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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (April 15-16)

The first week since returning from my holiday has been tough to get back into the groove of a normal life again, but things are finally settling down a little.

This week is one where a few teams will make up games in hand that they have in the Premier League as the season gets closer and closer to concluding before the World Cup will begin. There are three League games to be played in the next couple of days before the Easter Weekend and we may begin to get a clearer picture of who will finish in the top four.

Manchester City are also under pressure to win their games in hand after somehow blowing all the momentum in their eventual 3-2 loss at Anfield which has left Liverpool as the favourites to win the title. I still believe if City can win their remaining 6 games this season, they will still win the title, but the key game comes in two weeks time when Liverpool host Chelsea as a win for the home team will almost certainly mean their wait for a top flight title has come to a close.

Arsenal v West Ham United Pick: This time of the season will bring a lot of pressure on teams that have some serious goals to achieve and this day belongs to Arsenal in their bid to get back into the top four. A quick glance at the fixture list suggests Arsenal have the better run in compared with Everton, but that also means there is a pressure on them to win the games they are expected to which is what the fans will be doing when they go to the Emirates Stadium on Tuesday.

Failure to win the game would make Everton a serious favourite to finish in the top four, but an Arsenal win would shift the pressure onto a side that is hosting Manchester United and Manchester City before the season draws to a close.

In saying that, Arsenal also have to deal with the tiredness that will come from a long Cup Semi Final that went further than anyone would have really expected. Instead of beating Wigan Athletic in the time allotted, Arsenal had to go through extra time and then the mental fatigue of a penalty shoot out and could be given another difficult test by this West Ham United team.

For much of the season, West Ham United have been pretty solid away from home and been able to make life difficult for opponents. In recent away games, West Ham have drawn with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and only been beaten by a late Everton goal at Goodison Park while they also gave Liverpool plenty to think about at Upton Park ten days ago.

Sam Allardyce has also had a few extra days to prepare his team for this visit to North London and I think West Ham can make it difficult for an Arsenal team that have started conceding goals at home.

Arsenal did crush West Ham here last season, but tiredness, pressure and a West Ham team that have been defending better away from home for much of the season could help keep this game close. With that in mind, taking West Ham United with the Asian Handicap headstart looks the way to go where even a one goal loss would return some positive results.

Everton v Crystal Palace Pick: In all honesty, it doesn't matter what happens in the Arsenal game against West Ham United on Tuesday as Roberto Martinez will know anything less than three points in this game will make it very difficult for Everton to make the top four.

The game against Crystal Palace at Goodison Park, with all due respect to the Eagles, is the easiest of their home games left and Everton can't expect to beat Manchester United and Manchester City so dropping points in this one would be a huge body blow to the mental state of the squad.

Everton have put in a lot of work to claw back and overtake Arsenal and have been playing very well at home all season, but Tony Pulis has made Crystal Palace very difficult to beat. I expect he will set out a stall to do the same to Everton having pushed Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal to dig deep to beat them.

However, Palace have some problems when it comes to scoring goals away from Selhurst Park and that may prove to be their downfall in this game. Prior to the three goals scored at Cardiff City, Palace had scored just 1 in 6 away games in the League and that could be a problem for them at Everton on Wednesday night.

I don't think Everton will blow away Crystal Palace just with the way the away side set up, but there is creativity and confidence in the home team that suggests they will find a way to win this game. I believe they will too, but it may be down to the clean sheet and a solitary strike to earn those vital three points in the chase for a Champions League place.

Manchester City v Sunderland Pick: Sunday may prove to be the pivotal moment in the title race this season when David Silva just couldn't stretch enough to make it 2-3 for Manchester City at Anfield, only for moments later Liverpool scoring the decisive winning goal.

That means Manchester City are going to need some help if they are to win the League, but Manual Pellegrini is not concerning himself with that but is simply looking for them to take the next step by winning this game.

Even in the absence of Yaya Toure, Manchester City should have far too much attacking threat for Sunderland to cope with, especially with the lack of confidence the away side have to be bringing into the game. A 5th straight Premier League loss on Saturday has essentially ended Sunderland's top flight status and they were crushed at Tottenham Hotspur in their last away game where the heads really did drop.

There are goals in the Manchester City side and they have shown that in their last two home games against Fulham and Southampton and I would expect them to be too strong again. Toure is a big miss, but Sergio Aguero is back and I think Manchester City want to show they are still in the title race and will put up some goals for their own goal difference.

It's a big handicap to cover, but Manchester City have beaten Sunderland 5-0 and 3-0 over the last three years here and I can see them recording something similar on Wednesday.

MY PICKS: West Ham United + 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton Win to Nil @ 2.20 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

April Update: 9-3, + 10.66 Units (20 Units Staked, + 53.33% Yield)

March Final26-22, + 13.94 Units (83 Units Staked, + 16.80% 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 2013/14137-153-3, + 9.91 Units (472 Units Staked, + 2.10% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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