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Saturday, 21 December 2013

Weekend Football Picks 2013 (December 21-23)

This is the start of the busy Christmas and New Year period in which English football takes a centre stage while the majority of European Leagues will be closing down for the 'winter break'. This a topic that divides many in England as to whether our Leagues should have a break in the middle of the season too, but I can't be the only fan that loves the football coming thick and fast.

I don't think I would appreciate having to wait two to three weeks for the next set of football games as I barely get through the international breaks we already have during the course of the season.

It is an important time for a number of clubs as we play the final round of games before Christmas Day. The Premier League already knows that the bottom club on that morning will be Sunderland who will look to become only the second team in the last 20 years to escape the drop despite occupying 20th spot in the table on the 25th December.

Who will be top of the League is less clear as any of three clubs (Arsenal, Liverpool or Chelsea) will have the chance to be in that position by the end of the weekend's football, while the likes of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur will look to move a little closer to the top four.

We have also seen a number of manager sackings in recent weeks in the top flight as Chairmen around the top flight begin to feel a little twitchy if the season hasn't gone as planned to this point. One manager who doesn't deserve what is happening to him is Malky Mackay and the only thing I have to say on the matter is that Cardiff City may end up reaping what they sow.

Vincent Tan would do well to read the story of what happened to Blackburn Rovers when their owners decided the club was 'under-achieving' in the Premier League and his Cardiff team could potentially go the same way. His attitude has stunk for much of the season with various strange power moves from Tan to display his authority, but this one is a new low and he better make the right choice for the next manager if Cardiff are to avoid the drop.

Liverpool v Cardiff City Pick: It would be one of the biggest surprises in memory if Cardiff City were able to replicate the 0-4 result they achieved in their last League visit to Anfield and I think it is much more likely that the reverse of that result will be achieved.

On current form, there is no better striker than Luis Suarez who has made a particularly habit of feasting on the lesser sides in the Premier League. Suarez has scored 12 goals in his last 5 appearances at Anfield against the likes of Crystal Palace, West Brom, Fulham, Norwich City and West Ham United and I think it will take a huge effort for Cardiff City to avoid joining that list of sides.

Liverpool have been scoring so many goals at Anfield that I can't really find a reason for anything but a straight-forward home win, although I don't like the Asian Handicap needing Liverpool to win by three clear goals to cover. Instead, you have to perhaps focus on the attacking potential of this Liverpool team, even without Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge.

They have hit at least 3 goals in their last 5 games at Anfield, while Cardiff City did concede 4 goals in their toughest away game of the season so far at Stamford Bridge. With so many games in a short space of time, you can forgive the away side for perhaps looking at other games during this festive period from where they will pick up their points.

Momentum and form is behind Liverpool in this one and I think they will score at least 3 goals in yet another home game.

Fulham v Manchester City Pick: The layers are absolutely taking no chances with Manchester City this weekend and their price for winning at Craven Cottage is almost sickeningly low. The 6-3 win over Arsenal was impressive, but you can't take a price like that with confidence considering Manchester City have only won 2 of their 8 away games in the Premier League and are missing their star striker in Sergio Aguero.

However, I can't state anything other than the fact that Manchester City are the most likely winner of this game and they are beginning to score enough goals away from home to cover some of their defensive deficiencies that have been obvious at times.

That is where Fulham will certainly feel they can cause problems, especially when you consider scored in every home game they have played so far this season including against the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.

It does seem the layers have caught up with my thinking of backing Manchester City to win their away games with both teams scoring and that would have been a winner in each of their away wins in the League this season. Manchester City do concede, but they have been creating enough to win games and I can see them perhaps emulating the United scoreline at this ground from November.

At the moment, City can't be trusted to keep a clean sheet but the layers know this as much as anyone. Still, the 2.70 being dangled that City win this game without a clean sheet still looks the best way to get onto the game rather than the handicap or straight odds markets.

Manchester United v West Ham United Pick: It is going to be a very important afternoon for Manchester United and manager David Moyes who are more than a little aware that they cannot afford to drop too many more points if they are to get back in contention of the Premier League.

The issue for Manchester United is that they have struggled to impose their will on games at Old Trafford and have reserved their best performances, especially in the Premier League, for games away from the ground. This game looks one that they could make hay as West Ham United are struggling for goals, although they have also sent out a warning with their win at Tottenham Hotspur during the week.

West Ham United are a stubborn team and are very organised defensively that they will make it hard for Manchester United to win this game comfortably, although I do think that United have shown some real determination in the last week to ten days.

The return of Wayne Rooney will give them a spark up the pitch, while the performance at Aston Villa was exactly what the doctor would have ordered for United and anything similar to that will give them a strong chance of seeing off West Ham.

The lack of goals in the West Ham side would be a concern for the Hammers, but Manchester United need to get on the front foot and try and put in a dominant performance at Old Trafford for the first real time in the Premier League. It is a risk with the way United have played and the way that West Ham have defended, but I like the home team to win this one by a couple of goals.

Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Sometimes a team can need a really tough game following a couple of defeats to try and get back on track and that is the way Tottenham Hotspur have to approach this game, although it is a big ask against a confident team.

I am not at all convinced that Tim Sherwood has enough to be given the job on a permanent basis and I am not sure he will be able to lift a side that is in a strange position of trying to adjust to a new voice that may not be in the dressing room for too long.

The players seemed to run out of gas in their game against West Ham United as they conceded two late goals to go out of the League Cup and they will be under pressure in this game as Southampton will look to pressure Spurs up the pitch and look to force mistakes.

Southampton's goals conceded in recent games would be a concern, but they have shown more heart after losing 3 in a row in the Premier League and that determination may see them overcome their opponents in this one.

I have to respect the away record that Tottenham have built this season, but Southampton look like they are getting back to the form they displayed a few weeks ago and that could be enough to come through with the three points.

Things may get a little worse for Spurs before they get better and I like Southampton in this one.

Swansea v Everton Pick: This should be a game that should be very enjoyable for the neutrals who are watching on Sunday afternoon as both Swansea and Everton will look to get the ball down and play football.

With both sides playing the same kind of flowing football, it should mean that this is an open game and that should only aid Everton who have been in better form of the two teams.

If Everton put together a performance as they did against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium, Swansea are going to find it very tough to prevent them from taking the three points. I have felt that Swansea have shown some signs of tiredness with a long season already in their legs thanks to the Europa League games and Everton's passing game could make it very difficult for them to keep up through the game.

Both teams have goalscorers in their ranks, but Everton have shown the more defensive discipline in recent games too and putting those factors together gives them the edge to get the three points in this one.

Their record in their last two visits to the Liberty Stadium is an additional confidence booster and I will back Everton to win this game.

Arsenal v Chelsea Pick: Arsenal have the chance to move back to the top of the Premier League table with a win in front of the television cameras on Monday night, but it won't be easy for the home team against a Chelsea side that have been inconsistent all season.

That inconsistency has seen Chelsea find a way to beat Manchester City and earn draws at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, but also lose at Stoke City and just about avoid defeat against West Brom at home.

Which Chelsea turns up will have a big impact on this game that is to be played in wet and windy conditions that have affected the UK and London. I also am interested to know how Arsenal will react in a big game after failing to beat the likes of Dortmund here and losing at both Manchester clubs and in Napoli.

As good as Arsenal have played against the lesser lights, they have struggled in their biggest games and I am not convinced that they have the mental confidence to win a game of this magnitude and move to the top of the Premier League table in time for Christmas morning. They should be able to create chances against this Chelsea defence, but I also feel the away team will have a counter-attacking threat that could pay dividends in this one.

Have Chelsea enough to win? I'm not entirely sure, but I think backing them on the Asian Handicap is the right way to go as anything other than an Arsenal win will provide a winner.

MY PICKS: Liverpool Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Manchester City to Win @ 2.70 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Southampton @ 2.60 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Everton @ 2.50 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Chelsea + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)

December Update11-11-1, + 5.25 Units (32 Units Staked, + 16.41% Yield)

November Final17-19-1, + 0.50 Units (56 Units Staked, + 0.09% 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 2013/1463-63-1, + 2.55 Units (200 Units Staked, + 1.28% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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