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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)

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