Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 9th)

The tournaments are being played in Rotterdam, Buenos Aires and Memphis for the ATP Tour, while the big event on the WTA Tour comes from St Petersburg.

Last week was a disappointment after a strong start for the picks, but I am hoping for more positive consistency in the next week. I didn't make any picks from a Monday that didn't feature any matches that I felt I had a good read of, but Tuesday has a few more options with those tournaments mentioned really getting up and running.

Gael Monfils - 2.5 games v Ernests Gulbis: One of the more intriguing matches in the First Round in Rotterdam, on paper at least, features Gael Monfils taking on the Qualifier Ernests Gulbis. It is strange to see Gulbis needing to come through Qualifiers again but he has dropped down to Number 80 in the World Rankings after a really disappointing 2015 season.

That came on the heels of two season on the Tour where Gulbis had won 73 matches for the loss of 38, but it looks like 2016 is going to be another difficult one for the Latvian. He has had at least two really disappointing losses in early Qualifiers, while last week a returning Richard Gasquet was barely threatened in a comfortable two set win against Gulbis on the indoor courts of Montpellier.

Montpellier proved to be a disappointment for Gael Monfils too with an early loss in the draw and I do think he has underachieved in his career. There are little signs the athleticism is deteriorating in his thirtieth year, but the Frenchman hasn't ever been able to get the balance between entertaining and winning and that has to be a disappointment for those who thought he was destined for the very top of the men's game.

Monfils is a solid indoor hard court player though because he can get enough balls back in play through his return while having a pretty big serve himself. He isn't really someone I trust to win these tournaments because of his lack of consistency through his career, but Monfils has the game to frustrate someone like Gulbis and I do expect him to win this one.

There is no doubt that Monfils can make life difficult at times and Gulbis has a decent first serve which can offer him some cheap points. However, I also think the Latvian can see his game break down, especially from the forehand wing and I think Monfils will be able to come through with a 76, 64 win in this First Round match.

Renzo Olivo + 2.5 games v Facunda Bagnis: It might be a strange situation for Facunda Bagnis having to come through the Qualifiers while his lower Ranked opponent received a Wild Card into the main draw. However Renzo Olivo earned that spot with a strong showing in Quito last week and I do think the younger Argentinian in this First Round match has enough upside to make use of the games being given to him.

There is plenty to like about the Olivo game if he can maintain that form through the course of the season, but I think the second serve remains an issue. He did play well in Quito where the conditions should be a lot quicker than they will be in Buenos Aires and backing up those weeks on the Tour is tough for a player that is Number 151 in the World Rankings.

Olivo also has to get through the fact he has lost four of five against Bagnis who has been dominating at the Challenger level which is where both of these players generally ply their trade. My concern is also the long week for Olivo has perhaps sapped some energy for his home ATP tournament, both physically and emotionally having reached the later stages after coming through Qualifiers.

Even with that in mind, I think Olivo should have been given some confidence from his performance and he can really give Bagnis a challenge in this one. I am guessing Bagnis is a strong favourite having won back to back Challenger events on the clay courts last month, but Olivo has played well at the Australian Open and in Quito and I like his chances of keeping this competitive even if he falls short of going through to the Second Round.

I actually think Olivo has a good chance of building on last week, but I will take the games as an insurance for that feeling.

Dominic Thiem - 2.5 games v Pablo Carreno Busta:  I am a big Dominic Thiem fan and the clay courts have proven to be his most effective surface in his career so far which means the South American Golden Swing could be a big time for him. His start to 2016 has been a little hit and miss and he is playing an opponent that has already got some clay court tennis beneath his feet having played in Quito, but I still like Thiem's chances in the contest.

There is no doubting that Pablo Carreno Busta is very confident on the clay courts himself, but he can be a little erratic with his overall game and that won't cut it against a player of Thiem's quality. The first serve is decent, but Carreno Busta's second serve can become a weakness in pressurised situations.

The Spaniard did play well in Quito to reach the Quarter Final when he was downed in a final set decider by eventual Runner Up Thomaz Bellucci. However, Carreno Busta has to be disappointed he has not had a bigger impact on the main Tour barring a couple of really good performances against some big name players.

Carreno Busta actually has a losing record on the clay courts on the main Tour and I think Thiem is definitely the more capable player. My one concern will be the focus in playing his first match on the clay courts in 2016, but I think Thiem has the service edge and should win the extended rallies off the ground which will lead to a 75, 64 win in this one.

MY PICKS: Gael Monfils - 2.5 Games @ 1.95 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Renzo Olivo + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 2.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Final: 11-13, - 6.74 Units (48 Units Staked, - 14.04% Yield)

Season 2016- 34.24 Units (272 Units Staked, - 12.59% Yield)
Season 2015- 21.81 Units (1812 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
Season 2014+ 45.05 Units (1586.5 Units Staked, + 2.84% Yield)
Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units

Monday, 8 February 2016

NBA Picks February 2016 (February 8-12)

At the end of this NBA week we will have the All-Star Game and this is the time of the season when basketball takes over the sports pages as the NFL season has been brought to a close with the Super Bowl and the new MLB season is weeks away.

That also signifies a turning point for teams in the NBA as they begin to put things together for the Play Offs which begin in a couple of months. The chemistry of teams are determined now as teams build to that moment, while the trade deadline also fast approaches.

I was just about to have this post published when I read the news that my New York Knicks have decided to fire Derek Fisher in the middle of his second season as Head Coach. It came out of left field after Fisher came through a difficult first season and the Knicks have been playing ahead of my own expectations and perhaps most fans' expectations.

That hasn't been the case for James Dolan and Phil Jackson when the statement was released that they are 'falling short of expectations', something I think is down to the fact that the Knicks have overachieved earlier on in the season. Now they are 1-9 in their last ten games and dropping out of the Eastern Conference picture, I think Fisher has been a victim of his own surprising success earlier in the season.

Do I think this is the right move? No, I actually think Fisher was doing well and this was going to be a big Free Agency summer for the team to get back into contention next season. I didn't expect the Knicks to make the Play Offs this time around, but I will say the early season form was exciting. However, that shouldn't have shifted expectations to the extreme of seeing Fisher fired.

Perhaps the Knicks have sensed that Luke Walton is interested in taking a permanent Head Coaching spot after performing very well for the Golden State Warriors in relief of Steve Kerr to open this season. It was Walton who was Coaching the team to their record winning run to open the season and I am guessing the Knicks make a run at him having missed out on Steve Kerr eighteen months ago.

Once again though, it is tough times being a New York Knicks fan with uncertainty surrounding the direction the franchise is taking.

It was a good opening week of February for the picks, although I was a little disappointed to go 1-3 over the last couple of days to take away some of the early success.

Orlando Magic fans must be hoping that I spend more time backing against their team too- here is a wonderful stat for you:

The Magic are 3-15 in their last eighteen games as they have fallen off the Eastern Conference Play Off hunt... However, I have backed against them twice during that run and the Magic have won two of their three games when I have done that!! Incredible...

Monday 8th February
The Sunday picks went 1-1 after the Orlando Magic knocked down a buzzer beater to knock off the Atlanta Hawks at home, but the Denver Nuggets won outright as the underdog in New York.

That ended the first week of February in a decent position and I will be looking to build on that in this short week which culminates in the All-Star Game on Valentines Day.

Next week is also a short week with the NBA out of action from Friday 12th February until Thursday 18th February, but I hope to build on last week to ensure another winning month is put in the books.

Denver Nuggets @ Brooklyn Nets Pick: The Denver Nuggets held off the New York Knicks on Sunday to keep their chances of making the Play Offs alive in the Western Conference. They can't afford to drop a loss to one of the worst teams in the NBA when they visit the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, although this is a unique position for the Nuggets to be in.

For the first time this season, the Nuggets go into a game as the road favourite and I do wonder if that changes their mindset even a little. It has actually been a rare position for Denver over the last couple of seasons, although I am encouraged by their 10-6 record against the spread in that spot in that time frame.

Add in the fact that Denver are 5-0 against the spread as the road favourite of 3 points or fewer over the last couple of seasons and they are 7-4 against the spread in back to back games this season and I like them to cover in this game.

Brooklyn have struggled with seven losses in eight games and they have been having a hard time Defensively. Some of their bigger name players could potentially be moving on at the trade deadline but the Nets do have a solid 7-2 record against the spread in the last nine against Denver.

Even with that in mind, Denver have a strong road record against teams with losing records this season and I think they make it two out of two in the boroughs of Gotham on back to back nights.

Portland Trail Blazers @ Memphis Grizzlies Pick: On Saturday the Portland Trail Blazers surprised me with a convincing win over the Houston Rockets on the road. The Trail Blazers proved they can be a Play Off contender by beating a team with a winning record which has been an issue for them this season, but now they have to do that again on the road at the Memphis Grizzlies.

For a team that is 30-21 on the season, the Memphis Grizzlies have been an inconsistent team as they have struggled with a new identity. The grinding style has been replaced with more pace, but that has also seen the Grizzlies begin to struggle on the Defensive side of the court.

This might be a small window for success for Memphis as Mike Conley looks certain to test Free Agency, but they have stuck together even if a five game winning run was ended with a defeat to the Dallas Mavericks. I think the Grizzlies are still a better team that the Trail Blazers who are just 1-5-1 against the spread in their last seven games here.

Memphis have a solid 9-6 record against the spread when favoured by 6 points or fewer at home and Marc Gasol is expected to play despite having a leg injury. Despite the win in Houston, Portland are just 3-7 against the spread on the road against a team with a winning record and I like the Grizzlies to cover this number.

Tuesday 9th February
That was a brutal day on Monday with a buzzer beater three pointer costing the chance for one pick to at least push, while the other was defeated in Overtime.

Not a good start to what is a short week, but looking for Tuesday to turn that back around with a little more luck at crunch time.

Washington Wizards @ New York Knicks Pick: The big news at the start of this week was the move the New York Knicks made in firing Derek Fisher as Head Coach. That was a surprise even though the Knicks had lost nine of their last ten games to fall out of the Eastern Conference Play Off picture and it has been tasked to Kurt Rambis to turn the season around.

This is the last game the Knicks play until after the All-Star Game and I do wonder how the players are feeling with Fisher out of the picture. There is no suggestion that Fisher had a falling out with his players, but he wasn't extracting the full potential from them according to Phil Jackson and James Dolan and so the move was made, although Rambis looks nothing more than an interim hire.

The Knicks are having big problems at both ends of the floor, but they are taking on a Washington Wizards team that has been underachieving all season. Many expected Washington to make a push in the Eastern Conference after a successful post-season last year, but the Wizards are struggling to even make the Number 8 Seed this time around.

Washington have lost six of their last eight games, but they have gone 5-0 against the spread when playing a team with a losing record on the road. They will be looking for revenge over the Knicks having seen their seven game winning run in the series ended earlier this season, although my one concern is that Washington have not performed as a small road underdog.

However, I do like the Wizards with the points in this one as I think they have enough Offense to see off New York in what is likely to be a game that goes down to the wire.

Boston Celtics @ Milwaukee Bucks Pick: The Boston Celtics might have wished the All-Star Game was already passed as they continue to be the hottest team in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics have won nine of their last ten games to move into the Number 3 Seed in the Eastern Conference, and they have beaten the likes of Chicago at home and Cleveland on the road in that run.

Now they get a chance to face the inconsistent Milwaukee Bucks whose youth has seen them struggle to close out games. After reaching the Play Offs last season, missing out this time around will be a big blow for the development of this team.

Milwaukee have lost seven of their last eight games, including five in a row heading into this one, but some of those have been really close and highlights the inexperience in the rotation. The Bucks have also struggled against Boston in recent games in the series as they have gone 0-4 against the spread at home and 1-5 against the spread in the last six overall.

You can't ignore the fact that Boston haven't been a great road favourite to back, especially when when favoured by between 3.5 points and 6 points, and Milwaukee being a strong home underdog. Even with that in mind, Boston have played this head to head so well in recent games that I expect them to cover a rare big number on their travels in this one.

Utah Jazz @ Dallas Mavericks Pick: Two teams chasing Play Off spots in the Western Conference meet in this game as the Utah Jazz put their six game winning run on the line against the Dallas Mavericks. That is an impressive run from Utah, although only one of those games has been on the road and that against the awful Phoenix Suns.

This is a much different test for the Jazz who have lost their last ten visits to the Dallas Mavericks including back in November. Utah are still dealing with a few injuries which is shortening their rotations, while Dallas might be feeling a lot better after going through Overtime to snap their three game losing run last time out against the Memphis Grizzlies.

It is a game that Utah will feel they have every chance of winning if they maintain their recent Defensive performances. That is a possibility with Dallas sometimes getting bogged down Offensively having failed to surpass 91 points in their last four home games, but the Mavericks will feel their own Defensive schemes can help them through this game.

Being a small road underdog is not a position the Utah Jazz have enjoyed this season, going 1-4 against the spread in that spot, while Dallas have been a strong home favourite. I can't imagine this game is anything but another battle for these two teams, but I am looking for Dallas to extend their 6-1-1 record against the spread in their last eight games against Utah.

MY PICKS: 08/02 Denver Nuggets - 2 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
08/02 Memphis Grizzlies - 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
09/02 Washington Wizards + 2 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
09/02 Boston Celtics - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Betway (1 Unit)
09/02 Dallas Mavericks - 2 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)

February 8-12 Update: 0-2, - 2 Units
February 1-7 Final: 9-5, + 3.23 Units

February Update: 9-5, + 3.23 Units
January Final21-23-2, - 3.80 Units
December Final27-21-3, + 3.67 Units
November Final27-22-1, + 2.69 Units
October Final5-4, + 0.57 Units
Season 201689-75-6, + 6.36 Units

Final Season 2015109-108-5, - 6.91 Units
Final Season 201458-72-1, - 16.86 Units
Final Season 2013105-93-3, + 10.49 Units
Final Season 201279-53-1, + 27.48 Units

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Super Bowl 50 Pick- Carolina Panthers vs Denver Broncos (Sunday 7th February 2016)

With just one game left to play before the NFL goes into the off-season, the Super Bowl in Santa Clara looks like being the right event between the two best teams in the NFL this season.

Will Cam Newton add to the College National Championship and Heisman Trophy he has already won in his career? Or will the Sheriff have his last gun fight and leave with his second Super Bowl ring?

There are a lot of split opinions on Super Bowl 50 and here is mine.

Carolina Panthers vs Denver Broncos Pick: This is the second time in three seasons that the Denver Broncos will have made the Super Bowl, although this time you can they have done in spite of Peyton Manning rather than because of him.

There is little doubt that Manning has been the biggest name game manager for the Denver Broncos who have relied on a stellar Defensive unit to carry them through the season. And it really is a legitimately strong Defense but they will need to be at their very best having seen the Carolina Panthers score plenty of points against the Seattle Seahawks vaunted unit (twice) as well as the crushing of the Arizona Cardinals.

The Broncos will rightly feel they have a better Defensive unit than both of those teams as they are strong at all three depths. Denver have been able to stop the run which allows them to unleash a pass rush heavy Defensive Line, while the likes of Brandon Marshall are strong at Linebacker and Bradley Roby, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris help put together a very good Secondary.

However this is the first time Denver will be playing a Quarter Back like Cam Newton and shutting him down is a completely different matter. Unlike the banged up Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady, Newton will be able to move in the pocket and also creates a problem in making sure that he doesn't get out of the pocket and run for First Downs himself.

Newton has made use of a Receiving corps that isn't full of household names, but they have speed and have been able to create the big play through the air. The first element of the Offense is establishing the run, but Cam Newton is so much more than a read-option Quarter Back and I do think he will find creases in the Defensive unit.

If the Panthers continue their strong Offensive output, the pressure is going to build on Peyton Manning to turn back the clock. He will be aided by Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson who should be able to get the run games established, but Manning can only keep handing the ball off if the game is close even if the Panthers have struggled to contain the run effectively in recent games.

It might sound strange to some, but the real weakness in the Carolina Defense is in the Secondary but can the Denver Receivers get past the drops that have haunted them this season? A bigger question may actually be whether Peyton Manning has the arm strength to attack that weakness and the answer for me is that he doesn't any more.

This is also a ball-hawing Secondary that will look to pick off any stray passes that Manning throws and I think it might end up being a crucial difference. While Manning has looked after the ball in the last couple of Play Off wins, it was his pick-six in the Super Bowl against the New Orleans Saints that cost the Indianapolis Colts on that day and I wouldn't be surprised if that is the reason the Denver Broncos go down in Super Bowl 50.

I have a lot of respect for the Denver Defense and the way they have played, but this Carolina team are perhaps a little under-rated Offensively. The Panthers have found a way to score points against teams like Seattle and Arizona and I think they will do the same here except the difference will be that Peyton Manning is not going to be able to lead a comeback with his arm.

Maybe Manning turns back the clock to even the form he showed two seasons ago? That would make the points on Denver very, very appealing, but I think the Panthers prove too good on the day with a pick-six being the reason they cover the spread too as Cam Newton adds another couple of trophies to his ever improving cabinet.

MY SUPER BOWL PICK: Carolina Panthers - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Coral (2 Units)

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (February 6-7)

The big story coming into the weekend football in the Premier League is the top of the table clash in the Premier League to open this round of fixtures as Manchester City host Leicester City.

There is no doubting this is the acid test for Leicester City who go to The Etihad Stadium this weekend and then visit The Emirates Stadium next weekend as to whether they can sustain a Premier League title challenge. If Leicester City can pick up four points from their next two games, Leicester City might actually be heading into the final round of fixtures in February as the favourite to win the title, something I could not have imagined at the beginning of the season.

The last game of the weekend might have been expected to have much bigger consequences than what we have when Chelsea play Manchester United. However there are renewed reports that Jose Mourinho has been asked to take over at Old Trafford this summer and that should cast a shadow over the game involving his last club and possibly the next club Mourinho manages.

I have little doubt that Sky will look to that angle as a way to promote what is an underwhelming game with both Chelsea and Manchester United underachieving. However, I do think it could be one of the better games of the weekend as two teams with a big need to earn the three points meet one another.

It is the 6th February... The Flowers of Manchester will be remembered on the 58th Anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster.

Manchester City v Leicester City Pick: The top of the Premier League is up for grabs when Manchester City meet Leicester City at The Etihad Stadium and this looks a very intriguing game.

I do think the absence of the likes of Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne is a big blow to Manchester City while we still don't know for sure how the players are responding to Manuel Pellegrini announcing his departure at the end of the season. They looked poor in the second half at Sunderland, but Manchester City did win that game and they are a much stronger team at home.

Manchester City have won seven of their last eight games at home in all competitions and it is tough to stop them winning games if they are scoring at least three goals in each as they have in those seven wins. Everton did earn a goalless draw here, but Sergio Aguero looks in much stronger form at this point and I think they will test an improved Leicester City defence.

I also do have a lot of respect for Leicester City who have won the most away games in the Premier League at this moment in time. However, they might have just begun to hit a wall on their travels as Leicester City were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa and were beaten at Liverpool on Boxing Day.

Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez both have the kind of pace to really hurt this Manchester City backline, but I think Leicester City will need to be at their very best defensively to stay in this game. The counter attack will make Leicester City very dangerous and they will have their chances as I think Manchester City will dominate the ball and they aren't as good defensively without Kompany.

However, Manchester City are scoring a lot of goals at home at the moment and I think they will win this game. Clean sheets have been a problem for Manchester City so I do think Leicester City will play their part, but ultimately I fancy the home team to sneak the victory on Saturday.

Liverpool v Sunderland PickThere are a lot of positives that Sunderland can take out of their performance against Manchester City and reaching those levels consistently will give them a great chance of avoiding the drop. The games at the Stadium of Light have been more competitive from Sunderland's view, but this is a team that has to improve markedly on their travels if they are to get out of the bottom three.

Conceding too many goals is a big problem for Sunderland away from home but they are going up against a Liverpool team that have just struggled of late. It has been hard for them at Anfield where the expectation is Liverpool getting forward and scoring goals, but Jurgen Klopp doesn't seem to have a lot of faith in Christian Benteke and the false nine isn't working as it should.

Liverpool have actually failed to score the last three times they have played Premier League opponents at Anfield and I think it might be asking too much for them to win this one by more than a single goal. That is if they win at all and Sunderland must be looking at this game and thinking there are 'surprise' points to be had to help them in their battle against relegation.

This has been a tough fixture for Liverpool in recent seasons as they haven't turned it into three point as often as they like. The players are still trying to figure what exactly Klopp wants from them and not having the focal point up front has been tough to deal with.

If Sunderland can just defend properly, they will have a chance to get something out of this game. The side have a decent recent record at Anfield and backing Sunderland on the Double Chance to avoid losing has to be worth a small interest, especially when considering Liverpool have won 1 of their last 6 games here against Premier League opponents.

Stoke City v Everton PickThis is a really big game for both Stoke City and Everton for different reasons- Stoke City can't afford to let a promising season fizzle out in February, while Everton need to keep the pressure off of Roberto Martinez from the stands.

It was a contrasting week for the two teams as Stoke City lost both games played while Everton moved into the FA Cup Fifth Round before crushing Newcastle United.

Goals have surprisingly become a problem for Stoke City in recent games, but they are facing an Everton team that does concede goals. John Stones is out which makes them a little more vulnerable and Stoke City will be able to create chances through an inspiring front four that haven't sparked as well as they could in recent games.

On the other hand I think Everton will be confident they can create chances themselves even if Romelu Lukaku is potentially out. Ross Barkley has been in strong form and Stoke City look vulnerable at the back without Ryan Shawcross who is likely out until the end of the month.

These two teams played a very entertaining game when they met at Goodison Park five weeks ago and I can see this match being similar. Both teams should have chances to get on the scoreboard and backing there being at least three goals at odds against looks an appealing option.

Tottenham Hotspur v Watford PickWhen you think about it, it would be just like Tottenham Hotspur to get into this position of being considered genuine Premier League title contenders and then lay an absolute egg of a game. The form at White Hart Lane has been a lot more mixed than away from home and Watford have proved they are anything but an easy out for any team in the Premier League.

The away team have a dangerous front two that will test this Tottenham Hotspur defence that is amongst the best in the Premier League. That should keep Tottenham Hotspur focused who had a much more comfortable game during the week than Watford and I do think the likes of Dele Alli and Harry Kane are in very strong form that does give the home team the edge.

One trend that might not be easy to ignore is the fact that Watford have failed to score in their last couple of away games in the Premier League.

It has to be a concern for Watford who have put in so much effort over the last seven days in their last couple of games and I think Tottenham Hotspur can take advantage. My concern is the way that Spurs have played at White Hart Lane in recent games as they have struggled with the balance between attack and defence, but this is a young team full of confidence and the momentum behind them is hard to ignore.

I just think Tottenham Hotspur are going to be a little too strong on the day and I like them to win this one by a couple of goals.

Southampton v West Ham United Pick: This was originally set to be played on Monday Night Football, but West Ham United are involved in a FA Cup Fourth Round Replay this week meaning it was shifted to the late Saturday slot.

It looks a good game between Southampton and West Ham United who are both chasing European places from their Premier League form. Both teams are in the top half of the table and I think Southampton are about par as to where their goals were for the season, while The Hammers are overachieving.

Even though I think this is an intriguing game, it might not be one that sees too many goals scored by the teams involved. Both Southampton and West Ham United have been defending well and I can see this one being a tight game that could struggle to reach the three goal mark.

When they meet at Upton Park, the goals do tend to follow this fixture, but it has not been the case when the fixture is played on the South Coast. Last season it was a goalless draw, the second in a row since Southampton returned to the top flight, and the last six times they have played one another here we have seen two goals or fewer shared out.

With both teams knowing the importance of the three points on offer, I believe this fixture could see the teams cancel one another out and I will back there being two or fewer goals in the game.

Bournemouth v Arsenal PickI have to say the neutrals watching this game on Sunday should see plenty of good football as both Bournemouth and Arsenal look to impose their passing style against the other. There is pace and quality in the final third for both clubs too and I think there will definitely be goals in the game.

That looks an appealing price at odds against on first glance and I wouldn't be surprised if we see at least three goals shared between them.

However, the more appealing angle for me is backing Arsenal at a big price to win here.

This is actually a bigger price than Manchester United were to win at Bournemouth although the home team is arguably in better form now than they were in December. However, Bournemouth had won at Chelsea the week before that game against Manchester United and I have to think Arsenal would be a lot shorter if they had held on to beat Liverpool when leading 2-3 into the final minutes of that game at Anfield.

Arsenal would have definitely been shorter if they had taken one of a number of great chances against Southampton at home during the week and I think they will win this game if they create half as many chances. Bournemouth will allow Arsenal to play their football which is a big danger and the likes of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez did everything but score on Tuesday.

Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United have won by wide margins here and I think Arsenal are capable of becoming yet another London team to earn the three points in this part of England. Bournemouth will likely play their part and I wouldn't be surprised if Benik Afobe pops up to score, but Arsenal have too much attacking talent to be held off the scoreboard again and I like them to win here.

Chelsea v Manchester United PickThe layers are not expecting a lot of goals when Chelsea meet Manchester United on Sunday in the second live game of the day, but I do think they might be missing something.

This is an important game for both teams but Chelsea have less to lose with their top four ambitions gone. Guus Hiddink is likely to ask his team to get forward and pressure Manchester United with Diego Costa leading the line unlike the game at Old Trafford where they played with a false nine.

And goals at Stamford Bridge have not been in short supply as Chelsea have scored at least twice in their last 6 games here in all competitions. However they haven't been winning games because Chelsea have kept a single clean sheet in their last 5 games at Stamford Bridge and have conceded at least twice in 3 of their last 4 games.

Defensively they have looked suspect and this Manchester United team have actually scored more away goals than they have at home in the Premier League. They scored 3 at Newcastle United and at Derby County recently and 4 of Manchester United's last 6 away games have seen at least three goals shared by the teams.

Last season it did end 1-0 to Chelsea here, but the previous 4 Premier League games here between these teams had produced at least three goals. Anyone who has seen the last two times Chelsea and Manchester United have met should not have missed the chances that have been created even if the goals have not followed and I can see a big price looking overpriced at the end of this one.

MY PICKS: Both Teams to Score and Manchester City to Win @ 3.20 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Draw or Sunderland Double Chance @ 2.88 Coral (1 Unit)
Stoke City-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Southampton-West Ham United Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal @ 2.05 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Chelsea-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.45 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

February Update: 4-2-1, + 3.66 Units (14 Units Staked, + 26.14% Yield)

January Final19-13, + 17.56 Units (61 Units Staked, + 28.79% Yield)
December Final15-23, - 9.32 Units (64 Units Staked, - 14.56% Yield)
November Final: 11-19-1, - 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, - 25.37% Yield)
October Final16-25, - 13.51 Units (79.50 Units Staked, - 16.99% Yield)
September Final29-30-3, + 4.18 Units (117.5 Units Staked, + 3.58% Yield)
August Final16-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)

Season 2015/1687-128-5, - 38.37 Units (467 Units Staked, - 8.22% Yield)
Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% Yield)
Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)

Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 6th)

I have to be a little frustrated with the way the picks went on Friday as it was the second day in a row when players missed not one or two chances to break serve, but what felt like hundreds of chances.

It was epitomised half way through the day when I tweeted out that my players had gone 4/29 on break point chances compared with their opponents who had gone 8/19. That is hard to accept because it clearly looks like the chances are being created but players are not quite getting over the line.

Add in a Feliciano Lopez retirement when two games from losing the match and it was a bad day wit very little luck going my way.

Saturday is all about the Semi Finals in Montpellier, Quito and Sofia as the week winds down with the first ATP 500 event of the season beginning next week in Rotterdam. There is also a big Premier Event on the WTA in St Petersburg as that Tour returns following Fed Cup action which dominated the end of this week.

Richard Gasquet - 3.5 games v Dustin Brown: He will forever be remembered for beating Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, but Dustin Brown could have a more memorable week for himself if he can win the title in Montpellier. He has never before reached the Final of a Singles tournament on the main ATP Tour and he can start improving his World Ranking with a victory over Richard Gasquet in the Semi Final.

To be fair, Brown is the outsider of the four players left in the draw, but he has had a strong week after come through the Qualifiers to enter the main draw. He won the first two matches in the main draw as the underdog including a straight sets win over Gilles Simon, but Richard Gasquet is the toughest challenge he has faced this week.

The home favourite rode his luck at times in the second set against Marcos Baghdatis but still managed to come through in straight sets. Gasquet actually played well and looks to be over the back injury that forced him out of the first month of the 2016 season and I do think he will be able to contain the Brown game.

That is the key for Gasquet to make sure he looks after his own serve and then wait for the chances to come on the Brown serve. We have all seen 'Dreddy' serve incredibly well, but he is also likely to throw in a number of double faults.

If Gasquet can begin to get a read on the Brown serve and where it is going, he can make enough balls back to force Brown into difficult volleys. He might take a little time doing that, but I think Gasquet has looked good in the the first two matches and can win this one 64, 64.

Gilles Muller + 2.5 games v Roberto Bautista Agut: This looks a solid Semi Final as two players who have begun this season in decent form meet for the right to play in the Final on Sunday. Roberto Bautista Agut already has a title in the bag and had a strong showing at the Australian Open which makes it hard to oppose him, but I think Gilles Muller has been playing some very solid tennis himself this week and can keep this competitive if not win outright.

The first serve could be the key for Muller as it has been for much of the week and he had an impressive win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the Quarter Final. Muller will need the first serve to be working because Bautista Agut has a very solid return game and is capable of frustrating opponents with his movement and ability to make them play one more shot.

His own serve is pretty effective, but the second serve is where Bautista Agut can have problems and there is the chance he is undercooked having had just one match this week. At least he got to see a lefty serve in the Quarter Final which may help Bautista Agut recognise the angles that Muller is throwing at him, but it looks a very close match which makes these games appealing.

Bautista Agut has won the last four tie-breakers he has played which makes him particularly dangerous for Muller, but I will take the games in this Semi Final in Sofia.

MY PICKS: Richard Gasquet - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gilles Muller + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 11-11, - 2.74 Units (44 Units Staked, - 6.23% Yield)

Friday, 5 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 5th)


The week looked to be in tremendous shape going into the final few days and what happens?


But more frustrating is the fact that at least three of those matches go very differently if players don't have some really sloppy moments.

I'll never know how Gilles Muller didn't cover considering he had break points in all but one of Ricardas Berankis' second service games. The big moment was in the middle of the set with Muller leading 2-1, 0-40, but he then lost an incredible 15/17 points to go a break down.

He did retrieve that break but missed match point at 6-5 up and won in a tie-breaker to miss the cover by a single game.

Add Fernando Verdasco who was up a break in the deciding set as he looked to be on course for the cover only to lose serve twice, once with a back to back double fault, before Feliciano Lopez won a set 6-2 against Joao Souza but couldn't do much against the Brazilian in the first two sets to also miss the cover by one game.

Don't misunderstand though, the Benoit Paire pick sucked as he continues to be the worst player inside the top 30 of the World Rankings (I couldn't tell you how surprised I was to see Paire is Number 21 in the World Rankings), but even a little bit of luck wouldn't have ruined the first three days of the week.

The week might have been hit badly, but there are still three days left of the week and I do think things can be turned around. Frustrating as Thursday was, I have to keep the mind clear and look at the picks and see that at least two were in very strong positions to cover while a third dominated just a little too late so they weren't far away.

I just hope that bit of luck for the hundreds of break points generated can help see those serves broken this time.

Michael Berrer + 2.5 games v Alexander Zverev: This is the kind of match where the veteran Michael Berrer can use all of his experience to find a way past his young opponent Alexander Zverev. Berrer has done that once already in this tournament when seeing off Borna Coric in the First Round, but this might be a big week for Zverev who has had his share of luck to reach this Quarter Final.

I can see a tight match develop between the two compatriots.

Michael Berrer has had plenty of success on the indoor hard courts in the past with his lefty serve a big weapon on the surface. He has used that to good effect so far in the tournament and it was a key to beating Zverev last season.

He will have to serve well as Zverev has done well in holding his own serve for much of the week, especially under pressurised situations. However being back as the favourite brings its own pressures and I am not Zverev is going to be able to deal with that element and the expectation he reaches the Semi Final.

I wouldn't be surprised if we get to see a deciding set between these players, but Berrer has a good chance of getting to another indoor hard court Semi Final if he can serve as well as he has for the most part this week. I have to give Zverev credit for holding it together at key moments through his first two matches, but he might have to do that again if he is to get through and I believe Berrer keeps this one close if he doesn't win outright.

Marcos Baghdatis + 3.5 games v Richard Gasquet: Despite a lay off from the Tour which meant missing the first month of the 2016 season, Richard Gasquet played very well in his Second Round win over Ernests Gulbis. It was a back injury that kept the Frenchman out of the Australian Open, but he didn't seem to have too many problems serving against Gulbis, although I expect a much sterner test in the Quarter Finals.

Marcos Baghdatis might not be at the level that took him to the Australian Open Final and the Wimbledon Semi Final these days, but he has had two solid wins this week. He is still capable of producing some very strong tennis and I think he will offer more on the return of serve than Gulbis did against Gasquet a couple of days ago.

The concern has to be that Baghdatis still throws in a sloppy service game or two through the course of a set because he is ultimately going to have a pretty low first serve percentage. That will give Gasquet a chance to get a read on the second and really get into the rallies and pressure Baghdatis and I think the serve could be a key for the Number 1 Seed.

However, this is the second competitive match Gasquet will be playing following his lay off and I do wonder how the back held up on Thursday the day after his match. He might not have been tested in the Second Round, but Gasquet is playing a more confident opponent than Gulbis and I think Baghdatis has enough to take a set at least.

That should be enough to give him the games to cover with the head start and I will back the Cypriot to do that in this Quarter Final.

Andreas Seppi - 3.5 games v Martin Klizan: A late break of serve while drinking in the last chance saloon helped Martin Klizan to come back and then beat Lukas Rosol in the Second Round. That is a big win for Klizan who has been struggling for wins on the Tour over the last few months and will be playing in his first Quarter Final since September and only the second since April last season.

These are the kind of wins that will build confidence for Klizan who seems to have plenty of talent but lacks consistency and plays with a low margin of error. When things tend to go wrong for Klizan, they go wrong significantly and that might be a problem against the savvy veteran Andreas Seppi.

Over the years Seppi has produced some big performances on the Tour, but has always had to work hard to protect serve. He remains in a position to be Seeded at Grand Slam events and his convincing win in the Second Round over Thiemo de Bakker will give the Italian plenty of belief in his game.

That follows a decent Australian Open and I think Seppi has the return game to give Klizan some issues. I can see him frustrating Klizan if he is making enough balls back in play and that could see Seppi get the better of his opponent who may self-destruct.

I am a little concerned that Klizan can hit a real purple patch that will see him dictate the points against the Seppi serve, but he is likely to give Seppi chances to break too and I think the higher Seeded player moves through 75, 64.

Thomaz Bellucci - 2.5 games v Pablo Carreno Busta: This should be a decent Quarter Final to get us underway in Quito and I do think the Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci will have a little too much for Pablo Carreno Busta. The conditions in Quito are seeing the ball fly very quickly, but the speed of the courts are quicker than those you would see on other clay courts around the world.

That should aid Bellucci who definitely has the bigger first serve, especially if Carreno Busta is struggling to get his eye in as he was in his Second Round win over Inigo Cervantes. Bellucci made much lighter work of Albert Montanes and he looks to have the edge in this match.

The lefty serve is awkward to deal with at the best of times, but having that big first serve on the faster courts should lead to Bellucci having a slightly easier time holding serve than Carreno Busta. The Spaniard is very effective on the clay courts so I won't rule a line through him easily, but I do think he might be put under a little more pressure when it comes to holding serve and that can be key in the contest.

Bellucci has definitely had the more consistent results at this level than Carreno Busta and I can see him battling through with a 76, 64 win under his belt.

Victor Estrella Burgos - 2.5 games v Renzo Olivo: I have to give Renzo Olivo credit for battling past Fernando Verdasco in the Second Round despite being a break down in the final set. However he now faces Victor Estrella Burgos who has enjoyed his two appearances in Quito having won the tournament last year and come through a couple of matches this time around.

Last season Burgos had a little too much for Olivo when these players met in the Second Round but it was a tight match decided by a point here or there. I was impressed with the pop Olivo was getting out of his first serve against Verdasco, but it has already been a long week for him and there were signs of fatigue before his Spanish opponent self-destructed in the third set.

This is another big test for Olivo considering how much Burgos has enjoyed his time on these courts with just one set dropped in seven matches in Quito. He has been playing well this week too and Burgos has been holding it together on break points and he is yet to drop serve.

That will be tested by Olivo who is solid off the ground and far better than his World Ranking suggests. However, I also think Olivo will present some chances to have his own serve broken and Burgos might record the same win he had last season over Olivo as he moves into the Semi Final behind a 76, 64 win.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas + 2.5 games v Feliciano Lopez: Like he had to do on his way to the Final in Quito last season, Feliciano Lopez had to battle from behind to come through a match here. My one concern for Lopez is that he looked a little tired at times and I am wondering if he is 100% healthy for the event here where is defending a number of Ranking points as he tries to reverse a slip outside of the top 20 in the World Rankings.

He will be tested by Albert Ramos-Vinolas who has looked very assured of himself here this week. Ramos-Vinolas has only been broken once in his two matches here this week and the serve has been working well enough to think he can give his compatriot and fellow lefty some problems to work out in this one.

Their two previous matches have been very tight affairs too and Lopez has to be careful that he isn't playing the loose service games that almost cost him against Joao Souza in the Second Round. Lopez will earn plenty of cheap points in this one too behind a very effective first serve, but if my feeling is right that he is not fully healthy, the edge does move towards Ramos-Vinolas.

I do think the lower Ranked Spaniard can win a set in this one which should give him a strong chance of covering this number and I think Ramos-Vinolas has every chance of winning outright. Chances might come at a premium in this one but I think Ramos-Vinolas will get inside this number even in a close loss.

MY PICKS: Michael Berrer + 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Marcos Baghdatis + 3.5 Games @ 1.73 William Hill (2 Units)
Andreas Seppi - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)

Thomaz Bellucci - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Victor Estrella Burgos - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 9-8, - 0.38 Units (34 Units Staked, - 1.12% Yield)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Tennis Picks 2016 (February 4th)

It was almost another really good day for the tennis picks on Wednesday, but Lukas Rosol failed to serve out his match against Martin Klizan in the third set which means I had to settle for a 3-2 record on the day.

That keeps the week going in a positive direction which is all I would have asked for and I am looking at the remaining Second Round matches to be played in Montpellier, Quito and Sofia to help keep the week trending upwards.

Some of the big name Seeds that have agreed to play this week will be in action on Thursday after receiving byes in the First Round.

Other good news on Wednesday was hearing my favourite player Juan Martin Del Potro is returning to the Tour in around ten days time at Delray Beach. I really hope he is over the wrist issues that have crushed two years of his career, especially as Del Potro is one of the best players on the Tour when he is fully healthy and certainly capable of giving anyone, including Novak Djokovic, something to think about.

The 2016 season is all about getting comfortable back on the Tour and playing competitive tennis week in and week out for Del Potro. If he can get through the remainder of the season feeling healthy, Del Potro could be back to his best by the time 2017 rolls around and will hopefully have had a significant jump in the World Rankings.

There is no doubting the hard work that Del Potro is going to have to put in to get back to where he once was in the World Rankings, including playing in some tournaments he wouldn't have at his best, but I have faith a healthy Del Potro can once again reach the top ten in the World Rankings.

I can only wish the best of luck to the big man and hope things work out as he wants this time around. Another injury will surely mean retirement for him so fingers crossed he has more luck with his health.

Talking about health, it was announced that Roger Federer has had to undergo knee surgery which means he will be off the Tour until Indian Wells at the earliest. That means his absence in Rotterdam and Dubai, two tournaments he has enjoyed, and will be a big blow to his chances of overtaking Andy Murray for the World Number 2 position as he would have been favourite to do with the latter taking time off to spend with his wife who will shortly give birth to their first child.

Federer had already announced he would have a very short clay court season in 2016 and I do wonder if this injury has changed his plans in regards to those events in April and May heading into the French Open.

Jan-Lennard Struff - 2.5 games v Ruben Bemelmans: It was a pretty impressive display from Jan-Lennard Struff to beat Nicolas Mahut as comfortably as he did in the First Round. Backing that up is not going to be easy for a player that has underachieved in his career to date, but Struff has definitely enjoyed playing on the indoor hard courts more than most on the main Tour.

He is also benefitting from playing Ruben Bemelmans in the Second Round rather than Joao Sousa, especially as Bemelmans rode his luck at times to come through that match. His World Ranking suggests he is unlikely to be as effective saving break points as he was for much of the match with Sousa, although the lefty serve might give Struff some problems getting a read on the angles it is coming from.

Struff definitely has the bigger serve which can set up a few more cheap points for him to stay ahead of the scoreboard. He has to make sure the first serve is coming in at a high enough percentage to ensure that occurs, but I do think the courts he will aid Struff a little more than Bemelmans who is perhaps not as strong off the ground.

Neither player has had a lot of success so far in 2016 which makes the Quarter Final place on offer very important to improve Rankings, but I think the edge is with the Struff serve. After coming through a tight first set with a couple of breaks for each player, I think Struff wins a tie-breaker which is too big a mental blow for Bemelmans to overcome and the German wins this one 76, 64.

Benoit Paire - 2.5 games v Paul-Henri Mathieu: One of the players that can be very hard to trust on the Tour is Benoit Paire who seemingly has all the tools to be really make a significant move up the World Rankings, but also lacks the consistency to do so. He should still be too good for Paul-Henri Mathieu as the veteran Frenchman has struggled for wins on the main Tour in the last few seasons.

Mathieu did have an impressive win in the First Round which should have given him plenty of confidence to take into this match against an opponent who hasn't played since the First Round at the Australian Open. That defeat for Paire was a stunning one, especially after he went into his press conference and showed little respect for his opponent and instead trashed his own performance on the day.

There have been plenty of times I have watched Paire and the word 'trash' pretty much sums up some of the tennis he produces. He has a big serve but that can still let him down as his shot selection helps his opponent come through to earn break points and take sets off of him.

Playing a compatriot at home should inspire Paire to bring in a better performance and I think he is capable of beating Mathieu for a third time within the last twelve months. The last match was a three setter that saw both players dominate the sets they won, but ultimately Paire does look the better player at this stage of his career and I fancy he will have too much for Mathieu in a 64, 64 win.

Gilles Muller - 3.5 games v Ricardas Berankis: It is almost exactly a year to the day since Ricardas Berankis and Gilles Muller met on an indoor hard court, but the venue has moved from Zagreb to Sofia this time around. Last year Berankis somehow came through a tight second set to level the match and go on and beat Muller, but I think the latter will have revenge in this Second Round match.

The courts in Sofia are perhaps not playing as quickly as some of the other indoor hard courts on the Tour, but Muller's big serve is not reliant simply on speed, but also on his very strong accuracy. He uses that serve to good effect for the most part during his time on the Tour, and it will be a big issue for Berankis to deal with considering he is not the tallest player on the Tour and has tougher angles to cover.

He played well to do that in his win over Muller last year and Berankis has to be respected as a player that can make all the shots off the ground you need. However, his serve is not the biggest and will put him under pressure at times and it can be difficult for Berankis to get a foothold in matches when he is as aggressive as he is.

If he is no quite on his game, Berankis is someone who can fall off in matches and I think Muller will have him under some scoreboard pressure which could help him break serve. Muller isn't the best returner, but he can make enough balls back against this serve and Berankis could easily buckle under the pressure of staying in the match in a 76, 63 defeat.

Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 games v Renzo Olivo: After beating Rafael Nadal and putting in huge work to improve his physical fitness in the off-season, Fernando Verdasco has to be disappointed his Australian Open didn't extend beyond the Second Round. He now heads down to Ecuador to begin what is likely to be a number of appearances on the South American Golden Swing and I do expect him to be too good for the Qualifier Renzo Olivo.

The conditions in Quito should favour Verdasco's game with the speed of the courts making them play much faster than usual clay courts. That should aid Verdasco's big game, although he has to serve better and show more consistency off the ground than he did in his loss at the Australian Open to Dudi Sela.

Renzo Olivo might have the edge in terms of having had three matches here already, but Verdasco did reach the Semi Final here last season and he should have the more solid all around game. Olivo doesn't have the biggest serve so Verdasco should have plenty of time to get into rallies against him and the power should come from the Spaniard's side of the court which should prove to be critical under these conditions.

I do think Olivo will have his success too because he will extract errors from the enigmatic Verdasco by getting plenty of balls back in play. That will make this a fun match for the fans in attendance and those watching on television, but ultimately I would expect Verdasco to have too much in a 64, 75 win.

Feliciano Lopez - 3.5 games v Joao Souza: Last year Feliciano Lopez reached the Final in the inaugural tournament in Quito and he is back to try and go a step further this time around. Lopez comes into the tournament as the Number 2 Seed behind Bernard Tomic and the veteran Spaniard has shown no signs that he is ready to slip down the World Rankings.

A lot of that could be down to the style of play Lopez produces as he follows plenty of big serves by coming into the net and keeping points short, while not many players will be used to playing opponents like this these days. Lopez is likely to put plenty of pressure on Joao Souza who has come through the Qualifiers and was then a fairly comfortable winner in his First Round match.

However, I think Souza is going to have some issues reading the Lopez left-handed play and will also find the slice backhand the kind of variation that will see him make errors. The Brazilian has a decent first serve that should be more effective in these conditions, but I am not convinced his overall play will be enough with Lopez likely to bunt a few returns back into play and force Souza to win some longer rallies.

There is every chance we see a close first set as Lopez gets accustomed to the conditions again, but I think he will eventually prove too tough in a 64, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Jan-Lennard Struff - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Benoit Paire - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Gilles Muller - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 9-3, + 9.62 Units (24 Units Staked, + 40.08% Yield)