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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Weekend Football Picks (March 9-11)

Here comes another weekend of football and I can't wait for Sunday so Manchester United can help erase what has been one of the worst ways to lose a Champions League tie that I remember. I could have handled a defeat, but the manner of the loss is unacceptable and I just have struggled to enjoy any football since then.

Now is the time to 'move on' as Sir Alex put it in his weekly press conference and the manager is correct- this is a big chance for United to go on and win the Double, while the Premier League was always the number one priority this season. The FA Cup would be a nice bonus to add, especially considering it has been so long since United last won that trophy and beating Chelsea this weekend would mean the competition will surely come down to United v Manchester City, even though Everton could be a threat.

Everton v Wigan Athletic Pick: This FA Cup Sixth Round game sees Everton begin as the big favourites and I think that is reasonable as Roberto Martinez has been one to rotate his squad for the Cup competitions this season.

It would have been a difficult tie at the DW Stadium, but I do think Everton have a significant edge at Goodison Park and will find a way to get through and move into the Semi Final of the FA Cup for the second season in succession.

Everton don't get many clean sheets though and that could be something that gives Wigan Athletic some real confidence for the tie, but I don't think it is enough to have me believing there will be much of a shock in this one. I think Everton are likely 2-1 or 3-1 winners and dutching those scores together looks the best way to get involved in this game.

Manchester City v Barnsley Pick: This is another game where I think the home favourite will end up winning the game and I believe Manchester City will be fairly comfortable as they look to win this Cup for the second time in three seasons. City have already crushed two Championship teams so far in their run to the Sixth Round and I can see Barnsley ending up down the same road.

With a strong home team expected, I think City will likely come out very confident and should be able to create plenty of chances. They have a week before their next game and the FA Cup is arguably more important than League games with Manchester United running away with that and unlikely to slip up as they did last season.

The question for me is how many do City go on and win by and I believe they will get something similar to what they did to Leeds United in the last Round. Dutching 4-0 and 5-0 scorelines look reasonable with the way City have performed at home in recent weeks and I think the home side win in straightforward fashion.

Norwich City v Southampton Pick: I can understand why a lot of people think Norwich City are a good thing in this game because their most recent game at home produced a 2-1 win, but that is their only success in 11 games in the Premier League and a lack of goals has to be a worry.

Norwich are still in a position where they could be dragged into a relegation scrap and I think they have been struggling a little in recent weeks. On the other hand, Southampton have put in some good performances, but haven't been getting the results that their play perhaps deserved.

I will say that the Saints were poor in their home defeat to Queens Park Rangers last weekend, but they do have goals in the side and that could help them secure what would be a vital three points from this game. They have led at Wigan Athletic, Manchester United and Newcastle United in recent weeks, but not seen the job through in any of those games and only have the point from Wigan to show for their efforts.

However, I can see Southampton holding Norwich out if they take the lead in this one and I think the Saints have to be backed for a big three points.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland Pick: When a team has struggled to win as much as Queens Park Rangers have done in the Premier League this season, it is hard to back them with any kind of confidence. However, I do believe this is the kind of game they will win to give themselves a chance of survival in the top flight and Sunderland's recent away form suggests the home side will secure the three points.

The return of Loic Remy is big news for Harry Redknapp, particularly with his Rangers side having failed to score in 5 straight home games, but I think the Frenchman could make the difference for them in this game.

Sunderland are definitely not out of danger, but they have lost at Reading recently and they don't inspire me on their travels. To make matters more difficult for them, Sunderland are facing a Queens Park Rangers defence that has definitely been improved at Loftus Road.

It will be tight and tense in this part of West London on Saturday, but I have a feeling Queens Park Rangers sneak the win and give themselves real confidence of beating the drop.

Reading v Aston Villa Pick: I don't know who will win this game, although gun to my head would have me pointing to the away side.

While I don't know who wins, I will be totally surprised if we didn't see at least 3 goals in the game as both sides have been shocking defensively while also finding ways to score goals. Reading home games have featured a lot of goals in recent weeks, including that embarrassing 0-3 reverse against Wigan Athletic, while Aston Villa have seemingly been more comfortable away from Villa Park and are perhaps unfortunate not to have more wins under their belt.

My only concern against goals is that both managers will be extra cautious in what is a classic 'relegation six pointer', but I can't imagine either would be confident in relying on their defences and may just take the policy that 'attack is the best form of defence'.

There will certainly be goalscorers on the field and I'd be very surprised if this doesn't have goals in it and hopefully an early one gets the ball rolling on Saturday.

Barcelona v Deportivo La Coruna Pick: Barcelona are coming off back to back defeats against Real Madrid and you have to think they have been stewing all week. They will also want to build some confidence ahead of a big game against Milan in the Champions League as they bid to overturn a 2-0 first leg deficit back in the Nou Camp.

Despite the defeat to Real Madrid in the Cup here, Barcelona have remained dominant in the League at home and they continue to score a lot of goals here. That doesn't bode well for the bottom club in La Liga, especially as Deportivo La Coruna have been conceding a fair few goals in recent away games, including 6 at Atletico Madrid.

Deportivo also conceded 5 at home to Barcelona and it is tough to see them keeping this one close. I like Barcelona to score 4 at least in this one and I think that'll be enough to cover the large spread.

Millwall v Blackburn Rovers Pick: Neither one of these teams have been in anything like good form since booking their place in the Sixth Round of the FA Cup and that makes it difficult to figure out which of these sides makes it through to the Semi Final at Wembley Stadium.

Goals have been a problem for both teams, but I do believe Blackburn have the more 'natural' finishers, especially ever since Millwall lost Chris Wood in the January transfer window. That may make all the difference in this one as I can't imagine either defence going through the game without offering up at least a couple of chances to the attacking players.

I'd only have a small interest in Blackburn winning the game as they haven't been inspiring at all since beating Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium and that does reduce my enthusiasm for them winning this one.

Manchester United v Chelsea Pick: We all know what happened to Manchester United on Tuesday evening so I am not going back over old ground- however, I expect that result to inspire a performance from them in this one and I do think United will be too strong for Chelsea.

Chelsea have also come off a loss as they were beaten in Steaua Bucharest and the team are just not playing that well at the moment. I don't think they should be under-estimated, but Manchester United have been playing far better in recent weeks and look like a team with enough goals to find a way to come through the tie.

I expect Sir Alex is going to put out a very strong team in this one and I do think they can take advantage of some of the uncertainties in the Chelsea camp and will be the likely winners.

Newcastle United v Stoke City Pick: A long trip to Russia is not ideal just three days before a League game with Stoke City, but I do think Newcastle United have been in much better form of the two teams and pick up a vital three points to steer clear of any potential relegation troubles.

Stoke have been struggling to score goals away from home and Newcastle have looked much more comfortable since spending some money in the January transfer window and getting a few of their players back from injury problems.

This will be a tight contest, but I think Newcastle are able to handle the physical side of Stoke's play and the latter's poor away form will likely cost them another loss on their record. It will likely be tight for moments in the game, but eventually Newcastle United should have enough to take away the three points.

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: This game certainly has the potential for goals as both sides have been finding the net with some regularity in their recent games.

Liverpool have scored 17 goals in their last 6 games at Anfield, while Spurs have been one of the more successful away teams in the League as they can really hurt teams on the counter with the pace they have in the side.

I expect both will score at least once in the game and a 2-2 draw looks very possible... Chances should be fairly frequent and I wouldn't be surprised if both Luis Suarez and Gareth Bale are troubling the scorers again.

Liverpool's last 3 games have all featured at least 4 goals, while Spurs had a 2-3 win at West Ham United recently so I'll look for at least 4 goals in this one.

MY PICKS: Everton to win 2-1 or 3-1 @ 5.65 Coral (1 Unit)
Manchester City to win 4-0 or 5-0 @ 5.63 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Southampton @ 3.10 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Queens Park Rangers @ 2.30 William Hill (1 Unit)
Reading-Aston Villa Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Barcelona - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Blackburn Rovers @ 3.20 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Manchester United @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
Newcastle United @ 1.85 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Liverpool-Tottenham Hotspur Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.75 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

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