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Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (March 25-26)

The games continue to come thick and fast, but more weekends like the one we just seen would bankrupt the layers after 19 of the 20 strongest favourites through Europe all came through as winners.

It was bliss for the casual fan with the top teams all producing wins, including last minute goals for Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur at odds on... While most will have been celebrating this week, I would urge caution that there is bound to be a week when all the favourites fail to win their games, especially with the pressure of the end of the season beginning to weigh heavy on the shoulders.

There should be a fascinating end to the top flights in Spain and England after the results this weekend and it may now come down to which of the teams can hold their nerves best in the big games. In England, there does seem to be more competition that will produce the surprise results compared with Spain where the big three teams look head and shoulders above the rest of the Division.

In Spain, that means there is a different type of pressure with none of the teams being able to afford dropped points, but a lot is pointing the Barcelona v Atletico Madrid game that ends the season as being a potential title decider.

The Premier League will be no less fascinating as Manchester City and Chelsea both have to visit Liverpool, while the former also has trips to Manchester United and Arsenal this week.

All in all, I expect fireworks down the stretch in both those Divisions.

This midweek has a full schedule of games from the Primera Division and a few 'catch up' games in the Premier League, including the huge Manchester derby which rarely fails to produce fireworks.

Arsenal v Swansea Pick: The 6-0 thumping at the hands of Chelsea will have left Arsene Wenger heartbroken and you could tell from his press conference that he had been extremely let down by his team who just failed to turn up for a huge game.

For the third time this season, Arsenal were crushed at the hands of a title rival and it will take something special for them to pick themselves up and get back in the race for the Premier League. A top four spot is the best they can really hope for now unless the three teams ahead of them all collapse at the same time and Arsenal have to avoid slipping up here to give the teams below them a sniff of the Champions League places.

However, they are dealing with a number of injuries coming into the game and that may make it more difficult to see off a Swansea team that have found goals away from home in recent weeks.

Swansea created plenty of chances at Everton, but were poor defensively in their 3-2 loss at the weekend, but it does also mean they have scored in 5 straight away games in all competitions. That includes at Liverpool and Napoli so Garry Monk will be insisting to his side that they can cause troubles for an Arsenal team that will also be missing Laurent Koscielny as well as a number of midfield players.

It also has to be noted that Arsenal have conceded in their last 4 games at the Emirates Stadium and there will be a feeling that Swansea may be able to cause a surprise in this one. Personally, I think Arsene Wenger has helped his side recover from devastating defeats already this season that the home side sneak the win, but I can't back them to do so at short odds.

Instead, I have a feeling that both teams will have the chance to score in this one and will back that to happen.

Manchester United v Manchester City Pick: The Manchester derby is a big occasion for both teams as Manchester United look to show they have finally turned a corner in a difficult season, while Manchester City will look to put some more pressure on the two teams above them in the Premier League table.

It could also be important for Manchester City to show themselves that they can get through this daunting run of fixtures that will see the side stop off at Old Trafford, the Emirates Stadium and Anfield in the next three weeks. If City can win this game, they will move on with confidence of securing the necessary points at Arsenal and Liverpool, but a defeat may place a real seed of doubt in their player's minds and make those two games incredibly difficult to win.

Being out of all the other competitions will only help Manuel Pellegrini focus on the task at hand now and I do think this is going to be an incredibly difficult game for Manchester United, despite the improved results in the last seven days.

If you're being critical, the wins over Olympiacos and West Ham United are not really setting a benchmark for taking on a team of the calibre of Manchester City, especially if Manchester United play as they did against Liverpool.

There was a lack of grit in that game and I think Michael Carrick will be given a much tougher examination by this Manchester City side than he was at Upton Park if he has to remain in one of the centre half positions.

In saying that, I thought United played with a real attacking fluidity in the game at West Ham and I think it only highlights my thought that David Moyes had to pick either Wayne Rooney or Robin Van Persie and allow Juan Mata to play in a more natural position. The absence of Van Persie has forced Moyes' hand and I do think they can get at a Manchester City team that can be vulnerable to being attacked.

However, even in the absence of Sergio Aguero, Manchester City should have a lot of success when they have the ball at their own feet and the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri should exploit the space they have as well as having the pace to cause panic in the United defence.

Manchester City have won 4 of the last 5 Premier League games against Manchester United and have also won on their last 2 visits to Old Trafford. Both teams have also usually troubled the scoreboard with 5 of the last 6 Premier League games seeing both score as well as the last  5 games at Old Trafford and the best value may be backing the away team to win this one after both teams score, although I would love United to prove me wrong.

Newcastle United v Everton Pick: This looks an extremely difficult game from which to pick a winner considering the poor away form Everton have shown in recent weeks and Newcastle United finding a couple of late winners at home to earn back to back wins.

The layers believe Everton are the more likely winners and that is probably a correct assessment, but I can't back them after they have lost 4 straight away games in all competitions and haven't won an away game in the Premier League since before Christmas.

The only aspect of this game that seems to have been prevalent in both teams recent form is the chance of there being a late goal in this one. Newcastle have scored late goals in their last 2 home games to earn the three points, but it also has to be pointed out that there have been goals scored in the last 10 minutes of their last 6 games at St James' Park.

Everton have also scored or conceded a goal in the last 10 minutes of their last 5 games including in their last 2 away games at Chelsea and Arsenal.

With all that in mind, I think there is a chance that both teams are pushing for goals with this game going down to the final quarter of the match and there is every chance there will be another late goal in this fixture, as there was when the teams met at Goodison Park.

Liverpool v Sunderland Pick: There really isn't a lot to say about Liverpool at the moment as they are simply blowing teams away with their attacking prowess and it is hard to imagine how Sunderland are going to be able to slow them down, especially at Anfield.

Here a few numbers: Liverpool have scored at least three goals in 6 straight Premier League games, while they have scored at least four goals in their last 3 games at Anfield and their last three wins have all come by three goal margins.

That makes it incredibly tough for Sunderland to try and keep up considering Steven Fletcher and Fabio Borini won't be taking part in this game and you can forgive Gus Poyet for perhaps already be looking ahead to the West Ham United game on Monday night.

However, with 10 games left to play, Sunderland can't afford to let any games slip by and there will be a definite concern when it comes to goal difference which may prove to be critical when it is all said and done in May.

I expect Poyet to put together a solid defensive scheme for Sunderland, but they have looked a tired squad at times in recent weeks and may have an extremely difficult time dealing with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. These two players will use their pace to stretch the away team and I can only see them helping the home team secure another three points and likely in very straight-forward fashion.

West Ham United v Hull City Pick: As bad as West Ham United looked in attack on Saturday, Sam Allardyce is very good at getting his team to raise their levels in games they should be winning and I expect a much stronger performance in this game.

Before the loss to Manchester United, West Ham had won 3 in a row at home against the likes of Norwich City and Swansea and I think they have enough in their squad to find the goals to win this game.

I don't under-estimate what Hull City bring to the table as they are a solid team who play as a real team and they have shown they are feeling confident with away wins at Sunderland and Cardiff City.

However, I do wonder if the players just take a breath in this game having secured an important three points on Saturday against West Brom and perhaps thoughts have turned to the FA Cup Semi Final against Sheffield United in two and a half weeks from now. Steve Bruce will guard against complacency, but it can be human nature at times and I think I will have a small interest in West Ham winning this game at a decent price.

MY PICKS: Arsenal-Swansea Both Teams to Score @ 1.92 William Hill (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Manchester City to Win @ 4.00 William Hill (1 Unit)
Newcastle-Everton Time of Last Goal After 73rd Minute @ 1.92 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Liverpool - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
West Ham United @ 2.40 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

March Update20-18, + 9.46 Units (66 Units Staked, + 14.33% Yield)

February Final12-28, - 16.74 Units (61 Units Staked, - 27.44% 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 2013/14111-131-3, - 4.03 Units (389 Units Staked, - 1.04% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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