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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (February 11-12)

The Premier League fixtures are coming thick and fast at the moment and that means I haven't had the same time to put together a post about the last weekend of football.

To say I was disappointed with the Manchester United defeat is an under-statement and I will put something down about that before the Champions League games next week, although they can at least give the fans ten days to enjoy themselves by beating Arsenal this Wednesday even if the feeling is things are yet to really hit 'rock bottom' at the club.

It was a tough Monday to get through as I couldn't shake the way United played and how quickly people were expecting David Moyes to pick up the reins and continue where Sir Alex Ferguson left off... But just at the right time, Tom Cleverley managed to help me raise a smile with a sickening article about him written by Oliver Holt of the Mirror.

I would one hundred percent read the article if you are wondering whether footballers live in a normal world- to say this fella is full of himself isn't doing the article justice... It was absolute garbage and a terrible effort to try and make Cleverley the 'unfortunate scapegoat' of United's problems despite the midfield regularly being the focal point of where everyone knows United need to invest some money.

Last time I checked, that is exactly where Cleverley plays and the fact that he isn't able to command a place in that position suggests he is far more average than he may believe... People like him will only learn when he is put up on the transfer market and realises the likes of Stoke City, Sunderland and Aston Villa are probably the most interested parties.

He spoke about Spanish football and keeping possession, but he barely is able to do that and if I disliked him before reading the article, I absolutely think he is a deluded twat of the highest order following it.

It has been an up and down start to the month of February for the picks as this weekend proved to be a disappointing one after a decent first weekend of the month. It could have been better, but it could have been worse and I will be hoping for something a bit more positive in this round of games.

Hull City v Southampton Pick: This is the kind of game that you would imagine Steve Bruce has circled as one to earn the points that will help Hull City continue moving away from the relegation zone and steer clear of trouble for the rest of the season.

At home, Hull City have proved to be very tough to play for most teams this season and the defeat to Crystal Palace would be the most disappointing one they have had, but the ones to Manchester United and Chelsea are much more understandable. They continue to be tough to beat here and will pose some problems for Southampton, even if the latter have shown some improved form of late.

There would have been some disappointment that Southampton didn't beat Stoke City at home over the weekend, but they did impress in their last two away games at Sunderland and Fulham and there will be some belief they can come here and win the game.

Both teams are likely going to want to get forward and try and win the game and I think there will be chances for both teams. My reason is Southampton play an attractive, attacking brand of football that has produced goals through the season including at grounds like Old Trafford, Anfield and Stamford Bridge, but they have also looked a little more vulnerable defensively and will be missing Dejan Lovren for this game.

While I can understand why the layers may not expect goals on the season stats for Hull City at home, this is the kind of game that will be a little more open because of the manner in which Southampton will likely play. At big odds against, this could easily be the fifth Southampton away game in a row that has at least three goals produced.

West Brom v Chelsea Pick: Jose Mourinho may continue to try and play down the chances of Chelsea winning the Premier League this season, but the Blues have moved to the top of the table for the first time this season and no one is really being fooled by the manager's outwardly stance. The layers now have Chelsea as the favourites to win the title this season and it is hard to disagree with that assessment considering the games that the leading teams all have to play this season.

However, titles are not won on paper and Chelsea have to keep the momentum they have built over the last two months by winning at the Hawthornes where Everton and Liverpool have both lost points in the last three weeks.

Both Everton and Liverpool will feel they made defensive mistakes to allow West Brom to escape with a point from those games and Chelsea are unlikely to do the same with the way they have been playing of late. Losing John Terry is a disappointment for the side with the way he has been playing of late, but Chelsea were comfortable for the most part against Newcastle United and won't be worried about a West Brom team that is missing Nicolas Anelka and Stephane Sessegnon.

I don't believe West Brom should be under-estimated as they have played well at home for much of the season, but Chelsea are on a great run of form at the moment and it is hard to look at anything but an away win. The odds aren't great though and it may pay to keep backing the defence to do their job too and help Chelsea snap their two game losing run on this ground.

Chelsea just haven't been conceding goals of late and their chances of winning this game with another clean sheet looks to be a little under-estimated by the layers and too big for this game.

Arsenal v Manchester United Pick: Anyone who has been in London this afternoon will be well aware of the tremendously poor weather we have seen, but I think it is going to make the pitch just slick enough to give both of these teams the freedom to play passing football.

After the debacle on Sunday when Manchester United seemed to persist with one style of play, you have to think they will be feeling a little better that they have to face a team where there is no expectation on United to win the game. They may also be given a little more space to create chances, but David Moyes has to ask his players to do something different than simply getting the ball wide and pumping it into the box.

Finding the right balance between attack and defence will be critical for Manchester United against an Arsenal team that will pose plenty of problems when they get on the front foot in this game. Arsenal have beaten Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium already this season and they don't concede too many goals here, but United will test a defence that was torn apart by Liverpool at the weekend.

The fixture has been one that has produced plenty of goals in the past, even if it ended 1-1 last season but both of those goals came early and neither team is in a position where they can settle for a point s they were last season. Arsene Wenger and David Moyes are both trying to erase memories from a disappointing weekend, and I think that will lead to goals in this one with both getting on the scoreboard.

I also have a gut feeling that Manchester United are going to get a result here tonight, but I will stick with goals for the game, possibly Robin Van Persie scoring against his former club for the fourth game in a row since leaving the Emirates Stadium.

Everton v Crystal Palace Pick: The absence of Romelu Lukaku proved to be the difference in the Everton loss at Tottenham Hotspur as they lacked the focal point in attack and were reminded of that when Emmanuel Adebayor scored the winning goal for Spurs in that game. Without a real striker, Everton are in danger of falling off the pace set by the top four clubs in their bid to get into the Champions League next season and that makes this game a critical one for Roberto Martinez and his men.

There will be a confidence that they can win this game as they have won 4 in a row at Goodison Park in all competitions and have been strong here all season with 8 wins from 12 League games in front of their own fans. However, Everton have to show a little more clinical finishing if they are to take the three points against a Crystal Palace team that have been defending well under the guidance of Tony Pulis.

Crystal Palace have won the majority of their points at Selhurst Park this season, but they could have got more out of visits to North London to face Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal with a little more composure. At Spurs, Jason Puncheon missed a penalty while the game was goalless and, at Arsenal, Cameron Jerome missed a sitter from six yards as the Eagles trailed 1-0.

They might not have a lot of away goals to their name this season, but Palace do get opportunities that come their way and I think the pace of Tom Ince to back up Puncheon will make them a threat in this game.

I am not sure it will be enough to win the game, but Everton have conceded in 4 of their last 5 home games in the Premier League and I wouldn't be surprised if they do the same in this one despite the lack of goals Palace have scored away from Selhurst Park. The big question will then become whether Everton have enough goals without Lukaku to win the game, but I think they will find a way to do that and I will have a small interest in the home team winning a game in which both teams score.

Manchester City v Sunderland Pick: A lot of people have said Manchester United signing Robin Van Persie gave them the edge in the title race last season, but I have been vocal for some time that Manchester City losing Sergio Aguero for an extended period also made a huge difference.

There is no doubt that Aguero makes Manchester City tick in a very different way than when they don't have the diminutive Argentinian in their starting eleven and that has shown in their last couple of games.

However, I think it would be foolish to put too much stock into the last couple of games for Manchester City, despite how disappointing those results have been, and I am expecting a reaction from Manuel Pellegrini's side in this home game.

As well as Sunderland have played under Gus Poyet, the players have a short turnaround from Saturday when they had to play with ten men for over 85 minutes and I do wonder if they are physically prepared to chase around Manchester City in this one. Sunderland may feel they can have some success going forward, but containing Manchester City looks a big ask for most teams, especially one missing a defender like Wes Brown for the game.

Before the game against Chelsea, Manchester City had been scoring plenty of goals at home but I do look at the Crystal Palace game and wonder if the home side may struggle to break down a well organised opponent. That would have been a stronger case if Sunderland hadn't had to put so much into the last game against Hull City and I think the last two games and all the doubters may inspire Manchester City in this game.

They have averaged over 3 goals per game at the Etihad Stadium this season and I think Manchester City may get to that total in this one and get back on the right track when it comes to their bid to win the Premier League.

Fulham v Liverpool Pick: It might have been predictable for Rene Meulensteen in what he saw from Manchester United on Sunday, but his Fulham team certainly rode their luck in that game and I am interested to know what their concentration levels will be like in this game.

Fulham had to defend for long periods on Sunday and that will have had a mental fatigue on the players, although the late equaliser will have given them a shot in the arm. Unfortunately for Fulham, they are unlikely to be given a predictable test from a Liverpool team that contains two strikers in hot form.

Both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have enough pace and creativity to make it a lot more difficult for Fulham to sit deep and defend this out, especially if the rest of the Liverpool starting eleven can pick up from where they left off against Arsenal.

The pace in the team is going to make Liverpool incredibly dangerous for Fulham who will be expected to at least get forward and score goals, but that has hurt them in their last two games here in the Premier League.

Sunderland and Southampton won comfortably at Craven Cottage and Liverpool can certainly become the latest to do that with the way they have been playing. The side haven't been as good away from home for much of the season, but Liverpool score goals and Fulham have been conceding them by the bucket load so backing the away side to win this by a couple of goals looks the call.

MY PICKS: Hull City-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.40 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea Win to Nil @ 2.45 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Arsenal-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Everton to Win @ 3.60 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Manchester City Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 1.83 Stan James (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)

February Update5-8, - 0.41 Units (21 Units Staked, - 0.2% Yield)

January Final17-24, - 3.18 Units (62 Units Staked, - 5.13% 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 2013/1499-103-3, + 12.71 Units (328 Units Staked, + 3.88% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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