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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (April 22-24)

The Champions League and Europa League Semi Finals may take centre stage in the grand scheme of European football this week, but there is no doubt the news that David Moyes has been sacked as Manchester United manager is the biggest story out there for us United fans.

It had begun to circulate on Easter Monday that the manager was going to be removed imminently, perhaps coming about from the money the owner could save now the club was officially unable to finish in the top four.

The range of emotions have been mixed, but it does seem more and more United fans are of the belief that Moyes had to go now, although I am not convinced it is the right move simply because of the lack of options to take over.

Anyway, I will do my best to put something down in time for the games to be played on Saturday, but in the meantime will just use this post for my picks from the Semi Finals of both European competitions.

The last couple of weeks have been tough for the picks I have made with a lot of them going wrong, but the season is still in a decent shape and April can be turned around with a strong final eight days.

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea Pick: Both managers would probably have been targeting the chance to play the other's team when the draw for the European Champions League was made earlier this month and both have been given a very good chance to reach the Final in Lisbon next month.

The odds have begun to shorten, but I think the price for the Atletico Madrid win has been set at a disrespectful level before that at odds against and I would imagine that the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona would have been much shorter if they were playing Chelsea at home.

However, it is Atletico Madrid who are leading the Spanish title race and it has to be motivating the players that no one seems to believe in them, even at this late stage of the season. Diego Simeone has made them very tough to beat, yet they have players in Koke, David Villa and Diego Costa that can create and score chances and that blend has helped them get to where they are.

Atletico Madrid have been strong at home and in Europe in front of their own fans and they may take advantage of a Chelsea team that have really missed not having a top centre forward all season. Jose Mourinho doesn't really trust any of his forward players and Chelsea have really struggled to impose themselves away from home with any consistency.

Three straight losses on their travels before beating a ten man Swansea team, as well as 2 losses in their last 3 Champions League away games has to be a concern when heading into this intimidating atmosphere. Chelsea have players that have played in such atmospheres before, but I think Atletico Madrid are playing at a level that should give them an edge to take to London next week.

As I said, Barcelona or Real Madrid would be much shorter to win this game if they were involved as the leaders of Spain's top flight and I think Atletico Madrid have to be backed to take a lead into the second leg.

Real Madrid v Bayern Munich Pick: When the draw was made, I couldn't help but expect plenty of goals between these two teams who will want to get forward and score goals and attack through the game. I can't imagine either team really taking a back step, although Real Madrid will be desperate that the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are available for selection.

Real Madrid have already played two German sides at home this season in the Champions League and scored three goals against both Schalke and Borussia Dortmund, which should give them confidence against this Bayern Munich too.

On the other hand, Bayern Munich have scored in their last 13 away games in the Champions League so will also expect that they can have an away goal or two to take back to Bavaria next week.

Their Semi Final in 2012 produced plenty of attacking football and I believe this tie is going to go the same way with both teams looking to get forward and cause problems for the opposition. As good as Bayern Munich have been this season, they have looked vulnerable at the back and I expect Real Madrid can create chances against them.

It should be a very fun Semi Final over the two legs and I will look for the first leg to produce at least three goals.

Benfica v Juventus Pick: This is a fascinating tie, but one where Juventus are favoured to come through over the two legs. However, I can't help feel that Benfica have been playing well enough in their Stadium of Light to have a lead to take to Turin next week.

An away goal would be huge for Juventus and they have every chance of getting that with the way Benfica have played in European competition. Benfica have had plenty of clean sheets in their domestic games, but they had struggled in the Champions League and they are playing an opponent that is very much of that standard compared to what they have seen in the Europa League.

Even with that in mind, Benfica will be confident of their chances of taking a lead to Italy when they look at the Juventus away record in their most recent Champions League away games. The Serie A Champions failed to win in Copenhagen and were beaten in Real Madrid and Galatasaray, although you can't ignore the conditions in Istanbul for the latter of those games.

Benfica have won their 2 home games against Juventus in their history and they play an attacking style, especially in front of their own fans, that should cause problems. I am not overly confident considering how tough Juventus are, but Benfica winning this has to be worth a small interest at a big price considering their form at the Stadium of Light at home and in European competition.

Sevilla v Valencia Pick: Both teams have the chance to really put an exclamation point to the season by reaching the Final of a competition that both have won, in a different form, over the last ten years.

Sevilla will definitely have the edge in terms of form and I think that will be what separates the two teams in the first leg of this Semi Final.

I expect them to get on the front foot to attack and give Valencia a lot of problems, but Sevilla have to be careful they are not over-committing and coming away with a 0-2 loss like they did when they met another Spanish side, rivals Real Betis, in the Last 16.

I also have respect for Valencia's away form in the Europa League before the 3-0 loss at Basel, but I think Sevilla are going to prove too strong and get back to winning ways against them here. It'll likely set up the second leg which should still have a lot to play for, but I imagine Sevilla will have a slight lead from this game.

MY PICKS: Atletico Madrid @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Real Madrid-Bayern Munich Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.70 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Benfica @ 2.75 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Sevilla @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)

April Update10-11, - 3.54 Units (38 Units Staked, - 9.32% 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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