would have been the three players that lead the way for them assuming Wilfried Zaha joins Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Christian Benteke on the sidelines.

Improved confidence has not happened yet as Crystal Palace have now lost 5 of their last 6 home games in the Premier League including all 3 this season. The teams who have finished in the top four have generally been good enough to win at Selhurst Park against better Crystal Palace teams than the one Chelsea will face here and that is shown by Palace losing 11 of their 12 games at Selhurst Park against the eventual top four over the last three seasons.

Crystal Palace have also been hammered at both Manchester City and Manchester United as they have crumbled once going behind and that has to be a fear against a Chelsea team who have won 6 straight away games in all competitions. The absence of Kante is a blow, but it's one that Chelsea can overcome against this opponent and I think Antonio Conte will put out a team that can score goals here even without Morata.

It would be a surprise if Chelsea can't win here and I am backing them to do so against a Crystal Palace team who concede too many goals. The home team will eventually break their goal duck in the Premier League, but they may have to wait another weekend and I think Chelsea will still have too much firepower, even without Morata, to cover the Asian Handicap on Saturday.

Manchester City v Stoke City Pick: There is a similar level of praise being given to Pep Guardiola and Manchester City at the moment as there was twelve months ago when his side swept all before them in the first two months of the season. Things came off the rail for Manchester City from October going forward and it will be interesting to see if they can continue the kind of form they were displaying in September.

The 0-1 win at Chelsea last time out was a really impressive performance which suggests this squad is better prepared for the long haul than they were last season. Losing Benjamin Mendy is a blow for the system Guardiola has been running, but they will feel they are better prepared to deal with teams who will come to the Etihad Stadium and sit in looking for a result.

That will be tested by Stoke City this weekend as they have recently been something of a bogey team for Manchester City. In their 6 Premier League games over the last three season, Stoke City have managed to earn the victory twice including at this Stadium in the 2014/15 season.

Last season Stoke City frustrated Manchester City in a goalless draw here, but it is a big challenge for them to do the same with some knocks in defensive areas that will hurt them. Losing Joe Allen may mean Manchester City struggle dominate possession even more than expected and I think it will be very much a case of attack versus defence in this one.

Manchester City look like they have the options to break down Stoke City and I would be worried for the away team considering they have conceded twice at Newcastle United and Bristol City in their last couple of away games. Stoke City were also hammered 0-4 by Chelsea in the Premier League at the Bet365 Stadium and I think Manchester City can record another comfortable home win on Saturday.

It is a big Asian Handicap for the home team to cover, but they have looked so strong going forward and I think Stoke City may not have the bodies to prevent Manchester City from another big win this weekend.

Tottenham Hotspur v Bournemouth Pick: I am not a big believer in 'curses' and I think Tottenham Hotspur could easily have won all 3 League games played at Wembley Stadium with a little more luck behind their play. The fact is that Tottenham Hotspur have seen off Borussia Dortmund and Barnsley here in their most recent games at Wembley Stadium and they have been in fine form ahead of the last international break.

They can't really afford to drop more points at home when you look at the fixtures that Tottenham Hotspur have coming up as they face Real Madrid twice in the Champions League and also take on Liverpool and Manchester United. A 'home' game with Bournemouth certainly should be a game this Tottenham Hotspur team should be winning, especially if Josh King is the latest absentee in the away dressing room.

It has already been a difficult start for Bournemouth who have not looked strong defensively and have been struggling for goals. They signed Jermain Defoe to try and rectify that issue, but Defoe has not produced like Eddie Howe would have hoped and this looks like being a long day for Bournemouth.

The side have lost all 3 away League games in the Premier League and Bournemouth have only scored a single goal in that time. The Tottenham Hotspur defence have been solid enough to think they can keep Bournemouth at arm's length in this one, while they have a striker in Harry Kane who is arguably in the best form of any player in the Premier League.

Kane has not been at his best at Wembley Stadium, but he scored for England here ten days ago and followed that up with another goal in Lithuania last week. He is a short price to score again here and I expect Kane to help fire Tottenham Hotspur to a first League win at this ground.

Tottenham Hotspur have kept clean sheets in their last couple of games at Wembley Stadium and I will look for them to keep another in a victory on Saturday.

Watford v Arsenal Pick: The biggest live game coming from the English Premier League might be at Anfield on Saturday lunchtime, but the Watford versus Arsenal fixture later in the day looks like it could be an entertaining one. Coming out of the international break is a difficult spot for both managers in this one as they won't have seen their first team players around the training ground as much as they would have wished, but both Marco Silva and Arsene Wenger have to be encouraged by performances prior to the break.

However you would almost feel that both Arsenal and Watford would be keen to flip this fixture to the Emirates Stadium rather than Vicarage Road. Arsenal have earned 12 of their 13 Premier League points at home, while Watford have earned 10 of their 12 League points on their travels.

Goals haven't been a big problem for Watford under Silva, and they will believe their home form is going to be improved in the coming weeks and months. The concern has to be that Watford have conceded at least three goals in 3 of their 4 home games in all competitions this season, although they have created chances in each of those games.

Silva will be the first to tell you that you can't win many games when conceding that amount of goals, and Arsenal have the talent in the final third to certainly create chances and score here. However The Gunners have yet to score away from home in the Premier League and have a number of defensive injuries in the squad which may make them vulnerable at Vicarage Road.

Watford will certainly feel they are better going forward than they have been defensively thanks to injuries they have suffered at the back too. That does make it feel like a fixture where there could be goals at both ends and I think the attacking play may dominate, even coming off a two week international break with little time to prepare for this fixture.

Last season Arsenal won 1-3 here and I can see the same number of goals being shared out between these teams on Saturday. Generally games between Watford and Arsenal have featured plenty of chances and goals and I think the defensive issues both are dealing with means the attacking players win on the day in what should be an entertaining clash.

Brighton v Everton Pick: The television companies who have paid for the rights to broadcast Premier League football have agreed to show every team in the League so there are some weekends when 'Super Sunday' doesn't look like great viewing.

That might not necessarily be the case this weekend in either game, but for the neutrals the problem has to be the lack of goals the teams involved have been scoring.

First up is Brighton hosting Everton and it does look like being a game where not many goals are going to be offered up. Chris Hughton and Ronald Koeman focus on getting things right at the back and hoping that can inspire something going forward and I think Brighton and Everton may end up cancelling one another out.

I certainly don't think there will be a lot of chances produced with Brighton missing Tomer Hemed and Everton looking short of confidence. The home team have plenty of questions about how many goals they are going to score this season with the current squad, while Everton have not been able to replace Romelu Lukaku's goals and look pedestrian in possession.

Neither team will be trying to give much away in this one and I am looking for a tight and competitive game to be the outcome. It wouldn't surprise me at all if a single goal is all it takes to decide the winner and I think the team falling behind would find it very difficult to respond.

I am not expecting a lot of goals and I do think one of these teams will fail to get on the scoreboard. Brighton may have scored in their last couple of home games, but Hemed scored half of the four goals scored in those games and is missing, while Everton have failed to score in 4 of their last 5 Premier League games.

Backing at least one team to fail to hit the target looks a decent enough price to back here.

Southampton v Newcastle United Pick: There are some similarities between the second game on Sunday and the one played across the south coast at Brighton earlier in the day.

Both Southampton and Newcastle United will be pleased with some aspects of their performances and disappointed by others and I think the two teams have had their issues in front of goal which could show up here.

Mauricio Pellegrino and Rafa Benitez are two more manager in the English Premier League who look to set their teams up to be difficult to beat and then look for something to come good in the final third to help them win games. Goals have been the problem for both Southampton and Newcastle United though and it would be a big surprise if there are a lot of goals for the fans to enjoy on Sunday.

The layers recognise the issues the teams have had in front of goal while they are now playing opponents who haven't given away a lot in their own final third. Southampton have to be concerned that they have not scored in 4 of 5 home games this season, while Newcastle United have not scored in 2 of 3 away games.

Neither team has been watertight defensively which may be some reason to think the other can take advantage, but I am not expecting to see a lot of chances for the two teams in this one. Early goals can change the whole feeling of a game of football, but I will look for one of the teams to fail to score in this one with defences coming out on top for much of the afternoon.

Leicester City v West Brom Pick: There are some teams that always seem to cause problems for others and West Brom visiting Leicester City has been one of those over the years. They are unbeaten in 8 trips to Leicester City and have won 6 of those, although the current form has not been the best for The Baggies.

In saying that, Leicester City have not exactly been piling up the wins but they can be excused when you think of the early fixture list they have been negotiating. Leicester City have lost back to back League games to Chelsea and Liverpool, but Craig Shakespeare will know there won't be as many excuses for failing to beat West Brom.

Shakespeare has to be feeling some pressure with Leicester City potentially kicking off inside the bottom three of the Premier League. The owners have made it clear they feel The Foxes should be much higher up the League table so they may not tolerate being stuck in the bottom three for too long.

A relegation scrap cost Claudio Ranieri his job as manager just months after taking Leicester City to an improbable League title so Shakespeare will realise time may not be on his side unless they can earn some results. The side have won 8 of the 13 home games under Shakespeare though and it has taken some of the best teams to leave the King Power Stadium with a result in that time.

West Brom can't be considered to that level, but they have to be respected with a manager who knows how to earn results in the Premier League and also the fact The Baggies have played so well when visiting Leicester City. That does make them a dangerous opponent who won't give a lot away and look to frustrate their hosts before hitting them with a sucker punch.

There is every chance they can do that again, but I think Leicester City are better than their current results which have been affected by who they have played. This is a much more manageable game for them and I think West Brom have perhaps overachieved early in the campaign with a couple of narrow games going their way.

At odds against I will look for Leicester City to secure a vital three points for their slightly under pressure manager. They look to have more goals in the side than West Brom and being at home should be an advantage, even despite the recent history against The Baggies.

MY PICKS: Manchester United 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.97 Bet365 (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.99 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur Win to Nil @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Watford-Arsenal Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.45 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Brighton-Everton Both Teams to Score- NO @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Southampton-Newcastle United Both Teams to Score- NO @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)