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Saturday, 1 March 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (March 1-2)

The first two months of 2014 have been tough work for the picks, but there were at least some shoots of recovery in the last week, although it was never going to be enough to turn around a terrible February.

It was also another disappointing week for the English teams in Europe, although Chelsea won't be too disheartened by a 1-1 draw in Galatasaray and Tottenham Hotspur did make it through to the Last 16 of the Europa League.

Swansea's defeat in Napoli was expected although you have to credit the performance of Garry Monk's men who were close to causing the upset and the 3-1 loss was harsh as they pushed men on in search of an equaliser.

Of course the biggest disappointment was Manchester United becoming the third English side to lose their Last 16 first leg tie in the Champions League by a 2-0 scoreline, although at least United can point to having the second leg at home in two weeks time. Still, the performance was absolutely lacking the desire and belief that we have become so used to seeing from Manchester United and it will take a real turnaround in mentality for the side to achieve the goals they had in mind at the beginning of the season.

At least they can have a few days to try and get their head right for a big March in which United face Liverpool and Manchester City at Old Trafford as well as the second leg of the Champions League. It could be critical for David Moyes as he needs to show that there are some positives at Old Trafford in what has been a dark season to this point, one which is destined to end without silverware and very close to ensuring they miss out on a Champions League place.


As I have mentioned above, the first two months of 2014 have been tough and hurt a decent looking season, but hopefully the last week is a sign of things turning back in a positive direction as March begins with a reduced Premier League schedule and the League Cup Final between Manchester City and Sunderland.


Everton v West Ham United Pick: For all the praise that Roberto Martinez has received this season for the way his Everton side have been playing and picking up results, they are once again in a familiar position of 7th in the League table and still not quite good enough to beat the very top teams in the Premier League.

There has been some misfortune for the side in their defeats at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, but the record books will show losses that effectively cost them a chance to get into the top four this season.

It has been a different story for Everton at Goodison Park this season and they remain in good form here as they bring in a 5 game winning run in all competitions. However, they have to be aware of a West Ham United team that have also picked up a lot of confidence as they moved up the table and away from the relegation zone.

While the majority of their positive results have come at home, West Ham are unbeaten in 3 away games and have found a defensive shape that will make them tough to beat.

I still think Everton really get going at Goodison Park and will exert a lot of pressure on the Hammers which is likely going to lead to the three points, particularly if Romelu Lukaku is available for selection. They have missed his presence up front and his return is critical for Everton to finish as high up the table as they can, as well as for their FA Cup ambitions.

I believe Everton win, but West Ham have scored in 5 of their last 6 away games and may also find the net in this one.


Fulham v Chelsea Pick: A West London derby that is going to have real ramifications at the top and bottom of the Premier League should be a fascinating one for the fans to enjoy, especially if Fulham can back up their performance at West Brom in this game.

The problem for Fulham at Craven Cottage has been the number of goals they have been conceding with the likes of Sunderland, Southampton and Liverpool all scoring 3 goals in wins here. However, Fulham will also believe they can test a Chelsea rearguard that has been looking a little more fragile of late as Fulham have scored in all but one Premier League game at home this season.

They will likely need to score at least once if they are to take something from the game because Chelsea have the pace in the forward positions to hurt Fulham in the same manner as Liverpool did, albeit without the one forward that Jose Mourinho believes would complete his side.

Chelsea have only failed to score in 1 of their last 8 away games in the Premier League so they too will be expected to score in this game at Craven Cottage and it does seem that everything is pointing to both teams scoring in the game.

I believe Chelsea are the more likely winners, but they haven't always had it easy at Craven Cottage and have also just lost some momentum in recent games. Therefore backing both teams to score is the only pick from the game without worrying about which side will win the game.


Stoke City v Arsenal Pick: So far this season, Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United have all failed to beat Stoke City at the Brittania Stadium and two of those sides have even failed to take home a point. Anyone who thought the arrival of Mark Hughes to replace Tony Pulis would make Stoke an easier touch at the Brittania Stadium would have been mistaken and this has regularly been a part of the world that has given Arsenal a lot of trouble.

The only one of the big teams that have come to this Stadium and won are Liverpool who outscored Stoke in a 3-5 win, but Stoke generally don't concede too many goals here and I think they are going to make this tough for Arsenal.

Arsenal also haven't been at their most convincing in their last two away games at Southampton and Liverpool and are perhaps a little fortunate to have picked up one point from those games.

I don't think this is going to be an easy game for Arsenal either and I am not sure why the layers think they deserve to be odds on to win at a venue that has been tough for the big teams all season. Add in Arsenal's own problems here and I think there it is a little generous to be getting Stoke City on the Asian Handicap at odds against.

The full pay out would come if Stoke manage to avoid defeat, but a one goal Arsenal win would return half the stake and that is the pick from the game.


Southampton v Liverpool Pick: For the neutral fan, this could be the right game that has been placed in front of the television cameras on Saturday evening as both Southampton and Liverpool have been scoring, and conceding, plenty of goals in recent games.

You have to think the visit of Liverpool will at least put some fire in the belly for the home players and fans and Southampton were very good when Arsenal visited them in January. However, they have to be concerned with the two goals they conceded against both Arsenal and Stoke City in their last 2 home games in the Premier League.

Liverpool themselves have scored 5 at Stoke City and 3 at Fulham in their most recent away games in the Premier League and have players like Daniel Sturridge in top form. They will use the pace on the counter attack to cause Southampton problems as the onus is on the home side to come forward and score goals, but Liverpool have to be worried about the fact that they have conceded 2 goals in 8 of their last 10 away games in the Premier League.

I am expecting chances at both ends in this game and the corresponding fixture did see four goals scored and I have a feeling we will see that tally matched on Saturday. There are goal-scorers in both sides and neither defence looks capable of keeping the other team from scoring when looking at the way they have played in recent weeks so over 3.5 goals looks to be the pick from the game.


Manchester City v Sunderland Pick: The first piece of silverware in England will be handed out this weekend as Manchester City take on Sunderland in the Capital One Cup Final from Wembley Stadium.

While you would have to say that Manchester City haven't looked as convincing in recent weeks as they have been for much of the season, the return of Sergio Aguero brings better balance for them going forward.

Add Aguero to the likes of David Silva, Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure and you can't help but expect Manchester City to score goals. They will be aided if Sunderland play as poorly as they did last week against Arsenal in a 4-1 loss at the Emirates Stadium, but I would be surprised if Gus Poyet hasn't given them a little more steel for this game.

It may not matter if City are feeling in rampant mood and while Sunderland have been able to beat this team regularly at the Stadium of Light, it might be much harder work on the big pitch at Wembley.

Sunderland may look to Wigan Athletic and their surprise win over Manchester City in the FA Cup last season, but I think that City side was perhaps affected by rumours surrounding Roberto Mancini at the time and I expect Manchester City to win this one by a couple of goals at least.


Tottenham Hotspur v Cardiff City Pick: There were times in their home win over Dnipro that Tottenham Hotspur were lacking in ideas and that is the only concern for them in this game. However, I don't believe Cardiff City have shown the same defensive discipline as the Ukrainian side did before the sending off and I think this could be a comfortable win for Spurs.

Both teams will be desperate for the three points in this game, but Cardiff City have been conceding too many goals away from home in their League games and haven't shown enough going forward to suggest they can keep this one competitive.

Cardiff have lost their last 6 away games in the Premier League all by at least two goals and Tottenham Hotspur can at least say that 3 of their last 5 home games have seen them win by at least two goals.

Spurs will have to show a little more creativity to reach that target again, but they have a player in Emmanuel Adebayor that looks motivated and is in form and I just believe there is too much about the home team in this one.

MY PICKS: Both Teams to Score and Everton to Win @ 3.30 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Fulham-Chelsea Both Teams to Score @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stoke City + 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Southampton-Liverpool Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.63 Stan James (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)

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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