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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (April 26-28)

There are only three weekends until the end of the Premier League and I am getting ready to bury my head in the sand for a few weeks if Liverpool do go on and win the title as I am expecting them to do in the next couple of weeks.

Thankfully the World Cup will be beginning soon enough to at least erase some of the memories of how this season has gone, although the thought of calling them the 'Champions' for a whole season is not something I am looking forward to.

It was also a big week for my own club Manchester United as David Moyes' painful time as manager came to an end. I have written a few thoughts on the week which can be read here.

April has been a pretty poor month over the last couple of weeks, but there are still two more round of matches to go to turn it around and keep the season finishing on a high. Hopefully the twists and turns will still keep things interesting at the top and bottom of the Premier League table for next weekend, but I have a feeling the bottom end of the Division will be the only real interest on the final day of the season.

We will also see Ryan Giggs first team picked as manager of Manchester United this weekend. Everyone is trying to second guess what Giggs will do in the wake of the departure of David Moyes and my guess will be this team:

De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Valencia, Young, Fletcher, Carrick, Mata and Rooney.

Fulham v Hull City Pick: This is probably the game that will decide whether Fulham are going to be playing in the Premier League next season or not- the likes of Sunderland and Cardiff City have begun to win games and Fulham need to outpoint those sides with their vastly inferior goal difference and that even accounts for a team like Norwich City that might not earn too many more points.

The game against Hull City at home provides a great chance for Fulham to earn another three points as the former have looked like a team that may be concentrating on the FA Cup and going through the motions in the Premier League.

Hull City are not safe just yet, although it would take a strange ending of season to see them finish in the bottom three, and they can't be under-estimated having won away games at Sunderland and Cardiff City in the last couple of months.

However, those games did come at a time when Hull City were still desperate for the points and I don't think that same motivation is in the squad at this time. Fulham on the other hand are in a position where they need wins and wins alone and they have improved at home with a couple of big wins in recent games.

That included riding their luck in seeing off Norwich City and I think Fulham can find another three points and move out of the bottom three with a win on Saturday. Felix Magath has got enough out of this squad to think he can extract another three points from this game and give Fulham a fighting chance to avoid relegation.

Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: If you have a look at some of the teams that Stoke City have beaten at home this season, you can't help but feel they are being a touch disrespected as the underdog to win this game. Stoke have beaten Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea here in the Premier League, while both Everton and Manchester City have failed to win and I see them causing Tottenham Hotspur plenty of problems.

Stoke City have also had a number of wins here in recent weeks that have built momentum and confidence and Mark Hughes has made it clear that he wants to see his side finish in the top half of the table.

The disrespect of having Stoke City as the underdog is highlighted even more when considering Tottenham Hotspur's poor away form at the same time as Stoke have been piling up wins.

Spurs have lost at Norwich City in their run of 4 losses in 6 away games in all competitions, while I would also be concerned by the fact that they were 3-0 down at West Brom despite the side earning a point. That does show that the players are still behind Tim Sherwood, although it probably has as much to do with impressing whoever the new manager could be that walks into White Hart Lane.

Sherwood does play attacking teams that look capable of scoring plenty of goals, but one that also has trouble defensively. That has been the main cause for concern for Spurs when they play away from home and Stoke are certainly capable of winning the game.

The price is too big to ignore for a team that has won 5 of their last 6 Premier League games at home and I will back Stoke City for a small interest in this game.

West Brom v West Ham United Pick: This is the kind of game that West Brom will be looking at to win to earn the three points that avoids seeing them dragged into the bottom three. It has to be a worry for West Brom that the likes of Fulham, Cardiff City and Sunderland have all earned big wins recently and are within striking distance of the Baggies.

They are facing a team that is essentially already safe in the Premier League in West Ham United, but a dangerous team that can score goals away from home judging by their recent results. West Brom have conceded three goals in each of their last three home games so the Hammers must feel they have every chance of scoring here.

However, the fact West Brom rarely have been beaten at the Hawthornes in recent weeks is down to the fact that they also have goals in the side and I can see them posing plenty of problems themselves.

It is all pointing to goals on Saturday afternoon and that is what I will be backing.

Manchester United v Norwich City Pick: It has been a rough season for Manchester United fans in terms of the upheaval at the club and the poor way they decided to dismiss David Moyes would not have impressed the majority of fans. However, it was a decision they had to make and now the search for the third manager in a little over twelve months will begin with Louis Van Gaal looking the favourite at this stage.

For now, Ryan Giggs will take charge of the side for the visit of Norwich City and I expect there to be a real reaction from the players that had had enough of David Moyes judging by some of the stories coming out since the manager was fired. There should be a change of feeling on the pitch and that could translate to a very big win on Saturday afternoon.

Norwich City must have been hoping that this happened seven days later as Manchester United would then be hosting one of their relegation rivals in Sunderland and the away side are fearing a backlash from United in this game.

It won't be helped by a poor away record all season which has left Norwich on the brink of falling into the bottom three and there is every chance they will begin in one of those positions by the time this game kicks off. Norwich have been conceding goals for fun on their travels and that won't be good enough against a Manchester United team that may have something to prove.

It is hard to see Norwich keeping it tight enough to earn anything from this game this weekend and I think the players at Manchester United will respond to the removal of David Moyes and help record a convincing win.

Crystal Palace v Manchester City Pick: With the news coming out of Chelsea that they are likely to play a weakened team in their game at Anfield on Sunday afternoon in anticipation of the Champions League, it will be interesting to see how Manchester City respond in their game later in the afternoon.

Manuel Pellegrini can only look at the failings of his own side as to why Manchester City are in a position where they are desperate for a favour from another team, while missing the likes of Yaya Toure and David Silva is going to make this trip to Crystal Palace that much tougher to overcome.

We know that Tony Pulis is going to set up his Crystal Palace side to be very solid defensively and they will be hard to break down, especially if Sergio Aguero is not fit to start for Manchester City either. That toughness was shown in a win over Chelsea here last month and Palace also have 5 straight wins in the Premier League which may give them the confidence to knock off Manchester City in this game.

The mental state of Manchester City has to be a worry too if Liverpool have won the earlier game, but I think Pellegrini is not a manager that will be letting his side lose too much focus. He will be aware that Liverpool still have to visit this tough ground and I think there is enough quality in the Manchester City squad to find an important three points to extend the race for the title to another week.

It certainly won't be easy, but there are enough goals in the City side, even in the absence of Toure and Silva, to find a win although it may come by the minimum of margins.

Arsenal v Newcastle United Pick: It has been a really poor period for Newcastle United and I don't know if they can work through the injuries in the squad to try and rally around for the final three games this season. Their 1-2 home loss against Swansea was largely disappointing considering Newcastle United took the lead in that game, and I don't believe they are going to get too much out of this visit to Arsenal.

The Gunners have scored at least three goals in their last two Premier League games after struggling through the FA Cup Semi Final against Wigan Athletic and I think Arsenal will be happy with the extra time to prepare for this game.

It may help clear up some of the injuries in the home squad and the momentum and motivation is certainly going to be behind Arsenal.

Arsenal crushed Newcastle United here last season and while I don't think anyone would be predicting them to score seven goals, the Magpies conceded three goals at Chelsea and four at Southampton in heavy losses.

There should be enough attacking intent in the Arsenal team to see them win this by a couple of goals.

MY PICKS: Fulham @ 2.38 Bet365 (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 3.33 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
West Brom-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City to Win by One Goal @ 3.80 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

April Update12-13, - 4.33 Units (45 Units Staked, - 9.62% 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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