Saturday, 20 September 2014

College Football Week 4 Picks 2014 (September 20)

Last week may have been a difficult one for the picks, the second poor week in a row, but sometimes you have to look at some of the things that happen in College Football and laugh. For example, this:

What a brilliant idea, despite the fact that Booker T Mays fails to fool a single person and the fake punt was Intercepted before May was subsequently hammered by a Defender.

I'd recommend reading this article to get a little more insight into the kid from Arkansas State that has become a minor celebrity for this move. The article was written by Gregg Doyel from CBS Sports and can be read here.

Week 3 wasn't one that featured a lot of huge games, but that didn't stop the likes of Virginia Tech and USC from failing to back up big road wins from Week 2 and both were beaten by the East Carolina Pirates and Boston College Eagles respectively.

That would have been hugely disappointing for both teams considering their wins at Ohio State and Stanford in Week 2 and will be a huge burden to overcome if either is going to be considered for the National Championship final four Play Off.

Week 4 looks much stronger in terms of games to be played with Alabama's opening SEC game against Florida and Florida State hosting Clemson in a huge ACC game. It all begins with a decent looking game between the Auburn Tigers and the Kansas State Wildcats on Thursday which could potentially have some big Play Off implications.

Hopefully the picks will improve in Week 4 after some poor ones from me- I had a shortlist of a few teams but didn't break it down properly from there and was punished with too many losses. I will be looking for a bounce back week this time around as last week was simply bad capping and nothing to do with bad breaks which was arguably the case in Week 2.

Tulane Green Wave @ Duke Blue Devils Pick: Anyone who thought the Duke Blue Devils wouldn't be able to back up their performance in 2013 have been surprised at the beginning of 2014 and I think they can continue their strong start with a convincing win over the Tulane Green Wave.

The one concern for the Blue Devils is that they lose focus and look past Tulane at the big game they have against Miami in Week 5, but they have been a strong favourite over the last couple of years as they have gone 9-1 against the spread.

I do think Duke will be able to move the ball effectively when they have it in their hands, but their run Defense might have a few problems to contend with. If they can get Tulane into obvious passing situations, Duke should be able to get off the field, but the Green Wave have a chance of controlling the clock at times.

The Blue Devils have generally taken non-Conference opponents seriously and they have dominated those opponents over last two years as they have gone 6-0 with a win by an average of 27 points per game.

Marshall Thundering Herd @ Akron Zips Pick: The Marshall Thundering Herd are considered the best team outside of the power 5 Conferences and three straight wins to open the 2014 season hasn't changed that opinion of most experts.

This is probably the biggest challenge they have faced this season to this point as the Akron Zips have the passing ability to give the Herd plenty of problems, although they could be made a one-dimensional Offense if Marshall's run Defense continues playing to a high level.

The Akron Defense has played well, but this arguably the toughest Offense they have played this season and I do think Marshall will find a way to move the chains thanks to their dual-threat Quarter Back Rakeem Cato.

I have a concern in the fact that Marshall haven't played well as a road favourite, going 1-9-1 against the spread in that situation from their last 10 games. The Zips have also had additional time to prepare for this game, but I like Marshall to prove themselves in another tough road game.

Texas A&M Aggies @ SMU Mustangs Pick: June Jones has left his role as Head Coach of the SMU Mustangs and the team have had an extra week to prepare but it is a big ask for them to take on the Texas A&M Aggies.

The Mustangs have been blasted in their opening two games of 2014 as they have been outscored by 82 points in those games against Baylor, which is understandable, and North Texas, which is not.

My biggest concern for backing the Texas A&M Aggies is that they might rest starters once they get far ahead, but I don't know how the Mustangs can pick themselves up and surpass what they have produced this season. They are at home, which will help, but Texas A&M should be able to get close to the margin that Baylor produced and I think the Aggies cover despite the big SEC game against Arkansas in Jerry's House next week.

Florida Gators @ Alabama Crimson Tide Pick: The opening game against the West Virginia Mountaineers has put a seed of doubt about how good this year's Alabama Crimson Tide actually are, but they may just put a few of those doubts away with a big win over the Florida Gators in their opening SEC game.

Alabama haven't play any school of note in the last two weeks, but they would have been inspired by the struggles Florida had against the Kentucky Wildcats last week. How much of that was because the Gators were looking ahead to this one is yet to be known, but the Crimson Tide will feel they can move the ball effectively against the Gators.

However, it has to be said that the Crimson Tide's Offensive strength may not match up that well against the Florida Defensive strength. Like many SEC teams, the Gators are a tough team to run the ball against, although I think Alabama are the most ready to do that with their Offensive Line and the Running Backs they have including TJ Yeldon.

If Alabama can get into third and manageable positions, I think Blake Sims/Jake Coker can make enough plays with their arms to keep the chains moving just as long as they don't overly focus on getting the ball to Amari Cooper. The Wide Receiver is exceptional, but he will be faced by Vernon Hargreaves and Alabama have to keep the Gator Defense honest.

I also do think Jeff Driskel can make plays for the Florida Offense in this game as the Alabama Secondary is still fairly inexperienced and not been at their best to open the season. Driskel tries to avoid the big mistake and the Crimson Tide are yet to have an Interception so Florida could have more success than some think.

The problem is that the Gators may need Driskel to push a little more from third and long situations and that could lead to the mistakes and three and outs that allow Alabama to dictate the field position game.

Florida have struggled in Tuscaloosa with 4 consecutive defeats here and they haven't had more than 13 points in any of those games. The Crimson Tide have also won 3 in a row in the series by 24 points per game and they have covered the spread in their last 5 home games as the favourite against a SEC opponent.

It is a big number, but I think Alabama are going to cover the two Touchdown spread.

North Carolina Tar Heels @ East Carolina Pirates Pick: A week ago, you could have gotten the East Carolina Pirates as a home underdog against North Carolina, but the win over Virginia Tech on the road as well as the bye week the Tar Heels have been on has shifted the favourite.

It is not a big surprise considering I believed the Pirates are a better team than North Carolina and have every chance of winning back to back games against the Tar Heels for the first time in their history.

Shane Carden looks set to have another big game against the Tar Heels after his 376 yard, three Touchdown day last season, especially off the back of a big win over the Hokies on the road. Carden was impressive last week and ran in the winning score with 16 seconds remaining on the clock and he should have every chance of hurting this Tar Heels Secondary.

The Quarter Back will be helped by a ground Offense that should keep the Pirates in third and manageable situations and I feel East Carolina also have an edge in the trenches on the other side of the ball.

With a young and inexperienced Offensive Line, North Carolina may struggle to get their own ground Offense going against an East Carolina Defensive Line that has held teams to 3.3 yards per carry. That will only put more pressure on Marquise Williams who has the ability to make plays with his arm and legs, but who could be facing pressure he hasn't seen before so far this season.

If North Carolina are stuck in third and long, Williams has shown he has made mistakes already this season and East Carolina could win the turnover battle to move away from the Tar Heels for the second year in a row.

The Tar Heels are 0-4 against the spread as a road underdog under Larry Fedora and they have lost their last 2 road games in non-Conference play. Add the fact that they are playing a big Conference road game at the Clemson Tigers next week and East Carolina are now 7-1 against the spread in their last 8 non-Conference games and I like the Pirates to win this week.

Indiana Hoosiers @ Missouri Tigers Pick: The Hoosiers had a disappointing loss to the Bowling Green Falcons a week ago and they could have a big problem against the Missouri Tigers even if they will be looking for revenge after last season's home loss to the same team.

The Tigers have an ability to force turnovers though and that is going to be a key to helping them cover this number on Saturday and they have been very strong the last two weeks.

Missouri get a heavy pass rush which should help them earn more mistakes from the Indiana Offense and I think Maty Mauk can make enough plays to keep the Tigers moving. If Mauk is given short yards to score Touchdowns thanks to his Defense, Missouri could pull away in a similar manner to last season.

The home team are 8-5 against the spread as the favourite, while Missouri have also improved to 12-4 against the spread in their last 16 games against non-Conference opponents. Indiana are also 3-6 against the spread as the road underdog over the last couple of seasons, while they could be looking ahead to their Conference home game against Maryland which takes place next week.

Idaho Vandals @ Ohio Bobcats Pick: The Ohio Bobcats are coming off a battering at the hands of the Marshall Thundering Herd, but I think they can get back on track with a win over the Idaho Vandals.

The Defense should be able to get plenty of pressure on this Offensive Line which could slow down the Idaho passing Offense and may also help Ohio turn the ball over. On the other side of the ball, Ohio may finally have a chance to make some serious plays against the Vandals Defense which has struggled to get off the field in their opening games.

The Bobcats have enjoyed their home openers as they have won 4 in a row by an average of 21 points per game, while Ohio are also 9-0 hosting non-Conference opponents. Idaho are also 4-11 against the spread in their last 15 games as the road underdog and this might be another loss for them as I expect Ohio to cover the almost two Touchdown spread.

Mississippi State Bulldogs @ LSU Tigers Pick: When teams are spending their time playing overmatched non-Conference opponents, it is hard to know exactly how good a team is and that is the position the Mississippi State Bulldogs find themselves coming into Death Valley.

This has proven to be a difficult school for the Bulldogs to play as they have lost 14 straight to the LSU Tigers while the last four games have been easy enough for the Tigers once they have been able to get away from Mississippi State.

However, the Bulldogs have to be confident behind the performances of Dak Prescott who gives them a dual-threat to attack a LSU Defense that is amongst the best in the nation to this point. A ground game should be established for Mississippi State, but they are also facing an aggressive Defense that can pressure the Quarter Back and we will really get to see how good the Bulldogs Offense actually is.

On the other side of the ball, LSU will look to pound the ball all day and wear down Mississippi State, but they haven't been at their best so far this season with the ball in their hands. They haven't made the mistakes that have put the Defense in a difficult position, but Anthony Jennings needs to do more at Quarter Back if the Tigers are a legitimate threat in the SEC West.

He has thrown 5 Touchdown passes with just 1 Interception, but could be under pressure by the Mississippi State pass rush if the Tigers can't move the ball effectively on the ground. That will be tough for Kenny Hilliard and the Running Backs as the Bulldogs have given up just 80 yards per game on the ground, although this is by far the biggest challenge they would have faced.

LSU are incredibly tough to beat at home in the evening though and they are 43-3 in night games under Les Miles in Death Valley. The Tigers have also dominated the Mississippi State Bulldogs with four straight wins coming by 22 points per game and they have forced the mistakes to move away from the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State are only 5-10 against the spread under Dan Mullen as the road underdog and I think the LSU Tigers will make a couple of really big Defensive plays that sees them get over the number and win another game against Mississippi State.

Miami (Ohio) Redhawks @ Cincinnati Bearcats Pick: With only one game played so far, it is hard to get a real read on what the Cincinnati Bearcats are able to produce this season. One thing that was noticeable was how well Gunner Kiel played and I think the Quarter Back has every chance of fulfilling his potential in Cincinnati after transferring from Notre Dame.

He should have some real success against the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks Secondary despite that unit playing effectively in their big games so far. However, the Defensive Line has given up large numbers on the ground and getting Kiel into third and manageable spots should pay dividends for them.

The big question this week is whether Tommy Tuberville has fixed some of the Defensive problems they displayed against the Toledo Rockets in their opening game. However, I am not convinced Miami can expose those issues because they have struggled to run the ball and that will mean Andrew Hendrix is in third and long and being asked to make big plays from tough positions.

Hendrix has seen his Offensive Line struggle to protect him at times and has also made too many mistakes with 5 Touchdown passes coupled with 5 Interceptions. Cincinnati found a pass rush last week at least and could make enough plays to keep Miami from ticking the scoreboard over and surpass the big spread they have been asked to this week.

Cincinnati have won their last 2 home games against the Redhawks by 42 and 38 points respectively and Gunner Kiel could punish them this week. Miami are also 3-11 against the spread as the road underdog over the last two and a bit seasons while they are 3-8 against the spread in non-Conference games.

The Bearcats have won their last 5 home games against Miami by an average of 27 points per game, but I can see them getting a little clearer in this one with a couple of big turnovers and surpass the 28 points being asked of them.

Oklahoma Sooners @ West Virginia Mountaineers Pick: I have been impressed with the way the West Virginia Mountaineers have begun this season, but this is a real chance for Bob Stoops and his Oklahoma Sooners to lay down a marker. After the Alabama Crimson Tide struggled to see off the Mountaineers in Week 1 on a neutral venue, the Sooners can show their own credentials to play for the National Championship by matching that win in a true road game.

Both games over the last two seasons have been close, tight battles, but I think the key to the game will be the fact that I believe Oklahoma are more likely to create turnovers which should see them move clear.

The Mountaineers can make enough plays to keep the pressure on the Sooners and they have moved the ball well through the air, while Tennessee showed last week that it is possible to do that against Oklahoma. However, I also can see the Sooners scoring plenty of points and those turnovers being the difference between the teams.

Last season saw Oklahoma win by 9 points despite both teams turning the ball over four times, but I will look for the Sooners to be more efficient with the ball in their hands and win this one by double digits.

Oregon Ducks @ Washington State Cougars Pick: As much as the 'Air Raid' Offense is fun to watch for the fans, the Washington State Cougars have not been winning games and that is less enjoyable.

They will have a tough time dealing with the Oregon Ducks because the latter have simply the tools to keep the chains moving up and down the field all day and that will build pressure. Connor Halliday might then push a little too much and, faced with the pressure that Oregon will bring with their pass rush, could make one too many mistakes.

We all know what Marcus Mariota is about at Quarter Back, but he might not need to have a huge game with the expectation that Royce Freeman and Byron Marshall will be able to rip large gains on the ground.

The Ducks have won the last 6 games in the series by an average of 32 points per game, while their last 3 road wins at Washington State have come by 25, 20 and 49 points.

With the extra possessions they are likely to get, Oregon could dominate this game too and pull away from Washington State as the game gets on. The Ducks are now 10-2 against the spread in their last 12 games as the road favourite, and I think they can improve on that by covering what looks a big spread.

MY PICKS: Duke Blue Devils - 16.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Marshall Thundering Herd - 9 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
Texas A&M Aggies - 34 Points @ 1.92 Stan James (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 14 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
East Carolina Pirates - 2.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Missouri Tigers - 13 Points @ 1.92 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Ohio Bobcats - 13.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
LSU Tigers - 9.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Cincinnati Bearcats - 28 Points @ 1.89 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 William Hill (1 Unit)
Oregon Ducks - 23 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (September 20-21)

There is a full schedule of domestic football being played this week and the following are the picks from the weekend schedule.

Aston Villa v Arsenal Pick: Arsenal look awfully short to win this game at Villa Park on recent form of both of these sides, although I am not sure how Aston Villa will handle the change in their approach from last week. Against Liverpool, Aston Villa could sit deep and look to counter attack but they have to be a little more proactive in front of their own fans, although the confidence has to be flowing through a set of players that were expected to be battling relegation.

Even in saying that, Arsenal have failed to win any of their previous 4 away games played this season and were awful in their loss at Borussia Dortmund, while not much better in the draws at Everton and Besiktas. All of those sides could argue they are better than Aston Villa, but Leicester City were another team that gave Arsenal all they could handle so Paul Lambert has to believe his team can secure a second surprise win in a week.

Overcoming their long run without a win at home against Arsenal won't be easy for Aston Villa, especially against an Arsenal team that does have attacking options. Danny Welbeck hasn't settled yet, but he looks like he will get goals through perseverance, even if Louis Van Gaal looks spot on with his opinion of the England international at this moment.

Both teams will believe they can get in behind the other defence, especially Aston Villa who will have seen the amount of goals that Arsenal have conceded this season. With Mathieu Debuchy out, there are more changes in the backline and Villa can expose those issues.

I also believe Arsenal can hurt Aston Villa that will be missing Ron Vlaar, especially if they can take advantage of a slightly more adventurous Villa side than the one that played at Anfield.

Goals have been a feature of games between these two teams and this one has a chance of following suit at odds against.

Newcastle United v Hull City Pick: Alan Pardew will be perfectly aware of the importance of winning this game as the pressure builds from the Newcastle United fans as well as the rumours of protests that will be taking place inside the Stadium.

It is rare that a team can find their best form when under that time pressure and I think Hull City have every chance to extend a surprisingly strong recent run of results at St James' Park. They have won 4 of their last 5 visits to this ground including the last 3 in a row and Steve Bruce might improve his standing with the home crowd if he can mastermind another success that sees the end of the Pardew era.

However, I can't bring myself to back Hull City to win this game because of their own poor recent record away from home with 6 losses in their last 8 games on their travels.

I do expect there will be goals in the game though as Newcastle United have conceded 7 goals in their last 2 League games and have also kept just 1 clean sheet from their last 6 home games. On the other hand, Hull City have scored in 8 of their last 9 away games in the Premier League, while conceding at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 7 away League games.

All of that suggests the 2.25 there will be at least three goals in this one is perhaps a little too high as both teams will feel they can get forward in this one and I do think it could be entertaining if ultimately an unsuccessful day for Alan Pardew.

West Ham United v Liverpool Pick: Even with Daniel Sturridge on the sidelines, Liverpool will believe they can come to Upton Park and become the latest Premier League side to leave this part of East London with the three points.

The big question for Liverpool is whether they can get the right balance between the Premier League and the Champions League having not been used to playing European football last season. With a squad that has a few injuries to contend with, Brendan Rodgers has to get the right system in place to manage his players to the best of his ability.

Despite West Ham's poor run of form at home in the Premier League where they have lost 4 of their last 5 games, including both played last season, they have actually been playing some decent football.

They will be able to pose Liverpool some problems, but I would be surprised if Liverpool don't find the space on the counter attack that they might not see at Anfield these days. It does feel that Liverpool will be a better away side than a home one this season in my opinion as I am not sure they have know-how to break down teams that will defend deep.

West Ham are likely to push forward in this one and that might work in Liverpool's favour and they can win a game where three or more goals are scored.

Leicester City v Manchester United Pick: I've said that the easiest thing that people can be guilty of doing is overreacting to one result in the world of sports and focusing overly on that performance rather than a general view.

Manchester United looked a lot better against Queens Park Rangers, but really kicked on once they scored and I also have to say that the visitors were as poor a team as I have seen in some time. The performances produced by Leicester City over the first four Premier League games suggests this is going to be a far more difficult challenge for the new-look Manchester United team than the one they faced a week ago.

The likes of Everton and Arsenal have both failed to win at the King Power Stadium, despite them holding the lead on three different occasions combined. That just shows the belief that Leicester City have in what they are doing and I certainly think they are capable of exposing some problems in the Manchester United back four/back five that will start in this game.

Leonardo Ullua has been clinical in front of goal and will be a threat, but I do also think the Manchester United players will enjoy playing a team that is not going to sit deep for long periods in this game. Angel Di Maria looks a match winner and the ability to bring on someone like Radamel Falcao does have me leaning towards Manchester United to win, although not at the short odds on quotes that are littered around.

Instead, I believe both teams are likely to hit the back of the net during the game where the defences may be under pressure from two teams that will like going forward. Leicester have shown they can score against Premier League defences with goals against Everton and Arsenal, as well as Manchester City in the League Cup last season, while Manchester United looked a much more dangerous prospect going forward last weekend.

Both teams are likely to score in my opinion, but I still lean towards Manchester United and will back them to win this game after both defences are breached.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Brom Pick: Last season, 7 of Tottenham Hotspur's 12 Premier League defeats came following a Europa League tie and that has to be something that has been on the back of the mind of manager Mauricio Pochettino. Make no mistake, if I know that statistic there is absolutely no chance that the Tottenham players and staff don't know the same.

Hopefully that will focus them for this game on Sunday as I do think they are going to have too much for a West Brom team that have lost confidence and are clearly struggling. The two heavy losses they have suffered against Swansea and Everton wouldn't have helped and Spurs have recorded big wins over AEL Limassol and Queens Park Rangers here already this season.

Tottenham Hotspur had also been on a good run of form at White Hart Lane before running into Liverpool and I do think they can get back to winning ways against a goal-shy opponent as long as the trip to Belgrade hasn't taken too much from the squad.

I have to respect the fact that West Brom have been tough opponents for Spurs in recent visits to this part of North London, but they don't look like a great team and the lack of confidence means heads could potentially drop if they fall behind.

Before the loss to Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur had won 5 straight home games in all competitions by at least two goals or more and I will back them to cover the one goal Asian Handicap this weekend.

Everton v Crystal Palace Pick: Liverpool aren't the only team in that city that are trying to figure out the best way to balance European commitments with their Premier League ambitions. Roberto Martinez played a very strong team in Everton's 4-1 win over Wolfsburg on Thursday so it will be interesting to see the recovery they have made ahead of this League game.

Everton are the right favourites to win this game after already securing their first two wins of the season over the last seven days, but I would be surprised if it is straight-forward.

They are playing a Crystal Palace team that have found goals on their travels and one that could pose problems moving forward if the Everton players are a little tired. However, I think Palace are still getting to grips with what Neil Warnock wants from them after the abrupt departure of Tony Pulis and this might be the best time to play the Eagles.

Last season Palace surprised Everton with a win here late in the season that effectively ended Everton's Champions League ambitions. That should focus Everton minds, although they might only earn the three points after both teams score.

Manchester City v Chelsea Pick: This is by far and away the biggest Premier League game of the weekend as Chelsea look to legitimise their position as favourites to win the Premier League by going into the home of the Champions.

After a perfect game plan was executed to beat Manchester City in the Premier League last season, Jose Mourinho couldn't find the right formula in the FA Cup and you can't ignore the poor record Chelsea have here in recent seasons.

I am also still not convinced about Chelsea, despite the new-look spine of the team which has impressed, because I don't think they have had the most difficult of fixtures to get through. The crushing win over Everton at Goodison Park was impressive, but no one can deny that Chelsea were rocking at times in that game despite the two early goals to get into a strong position, while both Leicester City and Swansea have caused problems for them.

Manchester City aren't in the best form, but should have a very strong team out for this game and they remain a very strong team at home despite the setback against Stoke City. I can see their forward players giving Chelsea a fair few problems at the back, although the fun of this match is that the away side will have space to exploit on the counter attack and have scored goals for fun in the League.

I also don't want to dismiss Chelsea finding the right game plan again under Mourinho, but Manchester City are a big price considering their home record over the last couple of seasons. The first goal could be critical in the game, but I fancy Manchester City to just halt the Chelsea run and get back to within striking distance of the West London club, which is important even at this early stage of the season.

MY PICKS: Aston Villa-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Newcastle United-Hull City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Liverpool Win and Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.40 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Manchester United to Win @ 3.40 Coral (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Everton to Win @ 3.25 Coral (1 Unit)
Manchester City @ 2.50 Coral (2 Units)

Friday, 19 September 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (September 19th)

A very strong week continued on Thursday with two more winning picks and this week has made up for some of the disappointments faced in the summer. It isn't the time to get complacent though with three more days to complete this week for it to be a very strong one for the picks as we hit the Quarter Final stage for the majority of the tournaments being played this week.

Jan-Lennard Struff + 3.5 games v Philipp Kohlschreiber: These two compatriots met on the clay courts of Stuttgart earlier this season when Philipp Kohlschreiber proved too good for Jan-Lennard Struff in a straight sets win.

While that was a pretty easy match for Kohlschreiber on the scoreboard, I expect the indoor hard courts to give Struff a much better chance to reverse that match result.

That isn't to say I am convinced he can win this match, but I certainly think Struff is capable of taking a set off of Kohlschreiber which will give him every chance of staying within this number.

There have been times when I have been very impressed with Kohlschreiber, but I do think his best way be behind him and I think Struff has the capability of being a decent indoor player. If this goes to three sets, Struff should have every chance to at least cover the games if he doesn't have enough to win the match.

Dominika Cibulkova + 3.5 games v Angelique Kerber: 2014 has seen a change in momentum of the head to head between these players as Angelique Kerber has won both matches to snap a four match losing run against Dominika Cibulkova.

It wouldn't surprise many people that matches between the players have been closely contested many times with both players having very strong defensive skills, but also not the biggest serves which means they have to earn everything they achieve on a court.

That is tough to do for consistent amount of times and can lead to long, three set matches when Kerber and Cibulkova get together and it may be the case on Friday in this Quarter Final.

I can understand why Kerber is the favourite- she has been in far better form since Wimbledon than Cibulkova, but I believe the 'pocket rocket' can at least push the German even in a defeat. The two wins that Cibulkova has had this week should inspire her and rebuilt her confidence to the extent of having another titanic battle with Kerber and I think she can stay within the games by taking one set in this match.

MY PICKS: Jan-Lennard Struff + 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova + 3.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 5-0, + 8.90 Units (10 Units Staked, + 89% Yield)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

NFL Week 3 Picks 2014 (September 18-22)

After a poor start to the season, it looked like Week 2 was going to produce a big turnaround of fortunes, but the last three picks let me down. It was still a step in the right direction, but I was hoping for an even bigger week and will be looking for Week 3 to help provide that as we have started to get a real feel for how teams are going to perform.

Week 2 Thoughts
Teams Blowing Big Leads: The first two weeks of the season have been strange in teams getting into strong winning positions and then blowing so leads without a real noticeable shift in momentum.

In Week 1 it was the likes of the Denver Broncos, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New Orleans Saints and the Jacksonville Jaguars that all blew double digit leads and were hanging on or losing games.

That trend continued with San Francisco and the Indianapolis Colts both doing the same and you have to wonder whether that is going to be a feature of the season. It is definitely something I will be keeping an eye on over the next two weeks, especially when it comes to handicapping against big numbers.

Key Injuries: Like many NFL fans, I am a Fantasy Football player and it has been a few seasons when I have had a day of injuries like the one that just went past. It wasn't just my team, but Jamaal Charles, AJ Green, Knowshon Moreno, Mark Ingram, Ryan Matthews and Robert Griffin all looking like missing significant time.

That is one of the main reasons I have always said that picking a Super Bowl winner in August is nigh on impossible as some injuries can really take away big parts of a team- can Kansas City really be considered a Play Off contender without Charles and can Cincinnati overcome a long term absence of Green?

Thankfully it seems neither are going to be missing long parts of the season, but it is generally the teams that can get hot towards the end of the season with a decent health about them that are most likely to win the big games.

Adrian Peterson a 'child abuser'? I think the NFL is in a very tough position at the moment after the Ray Rice issue so the last thing they would have wanted to hear was Adrian Peterson had 'admitted' to causing injury to his child while disciplining them.

He has said he did it but didn't mean to cause the lacerations that were inflicted and it does look like he has gone too far despite discipline being fine by me... However, I don't think this big Running Back should be hitting his kid with such force that he cuts them and leaves scars so you can understand the anger in some quarters.

Minnesota really messed up with their handling of the situation as they pulled Peterson from Week 2, but decided to reinstate him for Week 3... Then public pressure and, more importantly, from the sponsors meant the Vikings changed their mind and have effectively pulled the plug on this season for Peterson.

The rumour is now that they will release Peterson at the end of the season and all because this parent couldn't hand out punishments and use discipline methods that perhaps didn't involve beating his kid till he bled.

Teams that have started 0-2 have little chance of reaching the Play Offs: Most of you should have read the statistics- only one of the last 60 teams to begin the season 0-2 have made it to the Play Offs so this has to be a worrying time for the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts.

The Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Giants also sit at that record, but the Saints and Colts were expected to be amongst the best teams in the NFL and both have lost games they should have won.

It can be argued the Saints aren't that far away from being 2-0 with a couple of better breaks, while the Colts had no business losing on Monday night to the Philadelphia Eagles and the chances are only one of those will make it to the Play Offs.

If you gave me the choice of picking which I would believe can overcome the odds, it would be the Colts in the weaker AFC South Division which I still expect they can win. The Saints aren't out of it either, but they could have a much tougher time getting above the Carolina Panthers who have started very well, although it would still not be the biggest surprise if both those teams dig out of the hole they find themselves in.

Top Five
1) Denver Broncos (2-0): They haven't looked themselves up to this point and now travel to Seattle to take on the Seahawks with revenge on their minds.

2) Cincinnati Bengals (2-0): Even without AJ Green, the Cincinnati Bengals battered Atlanta on all sides and look the best team in the AFC North.

3) Carolina Panthers (2-0): No team has won the NFC South back to back times since the realignment in 2002, but the Panthers look like they are desperate to erase that record.

4) Philadelphia Eagles (2-0): They have overcome two big deficits to win games and the Eagles might be the fittest team in the NFL.

5) Arizona Cardinals (2-0): How long can they survive at the top of the NFC West with Drew Stanton behind Center?

Bottom Five
32) Oakland Raiders (0-2): A rookie Quarter Back and a franchise that has struggled for over a decade are getting ready to travel to London. The James Jones double fumble highlights Oakland's ineptitude.

31) Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2): The Jaguars should have beaten Philadelphia in Week 1, but were totally outplayed at Washington last week.

30) New York Giants (0-2): New York blew a big chance to win last week against Arizona at home and won't have too many better opportunities than hosting the Houston Texans to get off the mark.

29) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-2): Home losses to teams being Quarter Backed by Derek Anderson and Austin Davis doesn't bode well for the Tampa Bay season.

28) New Orleans Saints (0-2)I can't imagine they will stay here for long, but the Saints have been a mess on Defense to the point that Sean Payton was caught hollering at Rob Ryan towards the end of the loss to the Cleveland Browns.

Week 3 Picks
With the top six picks being split 3-3 last week and the two minimum unit picks both coming in, it produced a small winning record for the week, although not enough to turn around the season totals.

I was disappointed in the way the Packers, Broncos and 49ers all blew their chance to cover with stupid mistakes, but I won't ever be disappointed when coming through with a winning week. I just hope to back that up with another decent week this time around too.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons Pick: I did say there would be a big overreaction to results in Week 1 and the Atlanta Falcons were being touted as a dark horse for the Super Bowl after taking advantage of errors made by the New Orleans Saints.

Things came back down to earth for Matt Ryan and the Falcons last week in a defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals which could have been by a much wider margin than the 14 points it ended up being.

There are injuries on the Defensive Line for the Buccaneers which should mean a cleaner pocket for Ryan and wider running lanes for Steven Jackson, the latter who has helped the Falcons move the chains at 5 yards per carry. Ryan might not have Roddy White available on Thursday, but he still has Julio Jones and I expect Atlanta to score at least 28 points.

We then have to shift the questioning to whether Tampa Bay can find enough scoring to keep this competitive and I am not sure Josh McCown is the man to do that- he has struggled against the pass rush generated by the Carolina Panthers and St Louis Rams, but he should have more time in this one.

My concern are the absolutely awful Interceptions McCown has thrown and I don't trust him to make the right plays in this one, even if he should be backed by a decent ground attack even in the absence of Doug Martin. The feeling is that Martin will play anyway so the Buccaneers should keep McCown in a decent position to make plays, but I don't trust him to avoid another terrible Interception that lets Atlanta get away and cover.

The Falcons had a poor season in 2013, but they did beat Tampa Bay while covering the spread at home and Atlanta are now 5-1-1 against the spread in the last 7 of this series. They might just end up with another win by a Touchdown or more in this one.

Dallas Cowboys @ St Louis Rams Pick: This is a big game for two 1-1 teams that have an outside belief that they can make the Play Offs, although I personally think there are doubts about both teams capabilities of doing that.

The problem for St Louis will always be trying to find enough Offense with a back up Quarter Back for the season and I think that is why the Dallas Cowboys will win this game despite their Defense not being the best.

However, that unit has played well in the first two games and it was only the mistakes of the Offense that cost them the game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. Last week there was a clear change in game plan from the Cowboys with DeMarco Murray carrying the Offense and I think he can have another strong outing after the Rams have struggled against the run in the first two weeks.

If Murray is running hard, Tony Romo won't have the same level of pressure that he sometimes carries on his shoulders and he should be able to make plays to keep the chains moving from third and manageable situations.

Zak Stacy could have a similar impact as Murray in this one, but the big question will be if Austin Davis can avoid mistakes at Quarter Back and manage the game effectively. I am just not sure he can make enough big plays if the Rams fall behind and I like the Cowboys to make it back to back wins.

The Cowboys aren't a great road favourite under Jason Garrett, but this could be a rare occasion they manage to cover in that spot.

Houston Texans @ New York Giants Pick: There was every chance that the Houston Texans could have been a leading contender for a bounce back season with their Defensive Line, but I am still a little surprised to see them at 2-0. The schedule has been very kind though and I think the New York Giants, despite being a poor 0-2, could be able to overcome them this week.

If it wasn't for a number of turnovers and mistakes from the Wide Receivers, the Giants likely would have beaten the Arizona Cardinals last week. One of the big problems they have had is establishing a ground game, although this is an area where the Houston Defense has struggled and Rashad Jennings might not have a better chance to get going.

There is no guarantee that happens, but the Giants may at least give Eli Manning a chance by getting into third and manageable situations. Anything else could be a problem for Manning who has not been helped by his Receivers nor the Offensive Line, although a few more decent grabs could get this Offense moving.

Houston have also been struggling on Offense with scores being produced by the Defense forcing turnovers or the Special Teams units. Both of those units could have strong games again this week, but Arian Foster may be missing and the Giants have actually controlled the rush Offense pretty effectively so far.

That means Ryan Fitzpatrick needing to make plays and I can't say I have a lot of faith in the former Buffalo Bill Quarter Back even if he has avoided the mistakes that have plagued him previously. Fitzpatrick might find more holes against this Secondary, especially if the Offensive Line continues to protect him, but he can't be put in a position where he has to force things as that is when his problems mount.

I am a little concerned that the Giants have to play Washington on Thursday night football this week, but this is a 'must win' game and I think New York takes it.

Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints Pick: The Adrian Peterson issue continues to dominate the headlines at the Minnesota Vikings and his absence could be seriously felt in this game at the New Orleans Saints. Matt Cassel will be relied on to make more plays in this one a week after combusting in a loss to the New England Patriots and I think it will be another tough day for Cassel.

As poor as the Saints Defense has played, I think they have underachieved and this is the kind of game that should play into Rob Ryan's hands, especially if the Offense can build another big lead. While the Saints have blown coverages, they should be able to get more pressure on Cassel against this Offensive Line and the mistakes made by the Quarter Back could rear their head in this one too.

I have little doubt that the New Orleans Saints will be able to move the ball effectively at home, especially with an Offense that has played well in the first two games. Drew Brees to Jimmy Graham remains close to indefensible, while the speed of Brandin Cooks and Kenny Stills should stretch the field effectively.

New Orleans have a very strong 15-0-1 record against the spread in their last 16 home games as the favourites under Sean Payton and this is a team that can score lots of points at the Superdome. They are also 10-3 against the spread coming off a straight up loss under Payton and I think the Saints are going to win this one going away.

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns Pick: The Cleveland Browns have impressed with their performances over the last game and a half and they will be looking forward to the visit of the Baltimore Ravens, a team they reserve a special hatred for.

The Ravens have the benefit of an additional three days of preparation for this game, while Cleveland are coming off an emotional win over the New Orleans Saints a week after only narrowly falling short against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore did see their 11 win sequence in this series come to an end on their last visit here, but I like them to back up their win over the Steelers by moving above 0.500 for the first time.

Despite the release of Ray Rice, Baltimore are clearly very focused and they have been able to run the ball fairly effectively in the first two weeks of the season. That in turn has made life a little easier for Joe Flacco, although the Quarter Back could certainly be sharper than he has been.

The Offense in general should have a decent shout of producing strong numbers in this game, even if Bernard Pierce is out of the line up, because the Browns Defense hasn't been that effective. The Baltimore Defense will also feel they are ready for what the surprising Browns have done the first two weeks of the season, especially as they will have more game tape to view and found a pass rush last week.

If they can keep Brian Hoyer under some sort of pressure, the Ravens may just hold the key to ensuring they move to 2-1 in their Divisional games and start putting the sorry Ray Rice saga behind them.

Been a busy last couple of days so the rest of the picks have been put down without the explanation this time around. You can see them in the 'MY PICKS' section below.

0 Unit Selections: San Diego Chargers + 2.5 Points, Philadelphia Eagles - 5 Points, Tennessee Titans + 7 Points, Arizona Cardinals + 3 Points, Seattle Seahawks - 4 Points, Chicago Bears + 2.5 Points

MY PICKS: Atlanta Falcons - 6 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Dallas Cowboys - 1.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
New York Giants - 1 Point @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
New Orleans Saints - 10 Points @ 2.10 BWin (2 Units)
Baltimore Ravens - 1.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Green Bay Packers + 1 Point @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Indianapolis Colts - 7 Points @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
New England Patriots - 14 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Kansas City Chiefs + 4 Points @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Pittsburgh Steelers + 3 Points @ 2.04 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Week 2: 5-3, + 1.50 Units
Week 13-6, - 3.18 Units

Season 20148-9, - 1.68 Units
Season 201386-70-2, + 22.27 Units
Season 2012- 4.78 Units

Tennis Picks 2014 (September 18th)

It has been a good week so far with three picks made and three winners coming home, but I don't want to spend too much time patting myself on the back. Doing that is the quick way to lose focus and end up on the wrong side of the next picks to be made so I do hope the following two picks can keep up the success of the week.

The Second Round at Metz will be completed on Thursday where the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are trying to make up the points in the bid to reach the World Tour Finals, even if I am of the belief that the Frenchman is too far behind barring withdrawals from those in the top eight.

Jan-Lennard Struff + 2.5 games v Jeremy Chardy: These two players had a really close match at Wimbledon in 2013 and I think their Second Round match is likely to be another tight affair that could easily go either way.

I think Jeremy Chardy is the right favourite as he plays in front of a crowd that will be firmly behind him, but he hasn't been in the best form in the summer and has a surprisingly poor record on the indoor hard courts.

I am surprised simply because Chardy has a decent serve and heavy groundstrokes, but he is error prone too and his second serve would be vulnerable on this kind of surface where the return of serve could be on in before Chardy has a chance to get set.

Jan-Lennard Struff came through a battling First Round match and also has the ability to set up points with his first serve. While the German is still to make a consistent impact on the main Tour, the indoor hard courts have been a favoured domain of his over the last three seasons.

Most of that success came outside of the main Tour events, but he did reach the Semi Final in Marseille earlier this year and can certainly take a set which may give him every chance to stay within this number.

Jerzy Janowicz v Jarkko Nieminen: Two players that won't be too disappointed about seeing the upcoming end of the 2014 season are Jerzy Janowicz and Jarkko Nieminen, although the former is still coming to the peak of his career while the latter is towards the end of his own.

The indoor hard courts should favour Janowicz with his big serve being a real weapon, although the double faults are still an issue.

On the other hand, Nieminen will have a hard time winning this match if he gives the Pole too many second serves to look at and I do think the big serving Janowicz will earn the 'easier' points and the scoreboard pressure will prove too much for Nieminen.

Janowicz reached the Final of the Paris Masters on the indoor hard courts so this presents a chance to pick up vital Ranking points that had been dropped earlier in the season and seen him fall to 40 in the World. This might take three sets, but I think he beats Nieminen in this Second Round match.

MY PICKS: Jan-Lennard Struff + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jerzy Janowicz @ 1.75 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-0, + 5.40 Units (6 Units Staked, + 90% Yield)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (September 17th)

This is one of those weeks where there isn't the range of tennis matches that have appealed to me and so Tuesday proved to be a day where I didn't have any picks. That came after the sole pick from Monday's tennis proved to be a winning one as Gilles Muller did have enough to beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin and I do think the big man could be worth following in the Second Round too.

There are a few tournaments being played on the WTA Tour in Asia, but I am sticking to the ATP Metz event for my picks this week so far.

Jan-Lennard Struff - 2.5 games v Dusan Lajovic: These two players are only separated by one position in the World Rankings, but I think it is the slightly lower Ranked player, Jan-Lennard Struff, that can come through this First Round match.

It would certainly have made me feel better if Struff wasn't coming off a tournament on the clay courts, a tournament where he was beaten in the Final by Dustin Brown. Struff hasn't really pushed on to the same extent as he would have wanted with a lot of losses on his record over the last three months, but he did reach a Semi Final on the indoor hard courts earlier this year.

The next couple of months could be critical for Struff as he doesn't have a lot of points to defend and can make a real move up the Rankings. The German has a decent serve that should set him up, while the biggest benefit for him is that Dusan Lajovic is coming off a long Davis Cup tie.

Serbia's tie with India had to be prolonged until Monday and Lajovic has had a long journey to France and could be undercooked for this tournament. With the Asian swing upcoming, I was surprised Lajovic wanted to come to Europe for one event, and I am not sure how prepared he can be for this match.

If tiredness also plays a part, it might be tough for Lajovic to stay with Struff and eventually see the latter move through in two tight sets.

Gilles Muller + 3.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: Gilles Muller should be better prepared for this Second Round match than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who had to play a Davis Cup tie on the clay courts of Paris over the weekend. With the serve that Muller possesses, he could make life very difficult for the home favourite despite Tsonga being very capable on the indoor hard courts.

There will be the opportunity for the Frenchman to take his shots against Muller and I do think his own serve will help him get through his own service games, but this match has all the hallmarks of tight tie-breaks making the difference.

An early break would give Tsonga a real chance to cover if he is serving first like he prefers, but I also think he may have to warm into the match on the conditions that will be different to what he has seen of late.

By that time, the first set could have whizzed by to a tie-break and this could easily be a 76, 64 win for Tsonga although Muller will feel he has a big opportunity to cause another surprise win over a French player this week.

MY PICKS: Jan-Lennard Struff - 2.5 Games @ 1.75 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Gilles Muller + 3.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-0, + 2.10 Units (2 Units Staked, + 105% Yield)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (September 16-18)

This has usually been a time of the season that is one of excitement as the Champions League gets back underway, but this time around it just highlights what a poor season Manchester United had in the last campaign.

It is up to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City to represent the English teams this time around, although I am not one of these fans that says 'we should support all the English teams'. The only reason I would want any of them to stick around is to keep the two games a week continuing to help Manchester United who will only be interested in Premier League games, but I very much oppose any of them winning the Champions League.

Everton and Tottenham Hotspur are the two English representatives in the Europa League and there is a much bigger incentive to win the tournament these days. The winner of the competition is given a place in the Champions League and both Roberto Martinez and Mauricio Pochettino may feel this is the best avenue for their teams to get into the premier competition of European football.

However, there are a lot of games to get through in the Europa League, plus having to deal with those sides that exit the Champions League in the Group Stage, and it certainly isn't an easy way to get into a competition that both clubs desire.

I am not sure whether the winning team takes away a place from the nation they represent, but as far as I am aware, that won't be the case.

After a brutal August, September started much better for the picks with a successful weekend and I hope there will be more success this week as the Champions League and Europa League games take centre stage.

Monaco v Bayer Leverkusen Pick: Over the last few years, there has been a lot of love for the German Bundesliga from fans through Europe and the latest to become a 'trendy pick' could be Bayer Leverkusen. The side have made a strong start to their domestic campaign having come through the Play Offs to reach the Group Stage of the Champions League and they are favoured to win in Monaco in their opening game of the section.

Despite a couple of years of heavy investment, Monaco have taken a step back from that policy this season and have seen the likes of James Rodrguez and Radamel Falcao depart before the Champions League has begun.

The change in mindset has been reflected on the pitch where Monaco have won just 1 of their first 5 League games and have lost 3 of those games to sap the confidence ahead of their return to the Champions League. Monaco haven't won any of their last 4 home games going back to last season and now face a Bayer Leverkusen team that have scored at least 2 goals in every game they have played this season.

Bayer Leverkusen clearly have found a productive way to get forward, but it also has to be noted that they have conceded plenty of goals too- they have conceded at least 2 goals in three straight games and have failed to win any of their last 2 games.

Goals could be in the offing in this game too with that kind of performances being produced by the German side. Monaco will be expected to attack at home if they are to come through this section and reach the Last 16 and I think the layers have been a little generous with the offer for goals.

Borussia Dortmund v Arsenal Pick: The second game of the day where I do think there will be goals is the one between Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal, two teams that have become very familiar with one another over the last couple of seasons.

This will be the third time in four seasons that Dortmund and Arsenal have been placed with one another in the Group Stage and both will believe they can advance from the section so these games could determine who finishes top of the section.

Arsenal have won 2 of the 4 games they have played in the last couple of years, including a 0-1 win here last season, while Dortmund have yet to beat them at home with their sole win coming last season at the Emirates Stadium.

These two teams both prefer the attacking part of football and it is no real surprise to me that so many goals have been produced in their respective games in the Champions League. However, that hasn't always been the case when they have played one another as both games in Germany have finished with fewer than three goals.

The Gunners do have some defensive problems going into the game that Dortmund will feel they can exploit though, while Dortmund themselves can be susceptible to the counter attack with the pace Arsenal have in forward areas. The layers are taking no chances with the price, but I do think we will see at least three goals in this game.

Liverpool v Ludogorets Pick: It has been a long time coming for the Liverpool fans as they make their return to the premier competition of European football and I think the majority of those fans attending Anfield will be expecting an easy win. As well as Ludogorets have played domestically, this is a serious step up in level for the Bulgarian Champions and it will be a tough task for them to even think about getting back into the Europa League.

However, to disrespect Ludogorets may be a mistake and it is not one that Brendan Rodgers will be making by overlooking the challenge in front of them. The Liverpool manager admitted he has been preparing as if Ludogorets were Real Madrid and I think he will be looking for a big performance to bounce back from the surprise loss to Aston Villa last weekend.

I don't put that down to Liverpool looking ahead to this game, I think they simply missed the pace of Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling to start the game and can at least look to the latter in this one.

Mario Balotelli has to prove he is more than a risk taken by Liverpool and I do expect the home side to prove too strong for Ludogorets, although it might be by a tighter scoreline than the layers believe.

One aspect where Ludogorets may struggle is creating too many chances and they were beaten without scoring at Valencia in the Europa League last season as well as at Steaua Bucharest and Basel in this competition in the last twelve months. Liverpool are not the greatest defence in the world and that remains their big achilles heel, but they look a decent shout at odds against to win with a clean sheet.

Real Madrid v Basel Pick: This has been an incredibly disappointing start for Real Madrid following the Champions League success that came to the side in May and they will be desperate to get back to winning ways. Losing games is one thing, but the manner of the defeats to Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid would have hurt the Real Madrid fans and players and I do think there will be a response.

They are playing a team with plenty of European experience having played some of the best sides through the continent during their time in the Champions League. Basel beat Chelsea home and away last season to show their capabilities, but they have also taken some heavy defeats at the likes of Bayern Munich, Inter Milan and Juventus over the years on their travels.

Real Madrid have shown a real desire to score plenty of goals in the Champions League and still look very dangerous going forward with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to call upon. Losing Angel Di Maria seems to have upset Ronaldo, but I think Real Madrid are more likely to come together than really be ripped apart at the seams just yet.

That attacking talent could be tough to contain for Basel, especially if they fall behind early, and I think the home team will be looking to score plenty of goals in this one. I don't expect the Swiss team to roll over with their experience, but the three goals conceded at Grasshoppers has to be a concern and I think Real Madrid will record a big win.

Roma v CSKA Moscow Pick: This will be Roma's first game in the Champions League for four seasons and they are the kind of dark horse that will feel they can separate Bayern Munich and Manchester City in the race for the Last 16.

If Roma seriously believe they are capable of doing that, they have to beat a CSKA Moscow team that have more experience at this level and one that reached the Last 16 in 2012. However, they were paired with Manchester City and Bayern Munich last season too and were comfortably beaten in both away games while finishing below Viktoria Plzen.

That was thanks to losing in the Czech Republic which has extended CSKA Moscow's run to 4 consecutive away losses in the Champions League since a 1-2 win Italy over Inter Milan.

However, Roma will have plenty of confidence that comes from losing just 1 of their last 23 home games in all competitions of which they have won 19. They weren't that consistent at home in the Champions League when they last competed at this level, but I fancy Roma to get off to a good start and win this game by a couple of goals.

Athletic Bilbao v Shakhtar Donetsk Pick: This looks to be a really open Group with Porto and BATE Borisov making up the numbers and both Athletic Bilbao and Shakhtar Donetsk will feel they are good enough to make it into the Last 16 of the Champions League.

The key for Athletic Bilbao will be how they perform at home and I do think they will get the better of Shakhtar Donetsk despite the form of the latter.

There is also the case of Shakhtar being familiar with coming to this part of Spain and leaving with a win on the opening day of the Group Stage as they did at Real Sociedad last season, but I think Athletic Bilbao are a stronger team than their Basque rivals.

It will certainly not be an easy game for the home team, but their win over Napoli shows what Athletic Bilbao are capable of in front of their loud, passionate home support and I think they can win this game.

Chelsea v Schalke Pick: It has been an impressive start to the new season for Chelsea when it comes to forward play, but Jose Mourinho won't be happy with the number of goals they have been conceding. However, that hasn't stopped Chelsea winning every game with room to spare and they will be confident they can beat Schalke in their opening Champions League game.

There should be a strong team played by Chelsea, even though they play at Manchester City at the weekend, and I think they will become the latest to expose Schalke's poor start to the new season.

Even the 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich came at home and I think Schalke will struggle to contain Chelsea on current form especially off the back of a beating at Borussia Moechengladbach.

The lack of confidence could be a problem if Schalke fall behind early in this one and I think Chelsea are playing well enough to keep them on the back foot. There are goals in this Chelsea team and I do believe they win this by a couple of goals.

Bayern Munich v Manchester City Pick: There are not going to be many times that Manchester City are such a big price to win a game of football and I do think they have every chance of securing a surprising three points at Bayern Munich in this huge Champions League game.

The winner of the game will certainly feel they have a very good chance of moving through to the Last 16 even after one game, but a win for Manchester City will make them a big favourite to secure top spot.

I am not only thinking of the 2-3 win for City at this ground last season as a reason to believe they can win this time as Bayern Munich had already secured their place in the Last 16. However, they were one goal away from finishing behind Manchester City in the Group so I don't think that is a game that should be completely disregarded.

This time around, Bayern Munich may be missing Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben which should take away some of the pace that makes this team so dangerous. I am also not convinced that Pep Guardiola is capable of getting the best out of the players he has at his disposal with his philosophy perhaps not best suited to a team that looked much more dangerous when they go direct.

Manchester City shouldn't have too many fears of coming to the Allianz Arena and winning this game, although defensively they remain vulnerable. They did win all 3 Group games away from home twelve months ago and seem to be more settled in what the manager expects of them than the home team.

Add in the fact that Bayern Munich had failed to win any of 4 home games against English teams, losing 2 of those games, before the 3-1 win over Manchester United in the Quarter Final. Even in that win, Bayern Munich were 0-1 down and I think United had a great chance of winning if they held the lead for more than a couple of minutes and I think Manchester City could be a huge price worth a small interest.

MY PICKS: Monaco-Bayer Leverkusen Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 BoyleSports (2 Units)
Borussia Dortmund-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool Win to Nil @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Real Madrid - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Roma - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Athletic Bilbao @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester City @ 5.50 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

September Update: 5-2, + 7.02 Units (12 Units Staked, + 58.5% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/158-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% 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)