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I can't believe a month at the World Cup is about o come to a close on Sunday and I have to say the tournament has been about as good as...

Friday, 23 May 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014- Champions League Final (May 24-26)

The World Cup is fast approaching now and much of the media attention has turned to the festival of football that begins in a little under three weeks from now, but first there is the small matter of the 'richest game in football' as the Championship Play Off Final is contested and the European Champions League Final to be completed.

Both of those games look like making fantastic viewing on Saturday, but there will still be a couple of other loose ends to tie up before the end of the Bank Holiday as both League One and League Two Play Off Finals will also be completed.

It has been a decent season and one that improved on last year which is all you can hope for, but football is always a tough sport to end with a winning performance. May has been a solid month too and will hopefully end this weekend with a final flurry of positive results that ensures another winning month.

That'll keep the season results intact and I can then begin concentrating on the World Cup which I will have any outright picks and previews of the Group out the weekend before the event begins.

Derby County v Queens Park Rangers Pick: The Championship Play Off Final has been called the 'richest game in football' because of the vast financial incentives on offer for playing in the Premier League as shown by what Cardiff City received this season despite finishing bottom of the table.

Both clubs could be set up even with one season in the top flight, but both Derby County and Queens Park Rangers have bigger ambitions than a sole season in the Premier League. They have two managers that have coached at extremely high levels with Steve McClaren a former England manger and also having won titles in Holland and Germany while guiding Middlesbrough to a UEFA Cup Final.

Harry Redknapp had vast success with Tottenham Hotspur in reaching a Champions League Quarter Final and also won the FA Cup with Portsmouth and both managers will feel they should be coaching in the Premier League.

However, it is up to the players on the field to perform on Saturday in what is a tense game with so much hard work being put into getting into this position. A long season can feel a total disappointment if promotion is not achieved now and that is where Queens Park Rangers may have the edge in terms of their player experience.

On the other hand, Derby County have youth and pace on their side and they have scored so many goals that they will feel they can punish Queens Park Rangers in this one. Derby County have been in better form heading into the Play Offs and were much more impressive in their Semi Final win over Brighton than QPR were against Wigan Athletic.

The feeling is also that Derby have enough confidence and goals that they could potentially recover even if they fell behind in the game, while Queens Park Rangers could also be exposed on the bigger pitch with older legs in the team.

One other factor could be that Steve McClaren actually worked with Queens Park Rangers to open this season before taking the Derby County job- that inside information may help him form enough of a tactical game plan to earn an advantage in this Final.

Over the last eight years, the team that has finished 3rd in the Championship has won promotion through the Play Offs five times and Derby County have looked the better team. That just helps lead me to backing the Rams to get back to the top flight and help Steve McClaren earn a little more redemption in his reputation with the fans in England.

Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid Champions League Final Pick: This looks to be the Final that made the most sense with the way these teams have played in the Champions League this season and there are so many stories surrounding the game.

Can Real Madrid win their tenth European Cup, the first team to reach double digits, or can Atletico Madrid do the 'impossible double' of winning the top European trophy and adding it to the La Liga title they won last weekend?

Most people seem to be expecting a tight battle in this Final, but their previous meetings this season suggests it may be a little more exciting than that. The only issue is that both teams like to play a counter-attacking brand of football and might be worrying about over-committing when they do have the ball in possession.

Real Madrid have the individuals that can create a bit of magic in Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, although there are question as to how healthy they are having missed a few games at the end of the season. However, it is too simplistic to think of them as a team of individuals with the way Carlo Ancelotti has set them up and made Real Madrid a solid, organised team.

The absence of Xabi Alonso is a big miss for Real Madrid, but Atletico Madrid could be missing Diego Costa who is arguably more important to their style of play. Diego Simeone has done an excellent job of plugging the gaps and the team is set up to play together that they can make up for pieces that are missing, but Costa's goals are going to be hard to replace.

Atletico Madrid have shown no fear of playing the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid this season, except in the Copa Del Rey Semi Final when the latter proved to be too good. I expect Atletico will try and make life difficult for Real Madrid and the possession should be dominated by the latter, but this will come down to the chances and who is more likely to take those.

If Costa is missing, or not at 100%, Atletico Madrid may find it harder to finish off their opportunities, while a returning Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to add to the 16 Champions League goals he already has. I also believe Real Madrid have been preparing for this game ever since they beat Bayern Munich in the Semi Final and Atletico Madrid have had to tough out the Spanish title race.

I believe a moment of magic will end up handing the Champions League trophy to Real Madrid for the tenth time.

MY PICKS: Derby County @ 2.40 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Real Madrid @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

May Update12-13, + 6.60 Units (44 Units Staked, + 15% Yield)

April Final16-17, + 2.33 Units (58 Units Staked, + 4.02% 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 2013/14152-170-3, + 12.24 Units (530 Units Staked, + 2.31% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

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