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Saturday, 31 August 2013

Weekend Football Picks 2013 (August 31-September 1)

This is the weekend that all Manchester United fans look forward to when the fixtures are released in June and that is when the side is travelling down the M62 to take on the old rivals, Liverpool, at Anfield. This will always be the biggest game for most fans of these clubs and should be a fascinating game on Sunday to see where both clubs are in the early Premier League season.

There is another big game played later on Sunday afternoon as Arsenal take on Tottenham Hotspur for the first time this season, but otherwise it could be a fairly tough week when it comes to predicting what will happen in the Premier League.

Manchester City v Hull City Pick: It was a shocking way that Manchester City blew their 0-1 lead at Cardiff City last weekend and I have a feeling that Hull City are going to pay for it this week with the way that City can pour forward in their own stadium.

There is a lot of attacking talent in the Manchester City squad and they are going to want to score goals to protect a defence that looked a little shaky last weekend, no one more so than Joe Hart.

The press in England love to proclaim Hart as the best goalkeeper in the world, but I think he struggles to take the title as the best goalkeeper in Manchester and it was his mistake that gave Cardiff City the lead, although he seems to get a pass from all pundits not called Roy Keane. Unfortunately for England, Keane has been spot on with his comments made about Hart and I think he is definitely over-rated.

What isn't over-rated is the forward and attacking options that Manchester City have at their disposal in this one and it will be tough for Hull City that played with ten men for the majority of their game last weekend and were forced into extra time during the week at Leyton Orient in the Capital One Cup.

Winning both of those games will give Hull some confidence coming here, but Steve Bruce knows his side are going to get their points mainly at grounds unlike the Etihad Stadium and I think the former Manchester United player will just want to see a real good effort put in by his side. Bruce will also be hoping that Hull can play like they did in the second half at Stamford Bridge to open the season and not start off in the manner they did in that game.

If they do start slowly, Manchester City could be out of sight by the end of the first half, but either way I like the home side to come through comfortably and I think they will score at least three goals in this one.

Cardiff City v Everton Pick: Cardiff City would have been over the moon with the way they played against Manchester City after trailing 0-1 last Sunday and earning their first three points of the season would be very welcome after a poor start to the season at West Ham United.

Malky Mackay will be aware of the importance of picking up points at home in their bid to avoid the drop this season and there will be a confidence they can do that against Everton this weekend. I don't think any team will fancy coming to the Cardiff City Stadium this season and the fans can play a huge part in helping push the side on in games even when energy might be sapped for the players.

I expect Cardiff City will have chances to score in this game against an Everton team that push forward in numbers, but can be left short when being counter-attacked. They are still getting used to the methods that Roberto Martinez wants to employ, while the uncertainty surrounding Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines' futures at the club isn't helping matters.

Everton showed what they could be about this season in their 2-2 draw at Norwich City where they were unfortunate not to pick up the three points and they have a chance of doing that here. However, their vulnerabilities at the back by pushing too far forward could also be exposed and the safest option in the match could be backing both teams to score.

West Ham United v Stoke City Pick: West Ham United have made a very strong start to the new season and I can see them having a deep run in one of the cup competitions because they look a side with depth to the squad and a decent first eleven that could pick up yet another top half finish in the Premier League.

They beat Cardiff City here without too much fanfare on the opening day of the season and I can see them being a little too strong for Stoke City here. Mark Hughes has seen his side earn back to back wins in the Premier League and the League Cup during the week, but he has to change an away culture that has seen them win just 2 of their last 29 games away from the Brittania Stadium.

Last season, I am not sure how West Ham didn't win their home game against Stoke and while this will be another physical battle between two tough teams, I like the Hammers to just have a little too much quality and come through with a 2-1 win.

It might not always be the prettiest football from either side, but West Ham won't care if they go into the international break with another three points under the belt as making sure they surpass the 40 point mark which leads to safety is still the first concern for Sam Allardyce. Getting up to 7 points after 3 League games would be a great start towards that goal and the Hammers should be able to manage that on Saturday.

Liverpool v Manchester United Pick: This is still the game that I look forward to more than any other as a Manchester United fan and there will be a lot interest from the neutrals too as it could be an early indication of what to expect from these two sides this season.

Liverpool will be looking to maintain their 100% start to the new season after back to back 1-0 wins over Stoke City and Aston Villa, but the fans will see the visit of the Champions as an acid test of what to expect for the rest of the season.

There are still some question marks about the defence, although that is an area of the pitch that is expected to be strengthened before the transfer window closes on Monday evening. Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel are both carrying knocks and the centre of the defence is going to be tested fully by a Manchester United attack that boasts the talents of Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck.

The focus won't only be on the home side, but David Moyes has a chance to silence the critics that have had their knives out for his away record as Everton manager against the top teams in the League. Moyes must be fed up of answering those questions from the press and the best way to silence them will be to lead United to a win at Anfield on Sunday.

It is a tough game to predict- I am not sure that Liverpool deserve to be favourites, regardless of being at home, but you have to respect the fact that they have won 4 of their last 6 at Anfield against United.

On the other hand, United won the most recent game here, albeit against ten men, and both sides certainly have the players that can score goals in this one. The 1-1 draw is a real player in the game, a result that both teams wouldn't think is the worst in the world, but neither is likely to sit back during the game and hope for the point.

There is every chance we will see a few goals in this one and that will be my pick for the game with the hope that United come out on the right side of the result.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The North London derby has produced a hatful of goals in recent matches between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at the Emirates Stadium and there is every chance we could see more of the same on Sunday afternoon.

The absence of Gareth Bale does take away some of Spurs' speed on the counter-attack, but Daniel Levy has to be credited for spending the money that is going to be provided by the sale of the Welshman to Real Madrid and Spurs look a more solid team than they did last season.

The spine of the team looks decent and I think they can pose Arsenal some real problems in this one. The home fans would have looked at Spurs' spending with some envious eyes this summer as Arsenal's own chase for big signings have failed to really materialise. However, Arsenal still have a first eleven that will be able to cause this new-look Tottenham team problems as they will all know what to expect from one another on Sunday while the away team is still gelling together.

30 goals have flown in during the last 5 games between these teams here and I think there is every chance they can add another four on Sunday. An early goal for either side could really open things up and that looks the pick for me, but keeping units to a minimum for that one.

Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao Pick: Real Madrid have dominated the recent games against Athletic Bilbao as they have won 7 straight against them, while they have won the last 9 at home against the Basque club.

Both teams bring in 100% records into the fixture for their new managers, but Real Madrid are very tough to play at home and they have a long unbeaten run to protect here. However, they have yet to be really convincing this season with close wins over Real Betis and Granada to their name, the former coming thanks to a late goal after Real Madrid had trailed 0-1.

Unlike the Premier League in England, teams in La Liga don't come to the biggest clubs with the intention of defending deep for long periods and Athletic Bilbao will push forward in this one. They are unlikely to have enough to earn a result, but they will have chances to score and that will lead to me picking the home side to win in a match where both teams score.

Valencia v Barcelona Pick: There are very few times that Barcelona will be a big price to win a game in La Liga and I think the only time they will be odds against is when they face Real Madrid, but that doesn't mean they are going to walk through every team they play.

Barcelona won the Super Cup on Wednesday night, but did so without beating Atletico Madrid in either game, while they only won 0-1 at Malaga last week so there are some chinks in the armour here.

It is also never easy to visit Valencia and to come away with the three points and I believe the layers have under-estimated how tough it is to play at this stadium. Barcelona are rightly going to be favoured to win most games they play, but the home team have avoided defeat in 4 of their last 6 games against Barcelona here so backing the draw at a big price could prove the value play.

MY PICKS: Manchester City Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (3 Units)
Cardiff City-Everton Both Teams to Score @ 1.73 Coral (2 Units)
West Ham United @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Liverpool-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Arsenal-Tottenham Hotspur Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.88 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Real Madrid Win and Both Teams to Score @ 2.50 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Valencia-Barcelona Draw @ 4.50 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

August Update12-20, - 2.63 Units (42 Units Staked, - 6.26% Yield)

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

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