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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (April 12-13)

It's been a long trip away from home, but it is good to be back even if the time change hasn't quite seen me catch up just yet.

With that in mind, from next week these posts will be back in their normal fashion, but here are the picks from this weekend.

Fulham v Norwich City Pick Below

Stoke City v Newcastle United Pick: The form guide points to only one winner in this game and the motivation will certainly also be on the side of Stoke City in this one as they look to make sure they finish in the top half of the Premier League table.

Stoke City have been playing good football in recent weeks and they have been winning plenty of games in front of their own fans including against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United.

That is in sharp contrast to Newcastle United who have lost a couple of away games at Fulham and Southampton which makes it tough to really believe they can avoid defeat at the Brittania Stadium. The lack of goals in the Newcastle team has been a real problem, especially in the continued absence of Loic Remy and that is all pointing to a home win in this game.

Of course, the Premier League is always likely to throw up strange results on a weekly basis, but Stoke City seem to be holding all the aces in this game and I think they look worth backing to overcome Newcastle and earn another three points at home.

Sunderland v Everton Pick: Some recent performances from Sunderland suggest this is a group of players that are beginning to feel the drop is very much in their future, but they can reinvigorate some optimism by winning this game. It is imperative that Sunderland find the three points in this game if they are to have a real chance of avoiding relegation, but Everton have a lot of momentum behind them and are going to be very confident.

The 3-0 win over Arsenal has given Everton a real chance of finishing in the Champions League places this season, but they can't afford to take their eye off the prize and fail to win this game.

However, the away form has been up and down all season for Everton as they haven't found it as easy scoring the goals needed to win games on their travels. 20 goals in 16 away games highlights that problem and shows why they have only won 6 away games to this point, but back to back impressive wins at Newcastle United and Fulham may have seen the side turn a corner.

There should be goals in an Everton team that has the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Leon Osman and Kevin Miralles able to put away chances that come their way and I expect they can do enough to earn the three points here.

Even with that in mind, backing Everton at odds on away from home makes little sense for me considering their season form on their travels. Instead, I think Everton will need to score more than once to win the game and I am going to back them to score either 2 or 3 goals here.

Sunderland have conceded that amount to Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Southampton this season, while Chelsea managed to score a late fourth in their win at the Stadium of Light. Add the fact that Hull City and West Ham United have scored twice in their recent visits to Sunderland and I think backing Everton to score either 2 or 3 goals is the call.

West Brom v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: This is a game that has ramifications at both ends of the table and that should produce a fascinating game of football for the fans in attendance on Saturday afternoon. West Brom will feel the win at Norwich City last weekend has given them one foot in the Premier League for next season, but they need to use that momentum to at least push away with another win this weekend.

With Fulham facing Norwich City on the same day, West Brom could find themselves dragged back into the relegation mix if they lose this game and Fulham win and that keeps the motivation high for the home team.

West Brom have certainly struggled at home this season, especially when it comes to wins, but they have also been tough to beat as Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea will all tell you. Taking into account Tottenham Hotspur's recent struggles away from home, West Brom will feel they can earn another three points that will put them a long way from relegation.

Before the recent away results, Tottenham Hotspur had been very solid away from home and I think they can cause problems for a West Brom team that haven't kept too many clean sheets at home. They have also conceded three goals in back to back games at the Hawthornes and Spurs are coming in having scored five against Sunderland.

I would be surprised if this isn't a game that produces goals, although the 1-1 scoreline is the one that bothers me the most with it being a popular one for West Brom against the better teams in the Premier League. Still, I would expect both teams to go for the three points that are so important at this stage of the season and will back the game to see at least three goals.

Wigan Athletic v Arsenal Pick: There is no doubt that Arsenal are really having a hard time in recent weeks as they barely hold onto their top four place in the Premier League, but this FA Cup game should be to their liking against a team in the lower Leagues.

That is not disrespecting Wigan Athletic, but a long season may be beginning to take its toll on their players and their form coming into the game is not as strong as when they surprised Manchester City. Of course the FA Cup Semi Final will re-energise some of the players taking to the field, but promotion is the bigger importance to Wigan who would probably take an appearance in the Play Off Final at Wembley over an FA Cup one at this point.

No team rolls over in the FA Cup Semi Final though and I fully expect Wigan to really give this a go and perhaps trouble Arsenal more than some may initially expect.

The problem is that Arsenal should have more quality and the bigger pitch should help them stretch the play to the point of being able to win this game. If Wigan are forced to chase the game, Arsenal should also be able to hurt them on the break and I will back them to win this game by a couple of goals.

That should ease some of the pressure on Arsene Wenger that has been building up in recent games, although it could quickly return if the side fall out of the top four in the coming weeks.

Liverpool v Manchester City Pick: A lot of the experts are suggesting that the winner of this live game on Sunday will be the new Premier League champions come May and it is hard to argue with that logic with the way both teams have been playing.

Liverpool have won 9 in a row in the Premier League and have all the momentum behind them with the visit of Manchester City and Chelsea- a win in both games will surely see them end their 24 year wait for the title, but writing off Manchester City to upset the apple-cart is a big mistake.

Much like Liverpool, Manchester City are set up to attack and score goals and I can see them causing plenty of problems for their hosts, although will also be vulnerable to the pace that Liverpool have in the forward positions.

With all the attacking talent on display, this should be a game for the neutrals as both sides will look to get forward and win the game. Of course, there is the potential for the tension to get to both teams and force them to play it a little more cautious than they would naturally be inclined to do, especially with all that is at stake.

I believe that both Manuel Pellegrini and Brendan Rodgers will be urging their side to get forward and I think there is the potential for at least four goals to be shared between the sides, something that has happened a fair bit between them in recent matches. Last season saw both games end 2-2, while it has been a more common scoreline when the teams have met at Anfield.

In fact, 3 of the last 5 games between the sides at Anfield have ended 2-2, including the last two times they have played here. At 2.40 being offered, the layers are taking no chances with the expectation of goals, but I still think that is a price worth backing this weekend.

Swansea v Chelsea Pick: There are only five games left for Chelsea to play in the Premier League and they know their chances of winning the title will be reduced hugely if they fail to win in Swansea as they have done in their 3 previous visits to the Liberty Stadium.

All of those games have ended in draws, but Chelsea should be on a high after booking their place in the Champions League Semi Final and they have had enough time to prepare for this game.

Chelsea have been struggling away from home including back to back losses in the Premier League, but Swansea have also been having a tough time and remain in the relegation mix. It would become even more precarious for Swansea if Fulham beat Norwich City on Saturday, but they will probably have enough to steer clear of the bottom three.

At home, Swansea should be able to cause problems, but they have struggled against the top teams in the League and I believe Chelsea will find the victory. Eden Hazard's absence would be a big loss, but Swansea might not have enough to take advantage on current form and I think the away side are worth backing, even with the odds on quotes.

Hull City v Sheffield United Pick: Since Nigel Clough arrived at Sheffield United, there has been a huge upturn in form for the Blades and they can't be under-estimated by Premier League Hull City simply because they have beaten two Premier League teams already in the competition this season.

I expect they will make it very difficult for Hull City, but I am also surprised that the team that is two Divisions higher are a bigger price than, for example, Southampton beating Cardiff City this weekend.

Yes, this game is being played on a neutral ground that should even up the game, but the playing surface at Wembley Stadium should also suit Hull and I expect the width of the pitch should also make it more difficult for Sheffield United to dig in as they are expected to do.

If Hull can forget the expectation that will be on their shoulders, they should pose enough quality to wear down an opponent that has overachieved in the FA Cup this season. Patience might be the order of the day, but the price looks too hard to ignore on a Hull City win and a place in the Final next month.

MY PICKS: Fulham @ 2.20 Coral (1 Unit)
Stoke City @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Everton Goal Bands- 2/3 Goals @ 2.25 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
West Brom-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Liverpool-Manchester City Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.38 Stan James (2 Units)
Chelsea @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Hull City @ 1.75 William Hill (2 Units)

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