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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Midweek Football Picks (February 19-21)

It's back to the Champions League and the Europa League this week as the first legs of the former competition and the last-32 of the latter competition are completed.

I'm not fan of splitting the Champions League Second Round over a month as I feel the Quarter Finals and Semi Finals are 'rushed' through. There is no doubt that the latter stage of the Champions League comes at a critical point for all clubs that are completing their domestic competitions and so giving more space between the Quarter Finals and Semi Finals is surely better than right now.

TV continues to dictate all though and that was again the point as Manchester United's Fifth Round FA Cup tie was moved to a Monday night- if United don't progress to the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, games against Manchester City and Aston Villa will also be Monday night for television coverage.

I understand that the TV companies don't care about the fans and only want to boost their coffers so I am not surprised they have decided to overuse the Monday night facility in recent weeks and to finish out the season.

Arsenal v Bayern Munich Pick: Bayern Munich are the clear favourites to win this Second Round tie, but I don't think they will have won the tie from the first leg in London and will have to complete the job in Munich next month.

My problem for Bayern Munich is that they have struggled away from home in the Champions League, regardless of their very impressive form in the Bundesliga that looks certain to see them winning the title for the first time in three seasons.

Bayern were beaten in BATE Borisov and only managed a 1-1 draw in Valencia, while they have lost 4 of their last 8 away games in the Champions League. Add to this the fact that Arsenal have lost just 3 of 50 home games in the competition, including only 1 defeat to non-English sides.

The home side should put in a much better performance than they did against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday after Arsene Wenger has been bashed up by the media for what looks like being an eight season drought without a trophy. However, they were beaten here by Schalke in this competition earlier this season and that defence makes me wary about Arsenal doing enough to take a lead to Munich.

I wouldn't be surprised if this game ends up in a score draw which will give Bayern Munich the advantage when they host Arsenal at the Allianz Arena.

Porto v Malaga Pick: This looks like one of the most open ties in the Second Round and is one of those matches that looks like we could see home wins in both legs and it will be down to away goals or extra time in the Second Leg to separate them.

Porto have been very good at home all season, while Malaga have shown some real character in earning draws at Milan and Zenit St Petersburg in the Group Stage. Porto's home win over Paris Saint-Germain looks the all the more impressive after PSG beat Valencia in Spain in their first leg of the Second Round last week.

I think both sides are going to come out and look to score the goals to win the game, although the first leg of knockout ties can be a little tentative at times. I do think Porto are the more likely winners of this first leg, but they aren't an odds on shot as far as I am concerned.

Instead, backing the home side to win by the minimum of margins makes sense with the tie being in the balance as they head to Spain in a month.

AC Milan v Barcelona Pick: AC Milan certainly are not as good as the recent teams that reached three Champions League Finals in 5 years and actually won 2 of those, but they will be given due respect by Barcelona in this game and so I think this is going to be a tighter match than the layers believe.

The word 'respect' has been used a lot by the Catalan club as they face Milan for the fifth time in the last two seasons and they are particularly concerned with how tough it will be at the San Siro.

However, I do think Barcelona will end up being a little too tough for Milan when it is all said and done in this first leg and I can see them becoming the latest club to pull off an away win during these first legs that have been played over the last week.

I can just see it being a game that could be decided by one goal and I think Barcelona will be happy with any lead they can take back to the Nou Camp.

Galatasaray v Schalke Pick: Two of the less fancied teams back in December, but the signings of Wesley Sneijder and Didier Drogba make Galatasaray an interesting proposition going forward.

However, I think there has been an overreaction on the home win price for this one and Schalke are certainly not a team to be under-estimated as they have performed well on their travels over the last couple of seasons.

It has also got to be noted that Galatasaray have struggled to put teams away at home in the Champions League and their only win in the Group here came against a second string Manchester United team.

Goals could instead be the order of the day from this match as both sides will fancy their chances going forward and will also feel they are better going forward than they are defensively. I can see both sides getting at least one in this game and hopefully someone will go on and take a lead into the second leg in three weeks time.

My Europa League picks from the second legs of the last-32 Round can be found in the 'My Picks' section.

MY PICKS: Arsenal-Bayern Munich Draw @ 3.60 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Porto to win by 1 Goal @ 3.75 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Barcelona to win by 1 Goal @ 4.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Galatasaray-Schalke Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Blue Sq (1 Unit)
Lyon-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Metalist Kharkiv-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Coral (1 Unit)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Liverpool win and over 2.5 goals scored in match @ 2.60 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Benfica win and over 2.5 goals scored in match @ 2.88 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

February Update7-14, - 5.60 Units (30 Units Staked, - 18.67% Yield)

January Final10-22, - 10.89 Units (45 Units Staked, - 24.2% Yield)

December Final17-24-1, - 0.83 Units (53 Units Staked, - 0.02 % Yield)
November Final8-21, - 8.25 Units (37 Units Staked, - 22.3% Yield)
October Final9-9, + 5.44 Units (27 Units Staked, 20.1% Yield)
September Final17-11, + 21.19 Units (46 Units Staked, 46.1% Yield)
August Final12-13, + 1.29 Units (40 Units Staked, 3.22% Yield)

Season 2012/13+ 7.95 Units (248 Units Staked, + 3.21 % Yield)

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