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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Sunday, 31 August 2014

US Open Day 7 Picks 2014 (August 31st)

It just seems like the week is flying past as we have reached the Fourth Round of the women's event at the US Open and the conclusion of the Third Round of the men's event.

The results for the picks have improved as the week has moved on and it was another successful day on Saturday, but that doesn't mean I can be complacent and expect another strong Grand Slam performance without the necessary research.

Hopefully Sunday will provide another move upwards for the tournament with the following picks.

Marin Cilic win 3-1 v Kevin Anderson: This is a battle of big-servers but I expect Marin Cilic to have too much off the ground to win this match, although he might need four sets to get the job done.

Cilic is the more aggressive returner off both first and second serve and he may be able to push Anderson back a little despite the big serve the South African has.

In the longer rallies I would fancy Cilic to have the more consistency, but the Anderson serve means he is likely to take a set either with a late break of serve or through a tie-break.

However, the Croatian should be too strong when the match is said and done and should move into the Fourth Round.

Gael Monfils - 2.5 games v Richard Gasquet: The battle of two Frenchmen who perhaps should be making a grander impact in the Grand Slam events takes place on Sunday and I think Gael Monfils gets the better of Richard Gasquet.

They have had many close matches in the past and Monfils is leading the head to head thanks to wins in their last two matches and also has a win over Gasquet at the US Open.

I believe the extra athleticism that Monfils has causes Gasquet some problems as he forces him to look closer to the lines and there should also be plenty of breaks of serves both ways in this exciting match.

At the end of it, I expect Monfils has a little extra in the locker and can see off Gasquet, possibly after four tough sets.

Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 games v David Goffin: Grigor Dimitrov is one of the more recognised faces on the men's Tour these days, but he is quietly making his way through the draw at the US Open.

He has been in impressive form when you consider five of the six sets he has won has come by a 62 or better scoreline and I expect he is going to have a little too much for David Goffin too.

It has been an impressive summer for Goffin who has won plenty of matches and is set to re-enter the World Top 50 in the Rankings, but Dimitrov should be the one controlling the rallies in this match and I expect the Bulgarian will have the edge in the match.

There is a real belief that Dimitrov is capable of winning a Slam now and I think he comes through this one with a 63, 64, 64 win.

Sara Errani - 3.5 games v Mirjana Lucic-Baroni: Sara Errani came through a tough Third Round match against Venus Williams and I think she is going to be able to back that up against Mirjana Lucic-Baroni who has already caused two big surprises during this tournament.

Lucic-Baroni beat Garbine Muguruza in the First Round and then stunned one of the favourites for the title by beating Simona Halep in the Third Round.

I expect someone like Errani to try and bamboozle Lucic-Baroni by forcing the latter into more and more shots and then trying to extract errors from her game. Lucic-Baroni had lost 7 matches in a row prior to her run at the US Open where the confidence has come from coming through the qualifiers and then winning three main Round matches.

This might be a step too far and I think Errani comes through 64, 64.

Maria Sharapova - 2.5 games v Caroline Wozniacki: I have been a big critic of Caroline Wozniacki over the last few seasons, but I have to admit I have been very impressed with her since she split from Rory McIlroy.

It seems to have revitalised a career that was seemingly stuck in neutral and Wozniacki is a big threat to win even the biggest of tournaments, something I didn't really consider her even when she reached World Number 1 in the Rankings.

The match with Maria Sharapova is a fascinating Fourth Round encounter, and I think there is a chance that this goes to three sets. However, I think Sharapova is mentally hardened to deal with what Wozniacki throws at her and has dominated the head to head between them.

As I said, I do think Wozniacki is improved recently, but Sharapova can win this one 63, 46 64.

Lucie Safarova - 2.5 games v Shuai Peng: After reaching the Wimbledon Semi Final earlier in the season, Lucie Safarova must feel she has the making of a Grand Slam Champion, and I do expect her to be too good for Shuai Peng.

It has shown from Safarova's three set wins in the last two Rounds that she has a new found belief in her game, although Peng has been impressive with two straight wins against higher Ranked players to build her own confidence.

I can see both players having their success in this one after they played a tight battle in Doha earlier this season, but Safarova should be able to pick up the cheaper points behind her lefty serve.

Another match that might go three sets, I fancy Safarova to come through 62, 36, 64

MY PICKS: Marin Cilic Win 3-1 @ 4.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Gael Monfils - 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Sara Errani - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Maria Sharapova - 2.5 Games @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Lucie Safarova - 2.5 Games @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

US Open Update: 9-6, + 7.86 Units (27 Units Staked, + 29.11% Yield)

Saturday, 30 August 2014

US Open Day 6 Picks 2014 (August 30th)

More positives came out of Day 5 and I will be hoping to ride this positive trend through the Third Round matches that have been scheduled in New York today.

Flavia Pennetta - 4.5 games v Nicole Gibbs: This time last year, Flavia Pennetta crushed Nicole Gibbs in the First Round at this tournament, but I would be surprised if this isn't a more competitive match, although I still believe the Italian will come through.

Pennetta has beaten the likes of Shelby Rogers and Taylor Townsend this summer, the former in the Second Round at the US Open, so taking on another young American hope won't put any additional pressure on her, or so you would think.

She is going up against a player that has had two surprising wins already, but Gibbs has played a lot of tennis this week to get to the Third Round and she hasn't had a lot of experience of the top WTA level.

With hours spent on court, Gibbs may struggle to contain Pennetta who has heavy groundstrokes and I expect the latter can use those to punish the American and eventually come through 64, 63.

Kei Nishikori - 5.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: You have to respect Leonardo Mayer who has shown he is more than a clay court specialist this season with a strong run at Wimbledon and he is in the midst of a career season.

Of course, Mayer is still most comfortable on clay where he won the title in Hamburg this summer and I think Kei Nishikori is going to wear him down and eventually prove too strong.

The first set should be very close, but I think Nishikori will be very difficult to pull back if he can take that set and should then move away from Mayer.

Nishikori can't take the match for granted though and must continue working hard as Mayer does have a decent serve that can set up the easy points, but I think this one ends 76, 64, 63 for the Japanese star.

Novak Djokovic - 8.5 games v Sam Querrey: On first glance, I though this spread was giving up too many games in favour of the big serving American Sam Querrey, but Novak Djokovic has the weapons to nullify that serve and then move forward.

In the last four meetings between these players, Djokovic has won almost half the sets (5/11) with either a bagel or a 61 scoreline and doing that again will give him every chance of surpassing this number.

Djokovic looks a man on a mission this week as he looks to add another Grand Slam title to the one he won at Wimbledon in July and I don't think he will be taking this match lightly. Querrey remains dangerous, especially if he builds some steam, but Djokovic should force the American to play enough balls to extract real errors from him as he goes closer and closer to the lines.

I will be looking for Djokovic to come through with a 75, 61, 63 win.

John Isner Win 3-1 v Philipp Kohlschreiber: These two players have had some incredibly close battles through the last few years, but I think John Isner gets a measure of revenge over Philipp Kohlschreiber for losses in the last 2 US Opens.

Isner has won all 4 other matches they have competed against one another, but this will be anything but straight-forward and a straight sets win would be a big surprise.

Expect tie-breaks and one break of serve could win any set, but I think the American will have learnt from the last two experiences and this time turn it around against Kohlschreiber.

Stan Wawrinka - 6.5 games v Blaz Kavcic: Stan Wawrinka has struggled for consistency since winning the Australian Open, but he can still move safely into the Fourth Round as long as he can maintain his focus going into this match.

This is the kind of match that a Grand Slam Champion should be dominating as Kavcic doesn't have any particular overwhelming weapon.

Any player that has won a couple of matches in a Slam has to be respected though, although Kavcic suffered comfortable losses to Nicolas Mahut and Benjamin Becker this summer, while Wawrinka is another level higher than those players.

As long as he keeps his focus, which has been a issue for Wawrinka, I would imagine he can come through 64, 63, 64.

MY PICKS: Flavia Pennetta - 4.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Kei Nishikori - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic - 8.5 Games @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
John Isner Win 3-1 @ 4.33 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 6.5 Games @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)

US Open Update: 6-5, + 3.34 Units (20 Units Staked, + 16.7% Yield)

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (August 30-31)

The final weekend of August is the final round of Premier League games before the first international games of the new season and it is a big one for the likes of Manchester United who need a win desperately.

The first month has been as bad as last season to this point, but with this last weekend to try and redeem things and I am hopeful that these picks can get things continuing in the right direction.

Burnley v Manchester United Pick: I know Burnley have made a poor start to the new season, but I don't know who will be backing Manchester United to win at short odds considering their own poor start to the new season. The defending has been diabolical at times with a 3-5-2 system that is unfamiliar to the players causing some issues.

However, there should be a boost this weekend with Marcos Rojo and Angel Di Maria giving Manchester United a sprinkling of Argentinian toughness that has been missing from the first three games. Even with those arrivals, United have taken the Liverpool line of being priced by 'name' rather than 'form' and there is no way I would feel comfortable backing them to win at Turf Moor this weekend.

Manchester United have found the net in both League games though and I do think they are capable of scoring at Turf Moor with Di Maria, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie providing some real attacking options.

On the other hand, I fully expect Burnley to be completely up for this live game and they created enough against Chelsea in the first home game to think Turf Moor can be a very tough place to visit this season. That is the only goal Burnley have scored in 3 games in all competitions this season, but I think Sean Dyche is smart enough to know that this is a vulnerable Manchester United team coming to town and he will want his men on the front foot.

The first game of the last Premier League weekend was a dud, but this should be much more fascinating and I won't be surprised at all if both teams score in an entertaining game that could go either way.

Manchester City v Stoke City Pick: Manchester City look to be a team playing with supreme belief that they will find a way to win matches and I think it is going to be difficult for Stoke City to do enough to earn a point.

The question then becomes how long can Stoke frustrate the home team in a bid to perhaps find a surprise result. Last season they lasted until the 70th minute before Yaya Toure broke the resistance, but Stoke City have struggled here recently and had lost 4 of their previous 5 games at the Etihad Stadium by the same 3-0 scoreline.

With the attacking talent at the disposal of Manual Pellegrini and the full strength available to the Chilean, I think this game is going to end more in line with recent fixtures and the 1-0 could be an aberration.

It will all depend on how long Stoke can hold out, but an early goal conceded could make this a long afternoon for Mark Hughes at a club where he managed and I think Manchester City are clinical enough to win this one comfortably.

Swansea v West Brom Pick: August can be a tough month to really make a profit simply because there isn't a lot of form to back up picks and you can only go with pre-season expectations. It is then easy to read too much into one result and expect a team to continue playing at that level and I am a little disappointed with the prices for a Swansea win in this game.

However, I do think the Swans are the more likely winners as I feel they have more players capable of creating/scoring a goal out of nothing compared with West Brom. The latter look set for a tough season in the Premier League and I do think they are going up against a confident Swansea team that will want to go into the international break off the back of four straight wins.

It certainly won't be an easy game for Swansea considering I don't fully trust this team to break down opponents that may come into the Liberty Stadium to soak up the pressure. They did manage to do that against Burnley last weekend and I do feel they will produce something special that separates the two teams.

West Brom ended last season with some real struggles on their travels and I believe Swansea inflict their first defeat of the new campaign on Saturday.

West Ham United v Southampton Pick: There is every chance that this could prove to be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend as both West Ham United and Southampton have shown their ability to get the ball down and play some quality football in the early portion of the new season.

With a little more luck in front of goal, West Ham would have won all 3 games they have played this season, but penalties have been a particularly issue after the shoot-out defeat against Sheffield United. That followed Mark Noble's penalty miss against Tottenham Hotspur which would have given West Ham the lead against ten men, but the result at Crystal Palace should give them confidence.

As well as Southampton have played against Liverpool, the result against West Brom at home has to be a concern and I think they are a touch over-rated to be coming to West Ham as the favourites this weekend.

West Ham have shown they can get after teams in the early season form and I think they will give Southampton plenty to think about. There is every chance that West Ham make it three wins in a row over the Saints at Upton Park, especially if they keep creating the chances they have so far this season and a small interest on the underdog is advisable.

Everton v Chelsea Pick: Everton threw away two points last week with their inexplicable collapse from 2-0 up against Arsenal with less than ten minutes to play. Now they have to pick themselves up to face one of the favourites for the Premier League title.

Chelsea have made a solid start to the new season but this is the toughest test they will have faced by some distance and the Blues could be missing Diego Costa this week.

They also have a poor record at Goodison Park to say the least in recent seasons and anything less than a A performance could see the Chelsea 100% come to a screeching halt.

We have seen so many teams come to this ground and fail to win the game if they are not at their very best and Chelsea may need Didier Drogba to lead the line if Costa can't go. The midfield will create chances but Everton will also be attacking at will and I think these teams may need to split the points this week.

Leicester City v Arsenal Pick: There have been some signs that Arsenal are getting better going forward, although they still look like they need someone to lead the line with Olivier Giroud missing out for the foreseeable future.

However, a concern for Arsene Wenger will be how vulnerable they look defensively and there was an element of fortune in the last few minutes against Besiktas that they didn't concede the goal that would have knocked them out.

They are now going up against a Leicester City team that have conceded twice in each of the first two matches in the Premier League and I do think Arsenal are capable of getting to that number again. On the other hand, Nigel Pearson would have seen enough going forward in those two League games to believe they can also cause Arsenal plenty of problems and I expect this Super Sunday contest may feature some goals.

I honestly do think both managers will feel they can win this game and there should be chances at both ends. At the end of the day, Arsenal should be the more clinical with the talent they can call upon, but they haven't been that good in either of their first two away games this season and I will pick this game to feature at least three goals.

MY PICKS: Burnley-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Swansea @ 1.92 Coral (2 Units)
West Ham United @ 3.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Everton-Chelsea Draw @ 3.40 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Leicester City-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)

August Update7-17, - 13.76 Units (41 Units Staked, - 33.56% Yield)

Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Friday, 29 August 2014

US Open Day 5 Picks 2014 (August 29th)

After a poor start to the tournament, there has been an improvement in each of the last three days to move the week back into a positive, although that doesn't mean I am any less fed up of these retirements.

One of the three landed in my favour, but both Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori looked in great positions to win their matches comfortably before opponents decided to pull out. Now both Marcos Baghdatis and Pablo Andujar probably had fine reasons to do so, but that won't help me feel any better when players fail to cover in situations where they should and I feel some profit has been left out there.

Jelena Jankovic - 5.5 games v Johanna Larsson: Johanna Larsson is coming off a big win over home hope Sloane Stephens, but all she has really done is put an exclamation point on the poor season that Stephens has been having.

Facing Jelena Jankovic should prove to be an altogether more difficult prospect for Larsson, especially considering she has been comfortably beaten in their last two matches.

Jankovic has been having a decent, if not a spectacular year and she has every chance of surpassing the 46 wins she achieved in 2013 with a couple of decent runs. The match up looks a good one with the consistent Serb able to extract errors from the Larsson game and I am not that surprised that the latter has won just six games from four sets that they have played against one another.

I would imagine the Larsson win over Stephens has boosted confidence to make this a closer match between these two than the last two matches, but I still believe Jankovic comes through 75, 62.

Grigor Dimitrov - 7.5 games v Dudi Sela: Grigor Dimitrov barely came through a sloppy second set against Ryan Harrison but was still a comfortable First Round winner and I would be surprised if he can't back that up against Dudi Sela.

Sela... The bane of my life earlier this hard court season with a couple of decent runs and surprise wins, but it is asking a lot of him to knock off a confident player like Dimitrov who truly believes he should be at the business end of every tournament he competes in.

I would expect Dimitrov to have a lot more joy attacking the second serve of Sela than he did against Harrison, and I also believe his ability to make a number of balls is going to extract errors and give Dimitrov the chance to dictate things in this match.

The last time they met ended in a close three set win for Dimitrov, but I would say he has improved a lot since that 2012 meeting and expect this one to be a little more routine.

David Ferrer - 5.5 games v Bernard Tomic: You know I haven't really gone near a David Ferrer match since the French Open as it has seemed he is not quite himself and a number of his results since then have confirmed my doubts.

However, I still think he has the mental fortitude to take care of Bernard Tomic in this Second Round match as his ability to make balls is surely going to frustrate the young Australian. It hasn't been a great season for Tomic who suffered an injury that kept him out earlier in the year, but he has won a title on the hard courts during this summer.

That came in Bogota against limited opposition to say the least and Tomic has not been very consistent since then. Ferrer has had some strange results too in that time, including dropping sets in the most bizarre fashion and that would concern me in this match.

However, I think mentally Ferrer is still as good as ever and that is the factor that could see him come through while covering this number of games in four sets.

Ivo Karlovic win 3-1 v Marcel Granollers: I was looking at a couple of ways to back Ivo Karlovic in this match, but I have settled on him coming through in four sets against a Marcel Granollers who has had a poor 2014 season.

Ivo Karlovic still has the monster serve that made him so dangerous to play, although it is not the all-conquering weapon it had been at the peak of his powers. Nowadays, more and more opponents begin to get a good feel for what Karlovic brings, but an unconfident Granollers is perhaps not the man to take advantage.

However, the fact that more and more players are getting into the Karlovic service game means there is every chance that Granollers can win at least a set, especially with the lottery of the tie-break to get through too.

I do think Karlovic, despite a generally poor record in Grand Slams, will be too strong for the Spaniard when it is all said and done, but a small interest on a 3-1 win is the call.

MY PICKS: Jelena Jankovic - 5.5 Games @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 7.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
David Ferrer - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Ivo Karlovic Win 3-1 @ 4.20 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

US Open Update: 4-4, + 0.54 Units (15 Units Staked, + 3.6% Yield)

Thursday, 28 August 2014

College Football Week 1 Picks 2014 (August 28-31)

Last season proved to be a very successful one for the picks from College Football and the NFL, although I would have dearly loved to have had a much stronger Bowl Season when the profit from the season was almost cut in half.

It feels like only yesterday that the Florida State Seminoles were winning the National Championship, but eight months on and we are ready for the new College Play Off system as Week One gets ready to go. Unlike the NFL, there are usually more drastic changes in the College game with players concluding their time in school, while others make the early jump to the professional ranks.

This time we do see the 'big names' all being spoken about as potential National Champions, but the regular season does feel more important than ever. Even so, it would be a surprise if the winner of the SEC, Pac-12 Conferences are not making up two of the teams in the College Play Off with the other expected to be Florida State who should win the ACC.

That would mean either the Big Ten Champion or the Big 12 Champion being forced to sit out the inaugural Play Off system, which would bring its own questions if those two teams are unbeaten, or if there are three or more teams all with just one loss for the year.

I am interested to see how things play out this season as the College game gets set to begin a week before the start of the NFL season. The next nine months are expected to be fascinating all around as fans and players just want to see some live, meaningful action (I am not a fan of the NFL pre-season games at all).

Even fans on this side of the Atlantic are getting in on College Football this season with Ireland hosting the Croke Park Classic between Penn State and UCF on the first weekend of the season and it seems fans on this side of the pond can't get enough of American Football these days. Of course the NFL will be sending three games to Wembley Stadium during the course of the regular season too and it is simply time to start tossing the pigskin all around the field.

After a really disappointing 2012 season, the picks returned to the land of profit in 2013, but I am still hopeful of avoiding those weeks where 'everything' seems to go wrong. The 2012 season started horrifically with a number of backdoor covers as the 'big teams' rested players with scores in hand.

It is a long season so even a poor start isn't the end of the world, but let's face facts for a moment- it always feels good to get ahead of the curve and try to build momentum for another strong year.

Texas A&M Aggies @ South Carolina Gamecocks Pick: The College Football season kicks off with a huge SEC game between two teams that have lost a number of big Draft picks as well as some top names in both offensive and defensive positions.

The spread has come down since the opening lines with South Carolina favoured by less than double digits, but I was most interested in the total points and feel the 59.5 points offered at William Hill could be considered a touch low.

Both teams will feel their offenses are capable of putting up plenty of points and I think both Offensive Lines will feel they can win the war in the trenches that should set up the teams to move up and down the field.

Out of the two of them, it is South Carolina that are projected to have a bigger season, possibly even getting into the Play Offs at the end of the season and they should have prepared well enough to win the game. However, that may come while the total points are surpassed and I feel better about that than picking a team to cover the spread.

Tulane Green Wave @ Tulsa Golden Hurricane Pick: The two teams may both be moving into the American Atlantic Conference this season, but they are familiar with one another and the Tulsa Golden Hurricane are looking for a bit of revenge for an upset loss last season.

The experience for the coming season lands on the side of Tulsa and there is more expectation of them compared with Tulane in the move to a better Conference.

While Tulsa are expected to improve, Tulane are not expected to earn another winning record this time around after a number of upsets assisted them 7 wins in 2013. The Green Wave also have an awful record when travelling to Oklahoma having lost their last 4 visits and those have come at an average of 37 points per game.

Even in the Green Wave win last season, they were actually outgained in terms of yards but won the turnover battle and I am expecting the Golden Hurricane to win this one by a touchdown at least.

UTSA Roadrunners @ Houston Cougars Pick: A quick look at the rosters will show that these two teams are returning a vast majority of the starters from last season and both are expected to be amongst the favourites to win their respective Conferences.

The edge in the contest goes to Houston for a couple of reasons as they opening their brand new home and have an experienced John O'Korn starting under Center for this game.

The scoreline from last season may suggest Houston won easily, but they basically won the turnover battle and were outgained in terms of yards in that game. Eric Soza has left UTSA now so a new Quarter Back has to be broken in and I think there might be a few more troubles in the turnover department in this one.

Houston have a 12-5 record against the spread as the home favourite over the last three years and I will look for them to cover the double-digit spread.

Ohio State Buckeyes @ Navy Midshipmen Pick: Braxton Miller is gone for the season so the Ohio State Buckeyes have been hurt badly in their bid for a place in the Play Offs after previously being favourites to do so.

However, this line seems to be a little over-reaction considering the difference in talent options for both teams, although Navy are very capable having brought back a lot of players with a lot experience.

Dropping 6 points off the original line does cover the Miller absence, but I think the Buckeyes will be well prepared for the triple option Navy run and I think they play with attitude to prove Ohio State is more than an injured Quarter Back. It won't be easy against a well disciplined Navy team, but a little over two touchdowns to cover should give the Buckeyes a chance to do so.

Alabama Crimson Tide v West Virginia Mountaineers Pick: There are some connections between the teams and there are doubts about what to expect from the Alabama Quarter Back situation, but the talent differential should lead to a fairly routine win for an annual National Championship favourite.

The neutral venue bring some more intrigue, as well as Alabama coming into the game having lost their last 2 games last season, but the Crimson Tide still have the best Receiving corps and Running Back corps and I think they wear down a Mountaineers team that is far off the recent heights of the Geno Smith era.

Alabama have won their last 2 opening games by an average of 26 points per game and the Mountaineers were beaten by 26 points the last time they met an SEC team. West Virginia are 1-6 against the spread in their last 7 non-Conference games and the Crimson Tide could make a big statement.

Florida Atlantic Owls @ Nebraska Cornhuskers Pick: As much as Bo Pelini may say that he is not interested in the 'revenge' angle for his brother Carl, it may make him a little more hesitant to call off the dogs even if Nebraska get into a big lead.

They should have the talent edges in the game and I expect the Cornhuskers are going to be dominate with their running game and be able to score a few Touchdowns in this one.

At this time of the year, teams can decide to rest starters when the game is in hand, but I think Nebraska keep them in a little longer, while the Cornhuskers were surprised with a home loss to Wyoming last season which should keep the focus together.

Florida Atlantic do battle hard, but Nebraska should see enough of the ball to cover.

California Golden Bears @ Northwestern Wildcats Pick: Out of these two teams, there is a real feeling that Northwestern are going to have a breakout season and really cause some problems for teams in the Big Ten and I think they will prove to be too strong for a California Golden Bears team that should be a lot better than last season even if the record might not reflect that.

I expect Northwestern will have more success with the ball in their hands and might win the turnover battle again that could see them pull away from the Golden Bears in a similar manner to last season.

Sonny Dykes will be hoping California can throw the ball with more consistency, but that could potentially be going up against the strength of the Northwestern Defense and might also lead to those killer turnovers.

It is a big number, but one that Northwestern can cover.

Georgia Bulldogs v Clemson Tigers Pick: The winner of this game is going to be a real contender in the National Championship discussion, although both Georgia and Clemson are in Divisions with a real powerhouse that is expected to reach the final four.

They can't worry about that for now as they get set to meet in a neutral venue, but one that should have more Georgia fans in the building.

There is a little more solidity behind the Georgia team in my opinion thanks to Todd Gurley, although this Offensive Line has to use all of their experience that they have gathered against a fierce Clemson Defensive Line.

However, I did think the Bulldogs would be more than a 7.5 point favourite and I like them to win and cover.

Florida State Seminoles v Oklahoma State Cowboys Pick: Florida State are the National Champions and they have every chance to back that up this season with Jameis Winston still at Quarter Back.

This looks a big spread to cover in Jerry's World, but the Seminoles have the experience and might only be affected by lack of effort if they feel they just need to come in and think the Oklahoma State Cowboys are going to roll over.

The Cowboys have only brought back 8 starters and it is a big task to take on the National Champions and I think the Seminoles go into the game with the ability to really crack on and show why they are such a favourite to repeat.

LSU Tigers v Wisconsin Badgers Pick: Simple reason for this pick to be honest- SEC over Big Ten and I do think the LSU Tigers are better than some will think too.

The Tigers have lost key pieces of their team, but they have more returning starters than the Wisconsin Badgers.

Both teams have their doubts as you just don't know what inexperience will bring to the table, but SEC over Big Ten is a comfortable position for me in what looks like a small squad.

MY PICKS: South Carolina Gamecocks-Texas A&M Aggies Over 59.5 Total Points @ 1.92 William Hill (1 Unit)
Tulsa Golden Hurricane - 6 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Houston Cougars - 10 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Ohio State Buckeyes - 14.5 Points @ 1.90 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Alabama Crimson Tide - 23.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Nebraska Cornhuskers - 21.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Northwestern Wildcats - 10 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Georgia Bulldogs - 10 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
Florida State Seminoles - 19 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
LSU Tigers - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

Season 201365-49-2, + 8.49 Units (124 Units Staked, + 6.85% Yield)
Season 201254-59-1 - 7.11 Units (114 Units Staked, - 6.24% Yield)
Season 201163-36, + 23.25 Units (99 Units Staked, + 23.5% Yield)

US Open Day 4 Picks 2014 (August 28th)

So suffice to say that Day 3 at the US Open was a strange one for the picks with two of the matches ending in the void column thanks to retirements, while the two completed matches saw one find a way to lose when it looked like it would win and the other find a way to win when it looked like heading in a losing direction.

It does mean that Day 3 turned a positive number, but it was a long way to get to that point.

Day 3 was also notable for a number of big name players exiting the draw as the heavy wind that usually accompanies the US Open were evident, especially earlier in the day. A couple of players escaped with final set wins and the Second Round will be concluded on Thursday as the tournament begins to pick up some pace.

Kei Nishikori - 6.5 games v Pablo Andujar: One of the top players in the men's game that I don't have full trust in is Kei Nishikori, especially when it comes to these big number of games to cover.

Nishikori's serve won't intimidate too many people and that means he has to work harder to hold on to that aspect of his game and I do think that has contributed to some of the health issues he has had. The Japanese star has to stay out on the court longer than necessary as he is forced to dig deep at times, but I do like the match up with Pablo Andujar.

Andujar also has a serve that needs protecting so Nishikori will have the chance to recover any breaks of serve, while I also feel the hard courts are going to favour the higher Ranked player. Andujar is just 7-17 on the hard courts over the last two seasons, and there is little doubt the Spaniard feels more comfortable on the clay courts.

That should give Nishikori enough of an edge to come through with a 76, 64, 62 win.

Sam Querrey win 3-1 v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: Once seen as the future of men's American tennis, Sam Querrey has struggled with injury and form and now lies just 57 in the World Rankings.

He struggled through in five sets in the First Round, but has been given time to recover from those exploits and Querrey has matched up well with Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the past.

I was surprised to see Garcia-Lopez dismiss Yen-Hsun Lu so comfortably in the First Round, but he has lost all four matches against Querrey including in three sets in Winston Salem last week. The bigger serve and heavier shots lie with Querrey, although I have noted that the last three matches between the players have needed all gone the distance.

Those came in best of three set matches and it wouldn't surprise me if Querrey needs four sets to see off Garcia-Lopez here after splitting the first two sets played.

Victoria Azarenka - 4.5 games v Christina McHale: You'd have to be a fool to not recognise that we haven't seen the best of Victoria Azarenka since her injury issues at the start of 2014 and it is the main reason she has dropped to number 17 in the World Rankings.

She has struggled for consistency since returning to the Tour and made heavy weather of her First Round win, but I think Azarenka can find things a little more straight-forward against home hope Christina McHale on Thursday.

McHale has struggled against some of the better players she has faced in recent weeks, but she was inspired enough to take Ana Ivanovic to three sets twelve months ago here. However, McHale really had to battle deep within herself to win her First Round match and I am interested to know how much she left out there.

It was a double bagel for Azarenka when these players last met and, while I expect this will be much more competitive, I think she can move through with a 64, 63 win in this one.

Ekaterina Makarova - 5.5 games v Polona Hercog: Ekaterina Makarova was one of the more frustrating players on the WTA Tour as she seemed to have all the talent to perform better than she was. Outside of the Australian Open, Makarova made sporadic impacts on the Tour, but her recent form suggests that could be changing.

Only the biggest names on the WTA Tour have prevented Makarova from going all the way in tournaments during the summer hard court swing and her 23 hard court wins already this season has surpassed what she managed in each of the last two seasons.

This is a much more confident player in the midst of her best season on the Tour and I think Makarova can use her power to get past Polona Hercog in this Second Round match. Makarova dismissed her in the First Round twelve months ago and Hercog hasn't had much success on the hard courts coming into the US Open.

Hercog did surprise with her First Round win but it is unlikely that she can back that up here against an in-form Makarova ad I like the latter to come through 64, 62.

Eugenie Bouchard - 4.5 games v Sorana Cirstea: I don't know whether we can read too much into Sorana Cirstea's First Round dismantling of Heather Watson as that was down to as much poor play from the Brit as quality stuff from Cirstea.

I think the Romanian will find a lot tougher against Eugenie Bouchard despite the struggles the latter has had in the summer hard court swing. It feels like Bouchard is finding it hard to motivate herself in the 'smaller' tournaments after her success in the Grand Slam events in 2014 and I am expecting another big showing.

Despite some of the terrible beatings Bouchard has suffered over the last six weeks, she still should have enough consistency to force Cirstea to search for a little more. I also feel Cirstea has struggled to back up wins all season and she hasn't done that since the French Open, while looking set for her fewest wins on the Tour since 2011.

Both are heavy hitters so the second serves could take some punishment in this Second Round match, but I do think Bouchard digs deep enough for a 75, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Kei Nishikori - 6.5 Games @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Sam Querrey Win 3-1 @ 4.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Victoria Azarenka - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ekaterina Makarova - 5.5 Games @ 1.92 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Eugenie Bouchard - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)

US Open Update: 1-3, - 3.5 Units (8 Units Staked, - 43.75% Yield)

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

US Open Day 3 Picks 2014 (August 27th)

The US Open concludes some of the First Round matches that are still to be played on the third day of the tournament and I remain a little baffled by the decision to split this round over three days.

It makes so little sense to me, especially if the rain plays havoc on the schedule, but this year has seen some beautiful weather to open Flushing Meadows.

The hold over of some First Round matches and the start of the Second Round means another full schedule on Wednesday as the final Grand Slam tournament of the season really gets underway.

Kevin Anderson - 6.5 games v Pablo Cuevas: In normal circumstances, this would be a very big number for Kevin Anderson to cover, but I think the big South African will get the better of Pablo Cuevas fairly comfortably in this First Round match.

Anderson has a big serve and heavy groundstrokes that make him very dangerous on the hard courts, although his form can be described as inconsistent at best over the North American hard court swing this summer.

However, he is playing an opponent who hasn't played a single hard court tournament in 2014. In fact, Cuevas has played one tournament away from the clay courts this season and was subsequently dismissed in straight sets by Radek Stepanek at Wimbledon.

I am not sure how much belief Cuevas brings into the match on the surface and this looks like a fairly straight-forward 63, 64, 64 win for Anderson.

Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 sets v Ivan Dodig: The key to this match is determining which Feliciano Lopez is going to turn up, especially as he has a 1-2 record against Ivan Dodig including a straights set loss in Barcelona on the clay earlier this season.

Unlike a lot of Spaniards, Lopez is actually more comfortable off the slower clay courts with his serve becoming more of a weapon and he can also open up for aggressive forehands. His weakness has always been the lack of a decent backhand with an over-reliance on the slice, a shot that won't ever really scare opponents.

I can also understand why Dodig has the winning record between the pair as he also has a decent serve and the aggressive play off both wings to cause problems. The match may simply come down to which of these guys is capable of dictating points the best, while Lopez can also point to a few more wins over the summer during this hard court swing.

I can see the match having a couple of key tie-breakers in the middle of the match that could determine the winner, but I do think Lopez has shown enough form since the French Open to get through in four sets at least.

Marin Cilic - 5.5 games v Marcos Baghdatis: You can perhaps argue that Marin Cilic has had his most consistent success at the US Open and the Croatian can come through a tough opening Round to give himself some momentum going forward.

Cilic has won the most matches at the Australian Open, but has also had two more appearances there than at Flushing Meadows, while this is the only Grand Slam where Cilic has reached two Quarter Finals.

He missed out last season so he can really boost his Ranking with another strong showing and I think he has too much in the locker for a Marcos Baghdatis who has won back to back Challenger titles. These two players met at Wimbledon where it was surprisingly straight-forward for Cilic who has won 4 of the last 5 matches they have competed against one another.

Baghdatis can certainly get a lot of momentum behind himself to cause a lot of problems, but I wouldn't be surprised if Marin Cilic wins this 76, 64, 67, 62.

Grigor Dimitrov - 7.5 games v Ryan Harrison: Grigor Dimitrov will be one of the latest players to get his US Open underway and I think he can prove to be too good for American Ryan Harrison again at this level following a win over him at Wimbledon.

There is no doubt that Harrison will be given a lot of support from the locals and he has a decent serve and shot-making skills that could see him rattle through games. However, there will be pressure with the home expectation and Harrison has had a tough 2014 in general.

Harrison also hasn't had a lot of tennis this summer and I do wonder how mentally ready he is for a best of five set match- that could lead to him perhaps losing his focus if he falls behind and Dimitrov may be able to take control of the match.

The Bulgarian may have expected more from the summer hard court swing as he looks to finish in a position to play at the ATP World Tour Finals, but I think he moves through this First Round match with a 75, 63, 63 win.

MY PICKS: Kevin Anderson - 6.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Feliciano Lopez - 1.5 Sets @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 7.5 Games @ 2.25 Pinnacle (2 Units)

US Open Update: 0-2, - 4 Units (4 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (August 26-28)

Last August was pretty miserable for the season picks and, despite the recovery over the next eight months to end with a profitable campaign, I was desperate to avoid that scenario this time around.

The Arsenal fightback from 2-0 down in the last eight minutes of the game against Everton was frustrating to say the least, but this weekend was the first shoots of recovery.

There are two more 'matchdays' in August to boost that recovery, although the Capital One Cup can be a minefield to negotiate and I will have to tread carefully. The Champions League and Europa League Group Stage will be finalised this week too and the draw for that stage takes place later this week, not that I'll have any interest from a fan perspective.

I am still personally on my own 'recovery' timeline from the weekend activities, but hopefully these picks will be making me feel a lot better going forward.

Celtic v Maribor Pick: The 1-1 result from the game in Maribor last week has given Celtic the inside track in moving through to the Group Stage and taking advantage of the bad luck Legia Warsaw suffered in the last round.

Celtic caused Maribor plenty of problems, but also conceded a poor goal from a defensive standpoint. However, the away goal has given the edge and returning to Celtic Park for this game rather than Murrayfield gives them more of an advantage as far as I am concerned.

It won't be easy for Celtic who are coming off a loss when Ronny Deila rested ten starters from last week at Inverness, but the Scottish Champions should be able to ride the home crowd to a positive result.

Maribor could also be punished if they begin to push forward when chasing the game too so Celtic to cover the one goal Asian Handicap is the call.

BATE Borisov v Slovan Bratislava Pick: BATE Borisov have battled their way into a strong position to earn their place in the Champions League Group Stagae and the 1-1 draw away from home sets them up for this second leg.

BATE are in a slightly awkward position of knowing that a clean sheet will put them through no matter if they win or draw this evening, but there are positive sounds being made that the team will look to win the game. The side also snapped their 4 game run without a home in the Champions League with a convincing 3-1 win over Debrecen in the last round and BATE will feel they proved enough last week that they can cope with Slovan Bratislava.

The Slovakian Champions are unlikely to be a pushover despite 1 win from their last 7 away games in the Champions League and they are also in a tough position of needing to score, but trying not to be overly gung-ho about it.

This is a huge game for both teams with financial boosts the Champions League Group Stage can provide, but the edge seems to be with BATE Borisov and I believe they win this game as they book a place with the elite of European football.

MK Dons v Manchester United Pick: There are expected to be wholesale changes at Manchester United and I am not talking about before the end of the transfer window this time. The League Cup might have been a small priority for the club in recent years, but a good Cup run may give this team the confidence they are sorely lacking, especially in the absence of any European football.

It hasn't been the start that some United fans would have been hoping for, but those who have put so much stock into pre-season FRIENDLY results are probably the most surprised. The rest of us have known about the limitations of the squad, but even the most pessimistic of supporters would have been expecting more than 1 point from League games against Swansea and Sunderland.

What has been even more disappointing is the absolute dross on the pitch that was blamed on David Moyes last season, but shown little sign of changing this time around. Earning a win, even against limited opposition that MK Dons should represent, might give United a timely boost going into the weekend.

The MK Dons have nothing to lose to be fair and they have won 2 of their 3 home games in all competitions this season, and they can expected to test a back three for United that will have changes and are still becoming accustomed to a new formation.

It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if the MK Dons threaten a surprise and score in this game, but I think Manchester United earn their first win of this new season in a game where both teams hit the back of the net.

Arsenal v Besiktas Pick: While I do think Arsenal are going to prove too good and book their place in the Group Stage, their defensive issues to open the season would be a concern, especially if Besiktas score first and have something to defend.

Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud are both big misses, especially with the two players both scoring at the weekend at Everton, but there should be enough attacking talent for Arsenal to win this game.

The Asian Handicap did have me leaning both ways because of the Arsenal defence which has struggled for clean sheets and the amount of chances Besiktas created last week. However, if the Gunners score first, they will be allowed to play the counter-attacking game as Besiktas press for an equaliser as the game develops and I think that will help Arsenal put this one away and win the game by a couple of goals at least.

Athletic Bilbao v Napoli Pick: This game has been set up from the first leg and could be the most entertaining one of the night with both teams likely to be set up in attacking formations. Athletic Bilbao are a side that don't really know how to play another way, while Napoli know they need to score at least once if they are to make it through to the Group Stage of the Champions League.

The game would also really open up no matter who scores first and there should be chances at both ends of the pitch with every reason to also believe this game could go the distance.

However, I have a feeling a winner is going to be decided in normal time with both teams a little fitter than last week and both likely to employ attacking formations. Both will counter as well as the space opens up, although the 1-1 draw is a fear as they could settle for that in fear of losing the time and instead opt for extra time.

Still, I do think there will be goals in this one and will back there being at least three at odds against.

Bayer Leverkusen v Copenhagen Pick: Bayer Leverkusen just have to avoid defeat to book their place in the Champions League Group Stage and even a 0-1 or 1-2 loss would be enough to see them through. However, I would be surprised if they wanted to lose the momentum of the early season and I expect them to back up their win over Borussia Dortmund from the weekend.

The team clearly have a few goals in the side after scoring 11 in the first 3 games they have played, although the number in each game has been going down in each of those results. I still expect Bayer Leverkusen to expose the Copenhagen defence that has conceded 8 goals in their last 3 games, all at home, and the feeling is that Leverkusen book their place in the next stage with some style.

I am not at all suggesting Leverkusen will be pushing on recklessly now they have a lead from the first leg, but the attacking style should still pay dividends during the 90 minute game and I believe the German side win by a couple of goals at least.

MY PICKS: Celtic - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
BATE Borisov @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United Win and Both Teams to Score @ 2.88 Coral (1 Unit)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.45 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Athletic Bilbao-Napoli Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.14 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Bayer Leverkusen - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)

August Update4-14, - 14.40 Units (30 Units Staked, - 48% Yield)

Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

US Open Day 2 Picks 2014 (August 26th)

Coming into the US Open, it was a long week for myself with a close family wedding to attend and that meant a lot of drinking and partying!

It also meant that I knew Day One picks from the final Grand Slam event of the season were not going to be possible, although I usually make a slow start into these events.

The euphoria of the last few days has left an almost empty feeling as things begin to settle down and it has really made me appreciate the mental toughness that the top players on both Tours have to display on a weekly basis.

It also highlights the difficulty for players like Stan Wawrinka who have struggled to back up 'breakthroughs' on the main Tour, while others like Sloane Stephens and Eugenie Bouchard don't perform half as well away from the Grand Slams as they have in the big, eye-catching tournaments.

You just feel flat after a busy and exciting time and while the tennis players are at a much higher level of stress and invest a lot more emotionally, this last week has given me a small idea of how difficult it is for those outside of the very biggest names on the Tour.

Yen-Hsun Lu - 1.5 sets v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: The early week of a Grand Slam means there are a lot of matches being played, but a lot of them are considered 'mismatches' so it can be hard to find the picks that I am comfortable with.

The first one I will make this week is Yen-Hsun Lu to beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez by three or four sets in their First Round clash.

Neither player will be considered a threat to win this Grand Slam, but Lu has been showing a little more consistency than his Spanish opponent, although both strung together some wins at Winston Salem last week.

That snapped a run of five consecutive losses for Garcia-Lopez and I don't know if he will still have the belief that he is capable of winning a match against a solid, if unspectacular, opponent like Lu. Garcia-Lopez has won two of their three previous meetings, but they haven't met in five years and Lu's recent form suggests he can get the better of the Spaniard on Tuesday.

Adrian Mannarino - 7.5 games v Pere Riba: I don't think it is ever easy to feel comfortable when you are backing someone like Adrian Mannarino, a player whose serve can be a huge weakness. However, I expect he will get joy when trying to break the Pere Riba serve too so this is a match the Frenchman will definitely expect himself to win comfortably.

The two players met at Wimbledon a couple of months ago in a routine win for Mannarino, although the latter needed five tough sets to see off Riba here at the US Open in 2010.

Riba just doesn't play a lot of tennis on the hard courts and Mannarino recently won a Challenger title on the surface so the edge here should be on the Frenchman's side. He protected his serve very well in beating Riba at Wimbledon and I do think he is likely to dominate this match.

As long as Mannarino doesn't decide to play too many loose service games, a 63, 64, 63 win is certainly on the cards.

MY PICKS: Yen-Hsun Lu - 1.5 Sets @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Adrian Mannarino - 7.5 Games @ 2.14 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Friday, 22 August 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (August 23-25)

This is an important weekend for me with a first cousin getting married which means this post is shortened between the drinking, recovering, and getting back to the drinking.

Thankfully there is also the time between the wedding ceremony and settling down to watch Manchester United so everyone is a winner.

Hopefully the August of last season is going to be replicated when I had a hard time getting on board with the picks, but it hasn't been a good start to the new season for me personally and I will be looking for a bounce back weekend.

Aston Villa v Newcastle United Pick: Both Paul Lambert and Alan Pardew will have been very happy with the performances their Aston Villa and Newcastle United sides put out on the opening weekend of the new season. While Villa were rewarded with the three points, Newcastle were very unfortunate to lose to the Champions Manchester City.

I am sure both managers will have been telling their players all week that similar levels of performances will result in more wins than losses and I think both sets of players will come into the game with confidence.

It will be interesting to see how much Aston Villa have improved at home considering they have been a counter-attacking team for some time and struggle with the onus on them to move forward. However, they will feel they can create chances against Newcastle and I do think they will score.

On the other hand, Newcastle United created a few opportunities against Manchester City and will feel a touch more composure in the final third will result in better chances to score. Picking the right pass in that area of the pitch is just as important as a strong finish and there were a few rash moments from the new faces who are eager to impress.

Still, it would be a surprise if Newcastle didn't trouble Brad Guzan and I do believe both teams can get on the scoreboard in this one.

Chelsea v Leicester City Pick: There were some awkward moments for Chelsea in the visit to Burnley on Monday night, but I think a lot of teams will find Turf Moor a tough place to play. I was impressed with how well Chelsea played after falling behind early in that game and they have a potential Player of the Year candidate in Cesc Fabregas. The Spanish international played like he had never been away from the Premier League and I expect he will settle very quickly back in London, albeit West not North.

I am expecting Chelsea to be very difficult to beat at Stamford Bridge again this season and they finished with the joint best home defence last season. With Jose Mourinho at the helm, I would expect Chelsea to be in the top two in that category again this season and I expect they can make life difficult for a Leicester City team that has a few injury problems in a small squad.

Nigel Pearson's men are unlikely to roll over for any team in the Premier League, but I think they will have to get through an awful lot of defending if they are to earn a result at Chelsea this weekend.

Set pieces could be their best avenue to score, but I expect Chelsea will have worked on that this weekend after the problems Burnley posed for them and I think the home side win this with a clean sheet to boot.

Southampton v West Brom Pick: The first weekend of the season was a strange one and I do wonder how many of the big teams were affected by the limited time between the World Cup ending and the Premier League beginning.

That is the only reason I don't know whether to think Southampton will be better than expected or whether they ran into a game with Liverpool at the right time while teams were still getting the fitness just right.

Southampton were impressive, particularly in the second half when they created two or three great chances to score and earn something from the game at Anfield. Better composure/finishing and I think the Saints may have won the game and I do think they will create chances against this West Brom defence that was punctured twice by Sunderland at The Hawthornes.

Defensive injury problems means Alan Irvine can't make a lot of changes at the back for this second game of the season and the Baggies struggled away from home at the back end of last season. If Southampton come close to the level of last Sunday, I think they can win their first Premier League game under Ronald Koeman and take the three points on Saturday.

Everton v Arsenal Pick: Everton look a big price to beat Arsenal at Goodison Park this weekend, although I wouldn't have more than a small interest in that happening considering the defensive problems that Everton had in coping with Leicester City.

Everton are strong under Roberto Martinez and play the kind of football that makes them a threat to beat any team in the Premier League, especially in front of their own fans. They beat 2 of the top four here last season, including a crushing win over the Gunners and won 13 of their 19 home games in the Premier League.

Of course Arsenal look improved with the return of Aaron Ramsey and the signing of Alexis Sanchez, but they rode their luck against Besiktas in the Champions League and they might just be caught by Everton off the back of that game and before the second leg.

This should be a very interesting game on Saturday afternoon, but I do think Everton can take the three points at a big price.

Tottenham Hotspur v Queens Park Rangers Pick: I like the impact that Mauricio Pochettino has made in the short term at White Hart Lane and I do think he will get the best out of an under-performing squad from last season.

His Southampton side were well organised and used their creativity to ensure they win games and that kind of tactic should work well for Tottenham Hotspur and I think they prove to be too good for Queens Park Rangers and former manager Harry Redknapp.

There is a lack of pace in the QPR defence that can be exposed by the balls played behind the lines and I think Spurs are going to find the goals to win this game. I do think Rangers will show more than in the loss to Hull City going forward, but it might not start this week and Spurs to win by more than a goal is the call.

Sunderland v Manchester United Pick: When the fixture list came out for Louis Van Gaal, many believed the computer had done the Dutchman a favour that it did not afford David Moyes from twelve months ago. However, the 1-2 home loss to Swansea has shown that there isn't a team in the Premier League that Manchester United can expect to beat 'easy' and I expect Sunday's live showing won't be any different.

There isn't a doubt that Sunderland have improved under Gus Poyet, although the Uruguayan didn't quite figure out how to find the consistency at the Stadium of Light that he seemingly got from the team on their travels.

Sunderland were rarely outclassed at home by the best teams in the Premier League, but they couldn't find a way to avoid the mistakes that costs teams at this level. The Black Cats have a brilliant record against Manchester City at home, which was extended, but they lost to the other top teams and generally by a single goal.

As poor as Manchester United played for much of the game against Swansea, I don't believe Sunderland have the same pace in forward positions as the Swansea squad does and that might give United a little more breathing room to perform. They have to find a way to get the best out of Juan Mata who was such an influential figure at Chelsea prior to Jose Mourinho's appointment, while there are few more regular faces back in training.

Manchester United have a very strong League record at the Stadium of Light in recent years and I do think they have maintained form away from home where they do have more spaces to exploit than at Old Trafford. It was a bad result to open the new season, but I can see Manchester United recovering this weekend and winning this game, although it might come by a single goal margin.

Manchester City v Liverpool Pick: Before last weekend, Manchester City looked a massive price to beat Liverpool at odds against, but results over the last week have changed perceptions of what is to be expected in this game.

In the Premier League, Manchester City shouldn't be odds against to beat anyone other than Chelsea as far as I am concerned and I still don't believe the layers have got the price right for this game. Manchester City look a team that is healthy, got the main players back in contention and one that should be able to pose a vulnerable Liverpool defence some real questions.

I don't believe City have the best defence in the world, but I do think they are capable of containing Liverpool more effectively than the other way around and so it does point to a home win as far as I am concerned.

Manchester City have won 3 of their last 4 at home against Liverpool in the Premier League and I like them to win this one too.

MY PICKS: Aston Villa-Newcastle United Both To Score @ 1.92 Coral (2 Units)
Chelsea Win to Nil @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Southampton @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Everton @ 2.80 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester United to Win by One Goal @ 3.75 Stan James (1 Unit)
Manchester City @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (August 19-21)

That was a troubled opening weekend of the new football season for the picks and one that escalated quickly with the poor results. If it wasn't for an injury-time goal from Sergio Aguero, it really would have been a torrid start for the picks.

Some of the blame has to be taken by me, but there were some real surprising results, none more so than the terrible display put forth by Manchester United after all the promise of pre-season. There were a number of injuries to contend with, but that would be a big excuse for Louis Van Gaal and not one he is likely to employ as United started with players that had been performing in pre-season games.

Stoke City's home loss to Aston Villa was another disappointing result, the second season in a row that Villa have started with an upset on their travels in the Premier League. And then both Arsenal and Liverpool scored late winners, but edged over the line in games against Crystal Palace and Southampton respectively.

A portion of the poor performances could be played on the tiredness that some players may have felt from the World Cup and I do think there was a real argument to put the League campaign back one more weekend as they have done in Spain and Italy. I think that was partially the reason that Arsenal and Liverpool laboured as much as they did, although the first day/month of the season can be a little stop-start for the players as they regain their form and fitness.

In a weekend where Manchester United disappointed so greatly, I was casting some envious glances at Chelsea where Cesc Fabregas returned to the Premier League as if he had never been away. Fabregas is suited so well to the Premier League and was in fantastic form against Burnley as he pulled the strings from the middle of the park, an area where United need improvement.

Why they didn't pursue the Spanish international as they did last summer is beyond me? If I had to put my finger on a reason though, I would hazard a guess that Fabregas told United he isn't interested in coming to the club and thus the statements made to the media are more of a face-saving exercise than a genuine 'we didn't want him'.

The next two weeks are going to be critical for Manchester United as they look to bring in reinforcements that were supposed to be wrapped up weeks before the start of the season. Unfortunately, this window is beginning to look more and more like last summer which should mean fingers are pointed at Ed Woodward and the Glaziers even in light of their grand declarations that we can spend whatever we like.

Anyone with a semblance of knowledge of how the Glaziers have run United over the last ten years will be more than a little dubious about those claims and they have two weeks to prove us all wrong and bring in the faces that will ensure a bid for a top four place. Failure to do that could be catastrophic for a team and a quick look down the M62 will show United fans how difficult it is to return to the elite in the Premier League in the face of financial restraints and a poor squad that needs an injection of new blood to get them moving in the right direction again.

This week is another Champions League/Europa League qualifying week and it is the final one before the Group Stage begins in both of those competitions. There are some big teams in action and some big Play Off matches that will be played over the next eight days as the likes of Arsenal, Napoli, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur all play this week.

Hopefully this August month will pick up and not follow the trend of twelve months ago when I really struggled early in the season with my picks before turning the season around for a profitable one.

Besiktas v Arsenal Pick: As much as I believe that Arsenal are a big favourite to beat Besiktas over two legs to move back into the Champions League Group Stage, I can't help but feel they are very short to win the first leg in Turkey.

I do think Arsenal are a much better team than Besiktas, even with the latter signing Demba Ba this summer, and I think the pressure is on the Turkish side to get something out of this game. Previous matches in England have ended badly for Besiktas more often than not so anything other than having something to defend next week could be curtains for them already.

Arsenal also have the benefit of the experience of winning in the Play Off Rounds and also beat Fenerbache of Turkey last season in the first leg- that came after a disappointing performance at home in the Premier League so there isn't a lot for the fans to worry about as they head to Turkey.

The Gunners have won all 12 games played at this stage of the Champions League and I do think they are capable of winning this one too. However, they may have to ride out an early Besiktas storm and Arsenal might have to wait until after the break before they take control.

Their last 3 away wins in the Champions League have all come after Arsenal have gone into the break level, while Arsenal also haven't been ahead in 3 of their last 4 away Play Off games in the Champions League, but have won all of those. That means the value may be in backing Arsenal to win a game after it goes in level at the break.

Napoli v Athletic Bilbao Pick: Out of all the ties that are to be played in the Champions League this week, Napoli versus Athletic Bilbao looks to be the most exciting one, although I do think the experience of the Italians may win the day.

Napoli have performed very well in the Champions League in their appearances over the last three seasons and they were very unlucky not to split Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund in the top two places of their Group last season. That follows their campaign in 2011/12 where they did help knock out Manchester City and it is the home games that have provided the winning platform.

The side have won 6 of their 7 home games in the Champions League, including the last 5 in a row and that means they should be plenty confident of beating Athletic Bilbao. In Rafa Benitez, Napoli also have a manager that has had a lot of success in European games, particularly knock out ties and I believe the former Liverpool manager will have the team tactically and mentally ready for this one.

One factor going against Napoli is that they have had a lot more players coming back from the World Cup than Athletic Bilbao and we have seen teams struggle with that aspect in the Premier League. However, Athletic Bilbao's Ernesto Valverde admitted that shows that Napoli have the higher quality and his team need to use their work ethic to win this game.

It'll be tough for Athletic Bilbao who haven't had the best recent away record in European competition to get a result here and I do believe Napoli can have a lead to take to Spain next week. I expect to see some very good football over the next 180 minutes played by these teams, but this is a game that I think Napoli can win and give themselves a platform to move back into the Group Stage.

Lille v Porto Pick: This looks like a tight European Champions League Play Off and the layers clearly are feeling the same about this first leg with both teams at big prices to earn the advantage ahead of the second leg in Portugal.

I am much the same in trying to separate the teams and their chances to win this game and I think the draw is a major player in this first leg where both teams would believe that gives them a real chance to progress.

Lille have been tough to beat at home, but they draw plenty of games as they can sometimes struggle against stubborn teams. Their home record in the Champions League at the highest level is not the best in recent season, but on the other hand Porto have struggled to win games on their travels too.

With just 1 win from their last 9 away games in all competitions and just 1 win from their last 9 away games in Europe, Porto might be quite content to take this tie back home to complete the job. Porto did struggle at home last season in the Group Stage, but prior to that had won 6 of 8 home games in the Champions League and were unbeaten in those games, while the team also won their last 2 home games in the Europa League last season.

Everything seems to be pointing to a tight battle on Wednesday too and I think the draw is the most pleasing result for both managers with all to play for next week in Portugal.

Maribor v Celtic Pick: After the controversy of the last round, Celtic will be looking to take full advantage of their reprieve in the Champions League. However, the defeat to Legia Warsaw at least highlighted to the fans that Celtic are not a guarantee to beat the Slovenian Champions Maribor who will also be familiar of breaking Glaswegian hearts.

Maribor knocked Rangers out of the Europa League three years ago in a Play Off, while they have also beaten Hibernian from Scotland the year before that. This is a side that has generally found the Champions League a happy hunting ground until they have reached this stage, but Maribor won't look at Celtic as a team that has earned their place at this stage through their performances on the field.

That isn't to say that they will take Celtic lightly, but Maribor do look a big price to win the first leg- it was only twelve months ago that Shakhter Karagandy surprised Celtic with a 2-0 home win in Kazakhstan and Maribor have been very strong at home in recent Champions League home ties.

The concern is that Maribor have lost their last 2 home games in the Champions League Play Offs, but I don't believe Celtic are better than Dinamo Zagreb and Viktoria Plzen, especially with the players that have departed this summer.

I actually think Celtic would accept a draw and try to complete the win at Celtic Park next week, but that may give Maribor enough of an incentive to push on and earn a first leg advantage. The price just looks out of sync from what we have seen from Celtic so far this season and Maribor have won their last 2 home games when Scottish teams have visited them.

Add in the strong home form in the European competitions, over the last three seasons and Maribor may just become the latest European team that surprises the Scottish Champions.

MY PICKS: Draw HT-Arsenal FT @ 5.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Napoli @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Lille-Porto Draw @ 3.30 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Maribor @ 3.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

August Update: 1-6, - 8.8 Units (13 Units Staked, - 67.69% Yield)

Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Friday, 15 August 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (August 16-18)

It's been a long three months but, as the Rock may say, FINALLY the Premier League has come back to save us... I have put together a short post detailing where I believe teams are going to finish this season in the English Premier League which can be read here.

The Premier League have immediately, it seems, taken the head in the sand approach to some of the issues that still gets under the fans noses at the start of this new season. The first weekend is supposed to be one where the fans are getting together to protest the ticket prices at the top clubs, which is beginning to spiral out of control (there are plenty out there who will say this is too late and the horse has already bolted from the stable, but the fans have to make this stand because it is reaching ridiculous levels).

Instead of perhaps making a statement in that regards, the Premier League is instead warning fans about Vines and GIFs made of goals that has become prominent over the last couple of years. Imagine that, they are already rinsing the pockets of fans through the television coverage and the price to get into a match, but seeing a little Vine is apparently detrimental to the business model of the Premier League.

Yes, it is intellectual property, but do the Premier League seriously believe that stops people watching the highlights shows or signing up to places like The Sun and The Times to watch 'proper' videos of the goal? It's maddening from an organisation that continues to make billions of pounds from a game where the fans are considered second rate.

Last season proved to be a good on and an improvement on the previous season, and a winning record in back to back years is good enough for me. I would hope to avoid the horrible months I had last season, including starting last August terribly, but it is what it is and finishing the season with a plus would be a success.

Manchester United v Swansea Pick: It is the start of yet another new dawn for Manchester United as Louis Van Gaal takes charge of his first competitive game as manager of the club. The formation won't be something that the fans at Old Trafford are used to, but the pragmatic Dutchman believes it will make the best of a squad that he described as 'unbalanced' when arriving at Old Trafford.

After the disappointing campaign under David Moyes, Manchester United fans will be desperate for the team to get off to a strong start and the fixture list has certainly been kind to them on that front. A home game against Swansea should be one that sits well with United, especially as the away side have had a few changes to the squad from last season.

As much as Manchester United struggled at Old Trafford last season, they did win 7 of their home games against those sides that finished in the bottom half and that is something I project for Swansea. They also have had success with the formation that Louis Van Gaal will be using during the pre-season with a little more success going forward, although Manchester United are still going to have a few issues defensively.

In games like this, I would expect those defensive problems won't be as highlighted as in games against the better teams in the Premier League and I can see United making a strong start to the new season. Last season, 7 of their 9 home wins at Old Trafford came by more than a single goal and they have had success against Swansea in recent games here including winning 2 of their last 3 in the League by at least two goals since the Swans returned to the top flight.

United fans would do well to remember twelve months ago and not to get overly carried away by a strong win over Swansea to open the season, but I do think they can win this game by at least two goals.

Stoke City v Aston Villa Pick: The brand new season means there is plenty of optimism up and down the country as fans get ready for the next nine months, but I do think that may not be the case for Aston Villa fans. There is a lot of uncertainty with the quality of the squad and whether they have made the necessary signings to avoid relegation and another battle at the bottom of the table looks to be in the offing.

The return of Christian Benteke can't come fast enough for Paul Lambert who has to be feeling some pressure from the presence of Roy Keane, a former Sunderland and Ipswich Town manager that some believe is ready to take over as manager at Villa Park.

On the other hand, Stoke City seem to be in a much better place after their best season in almost forty years last year when they finished in the top half of the Premier League. Mark Hughes has the team playing in a fashion that the fans appreciate and Stoke City remained strong at the Brittania Stadium even without Tony Pulis at the helm.

Only the top six teams won more home games than Stoke City last season and only three teams managed to come to the Brittania Stadium and left with three points. There seems to be more of a positive vibe coming from the home team and I believe they are capable of winning their third straight League game against Aston Villa.

Paul Lambert will immediately be under pressure if Villa do lose their opening game and this has proved to be a difficult ground to visit. Stoke should have enough possession to hurt Aston Villa and should be solid enough at the back to ensure the three points remain here on Saturday afternoon.

Arsenal v Crystal Palace Pick: The feeling has changed around the Emirates Stadium and the Arsenal fans will be turning up for this live Saturday afternoon game with a huge expectation for the season ahead. They do have an important Champions League qualifier just days away in Turkey, but the concentration will be on the Premier League for now as Arsenal will feel they have a real chance to win the title this season.

Arsene Wenger and Tony Pulis haven't seen eye-to-eye ever since the latter was at Stoke City and the Frenchman will be certain of what to expect from Crystal Palace in this game.

He'll figure that Crystal Palace will look to defend deep and will be tackling hard to try and break the rhythm of the Arsenal attack, especially focusing on players like Alexis Sanchez that might not be aware of what to expect from the Premier League. However, Arsenal have mainly struggled when having to visit a Pulis managed team and it hasn't been the same case when they host those teams.

Arsenal won all 5 home games against Stoke City when they were managed by Pulis and they also recorded the 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace with the latter in charge. There should be too much quality in the home side again in this one, especially with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud showing form last weekend at Wembley Stadium.

Even without the three German internationals in the starting eleven, I expect Arsenal show their quality on Saturday and win this one by a couple of goals at least.

EDIT: Since I wrote this piece, Tony Pulis has left Crystal Palace and that might make it even more difficult for the players to rally and try to keep a rampant Arsenal at bay.

Liverpool v Southampton Pick: There might be a big change at Liverpool with the sale of Luis Suarez who has been a real figurehead for this side, but they are still in a far better shape than Southampton who come into the season having lost vast amounts of talent this summer.

They also have a new manager in the dugout and this may be a more difficult season for Southampton fans than they have had to endure for some time. Graziano Pelle has to fire immediately up front, but it will be tough at Anfield in this Super Sunday game considering all the information that Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert can give their new teammates.

Even without Suarez, Brendan Rodgers will be sending out his Liverpool team to play with the passing style that impressed so many last season and they still have match winners in the squad. Daniel Sturridge will lead the line and Anfield has become something of a fortress over the last twelve months with plenty of wins being racked up here.

The first day of the season can see surprises with teams still trying to find their fitness, but Liverpool are unlikely to suffer one with the losses in the Southampton squad. Rodgers will have his team set up to attack from the first minute and Liverpool scored plenty of goals at home last season and I think they have made signings that have kept the squad strong.

It will be interesting to see how Liverpool balance the Champions League ties with the Premier League later this season, but for now they can concentrate solely on the League and I expect them to make a very positive start to the season. Liverpool should create plenty of chances and I believe they win this by a couple of goals at least.

Newcastle United v Manchester City Pick: The first day of the Premier League season is always tough to predict as teams are at different stages of their fitness and it will be interesting to see how the Manchester City World Cup players have recovered. We saw last weekend that their squad needs the likes of Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero involved as they make Manchester City that much stronger and I would be surprised if both of those players are not in the squad in some capacity on Sunday.

The fear for the Manchester City title challenge is the fact that teams around them have improved while their own squad has 'stood still' to some extent. However, their first eleven is arguably the best in the Premier League and they will be very hard to knock off top spot if they can maintain some form of health this season after Aguero and Kompany missed chunks of last season.

A game at Newcastle United is a tough one, but this is now a Newcastle team that seems happy to finish in mid-table and who finished last season in terrible form. Newcastle have some new faces that need to settle in quickly if the side is to finish in the top half of the table again this season, but that does seem to be the limit of their achievements for the coming season.

They were also beaten by five of the top seven in front of their own fans last season and the disappointment for Newcastle must be some of the hammerings they took from those sides last season. Manchester City won 0-2 here thanks to a late second goal, but Everton (0-3), Tottenham Hotspur (0-4) and Manchester United (0-4) had comfortable games here.

Manchester City have particularly enjoyed recent League games against Newcastle United and their last 7 League wins have all come by at least two goals. In fact, Manchester City's last 4 League wins at St James' Park have all come by at least two goals and 5 of the last 6 Premier League games here have seen that margin of victory.

With the returning members of the squad, I would imagine Manchester City can consign the loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield to the back of their minds and they can win another game against Newcastle United by a couple of goals at least.

Rotherham United v Wolves Pick: This could be one of the more exciting games of the weekend in the Championship as you would imagine both Steve Evans and Kenny Jackett will be very keen to target the three points on offer.

Both Rotherham United and Wolves will be looking to play attacking football and their games last season showed that both teams can create chances against the other.

6 of the last 8 games played between the teams at Rotherham have seen the over 2.5 goals come flying in and these two teams were the leading scorers in League One last season.

It would surprise me if we don't see another game with chances created and there is a real chance that both teams can score at least once and help this game surpass three goals.

Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County Pick: Both Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County have made 100% starts to the new campaign with one League win and one Cup win, but something will have to give when the teams meet one another at Hillsborough on Saturday.

If the experts are to be believed, Sheffield Wednesday and Derby will be competing at different ends of the table at the end of the campaign with the home team looking to avoid the drop and Derby most certainly aiming for promotion.

They came so close a season ago and Derby are very comfortable playing away from home as that allows them to use their counter-attacking ability to hurt teams who are expected to push forward.

Derby have had recent success at Hillsborough with three wins in their last six visits including last season and I do think they have the higher quality available to them. The Rams also won 7 of their 9 games against the sides that finished 16th or lower in the table last season and they will be looking to get off to another strong showing against those sides this time around.

I expect Sheffield Wednesday to be a side that finishes in one of those positions and I expect Derby County to win this game.

MY PICKS: Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Rotherham United-Wolves Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Derby County @ 2.45 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)