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Saturday, 10 May 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (May 10-12)

The final round of Premier League football in the 2014 season is going to be played on Sunday as most of the issues have already been decided in the last seven days with all three relegation teams knowing their identity as well as all four Champions League participants.

Of course, Manchester City still have to earn at least a point from their final League game to finish as Champions, while Tottenham Hotspur need a point or Manchester United to fail to win at Southampton to confirm their place in European competition.

It does mean that the television cameras don't have two games of real drama that they can put on the screens for football fans, although you just don't know what the Premier League will throw up on any given weekend.

While there may not be as much big moments in the final Premier League games, the Play Offs in the lower Leagues will continue as we have the Championship Play Off Final being set by Monday evening and the start of the League One and League Two Play Off Semi Finals too.

The Spanish La Liga has also produced plenty of twists and turns in the last week as Real Madrid have somehow blown a huge opportunity to win the title and Barcelona are suddenly looking like a team that has every chance of winning it all. That has all come about by Atletico Madrid's surprising 2-0 loss at Levante and could mean a 'winner takes all' match between the top two next weekend if both win as expected this weekend.

Peterborough United v Leyton Orient Pick: The away goals rule doesn't apply in the Play Offs so the tense first legs are not always the case as they are in the big Champions League/Europa League ties when conceding at home can be fatal.

The way both Peterborough United and Leyton Orient approach the game means the lack of away goals can allow both to play their football to the best of their ability. That freedom to play the natural game should make this an entertaining Play Off Semi Final and one that is likely to be left on tenterhooks for the second leg.

It is actually a hard first leg to call as both teams finished the season with some decent form behind them and both are capable of scoring plenty of goals.

When this Play Off was set, the first thing I envisioned was seeing goals in both legs so I was more than a little surprised that the over 2.5 goals was set at odds against. I am expecting both teams to get forward and try and take a commanding position in the tie, while both meetings during the League season were also high-scoring affairs.

Leyton Orient have been scoring and conceding plenty of goals in their recent away games, while Peterborough United found some form going forward at London Road. I can see both teams scoring at least once in this game but I also believe one of the teams will have a lead to take into the second leg.

I fancied Leyton Orient to win this first leg, but their recent away form means I will simply back there being at least three goals scored.

Preston North End v Rotherham United Pick: The consensus opinion when it comes to the first leg of Play Off/knock out ties is that they are going to be tense and tight battles and I can understand the thinking as neither team will want to be beaten before the second leg.

That really plays out where the away goal rule comes into play, but that isn't the situation for the League One Play Offs and that should enable both Preston North End and Rotherham United to be able to try and get forward and win the match.

Both will be confident with Preston losing the joint fewest home games and Rotherham winning the joint most away games this season, while both teams are capable of scoring plenty of goals. The 3-3 draw between the two teams at this venus three months ago shows what they are capable of, while the two draws this season shows it could be another close game.

Preston North End have scored at least two goals in 6 of their last 8 home games and they have scored three or more in 4 of their last 5 at Deepdale so they will put plenty of pressure on Rotherham. However, Rotherham will be aware that Preston have 1 clean sheet in their last 5 at home, while the side themselves have scored at least two away goals in 3 of their last 4 on their travels.

When putting that all together, it is hard to understand why the layers believe this could be a game with less than three goals shared between the teams and I will back goals in the second League One Play Off game on Saturday too.

York City v Fleetwood Town Pick: The layers can't separate York City and Fleetwood Town in this opening game of the League Two Play Offs and I am not surprised considering the form that the home side have shown for three months and Fleetwood's strong away record.

Much of the success of York City has come behind their defensive strength and that has shown through the season with only 15 League goals conceded at home. They have only conceded 2 goals in their last 9 League games at home and Nigel Worthington will feel confident that can give them the basis of a successful first leg.

However, York have a poor home record against Fleetwood and they have lost 3 in a row here against them, all without scoring, and the lack of goals in the home side have to be a concern too.

With the way recent York game have gone, it is no surprise the layers have shortened the odds for two or fewer goals scored, but I still think they are taking a chance with the offer of 1.85 that both teams do not score.

3 of the last 5 Fleetwood Town away games would have seen that pick ending up a loser, but those have been the exceptions generally, while one team has failed to score in 12 of the last 15 games at Bootham Crescent.

Fulham v Crystal Palace Pick: This is another dead rubber in a Premier League weekend full of them, but a London derby should always get the players and fans up for the battle and I expect that to be the case at Craven Cottage.

Fulham had been playing better at home in the last few weeks, but it came too late in the season to avoid relegation, while the 2-0 lead against Hull City that eventually turned into a 2-2 draw was the critical blow to that aim.

They have won 2 of their last 4 games at Craven Cottage, but are coming up against a confident Crystal Palace team that have been effective defensively and have the pace going forward to cause plenty of problems.

The lack of motivation in terms of position in the Premier League table would be a concern for Crystal Palace, but their performance against Liverpool shows there is a real desire that Tony Pulis has instilled into the side. With three away wins in a row to their name, a small interest on Crystal Palace winning here has to be the call at the odds.

Liverpool v Newcastle United Pick: There might be a few disappointed fans that arrive at Anfield on Sunday as it looked like the long wait for a top flight title was coming to an end this season, especially after they beat Manchester City at Anfield with a late winner. One of their main players was even celebrating being 'Champions' in a bar after that game to the point of buying drinks for anyone in his vicinity, but a slip has given Manchester City the initiative.

While the fans might be a little downbeat, Liverpool players will want to end the season in the positive manner that has seen them come so close to winning the Premier League and also were exceeding the expectations set out. The Champions League was the aim, but not many would have tipped Liverpool to come so close to winning the title and that has to make the players proud even if they do come up short.

Anfield has proved a happy hunting ground for Liverpool who come forward in waves and with plenty of pace through the side. That is going to be tough for Newcastle United to deal with on current form, especially considering they have been beaten comfortably at Chelsea, Southampton and Arsenal in recent away games.

I am not sure how the Newcastle players are feeling with the rumours surrounding Alan Pardew's future as manager of the club and I think a number of their players have performed as if their holidays have already started.

They have even taken some heavy losses at home in recent matches with the likes of Everton and Manchester United securing heavy wins and I can see Newcastle perhaps dropping their heads if they become the latest team to concede early at Anfield. If that happens, I expect Liverpool go on and record a heavy home win even if that leaves them just short of their first title since 1990. 

Manchester City v West Ham United Pick: The game on Wednesday night against Aston Villa would have given the fans something of a trial run as to how they are going to be feeling on Sunday afternoon at the Etihad Stadium with very little expectation of West Ham United setting out in a dissimilar manner.

Patience will be the key for Manchester City as they look to wrap up the Premier League title, but the return of Sergio Aguero gives them another clever, creative player that could make life difficult for West Ham to shut up shop.

Manchester City showed they will eventually wear down teams mentally when they are moving them around with the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva, Samir Nasri and now Aguero all capable of playing the magic pass that unlocks the toughest of defences. The other factor to consider is that West Ham United, no matter how much they protest otherwise, don't have a lot to play for and that means they can lose concentration with not a lot on the line.

That happened to Aston Villa as soon as they conceded to go behind and I would fear for West Ham if they were to concede early in this game as it could become a very long day in the office for them. West Ham United will also have some poor memories of facing Manchester City having conceded 12 goals against them in three games this season and I think there is too much attacking talent for Manchester City to blow this now.

They have also begun to score goals again and have hit at least two goals in their last 7 League games, while City have also scored at least three goals in 4 of their last 5 League games at the Etihad Stadium. I would expect Manchester City to perhaps get away with this game as they did on Wednesday night if they go ahead and I fancy them to win big again and pick up the title for a second time in three years.

Southampton v Manchester United Pick: As a fan, the late fixtures are those that are especially important to determine how difficult finishing with titles could become, and that has been the case for Manchester United over the last two decades. In June, I was thinking a trip to Southampton could be a tough place to try and win a Premier League title if it got that far, but there was no way anyone could have predicted the season we have seen.

A long, gruelling season is coming to an end on Sunday and the excitement of the next few months will begin as many changes are expected to be made by the new manager, which looks like being Louis Van Gaal.

For now, Ryan Giggs will look to make it 3 wins from 4 games as interim manager, but I imagine he may pick a starting eleven that has a blend of youth and experience as he did against Hull City on Tuesday evening. That might give Southampton the edge in the game as they are also a side that likes to get forward, although it will be interesting to see how the players and manager cope in what could be the last games for the club for Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and manager Mauricio Pochettino.

However, both teams can play with the freedom that comes with knowing there is nothing to lose from the game and I can imagine it is a fun one for the fans in attendance. There are goals in both teams and neither team has been involved in too many low-scoring games in recent home/away games respectively.

Before the 1-1 draw this season, the last 8 games between Manchester United and Southampton had also seen at least three goals scored, including both last season, and I will back that to happen on Sunday.

West Brom v Stoke City Pick: It will be interesting to see how West Brom respond to the fact that their manager is likely to be leaving at the end of this game and that could make it a tough afternoon for them with the uncertainty surrounding the club.

The fact that this game is being played at the Hawthornes should give West Brom plenty of motivation to perform, but the visit of Stoke City has not been much fun for the locals in recent seasons.

Stoke City have won 4 in a row at this ground and 5 of their last 6 when visiting this part of the Midlands and they will be confident of the way they have been playing. However, they remain a team that struggles to win games away from the comforts of the Brittania Stadium and that does reduce my enthusiasm for backing them to win here.

I do believe that Stoke City are the right side to back considering the odds on them to win the game, which are far higher than I anticipated, but I will just make sure it is only a small interest on the away win.

Derby County v Brighton Semi Final Second Leg Pick: The win at the Amex Stadium has given Derby County a very strong advantage in this Semi Final and I think it is going to be very tough for Brighton to turn this around from this position.

The biggest problem for Derby may be whether the Rams are struggling with the 'stick or twist' nature of a 2-1 lead, but I think they will find it hard to curb the attacking instincts that have seen them score so many home goals. I also think they will be very dangerous on the counter-attack and it might be too much for Brighton to avoid a fourth straight defeat to Derby County this season.

Brighton know they have to win here if they have any chance of making it through to the Play Off Final and that could lead to some desperate scenes as they chase the game which should give Derby the opportunity to put them away.

With 5 straight home wins behind them and plenty of goals going in, I will back Derby County to win again in this Semi Final.

MY PICKS: Peterborough United-Leyton Orient Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Preston North End-Rotherham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
York City-Fleetwood Town Both NOT to Score @ 1.92 William Hill (2 Units)
Crystal Palace @ 2.90 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Liverpool - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (3 Units)
Manchester City - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 (4 Units)
Southampton-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 3.60 Coral (1 Unit)
Derby County @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

May Update6-6, + 4.86 Units (19 Units Staked, + 25.88% 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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