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Saturday, 21 April 2018

Boxing Picks 2018- Carl Frampton vs Nonito Donaire (April 21st)

Saturday night is going to be a big evening of Boxing with a couple of big names in action in the United Kingdom before the shift to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn where Adrien Broner and Jesse Vargas headline an interesting card.

The next few weeks have some huge fights set to go which are going to be very interesting both at domestic and world level and it remains a great time to be a Boxing fan even if the GGG vs Canelo 2 fight has been postponed and the much anticipated Anthony Joshua vs Deontay Wilder fight has yet to be announced.

Zolani Tete vs Omar Andres Narvaez
Many consider Zolani Tete the best Bantamweight in the world, although the likes of Ryan Burnett would have something to say about that.

There are rumours that the next World Boxing Super Series tournament will feature the Bantamweights as one of the two Divisions with some top names in this Division.

Tete will want to be involved and he is a big favourite to defend his WBO World Title when he defends against Omar Andres Narvaez in Belfast on the Carl Frampton-Nonito Donaire undercard.

The 42 year old Narvaez has mixed with some good company in his career, but this looks a very difficult fight for him. He gives up seven inches in height and eight inches in reach and I simply don't think he is going to have enough to disrupt Tete who has shown he has considerable power.

Comparisons will be made to Naoya Inoue who blew past Narvaez in two Rounds, while fans will be expectant after seeing Tete win his last fight in 11 seconds with the first punch landed of the fight. I do think Tete will be coming out to make a statement to the rest of the Division and he should be able to control matters very quickly and unleash some powerful shots.

I am not sure Narvaez will be ready to stand up to the early assault and I can see Tete getting this done early so having a small interest in this ending in the first four Rounds looks the call.

Carl Frampton vs Nonito Donaire
The biggest fight taking place in the United Kingdom comes from Belfast where Carl Frampton headlines against Nonito Donaire.

You have to think Frampton has taken this fight because his team believe Donaire is no longer the fighter he once was and there is plenty of confidence in the home camp that their man is not only going to win, but win very impressively.

Donaire has come for anything but a payday as he looks to remain relevant at world level, but I do wonder if Father Time has gotten the better of him. The Filipino has simply not looked up to the level he once showed and he is fighting at an almost unfamiliar weight to take this opportunity.

I do have to say that I am also not sure where I stand about Carl Frampton.

Sometimes I see a world beater, but other times I see a fighter who looks a little underwhelming although the reports all indicate Frampton should be close to his best in this one.

I lean that way too and I can see Frampton producing a huge fight which takes this away from Donaire.

The smartest choice is that Frampton wins on a Decision, but I think he may be able to push past Donaire in the second half of this fight. The talk is that Frampton is fitter than he has been before and that may see him use his stamina to outwork Donaire and perhaps force a stoppage in the second half of the fight.

Amir Khan vs Phil Lo Greco
You may hear different, but Amir Khan has not picked a live opponent for his comeback fight after almost two years away from the Boxing ring.

And I don't blame him to be perfectly honest.

This is the chance to get a few Rounds under the belt and get rid of the rust which would have accumulated in the last two years, while Khan is not going to risk some big paydays which are in front of him if he can get back to winning ways.

Phil Lo Greco hasn't exactly been a really active fighter himself with just two fights since Khan was destroyed by Canelo Alvarez in May 2016 (and one of those was in June 2016). He has been in with the likes of Errol Spence Jr (TKO Third Round), Shawn Porter (Unanimous Decision) and so it is possible that Lo Greco on a full camp can force Khan to put some Rounds in the bank.

That won't be a big issue for Khan, and I expect his speed to be a real problem for Lo Greco who will be likely looking for the one big counter to open the door to some big opportunities of his own.

Ultimately I expect Khan's speed and combinations to be too much for Lo Greco to deal with, although I do think the Canadian will be durable enough to perhaps hear the final bell.

My only fear for Lo Greco would be a premature stoppage from the referee under a barrage of speedy Khan shots, but the latter has not won a fight inside the distance since 2012 even if the majority of those fights have been against better opponents than Lo Greco. However I do think the Canadian will have made use of a full camp to be able to last as long as he is not overwhelmed early and a small interest on Khan winning a comfortable Decision is the call from this one.

Gervonta Davis vs Jesus Cuellar
This is the first time Gervonta Davis has made weight at the first attempt in three fights and that might indicate a new level of professionalism for a fighter who is lined up for a crack at the awesome Vasyl Lomachenko.

Both have to get through a couple of fights in the next three weeks to set that up and Davis will be looking to make a real statement when he faces Jesus Cuellar at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

His opponent Jesus Cuellar has to be respected having taken Abner Mares to a Split Decision in his last fight, but that was eighteen months ago and Cuellar is also being asked to move up in weight for this challenge.

That is going to be the difference between the two fighters and I think Davis will be too strong and be able to bully Cuellar with the prizes that are on offer for him with a strong win. Davis has proven to be very powerful early on and I think he will get on top of Cuellar and be able to hurt his opponent.

Not many men have been able to put a few Rounds in the Davis bank and I am not sure Cuellar will be able to do that here.

Davis winning in the first half of the fight and set himself up for a shot at Lomachenko is my expected outcome of this one.

Jermall Charlo vs Hugo Centeno
The move up to Middleweight has been a good one for Jermall Charlo and I don't think there is much chance he is going to lose his spot as a mandatory challenge to Gennady Golovkin.

Charlo would have loved to have filled in for Canelo Alvarez, but this fight has been long scheduled and the American may be happy to just keep himself ticking along before moving into a position to fight the winner of the expected GGG-Canelo fight that will take place in September.

He should have too much for the game Hugo Centeno, but I worry that the latter was stopped at the Junior Middleweight level. The only times Centeno has stepped up to this kind of level has seen Centeno struggle and I think that may be the case again with Charlo most likely forcing a stoppage with the heavy hitting he has been producing.

Only Austin Trout has seen the Sixth Round in the last five Charlo fights, but Centeno may be able to last a little longer than most. He has shown some durability in his previous fights, but I do think Charlo will eventually have too much power and intensity for him and can earn the stoppage in the mid-Rounds.

Backing the favourite to win anywhere between the Fifth and Eighth Round is the pick.

Adrien Broner vs Jesse Vargas
I don't know what to say about Adrien Broner.

He talks as if he is one of the greatest pound for pound fighters of all time, but has underwhelmed massively in the last few years.

There is no denying the talent and it can seduce you into thinking something big is going to come from Broner, but he flatters to deceive and I think Jesse Vargas is going to become the latest to get the better of him.

Vargas is bigger and his two losses have come against future Hall of Famers but I think his discipline and hard work is going to provide the difference on the day.

Broner hasn't had a top performance in some time and I am not going to buy into the 'best ever feeling' you will hear every Boxer say before every fight they take part in. Broner fooled me with that line against Mikey Garcia.

This time I can't see a pot shotting Broner do enough to win this fight and I think Vargas will outwork him and win a decision by around three or four Rounds. Backing the narrow favourite looks the right play here as Broner's time at the top is perhaps over or very close to the end with another loss.

MY PICKS: Zolani Tete Win Between 1-4 @ 4.33 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Carl Frampton Win Between 7-12 @ 6.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Amir Khan to Win by Decision/Technical Decision @ 3.75 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Gervonta Davis Win Between 1-6 @ 2.75 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Jermall Charlo Win Between 5-8 @ 2.80 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Jesse Vargas @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Boxing Update 2018: 12-15, + 17.38 Units (41 Units Staked, + 42.39% Yield)

Weekend Football Picks 2018 (April 21-23)

The biggest news in English Football was the decision made by Arsene Wenger to step down as manager of Arsenal after twenty-two years in charge of the club.

While Wenger has rightly been lauded in many quarters since the decision was revealed, I also think it is impossible to ignore the fact that Arsenal have slid massively in the last few years of his tenure at the Emirates Stadium.

Stubbornness has not helped Wenger who has refused to make the signings that everyone has been crying out for which would have made Arsenal more competitive. And it does feel this decision is a few years later than most Arsenal fans would have wanted, although at least Wenger is going to be given a positive send off which is the least he deserves.

Winning the Europa League would be the perfect way to underline his time at Arsenal, but that is for another day with another round of Premier League games to be played this weekend. We also have two FA Cup Semi Final ties to be played on Saturday and Sunday.

West Brom v Liverpool Pick: This is a chance for Liverpool to put the Premier League to the back of their minds and concentrate fully on an assault to win the Champions League if they are able to win on Saturday.

A win would likely be enough to secure a top four spot in the Premier League which is the main goal for Liverpool this season and they are certainly good enough to earn that at The Hawthorns.

You have to consider the fact that Liverpool could make changes to the starting eleven for this fixture as they are facing Roma in the Champions League Semi Final First Leg on Tuesday. If they rest some of the big names for that First Leg then winning at The Hawthorns will be that much more difficult, but I am going to second guess Jurgen Klopp and expect a strong team to be named to secure a top four berth and then rest players the rest of the way.

They will need to be at their best to beat West Brom after the relegation threatened club secured a stunning 0-1 win at Old Trafford last Sunday. That should focus the Liverpool minds, but I also think West Brom were given a lot of belief by a poor Manchester United performance.

In recent weeks West Brom have not had a lot of belief in what they are trying to do and that saw them lose 9 games in a row before sacking Alan Pardew. The players are playing for Darren Moore, but they were poor two weeks ago in a 1-1 draw with Swansea City and this Liverpool team are capable of putting them to the sword and then being able to rest their key men in the second half.

I expect that will be the request from Klopp and Liverpool are capable of winning with some comfort on the day. West Brom can score goals at home, but Liverpool have defended much better in recent weeks and I will back the away side to give themselves a boost for the Champions League with a good looking win on Saturday lunch time.

Watford v Crystal Palace Pick: The end of the last couple of Premier League seasons have seen Watford struggle to maintain their concentration once their relegation battle has been concluded with a success. The same has happened this season as they have been beaten in 4 of their last 5 Premier League games and that won't be good news for those teams still fighting against relegation.

The reason for that is Watford host Crystal Palace this weekend and the away side come in with plenty of motivation and also positive form as they bid for another victory. The three points on offer could be enough for Crystal Palace to ensure they avoid relegation and they are playing well enough to do that.

Wilfried Zaha is in fine form and Crystal Palace have their attacking players back to give them a boost in confidence. They need the goals because Crystal Palace have continued to struggle defensively and Watford have been stronger at home which suggests they could take advantage of those problems at the back.

Watford have scored in their last 13 home games in all competitions and I think they are still showing enough to think they can create chances. However Watford have not looked that convincing defensively which is where Crystal Palace should have their joy and I think the layers are underestimating the chance to see at least three goals in this one.

Both teams could easily score and the three points on offer should mean Crystal Palace are pushing to score the goals to earn those points. With Watford at home they will be pressed by the fans to attack too and I can see there being enough chances in this fixture to see goals arrive.

Arsenal v West Ham United Pick: It has been a long time coming, but Arsene Wenger has finally decided to step down as manager of Arsenal with the team on course for their lowest finish under his tenure. While most Arsenal fans will be happy, the players have a chance to show their appreciation for the manager with a strong end to the season and a possible return to the Champions League.

The team selection did not help Arsenal's cause in their defeat at Newcastle United last weekend, but it was also a real indicator of how they have played away from home. Once again they lost a game in which they had led and that has been a source of frustration for Arsene Wenger all season.

Playing at the Emirates Stadium has been much more positive for the Arsenal players and it has been suggested a strong team will be picked even with the Atletico Madrid Europa League tie in mind.

Wenger wants momentum and he wants his key players to be mentally ready for the Europa League Semi Final so he will also expect a big performance from those players. It can be difficult for players to avoid the distraction of bigger games to come, but the loss last weekend should be enough to keep them focused.

They will need to do that against a West Ham United team who are unbeaten in 3 Premier League games and still searching for one more win to ensure they avoid the drop. David Moyes will look to set his team up to frustrate their hosts, but West Ham United have not been as good at doing that away from home although they have found a way to score goals.

Unfortunately they do concede plenty of chances and a strong Arsenal team can go into the Europa League Semi Final First Leg with some positives behind them. I will look for the home team to have a little too much creativity in the final third and break down this West Ham United team for a win by a couple of goals on the day.

Stoke City v Burnley Pick: The performances from Stoke City under Paul Lambert have not been bad, but a lack of goals and losing winning positions have put them on the brink of being relegated from the Premier League. Anything less than a win on Sunday may be costly for Stoke City who probably need 3 wins from their final 4 League games to have any chance of escaping the drop.

This may be a fixture that represents a good chance to earn the first of those wins after Burnley had a tough evening on Thursday competing against Chelsea. There won't be many changes to the Burnley starting eleven which means tiredness could work against them as this game goes on, but Burnley have proven themselves to be defensively resolute.

The home team have simply not scored enough goals to be warranted as a pretty short favourite to win this game, especially when you think of the lack of wins under Paul Lambert.

Stoke City do get on the front foot and have some talented players that could cause problems for Burnley, but I imagine Sean Dyche will have his players well drilled for this fixture even on the short turnaround from Thursday's game.

Burnley may not have the best recent record at Stoke City, but they have played with a lot more belief than their hosts all season. As long as Burnley remain as tough as they have been defensively, I think they will have an opportunity to at least earn a point here and backing the visitors with a start on the Asian Handicap looks the way to go.

Manchester City v Swansea City Pick: A party atmosphere in the stands can sometimes filter down to the players, but I would be surprised if Pep Guardiola allows his Manchester City team to ease off the throttle in their final League games. Instead I imagine this is a time when he will want this team to lay down a marker for next season and underline their desire for future success too.

The game on Sunday does look a good opportunity for Manchester City to express themselves as they go up against a Swansea City team who have not been as secure defensively as they once looked under Carlos Carvalhal. The Swans have kept the points ticking over to keep their head above water in the Premier League, but they were clearly second best in a 2-0 loss at Manchester United at the end of March and it is a big test for them here.

They don't have anything to lose so Swansea City can try and express themselves, but that might leave them a little open to a Manchester City team who have been in imperious form at home for much of the season.

And it could be dangerous to be too open against a team who are trying to snap a 3 game losing run at the Etihad Stadium, although I am not convinced Swansea City will get much here regardless of the system employed.

If you defend in numbers you can limit the damage done by the home team, but Manchester City are well rested and ready to celebrate and I can see this being a comfortable win for the home team. They have struggled to win their recent home games against Swansea City, but this Manchester City team look much stronger than recent editions and I think it could be a long afternoon for their visitors.

Manchester City won 0-4 at the Liberty Stadium, but they could settle for a margin of one less than that. Regardless, I am going to back Manchester City to cover a big Asian Handicap as they celebrate the title with a stylish win.

Everton v Newcastle United Pick: For most fans the difference between finishing 9th and 10th in the Premier League table may not be here nor there, but for clubs there is a financial reward for a higher League finish. That may be the only thing on the mind of those in the board room when Everton host Newcastle United on Monday Night Football, but the players should be free enough to perform as they would like.

Newcastle United are on a very good run of 4 consecutive wins which has pulled them away from the bottom three, and they won their last away game at Leicester City. That should give them enough belief they can head to Goodison Park and pose problems for an Everton team who have not won any of their last 3 League games.

However you can't ignore the fact that Everton have played 2 of the top four in that time and they have generally performed better at home. Some of the football has been disappointing under Sam Allardyce and that has put the fans off from backing him to stay in charge of the club, but no one can deny it has mainly been effective to make sure Everton were not involved in a relegation battle.

The home form has generally been pretty good under Allardyce and only the 1-1 home draw with West Brom under the former England manager could be seen as a poor result. Everton have beaten West Ham United, Huddersfield Town, Swansea City, Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Brighton at home since Allardyce took over as manager and the other failures to win games here outside of the West Brom game have been against top five clubs.

Everton have a strong record at home against Newcastle United and I think they can win this fixture too. I don't doubt that Newcastle United are playing well enough to earn a result here, but I lean towards Everton and backing them on the Asian Handicap will return half the stake if this does end in a draw.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: There is a heatwave in the United Kingdom with some unusually high April temperatures in London which could play a real part in this FA Cup Semi Final. The fans will be hoping the football on the pitch can match the weather as Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur meet for a place in the Cup Final on May 19th.

Both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have some questions to answer having had an up and down week in the Premier League in the chase for one of the top four positions.

At least Manchester United bounced back from a stunning loss to West Brom by beating Bournemouth on Wednesday night whereas Tottenham Hotspur have failed to win either of their last 2 League games.

Losing back to back games at Wembley Stadium will also be on the mind of the Tottenham Hotspur players despite their familiarity with what has been 'home' in the 2017/18 season. That has given Tottenham Hotspur an edge in this Semi Final and has to be considered one of the main reasons they are favoured to beat Manchester United having done the same in the Premier League in January.

That game was changed completely after Tottenham Hotspur scored in the opening seconds, but this time Manchester United may come in with more belief having beaten the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City recently. The loss to West Brom was a strange day, but the bounce back at Bournemouth and 7 wins from 9 games means Manchester United do come in with confidence.

Tottenham Hotspur's familiarity with Wembley Stadium may give them plenty of belief of their own and I think this will be a good Cup Semi Fina.

My lean is that Manchester United do earn the result to take them through to the FA Cup Final for the second time in three years. However Tottenham Hotspur won't go down without a fight either and the attacking players should have opportunities in this one with every chance of seeing three goals shared out by the teams.

Chelsea v Southampton Pick: This FA Cup Semi Final may mean a great deal more to Chelsea than Southampton in the grand scheme of things, but playing at Wembley Stadium with a trophy just two games away is not something to ignore for the Southampton players.

This is a team who reached the League Cup Final last season but things have taken a rapid downward swing since that day. Now it looks like Southampton are destined for relegation down to the Championship as they have slumped in the Premier League and the focus has to be in avoiding the drop.

Of course they won't want to throw away the FA Cup Semi Final, but Mark Hughes has suggested he will freshen things up and I think he may consider resting key players for the final four League games.

Antonio Conte's focus is much easier to understand as he bids to help Chelsea win their remaining fixtures regardless of how that will affect his future as manager of the club. Winning out will give Chelsea an outside chance of a top four finish, but Conte will get the chance to sign off with a trophy and that has to be at the forefront of his mind.

Recent Chelsea performances will encourage Conte with impressive wins over Southampton and Burnley particularly the way Chelsea have rallied under pressure. The win over Southampton gives Chelsea a real mental advantage in this Semi Final and they will feel they can expose what has been a shaky defensive unit to say the least.

Chelsea look more secure with their formation and the team that is likely going to be picked and I would be surprised if they can't make it three wins in a week. The likes of Eden Hazard and Willian are well rested and should be ready to make an impact in this Semi Final and I am going to back Chelsea to win by a couple of goals on the day as they punish Southampton for chasing a way back into this one late in the day.

MY PICKS: Liverpool - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet365 (2 Units)
Watford-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Burnley + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester United-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Friday, 20 April 2018

Monte Carlo Masters Tennis Picks 2018 (April 20th)

It had been a difficult start to the week at the Monte Carlo Masters, but Thursday proved a good day to turn things around with a 3-0 return from the Tennis Picks made.

Nothing was easy on Thursday, but I have stuck with the methods that have been successful the last couple of months instead of losing heart after some disappointing luck contributed to a couple of losing Picks.

The numbers were on my side in the matches played on Thursday, but this time I also had the bit of luck that is always needed when it comes to the break points being converted and that saw the three selections coming back as we wanted.

On Friday the four Quarter Final matches are set to be played back to back and I have three selections from the four matches scheduled for the day.

Grigor Dimitrov v David Goffin: This has all the makings of a good Quarter Final even if there are a couple of doubts about both Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin. The former is someone who has yet to show the consistency on the clay courts fitting of a top 5 Ranked player, while the latter has not really shown his best tennis since returning from an eye injury.

The wins this week will have given both Dimitrov and Goffin confidence, but you can't dispute the mental edge has to be with the Bulgarian having beaten Goffin in nine of their ten matches since turning professional.

Only one of those matches took place on the clay courts though and that was a long time ago to be virtually irrelevant, although the big wins over the last six months over Goffin will certainly be fresh in Dimitrov's mind.

Dimitrov's numbers are not that bad, but he has to find a way to be a little more effective when it comes to the break of serve. He wins enough return points but perhaps has to knuckle down mentally to produce his best tennis when the chances come his way, chances that should come against Goffin's serve which can be erratic to say the least.

The basic Goffin numbers indicate that it is his return game which has proven so effective on the clay, which is not a big surprise. However those return games take a significant nosedive when Goffin faces top 20 Ranked players on this surface and Dimitrov's serve has proven to be effective enough regardless of who he faces to give him the edge in this one.

The head to head underlines his strength and Dimitrov can be backed as the underdog to win this Quarter Final.

Marin Cilic v Kei Nishikori: This is a classic match up of the big server and big hitting Marin Cilic taking on the faster, better mover around the court in Kei Nishikori and the winner is going to be the one who can impose his game on the other more often than not. It is no surprise to me that the head to head is as close as it is between Nishikori and Cilic and the layers are expecting another close match on Friday.

Where Kei Nishikori has needed to win three matches to get through to the Quarter Final, Cilic has needed to win just one having received a bye in the First Round and then seeing Milos Raonic withdraw from the Third Round match before they had taken to the court.

That could mean Cilic is a little undercooked on this surface which would be a concern as the feeling is that Nishikori is perhaps the superior player on the clay courts. However Cilic has produced some eye-catching numbers on the clay courts over the last couple of seasons thanks to a very strong return game and that could be a key to this match too.

We know Cilic is going to produce some big serves which can give him a chance to get on the front foot immediately, but he will also challenge the Nishikori second serve as he bids to move into the Semi Final. This is also a difficult time for Nishikori who is only recently back from an injury which means he is not going to be used to playing as much tennis as he has so far this week.

There were a few signs of tiredness from Nishikori in his tough win over Andreas Seppi in the Third Round and I think Cilic is going to exert some mental pressure with a strong return throughout this match. It won't be all Cilic's way with the Nishikori performances so far this week, but I am looking for the Croatian to battle through for the win and secure his final four spot.

Alexander Zverev - 2.5 games v Richard Gasquet: This has been the second solid week in a row that Richard Gasquet has put on the board, but reaching a second consecutive Semi Final on the clay courts won't be easy. He did beat Mischa Zverev in straight sets on Thursday, but now Gasquet has to face the younger Zverev brother who looks to have a big future in the sport.

Alexander Zverev has not been in the best form when you consider he has needed three sets to beat both Gilles Muller and Jan-Lennard Struff to move into the Quarter Final. The stand out issue is clear as he has not served anything close to the level he usually produces and that has meant Zverev has had to work much harder to win his matches.

Despite the poorer serve numbers, Zverev has won matches thanks to an effective return and he will feel he can get into the Gasquet service games. On the other hand Richard Gasquet will feel he can do the same against Zverev if the youngster is not serving at his peak level although I do think it is a matter of time before Alexander Zverev gets it right.

Matches between these players may have all landed in favour of the German but Gasquet has been competitive in every one. He has played a lot of tennis over the last ten days though and Gasquet's serve has not been as strong as he would like and I think that is tested to the full by Zverev.

It could be another close one between these two players, but I think the higher upside remains with Zverev and I think he redeems the family name with a win and a cover on Friday.

MY PICKS: Grigor Dimitrov @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Matin Cilic @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 5-4, + 0.86 Units (18 Units Staked, + 4.78% Yield)

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Monte Carlo Masters Tennis Picks 2018 (April 19th)

Wednesday proved to be a really frustrating day for the Tennis Picks at the Monte Carlo Masters with both Fabio Fognini and Fernando Verdasco failing to return to the winner's enclosure.

Fognini never looked like he was going to be a winner, but Verdasco should have won the second set against Marin Cilic which would have given him every chance to cover if he was not able to win the match.

Hopefully I am going to have a little more luck with the Picks the rest of the week after a poor first three days.

David Goffin v Roberto Bautista Agut: The head to head does read 3-1 in favour of Roberto Bautista Agut, but I think David Goffin may have the better clay court pedigree of the two players. The one concern in backing the Belgian is that he has not had a lot of tennis over the last couple of months since a freak eye injury in his match with Grigor Dimitrov in Rotterdam, but he did have a solid win in the Second Round.

His opponent had also been struggling for form since winning the title in Dubai and Roberto Bautista Agut has won back to back matches for the first time since them this week in Monte Carlo.

The layers are finding it difficult to separate the two players, but I am not convinced Goffin should be the small underdog in what is close to a pick 'em match.

Some of the Goffin numbers on the clay courts have been very impressive in the last couple of years during his move into the top 20 of the World Rankings and he may have an edge over Bautista Agut. While the Spaniard is a solid competitor on the surface, the majority of his wins have come against players Ranked outside the top 20 and his numbers are significantly weaker when he has played the top players on this surface.

There could be a number of breaks of serve during the course of this match and one or two key points could make all the difference in the final outcome of the Third Round encounter. Goffin's holding serve numbers have been the slightly superior to Bautista Agut and he is an effective returner who can win this match.

Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: In the last couple of years Grigor Dimitrov's numbers on the clay courts have been very disappointing considering his standing on the ATP Tour. The next seven weeks could be a tough stretch for Dimitrov, but he did play well to recover in the Second Round after falling a set behind although now the challenges get that much tougher.

First up is Philipp Kohlschreiber who looks like he is a declining force on the Tour.

The German has had two solid wins this week which are going to give him plenty of confidence, but Kohlschreiber has perhaps taken advantage of a kind draw. You can't ignore the fact that Kohlschreiber can still be very effective at looking after his own serve, but his return numbers have shown a steady decline in each of the last four years and that has to be a concern for the veteran.

His numbers have also taken a big hit when facing those players Ranked in the top 20 and Kohlschreiber may find Dimitrov getting the better of him again on a clay court like he did last season in Madrid.

Dimitrov's own return numbers on the clay courts have not been as strong as he would like, but I do think he can get the better of Kohlschreiber in a competitive two sets.

Marin Cilic - 2.5 games v Milos Raonic: Two big servers will meet in the Third Round at the Monte Carlo Masters and you do have to think that both Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic will be able to hold onto serve for much of this match.

Chances will be limited, but I would suggest Raonic is not quite as comfortable as Cilic on the clay courts and that could see the latter come away with a win and a cover of this number of games.

Raonic has to be respected with the wins he has put together since the Indian Wells Masters, but his numbers on the clay courts against the best players on the Tour have not been the best. While the serve continues to be a big weapon for him, his return numbers have been poor to say the least and I am not sure Raonic is going to get a lot of change out of the Cilic serve if the Croatian is anywhere near his best.

Another key difference is the way the two players have managed to return on this surface and Cilic is someone who is able to generate plenty of success on the return. He has really shown that off in the last couple of years on the clay courts, but the Raonic serve is a tough one to get the better of with any consistency.

I do think Cilic will find a couple of breaks in the match though and I believe that will be enough for him to win this match and cover the mark. It won't be easy, but Cilic did record a win over Raonic in the Final in Istanbul on the clay last season and can frank that with a victory over him in Monte Carlo on Thursday.

Kei Nishikori - 4.5 games v Andreas Seppi: The two wins Kei Nishikori has produced this week have been impressive and he continues to show that he is one of the better clay court players out there.

The lack of competitive tennis over the last twelve months saw Nishikori make a slow start back on the Tour, but I think the next couple of months could be huge for him. Wins over Tomas Berdych and Daniil Medvedev have seen Nishikori produce some strong numbers and his returning ability on the clay courts is one of the keys to his success on the surface.

Andreas Seppi is the Third Round opponent having battled through two tough matches in the main draw after a more comfortable progress through a couple of Qualifiers. Seppi has needed three sets to win both matches in the main draw, but he has perhaps rode his luck a little bit to get to this stage, particularly in his First Round win over Kyle Edmund.

The return of serve is an important part of the Italian's game too and he will feel he can put some pressure on Nishikori who does not possess the biggest serve on the Tour. However Nishikori has looked after that side of his game better than Seppi even if the latter's numbers are a little better thanks to the strong performance when he is facing break points.

It has to be said he is saving those break points at an unsustainable level and I think Nishikori can be a little more effective than Edmund and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez were when the chances came their way.

Matches between these two players have tended to be very compettiive, but they haven't played for some time and Nishikori is much improved since then. I also think veteran Seppi has declined since their previous matches and Nishikori can record another good win on Thursday.

MY PICKS: David Goffin @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Boyle Sports (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 2-4, - 4.96 Units (12 Units Staked, - 41.33% Yield)

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Monte Carlo Masters Tennis Picks 2018 (April 18th)

The Monte Carlo Masters moves into the Second Round on Wednesday and that means the majority of the big names in action this week will get their tournament underway.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will garner the most attention, but there are some quality matches to come on Wednesday as the Monte Carlo Masters moves forward.

Tuesday was a mixed bag with the Tennis Picks going 1-1, but much of that was down to the fact that Kyle Edmund did not take the chances that came his way. The scoreboard may say different, but the numbers don't lie and Edmund will be kicking himself for losing to Andreas Seppi in the First Round.

At least Richard Gasquet came through a couple of difficult moments to win his First Round match, but I am hoping for a stronger day on Wednesday.

Kei Nishikori - 3.5 games v Daniil Medvedev: It still feels like Kei Nishikori is on a road back to the very top of the ATP Tour with his injury issues only recently behind him. The impressive performance against Tomas Berdych in the First Round will give Nishikori some confidence, but it won't be a big surprise to note the inconsistent performances he has produced since returning to the main Tour.

His draws have not always been the best and Nishikori is likely to be challenged by Daniil Medvedev who is part of the 'Next Gen' of talent on the ATP Tour.

Medvedev has shown he is capable of playing with the very best players on the Tour and has stunned Stan Wawrinka in a Grand Slam in his young career. However Medvedev has not shown a lot of form on the clay courts and that is the reason I am going to back Nishikori in this Second Round match.

While his opponent has not shown a lot of form on this surface, Nishikori has been one of the better clay courters out there and has some very strong numbers on the red dirt. There is the concern that Nishikori is only just back from a serious injury which curtailed his 2017 season, but I think the clay courts suit his style of play.

Some may also be concerned by the service numbers, but Nishikori may get some help from Medvedev who needs to show more patience on the clay. He goes for his shots, but on the slower clay courts you have to build points a little better and I think that is where Nishikori can frustrate his younger opponent.

Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Jan-Lennard Struff: There are very few players that can frustrate as much as Fabio Fognini who shows flashes of tremendous talent, but also feels like he is never far away from a meltdown on the court.

The Italian is at his best on the clay courts though and he has some solid looking numbers when he is facing those players Ranked outside the top 50. Fognini play one of those on Wednesday in Jan-Lennard Struff, but anything less than his best will give Struff the chance to earn the upset.

Struff is very comfortable on the clay courts himself, but he has yet to really take his Challenger form onto the main ATP Tour. His win in the First Round was expected, but Struff still impressed and has to be respected with his serve being a potent weapon and one that he can protect even on the slower surfaces.

That serve will be challenged by Fognini who has produced some very good returning numbers on the clay courts and those have remained steady when facing players outside the top 50 of the World Rankings on this surface. This year he is 7-0 in clay matches against those opponents and his 80% hold and 39% break numbers are very strong.

Fognini was not quite as strong as that last season, especially when it comes to the hold of serve which is obviously the concerning side of his game when asking him to cover any spreads. He may be aided just enough by Struff who has struggled with his break numbers against top 100 Ranked players on the clay and I will look for Fognini to get the better of him with a couple more breaks over the course of the match.

Fernando Verdasco + 3.5 games v Marin Cilic: There are plenty of signs to show Fernando Verdasco has declined as a player on the main Tour, but he still is able to produce some big weeks when he does put his tennis all together. Verdasco battled past Pablo Cuevas in the First Round and now has to face Marin Cilic, but he has tended to play the Number 2 Seed very tough.

The veteran is going to want to show what he still has left in the tank and playing on the clay courts suit Verdasco just fine.

However there is no doubting the kind of test in front of him and I am pretty high on Marin Cilic as a player. He has a strong serve and heavy artillery off the ground which will always make him a tough opponent, but Cilic is also an underrated returner and can shift the pressure of a rally onto his opponents almost immediately.

Since the beginning of 2017 Cilic has broken serve at a huge rate and he should be very comfortable on the clay in Monte Carlo. It should also be noted that those numbers come down markedly when Cilic is playing top 50 Ranked players on the clay and that is where I think Verdasco can at least keep this match competitive.

Cilic's serve remains a potent weapon, but he perhaps would like to be a little more clinical when the break point chances come his way in those matches against top 50 Ranked opponents. The Verdasco serve is a big weapon for him on the clay too and I think that will help him at least keep this close with every chance the Spaniard is able to win at least one set in this Second Round match.

I do worry about Verdasco's ability to crumble in matches which could see him fail to cover even in a three setter, but he would have done that in three of the last four matches against Cilic. He has also won their sole clay court match in 2015 and I will take the games with Verdasco in this Second Round encounter.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco + 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 1-2, - 2.56 Units (6 Units Staked, - 42.67% Yield)

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Midweek Football Picks 2018 (April 17-19)

This is a 'make up' week in the English Premier League with teams involved in the FA Cup Semi Final on Saturday and Sunday having missed a couple of Rounds of League games. All four Semi Finalists will play between Tuesday and Thursday and there will be one more midweek in May where the remaining 'games in hand' are scheduled to be played.

With four League games from Tuesday to Thursday, I have four Picks which can be seen below.

It is a big week for all of the teams involved with Cup Semi Final places up for grabs, while the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United won't want to drop more points after losing this past weekend.

Brighton and Southampton are the teams playing who are involved in the Premier League relegation battle, although there has begun to be a separation of the bottom three to the rest of the Division which could really add to this being an anti-climatic end to the season.

Brighton v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Saturday was a tough afternoon for both the Brighton and Tottenham Hotspur players, but this isn't the time of the season to feel sorry for yourselves as things begin to get decided at the top and bottom of the Premier League table.

Both teams look to be in relatively comfortable spots to achieve their goals of avoiding relegation and Champions League Football respectively, but the two managers won't allow complacency to set in.

Instead I imagine Chris Hughton and Mauricio Pochettino will be very keen on picking up a vital three points to keep the momentum going to achieve those goals.

Out of the two teams it is easier to imagine Tottenham Hotspur recover from their humbling at the hands of Manchester City on Saturday. They had been in fine form prior to that and have won their 5 away games in all competitions, while Brighton are not to the same standards as the likes of Manchester City.

It should mean more of the ball for Tottenham Hotspur and more of an opportunity to create chances.

They are aided by Brighton just hitting a poor patch of form with 4 losses from their last 5 games in all competitions and off a tough 3-2 defeat at Crystal Palace over the weekend. Their 8 point gap to Southampton looks too much for The Saints to close, but Brighton are still 5 points away from the 40 point mark and there may be a few nerves in the home dressing room.

Brighton have also really struggled when facing the top Premier League clubs even if they have beaten Arsenal at home this season. Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea have all won by at least two goals at the Amex Stadium while the latter two teams scored 5 and 4 goals respectively in wins here.

Generally Brighton have struggled to bridge the gap to the top teams with goals hard to come by in those matches. They have shown enough defensive discipline to make life tough for Tottenham Hotspur, but I think the latter will have plenty of the ball and they have the attacking players to create chances and win this game well.

The FA Cup Semi Final is on Saturday, but Pochettino won't risk losing a top four place with an upset here and there is enough time for his players to recover for the Semi Final. A strong Tottenham Hotspur team can show why they have scored at least twice in 7 of their last 8 away games and I fancy they can win well here.

Bournemouth v Manchester United Pick: The Manchester United defeat to West Brom at Old Trafford has to be one of the most surprising results of the Premier League season and it is a fixture from which Jose Mourinho will demand his players move on very quickly.

This is a big week for Manchester United and will determine much of how the season is reviewed as they bid to solidify their 2nd place spot in the Premier League before facing Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup Semi Final on Saturday. Two losses would really put a negative spin on the campaign, but two wins can see the West Brom defeat put in the rearview mirror.

Earning a win at the Vitality Stadium is going to be far from easy as Bournemouth will come into this one with nothing to lose.

That has allowed the players to perform with some freedom and they have been very good at home in recent weeks with a single loss in 9 games played here. The determination has been clear to see with Bournemouth conceding the first goal in 6 of their last 7 games at the Vitality Stadium yet they have not lost a single one of those games.

It should be noted that only Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have visited Bournemouth in their last 9 games who are a part of the big six. The Gunners lost here, but Tottenham Hotspur came from a goal behind to beat Bournemouth and join Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool as winners from trips to this ground.

Despite the changes Manchester United will make, they can become the latest of the big six clubs to win at the Vitality Stadium as the players come out with some better desire than they showed on Sunday. That defeat to West Brom should help in that regard and I do think Manchester United can earn a victory here even if it won't be an easy game.

Manchester United have been 2-0 down in each of their last 2 away games which has to be a concern, but they have shown they can score goals on their travels too and I think they can win a high-scoring fixture. If you fancy Manchester United to win, you can get them to win a fixture featuring at least two goals at odds against which has to be taken on.

Backing at least three goals to be shared out overall is also a decent looking price, but I am expecting Manchester United to bounce back and will take the odds against quote I mentioned.

Burnley v Chelsea Pick: This should be a fascinating Premier League game on Thursday evening and much is going to depend on how Chelsea begin this fixture as to the eventual outcome.

If they pick up from where they left off at Southampton, Chelsea will be very dangerous and potentially become the latest of the top clubs to win at Turf Moor. Burnley have only lost 5 times at home in the Premier League, but 4 of those have come against teams in the current top six with only a late equaliser against Manchester City breaking that trend.

On the other hand if Chelsea begin as they did for the first 60 minutes at Southampton then Burnley are playing well enough to cause problems having won 5 Premier League games in a row.

Both should be motivated as Burnley try for an outstanding top six finish, while Chelsea may feel there is still a slight opening into the top four if they can finish the season with five straight League wins.

The FA Cup Semi Final on Sunday shouldn't be a huge distraction for the Chelsea players, but it may mean some changes to the first team to keep players fresh. Even then you would imagine the likes of Eden Hazard and Willian will be played in attacking areas against a Burnley team who have been struggling for clean sheets of late.

They've still been winning games though as Sean Dyche has taken a positive approach with the old time two up front producing plenty of goals for the team. Burnley have scored at least twice in their 5 wins in a row and they will look to get after a Chelsea team who have been far from watertight in recent matches.

It does make me think the layers are underestimating the chance of seeing at least three goals in this one with the odds against quotes looking tempting. There haven't been a lot of goals in matches at Turf Moor this season, but the last 2 here have both featured at least three goals while League games with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur did the same.

Chelsea may concede more than they are used to, but they still pose a real attacking threat and these teams combined for five goals earlier this season. They may not get to that number again, but they can certainly help reach three goals shared out and I will back that at an attractive price.

Leicester City v Southampton Pick: At this time of the season teams are desperate for points when they are down at the bottom of the Premier League table and Southampton really need to find a way to win a League game.

Blowing a 2-0 lead against Chelsea hurt even more when Crystal Palace and Huddersfield Town both won later on Saturday afternoon and even Swansea City earning a point has put Southampton in a precarious position.

Mark Hughes has come in as manager, but the tide has not been turned for Southampton who have lost 4 League games in a row and conceded three times in each loss.

The performances in the last couple of games will have given Hughes some belief that Southampton can still avoid the drop, but they have to take advantage of Leicester City who don't have a lot left to play for. The defeat at Turf Moor means Leicester City are not likely to finish in a European spot and they have not been in the best recent form.

It has been more trouble for Leicester City at the King Power Stadium where they have not won any of their last 4 League games and this does feel like an opportunity for Southampton. Forget the FA Cup Semi Final to be played on Sunday, this game is everything for Hughes and the club and Southampton have to show their desire against an opponent that may not be fully concentrated with little left to play for.

Taking advantage of the opportunity will mean defending better than they have though and I do think Leicester City will play a part in this one with the players able to play with some freedom. If Southampton get desperate there is still enough quality for Leicester City to punish them and I can see a fixture where both teams score on current form.

Southampton have to take risks though and I can see this fixture going against recent trends at the King Power Stadium and produce one more goal to cover the goal line. At odds against it is worth backing seeing at least three goals shared out on Thursday as Southampton try to give themselves a huge boost of confidence by winning here.

MY PICKS: Tottenham Hotspur - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester United Win & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.05 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Bournemouth-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Burnley-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)