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Saturday, 30 March 2013

Weekend Football Picks (March 30-31)

Finally, the Premier League is back... I really don't like the international breaks in a season, particularly with the amount of 'uninteresting' mismatches that seem to be in play and I just get bored during that two week period between League games.

However, for Manchester United fans, seeing our boys in action comes back with a bang as United have to play two away games in three days to keep their Premier League title bid on track and also the FA Cup replay at Chelsea to move through to a potential Manchester derby in the Semi Final at Wembley Stadium in two weeks time.


Sunderland v Manchester United Pick: Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted that he will utilise his full squad this weekend as he wants to make sure a fresh XI take to the field on Monday lunchtime to take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

However, the boss will not have forgotten the way that Sunderland fans celebrated the fact that United had lost the title on the last day of the season and so I still expect a strong United team to take to the field on Saturday.

While two games in three days is not ideal for any team, Sunderland themselves have been slipping back towards the relegation zone and have lost Steven Fletcher and Lee Cattermole for the season- the loss of Fletcher will be particularly worrying for a team that has struggled to score goals all season.

I think United will be able to pick up the three points here and I do think they do with a clean sheet to boot. With the team perhaps looking ahead to the big game with Chelsea on Monday, I would be surprised if United recorded a big win and so backing them with a couple of correct scores looks the best way to get involved in the game.


Arsenal v Reading Pick: Arsenal do have a few injury problems with the likes of Jack Wilshire and Theo Walcott missing for this game, but they are chasing down fourth placed Tottenham Hotspur and I do think they continue that against Reading.

However, it will be interesting to see how the away side react to their new manager in charge as Nigel Adkins' first match is here at the Emirates Stadium, although he may also be looking ahead to much more winnable games coming up.

The problem all season for Reading is their lack of goals away from home- they were beaten 1-0 at Old Trafford in their last game and while they worked very hard to make life difficult for Manchester United, they didn't show a lot of attacking intent in that game. Even when they got into the final third, Reading rarely produced a lot of quality.

Set pieces are probably their best chance of scoring in this one, and that is an area where Arsenal have been vulnerable at times, but I still think the home side will be too strong and are likely to win by becoming the latest side to keep a clean sheet against Reading at home.


Manchester City v Newcastle United Pick: The title may be almost gone from Manchester City's grasp, but Roberto Mancini is demanding his side finish the season in a positive manner to set the marker for the new season that will begin in August.

The FA Cup is still available for City too and I can't overlook a home form that has seen them win 7 of their last 8 since the 2-3 loss to Manchester United in early December. There is enough attacking players in the City team to cause Newcastle United problems in this one, particularly with the latter missing some key personnel in their backline.

I also believe there is a chance that the players could be looking ahead to their Europa League Quarter Final against Benfica on Thursday as their League position is looking stronger.

With City playing much better football at home in the last couple of months, I do think they will be too strong for Newcastle United and will look for them to win this by a couple of goals at least.


Swansea v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: A couple of bad results has the Tottenham Hotspur fans wondering if they are going to miss out on a Champions League place in heartbreaking fashion for a second season in succession and it won't be much easier for them to pick up a result from the Liberty Stadium this weekend.

Swansea have come off the boil a little following their Capital One Cup exploits, but that is understandable and I do think the international break came at the right time for them. They have proved to be a tough team to beat at the Liberty Stadium because they keep the ball for long periods and that simply doesn't provide the opposition too many chances to have a go at them.

It will be tough for Tottenham with a number of players coming back from international duty and I do think they are going to have a really difficult test here. However, a point wouldn't be seen as a bad result I don't think and I think the draw is a definite player in this one.


Everton v Stoke City Pick: Stoke City fans should be careful of what they wish for with a significant portion of them now calling for Tony Pulis to be removed as manager of the club- I would simply point to what happened at Charlton Athletic when Alan Curbishley was sacked after keeping the side ticking along as a solid Premier League club.

Stoke have been in a poor run of form so it isn't a surprise that some fans are unhappy, but it wasn't that long ago that they were being praised throughout the country for some solid defensive performances and I think it would be foolish for Pulis to be removed. However, I don't believe they will be good enough to stop the rot at Goodison Park this week with Everton certain to be a little more confident following a 2-0 win over Manchester City before the international break.

My only issue with Everton is that they are almost always going to struggle to put teams away when they have the momentum and there is always a danger that they are going to concede. The 2-1 has been the popular scoreline in Everton wins this season, but I am instead going to back the home side to win by exactly one goal.

That margin has proved to be a profitable route to take in Everton games simply because they do struggle to score a lot of goals. A 2-1 wouldn't surprise me, but I am taking caution in case of a 1-0 win and that will be my pick.


MY PICKS: Manchester United to win 0-1 or 0-2 @ 3.84 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Arsenal Win to Nil @ 2.25 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Swansea-Tottenham Hotspur Draw @ 3.50 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Everton to win by one goal @ 3.50 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

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