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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (April 29-May 1)

The 2013/14 season is fast drawing to a close with less than a month before the Champions League Final in Lisbon, but that also means the World Cup is not too far away.

The Premier League has been fascinating for the neutral, not so much for a Manchester United fan, through the course of the season and Sunday provided another twist in the title race that could come down to goal difference for the second time in three seasons.

Even the relegation scrap is far from over with two games left to play for the majority of teams in the struggle to avoid the drop, but the Champions League places were all but secured by the current top four after Arsenal beat Newcastle United convincingly on Monday night.

I had written down a few thoughts on the David Moyes situation prior to the Manchester United win over Norwich City which can be read here.

It has been a strange few days in the footballing world which saw the sad passing of Tito Vilanova after his battle against throat cancer and then, during Barcelona's next League game, Dani Alves was being racially abused by the fans in Villarreal but responded by eating a banana thrown in his direction.

Alves made a point of mentioning it was that extra energy that helped him create two more goals for Barcelona who came from 2-0 down to beat Villarreal 2-3 and I applaud him for the way he dealt with yet another ridiculous incident in Spanish football.

He has made a point of saying that all foreigners are abused in Spain and that alone is not good enough, but this is a country that has had issues keeping their racial element off the stands going as far back as November 2004 when the England national team had many of their players abused simply for being black.

That is not to say that was the start of the racial problems, but that was a high-profile incident and it is clear that nothing has changed in ten years.

I understand the reaction of some players to post pictures of themselves eating bananas since as they support Alves, but I don't believe that is going to get anything to change.

It's a nice gesture, but a gesture is all it is- for a real response, the authorities have to really make a stand against racism from the stands, but they have always failed to make anything stick and it said it all that UEFA fined players more for advertising slogans or fining clubs for flares being let off in the stands than they did for racist chanting.

The players can also make a bigger impact than a simple selfie- walking off the pitch, refusing to sign for clubs with these kinds of issues are some things they can do, but I do think it is mainly up to those in charge to try and stamp down on these ugly incidents.

Hopefully it will be the action on the field that makes the headlines after the next few days when the Champions League Final and the Europa League Final will be set for the 2014 season. The Semi Finals of the Champions League had plenty of intrigue involved, but they weren't the best matches I have seen with the Europa League participants being involved in a couple of games that had more chances in one match than the Champions League had in both matches combined.

There will be more tension this week with every mistake likely to be fatal for teams, but goals will certainly change the feel of the two Champions League Semi Finals and could provoke more open games than the fans initially feel.

I am expecting the majority of the attacking football to come in Munich, but I am also very interested to see what tactics Jose Mourinho employs in a game at Stamford Bridge having shown a real defensive solidarity over the last seven days in two tough away venues.

Bayern Munich v Real Madrid Pick: The first of the two Semi Finals in the Champions League has the defending Champions, Bayern Munich, trying to overcome their 1-0 deficit from the First Leg against Real Madrid.

You have to say that Real Madrid are probably a little disappointed that they are not up by a couple of goals at least with Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria missing big chances in the Spanish capital last week. The side also restricted Bayern Munich in terms of chances with the best falling to Mario Gotze late in the game, but a 1-0 lead is not decisive.

However, the tactics employed by Real Madrid seem to call for a much more direct attacking threat and I can't see Bayern Munich keeping a clean sheet in this one (famous last words). The pace of Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, who is expected to start, is going to cause panic at the back for Bayern Munich and also makes Real Madrid the favourite to progress.

For all of Bayern Munich's success under Pep Guardiola, they haven't looked that good in the last month since winning the Bundesliga and struggled to beat Manchester United. Even against Arsenal, they looked vulnerable before Wojciech Szczesny was sent off and the slow, possession based football doesn't fit with the pieces that Bayern Munich have in their squad as far as I am concerned.

If Real Madrid do score, Bayern Munich may have to resort to the attacking play that made them so good last season on their way to winning the Champions League and I think they could potentially be caught on the counter-attack and finished off by this Real Madrid side. Bayern Munich don't lose many home games, but Borussia Dortmund beat them 0-3 here earlier this month and I think we could see something similar to the Semi Final between Bayern and Barcelona last season, albeit with a different result.

Last season it was the two German teams that made it through to the Final in their Semi Final clashes against the Spanish teams, but I think Real Madrid have to be backed for a small interest to beat Bayern Munich for the second time in less than seven days.

Chelsea v Atletico Madrid Pick: It wasn't the most entertaining Semi Final First Leg in Madrid last week, but Jose Mourinho set his team up with the task of being in this Second Leg in front of his own fans. With a goalless draw secured in Spain, Chelsea will feel confident of making their third Final in the last seven seasons, although they have to snap their run of two Semi Final defeats under Mourinho.

Mourinho has also seen his team beaten in three Semi Finals in a row with Real Madrid since last winning the trophy as manager of Inter Milan in 2010, and he has to be aware of the dangers of failing to score an away goal in Madrid last week.

Chelsea are not playing a team that will be overawed about coming to Stamford Bridge, despite the lack of experience in the Champions League in recent seasons. However, they have won the Europa League twice in the last three seasons so Atletico Madrid certainly know how to play knock out ties.

Defensively they are very sound and they have played at Barcelona and Real Madrid during the course of the season and have only once conceded more than one goal in four away games. Atletico Madrid remain the only unbeaten team in the Champions League after Bayern Munich were beaten last week, while they have won three of the five away games they have played in the competition and scored in every game.

While Atletico have won at Real Madrid, winning at Chelsea will not be easy as the Blues have kept four straight clean sheets at home, but the Spanish Champions elect are capable of breaking that sequence which may be enough to move through to the Final in Lisbon. Both teams should score in this Second Leg which will make it a very tense finish and that could also mean someone pushing for a goal, which could also lead to a higher scoring game than the layers are expecting.

Juventus v Benfica Pick: If Juventus had been a little more clinical in front of goal last week, they would have returned to Italy with a lead let alone a one goal deficit. However, they have earned the away goal which should be vital when it comes to deciding which of these teams makes it through to the Final that is being played later in the month.

A goal for Juventus will certainly change the way the game is being approached by Benfica, although it sounds like the Portuguese Champions may initially begin with an approach to control the home team.

If Juventus do go in front, Benfica might find themselves being a little vulnerable to the counter-attack and it would be a surprise if Juventus are not looking for at least two goals to move through to the Final.

The likely Serie A Champions have won a lot of games in this Stadium over the last few months and I believe they are the more likely winner in this one. With the chances they were creating last week, I would expect Juventus can score at least twice in this one and I think the chance of the home side scoring either two or three goals is decent value in the market.

That is being offered at 2.20 by Ladbrokes and may be the best way to back Juventus who I believe are going to make it through to the Final.

MY PICKS: Real Madrid @ 4.50 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Chelsea-Atletico Madrid Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.70 Bodog (2 Units)
Juventus Goal Bands: 2-3 Goals @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

April Update14-17, - 6.57 Units (55 Units Staked, - 11.95% 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)

1 comment:

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