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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)

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