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Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Midweek Football Picks 2013 (August 27-29)

This week we have the conclusion of the final European qualifying matches and then the draw that a lot of fans would have been looking forward to all summer- the Champions League Group Stage draw which takes place on Thursday evening and teams begin plotting their way to Lisbon next May.

The Europa League Group Stage draw is made on Friday morning and then we have one more weekend of League football before the transfer window will close, thankfully, and teams can settle down for the long winter of football.

The first legs of the Champions League have seen a number of teams take away very healthy leads from the opening games and there are a few who are in very strong positions- that means they are unlikely to go for the win from the off in the second legs so there is a need to be aware of that.

The same will apply to Europa League games and don't be surprised if Tottenham Hotspur make wholesale changes with the game against Arsenal in mind, especially with a 0-5 win in Georgia under their belts. It is something to consider in the coming few days.

We also have the Second Round of the Capital One Cup taking place this week, another competition where keeping an eye on team news and being wary of the upsets have to be kept in mind. The sides taking part in Europe won't enter the competition until the Third Round, but there are some big teams involved in the next two days, but I would tread carefully with the minefield these opening Rounds become.

Arsenal v Fenerbahce Pick: There are bound to be a number of changes to the Arsenal side in the wake of their 0-3 win in Turkey last week and it would be a real surprise if anything but an Arsenal place in the Group Stage is secured tonight.

It is interesting to note that the layers are not sure what Arsenal are going to do in this game- while they are expecting changes to the starting line up, there is also the added factor that the home team don't have to go for the win in this second leg.

Fenerbahce do have to open up and try and play football though and it would be a surprise to me if they come to London with damage limitation in mind. The Turkish side have to score three times without reply to give themselves a chance of extra time, while only a win by at least three goals will give them a chance to progress.

The first leg showed how limited in the pace department the defenders Fenerbahce have are, and that is an area Arsenal could exploit on the counter-attack again. The added factor that the Gunners take on Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday raises more questions about their desire to win this match, but Arsenal have enough about them to book their place in the Group Stage with style and I like them to win this by at least two goals again.

Basel v Ludogorets Razgrad Pick: It was a highly entertaining game in Bulgaria last week, but Basel have put themselves in a commanding position for this second leg after securing a 2-4 win in the first leg.

That puts all the pressure on Ludogorets Razgrad who either have to win this game by at least three goals, or score at least four goals in a two goal win to give themselves any hope of reaching the Group Stage.

Everyone will be expecting goals in this second leg because the Bulgarian side have no real reason to build their way into the game- they have to attack and score goals... There is the possibility the game would slow down if they managed to go 0-2 up early in the game, but this looks like a match where Basel will look to hit Ludogorets on the counter and the away side will be pushing to score themselves.

An early goal will certainly help get the game going and I will back over 2.5 goals from this one.

West Ham United v Cheltenham Town Pick: There are plenty of League Cup games taking place on Tuesday evening, but as I said above, it is a minefield to try and second guess what teams managers will play and what desire they have for a long run in this competition.

The success of Swansea last season should inspire a few more of the middling Premier League clubs and I think West Ham United fit that bill- they have a squad that can be rotated effectively, they have a strong chance of finishing in mid-table to the top half in the Premier League and, given the right draw, could be a match for anyone in the English Leagues.

Sam Allardyce has taken Bolton Wanderers to the Final of the League Cup before so it is a competition he doesn't necessarily completely ignore- while the goal is to maintain Premier League status, West Ham could give the fans a little more especially with the positive start they have made to the new season.

They should be too strong for Cheltenham Town who have suffered a slight hangover from their Play Off loss last season, although they did grab their first League win of the season on Saturday. I expect West Ham to bring a strong team into this game and I like them to win this one by a couple of goals.

Queens Park Rangers v Swindon Town Pick: The only goal for Queens Park Rangers this season is to get back into the Premier League, but it seems Harry Redknapp will use the Capital One Cup to rotate some of his squad, but also to build momentum.

Redknapp named a strong team that went to Exeter City in the First Round and came away with a 0-2 win and I expect to keep that philosophy up in the Second Round. He has a number of striking options that will all think they can cash in against League One Swindon Town at Loftus Road, although the latter have only lost 1 of their last 4 games in all competitions.

Unfortunately for Swindon, they don't have the luxury of playing in front of their own supporters and they have lost 5 of their last 6 away from home, including both games this season.

If Redknapp plays a team similar to the one that started the First Round, I expect QPR to win this one with room to spare.

Zenit St Petersburg v Pacos de Ferreira Pick: I did not see Zenit St Petersburg coming away from Portugal with a 1-4 win last week, but Pacos de Ferreira were the surprise Champions League third entrant from Portugal and proved that.

Zenit's added experience means they have virtually secured their place in the Group Stage with the win last week and there is no pressure on them this week. I still expect the Russian side to book their place in the next stage with another win in this one though as all the form is pointing for them to do so.

They have been strong at home in European competition and don't concede many goals here- compare that to Pacos de Ferreira who have lost 4 games in a row in all competition and have failed to score in 3 of those games.

I do expect Zenit to play a solid game in this one and look to keep a clean sheet, but I also feel they will be able to score so backing them to win to nil is the call.

Aston Villa v Rotherham United Pick: Did anyone else see the number of surprise results from the Capital One Cup yesterday? There were some big comebacks that prevented Sunderland falling to a League One club, while Liverpool blew a 2-0 lead against Notts County before coming through in extra time.

Other League One clubs, notably Bristol City and Peterborough United, beat higher League opposition so all the warning signs are there for Aston Villa.

However, Villa have played well to start this season and should be focused having reached the Semi Final in the League Cup last season- they also have a free weekend having had their game with Chelsea moved so the complete focus can be put onto this game.

I expect a strong team to start for the home side and while Rotherham United have made a good start to life in League One, I expect Villa to be too strong for them in this one.

Stoke City v Walsall Pick: Mark Hughes will be looking to beat Walsall in the League Cup Second Round for the second year in succession- last season he managed Queens Park Rangers to a 3-0 win over Walsall and I expect he will use this competition to give his Stoke City team a little more momentum following their first League win of the season on Saturday.

Walsall won't be a pushover having lost just 2 of their last 21 games in all competition, but I am expecting home advantage to be the factor that gives Stoke a little more room for manoeuvre in this one.

Team news will be important for the home side, but I do think Hughes will play a team that helps Stoke to another win at the Brittania Stadium in the space of four days. Stoke usually pride themselves on strong defensive performances and I expect that will be a major goal of theirs in this game, so backing them to win to nil is my call. 

MY PICKS: Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.15 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Basel-Ludogorets Razgrad Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
West Ham United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Queens Park Rangers - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Zenit St Petersburg Win to Nil @ 2.25 Coral (1 Unit)
Aston Villa - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Stoke City Win to Nil @ 2.40 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

August Update10-15, + 0.22 Units (35 Units Staked, + 0.06% Yield)

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

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