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Saturday, 23 November 2013

Weekend Football Picks 2013 (November 23-25)

Finally the Premier League is back in action this weekend and we can get ready for a crazy six weeks where the games come thick and fast as we get closer to the festive period. This is the time when we begin to separate the teams into the blocks they are going to be in for the rest of the season, while we will also see the World Cup draw for Brazil next summer and the Champions League last 16 draw.

The League will take shape over the coming weeks which makes points all the more important now and it should be a lot of fun for all the fans of the clubs.

Everton v Liverpool Pick: Coming back off an international break can affect teams in different ways, particularly the big sides that have seen players travel all over the world for their national teams.

That is one of the reasons that I can't quite pull the trigger on backing Liverpool to win yet another Merseyside derby at the home of their local rivals, while recent form also indicates this will be another close fought match.

Everton have been playing well under Roberto Martinez and have also shown some defensive discipline that isn't always associated with the Spaniard in charge as they have 3 clean sheets in a row. It is a big ask for them to get another in a game where they will be urged forward by the home crowd, especially with Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez likely to start as a tandem again.

This has been a fixture that Liverpool have enjoyed in recent seasons and they have scored plenty of goals at Goodison Park. In fact, they have scored twice in 5 of their last 6 visits to this ground and ha also scored at least 2 goals in 3 straight away games in the Premier League before the defeat at Arsenal.

While Everton have been better defensively, they did concede twice to Newcastle United at home and I think backing Liverpool to do the same at odds against looks the call.

Newcastle United v Norwich City Pick: Backing an inconsistent side like Newcastle United at odds-on is never much fun for the heart, but I do think they can pick up their third League win in a row on current form.

The international break has potentially snapped the momentum they had after wins over Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, but Newcastle United have been scoring freely of late at home and should become the latest team to see off Norwich City.

There is no doubt that Norwich don't travel particularly well and they have been conceding too many goals in their recent away games. With Loic Remy in the form he is in, I would expect Newcastle United to continue their recent streak of scoring at least 2 goals at home and that should be enough to make the odds pay and bring in a home win.

Stoke City v Sunderland Pick: I have been impressed with the way Sunderland have begun to pick up results, but it has to be noted that they still look a little more vulnerable away from home. Ill disciple cost them a chance of picking up a result at Hull City in their sole away game under Gus Poyet and they will have to perform better if they are to win here at Stoke.

This is also a game that Mark Hughes would have circled as one that Stoke should win and I can imagine this being a tense afternoon for the fans in attendance.

It may be November, but points from games like these can prove invaluable in May and there is every chance that we don't see a goal scored as neither team has been that productive in front of goal.

However, I have a feeling that Stoke may prove to be a little too physical and find a way to win this one and they look worth chancing at odds against.

West Ham United v Chelsea Pick: We saw a couple of poor performances from Chelsea in the Premier League before the international break, but that two week gap between games could be critical for them to turn around their form. Chelsea have a run of games where they would expect to pick up a lot of points and that begins with this difficult game at West Ham United.

West Ham and Sam Allardyce have regularly upset the 'big' clubs when they visit Upton Park. They may have lost 1-3 to Manchester City here, but that game had become tense and difficult for the away side when West Ham pulled a goal back to make it 1-2 and really get the fans behind the team.

The lack of goals is a concern for West Ham if they are to spring the shock result, but I certainly expect them to make this a very difficult game for Chelsea and I expect them to get forward and try to create chances.

Chelsea have looked vulnerable at the back in recent games so I wouldn't be surprised if West Ham do have chances, but I also expect the away side to create goal-scoring opportunities themselves. This has the potential for entertainment for the neutrals and I will back at least 3 goals to be shared by the sides.

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: This is a big game for both of these clubs and a chance to lay down a marker for a busy calendar that is coming up for both, but I have to say I have a lot more belief in Manchester City being a dangerous title challenger than I have in Tottenham Hotspur.

Spurs may only have conceded 1 goal away from home this season, but I can't see them having enough success to keep Manchester City from scoring in this one and I do think the home side are going to come out firing.

The absence of Vincent Kompany is a concern for City, but I think Andre Villas-Boas is too cautious with the team that he picks and I think he will set Spurs up to defend deep and hope to catch City on the counter-attack. However, the problem for Villas-Boas is I don't think the defenders he usually puts in the field are good enough to contain all of the attacking options City have and I feel this game will be a wake up call for all the fans of the North London club.

I have had a gut feeling all weekend that City are going to come out and make a real statement of their intention for the coming weeks and I believe they will punish a Spurs side that hasn't made the best use of the all the signings they made in the summer. Without Gareth Bale, there is a creative spark missing especially as Villas-Boas is putting out a team that has speed but little end product.

I would love to be wrong, but I think City are going to win this one by a couple of goals at least.

Cardiff City v Manchester United Pick: Cardiff City have been plagued with the inconsistencies that comes with being a promoted side, but their wins over Manchester City and Swansea will give them confidence that they could give Manchester United a competitive game in this one.

On the other hand, Cardiff were out-played by Spurs and Newcastle United here too so they will need to bring their 'A' game if they are to surprise Manchester United.

Manchester United have begun to improve their results in recent weeks and back to back away wins in the Premier League will give them confidence to come here and pick up a vital three points. There is enough attacking talent here to cause problems for Cardiff, but United have also looked vulnerable at the back in games.

United haven't had a clean sheet away from home until the result in Real Sociedad in their last away game, and they have conceded against the likes of Sunderland, Swansea and Fulham on their travels. It wouldn't surprise me if Cardiff add their name to that list in front of a passionate crowd that are going to be completely up for a game of this size.

However, I do think Manchester United are grinding out enough results to pick up the win here, especially with the attacking duo of Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie seemingly reading from the same page. I'll take United to win a game where both teams get the ball in the net.

MY PICKS: Liverpool Goal Crazy: 2-3 Goals @ 2.60 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Newcastle United @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 2.15 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
West Ham United-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.23 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Both Teams to Score and Manchester United to Win @ 3.30 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

November Update9-12, - 3.47 Units (34 Units Staked, - 10.21% Yield)

October Final20-16-1, + 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, + 25.37% Yield)
September Final13-12, + 1.24 Units (39 Units Staked, + 3.18% Yield)
August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

Season 2013/1446-44-1, + 2.05 Units (144 Units Staked, + 1.42% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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