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Saturday, 25 January 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (January 25-26)

The Cup competitions haven't been much fun for me this month and it is results in those competitions that has resulted in a slight loss so far for the picks made in January, although a big performance last weekend has at least put that loss into the manageable category.

As I said last week, you can't win every month and it has been a solid season for the most part so you have to keep the same method that has been working for much of the season and just hope to come out of this month with something positive. At the end of the day, a small loss isn't the worst thing in the world as the season will still be in decent shape, although there are two rounds of fixtures left to improve the fortunes of January.

This weekend is where the Fourth Round of the FA Cup is to be played and there are a number of matches that look very one-sided, while some Premier League clubs have some intriguing ties where it will depend a lot on what team they pick as to the ease of them going through. However, there is a full fixture list to be played during the week which does put a few more doubts in the fixtures and whether teams are fully focused.

Bournemouth v Liverpool Pick: It will be interesting to see the kind of team that Liverpool start considering they are playing Everton on Tuesday, but I think a deep FA Cup run along with a top four position will be considered a very successful season for Liverpool fans.

That should inspire Brendan Rodgers to play a strong team here with the idea of getting the tie won before resting players in anticipation of the Merseyside derby later in the game. Liverpool have their front two strikers back together and they will create chances in this game against a Bournemouth team that does struggle for clean sheets.

Bournemouth will be very motivated in front of their own fans and I can see them working Liverpool over, but there looks to be too much talent in the away side and Bournemouth could be ripe for the counter-attack. That is where Liverpool thrive with the pace they have in the forward areas and I can see them being a little too strong for Bournemouth.

Of course, getting the first goal will be critical to this match, but if Liverpool manage to score that, I think they will get their place in the Fifth Round booked with some comfort.

Huddersfield Town v Charlton Athletic Pick: There is no doubt that no manager wants to see his side lose a game, but Chris Powell could be forgiven for perhaps overlooking this game and focusing on the huge League game against Doncaster Rovers, the side directly below Charlton Athletic in the table, which takes place in three days time.

That should hand another edge to Huddersfield Town who would already be the favourites with two home wins over Charlton already this season, including knocking them out of the Capital One Cup.

Recent form definitely points to the home team too, but I can't under-estimate how tough Charlton have been to beat in recent weeks and their 0-3 win at Oxford United was a decent performance. Again, I don't know how strong their motivation will be if they fall behind with that game with Doncaster Rovers next up on deck.

Charlton won't want another replay to add to the games they already have to negotiate, so this could be a more open game than a League game would be. Both previous games between these teams have seen a lot of goals scored and I think the over 2.5 goals could be the call in this game with both teams looking to end the tie on the first occasion.

Manchester City v Watford Pick: When Manchester City played their FA Cup replay against Blackburn Rovers, the away side actually played pretty well for the first 45 minutes but they switched off for a second to fall 1-0 down at half time.

Even without playing that well, Manchester City ended up winning that game 5-0 and they seemingly score at will and that makes it tough to see anything other than a comfortable home win in this one.

You have to credit Watford for being tough to play in recent weeks since the departure of Gianfranco Zola as manager, but recent games at Ipswich Town, Bristol City and Bournemouth will not be preparation for a visit to the toughest ground in English football. Watford have at least shown some defensive discipline in their games and will try and make things difficult for a Manchester City team that could be caught looking ahead to the game against Tottenham Hotspur during the week in the Premier League.

However, Manchester City have shown too much attacking intent in games to think Watford are able to hold out through the game and I think the home side can at least repeat the scoreline from last season and win this one by at least three goals.

Southampton v Yeovil Town Pick: This looks like a very good draw for Southampton in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup considering they have avoided the 'big' teams left and have been given a home game which is all the managers ever ask for.

Southampton played a strong team in the Third Round of the Cup and it is a competition that they should be taking seriously with a real chance of going pretty far with the right draw. They do have a big game against Arsenal on Tuesday which may some of the focus away from the players, but they should also be reminded that a chance to get to the Fifth Round and only two matches from Wembley Stadium is not one to be ignored either.

Goals have been a bit of a problem for Southampton at home in recent weeks, which has resulted in a lack of wins for them, but back to back victories over Burnley and West Brom should give them direction.

They should also have more joy against a Yeovil Town team that have taken some heavy losses on their travels as they get accustomed to playing against a higher level of opponent in the Championship. Bournemouth and Huddersfield Town both had big victories over Yeovil last month, while Burnley only escaped from Southampton with a 4-3 loss thanks to a late goal when the game was effectively decided.

With enough motivation on their side, I think Southampton will prove too strong for Yeovil Town in this tie and I think they go through with a couple of goals advantage.

Sunderland v Kidderminster Harriers Pick: The one factor that is hardest to read from this game is how much the League Cup Semi Final win for Sunderland has taken it out of their players, especially down to the fact that they had to go through 120 minutes and then the emotions of a penalty shoot-out before securing their place at Wembley Stadium in six weeks.

It can be tough to pick yourself for a match against a lower-League side just days later, but Gus Poyet is clearly trying to build League success off a foundation of success in the Cups and I don't think he will want his side to be on the wrong end of a surprise result in this one.

Sunderland played very well at Old Trafford even if they still look a little short of goals and weren't creating as many chances as they would have liked. However, that was against Manchester United and you have to think their Premier League class will really begin to pay dividends against Kidderminster Harriers.

Andy Thorn has urged his players to come and give this game a real go and I think Kidderminster will certainly do enough not to lie down and roll over for their opponents. The problem is the fitness levels, even after playing 120 minutes, may prove too much for Kidderminster and that is where Sunderland should be able to book their place in the Fifth Round with a win by at least a couple of goals.

MY PICKS: Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Huddersfield Town-Charlton Athletic Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Stan James (1 Unit)
Manchester City - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Southampton - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Sunderland - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet365 (1 Unit)

January Update12-18, - 3.08 Units (48 Units Staked, - 6.42% Yield)

December Final19-16-2, + 13.34 Units (66 Units Staked, + 20.21% 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 2013/1482-79-3, + 15.89 Units (266 Units Staked, + 5.97% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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