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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (September 13-15)

Was that really a two week international break? Seriously? It has felt a lifetime since the Premier League closed for the internationals, but finally domestic football is back and we have some really good games to be played this weekend.

The next month has the start of the Champions League and also we will start seeing the Premier League take shape as teams have settled down following the close of the transfer window.

As a Manchester United fan, there is a renewed expectation that the season really will kick on from here now the signings that Louis Van Gaal has wanted have been brought into the club. It was a big spend and there is little doubt that Manchester United are expecting to finish in the Champions League places this season.

That is no guarantee with the way the teams in the Premier League are set up and I think it will be a big task for United to move into those positions if they don't find a way to gel quickly- however, the quality of the players that have been signed suggests United can score goals and start winning games beginning with this weekend.

When the Falcao story broke, the first reaction was 'we don't need him' but as soon as he was signed the excitement has continued to build. His goalscoring ability is not in doubt and you just can't ever be disappointed when a player that you have personally valued incredibly highly walks through the door of your club.

I am a big Juan Mata fan too and it seems harsh that he is the player that looks most in danger of losing his spot- the Spaniard is one of the smartest footballers we have and I think he would have a field day being able to play higher up the pitch and picking the runs of Angel Di Maria, Falcao and Robin Van Persie. Unfortunately for now, it looks like United will go with the work ethic of Wayne Rooney, although he is as far from a 'Number 10' as I have seen considering his lack of awareness of picking killer balls.

If I was Louis Van Gaal and I was adamant I wanted to continue with the formation that I have set out, I would play: De Gea, Jones, Evans, Rojo, Valencia, Di Maria, Herrera, Blind, Mata, Van Persie and Falcao as my starting XI when everyone is fit to play.

Wayne Rooney could be an impact sub or swapped around with one of the forwards depending on his form, while players like Michael Carrick, Luke Shaw and Adnan Januzaj could be used when the system needs changing or to give other players the chance to rest.

Phil Jones has already been ruled out on Sunday, but there is also room for Van Gaal to play a 4-3-3 formation to get the best out of the squad he has at his disposal and I think it is just as exciting trying to see how Manchester United will be lining up moving forward.

August has proven to be a tough month for the picks for the second season in a row and that means playing catch up again. Last year, September proved to be a much more profitable month so hopefully that will be the case again to get the picks moving in a positive direction again.

Arsenal v Manchester City Pick: What a way for the Premier League to restart following the international break- the Champions try to bounce back from a shocking 0-1 home loss against Stoke City, while Arsenal will be hoping that Danny Welbeck can bring in the form he showed for England after signing from Manchester United.

Recent games between the two teams at the Emirates Stadium haven't produced a lot of goals which is surprising considering the attacking intent that both Arsenal and Manchester City try and play with.

On the other hand, games at the Etihad Stadium have produced a large number of goals, although I do think this game could be an exception to the recent trend.

Coming out of an international break there is also the chance that the teams could start slowly too so why do I think there will be goals? I don't think either manager will be doubting the ability of their team to score goals if they get forward and there is should be chances created.

I would also worry about the defensive frailties that Arsenal have shown early in the season and Manchester City could definitely highlight those. On the other hand, Arsenal have a lot pace in forward positions that could hurt Manchester City's defence which can be susceptible to speedier players.

A draw isn't the worst result for either team at this stage of the season, but I don't think either manager will ask his team to sit back looking for that and so seeing a game with at least three goals is the call, even if the last two live games on BT Sport have been goalless draws.

Chelsea v Swansea Pick: Two teams that have won all three games to open the Premier League season will meet at Stamford Bridge and I do think Chelsea are more likely to come out of it with their 100% record intact.

However, it won't be a straight-forward win as Swansea have the pace to hurt Chelsea on the counter attack in this game. They have shown that to devastating effect when they beat Manchester United at Old Trafford and Swansea would have seen the chances that Leicester City had when they visited this ground.

Even in the absence of Diego Costa, Chelsea still have enough firepower to win this game with Loic Remy or Didier Drogba leading the line, while they don't concede a lot of home goals under Jose Mourinho.

In saying that, I think they have been more adventurous going forward and that does make them a little more vulnerable at the back. While Chelsea will score goals, I think Swansea will have their chances too and they should be able to score at least once in the game.

Southampton v Newcastle United Pick: The Premier League has a few inconsistent teams that can surprise anyone on their day and I think both of these teams do fall into that kind of category. For as well as Southampton have played at Liverpool and West Ham United, they failed to beat West Brom at home. On the other hand, Newcastle United were positive in a loss to Manchester City, but struggled during games against Aston Villa and Crystal Palace.

That does make this a slightly tougher game to predict, but I do think Southampton are the right favourites to win the game with Ronald Koeman stamping his authority on the new squad of players effectively. They continue playing the possession football they have become known for over the last couple of seasons and Southampton can create chances.

Southampton should have more control of this game considering the form that Newcastle United have shown over the last few months, winning just 1 of their last 11 games in the Premier League and losing 6 of their last 8 away games in the League.

Alan Pardew doesn't have the support of the stands and I think the goals they conceded against Crystal Palace has to be a concern. They have a chance in this game with Southampton expected to push on for the win, but I think Newcastle United will struggle to keep the home team from scoring.

I was hoping for better odds for the home win, but Southampton should still oblige and I will back them to beat Newcastle United on Saturday.

Stoke City v Leicester City Pick: It would be far too easy to take the Stoke City home loss against Aston Villa to open the new season and believe this team isn't the same force at home as they have been since returning to the top flight. However, their win at Manchester City will have renewed the confidence of the fans going to the Brittania Stadium this weekend and I think the players will also be keen to get back out onto the football pitch after the international break.

They can't afford to take Leicester City lightly as the newly-promoted team have shown some real heart and determination in their Premier League games to date. They have battled back twice to earn a draw against Everton and also came from behind to draw with Arsenal, while the performance at Stamford Bridge was very positive.

It is all pointing to Leicester City having a positive Premier League season, although Nigel Pearson will be hoping the side can record a win sooner rather than later just to ease any pressure that could build.

Unfortunately, I don't think that will be the case this weekend at a venue where Stoke City generally produce their most effective football. The Potters play a more expansive style of football under Mark Hughes than they produced under Tony Pulis, but they haven't lost their ability to win games at home, Aston Villa being an exception in my opinion.

Stoke City at odds against looks the call to back up their win over Manchester City and earn another three points.

West Brom v Everton Pick: With the way these two teams have begun playing this season, there should be goals in the game especially considering the amount of goals both West Brom and Everton have been conceding.

Both teams suffered heavy losses in the final game before the latest international break so both managers will be keen to consign that result to history by earning a much more positive result in this one.

I can't imagine either Alan Irvine or Roberto Martinez believing a draw would be a good result and so I do think it will be an entertaining afternoon for the fans in attendance.

As poorly as Everton have defended at times, most noticeably in the goals conceded to Chelsea in their last game, they have also scored plenty of goals and I think they will pose problems for West Brom on Saturday. The fact is that West Brom have failed to score in their last two games and their confidence can't be very high considering the long run without a run of wins going back to last season (7 without a win, 1 win in last 12 home games).

I expect Everton can take advantage of that and earn their first win of the season, although they have to show more resolve if they are in the lead following the results against Leicester City and Arsenal.

Liverpool v Aston Villa Pick: Losing Luis Suarez in the summer transfer window and Daniel Sturridge perhaps missing this game with an injury will make life tougher for Liverpool on Saturday to overcome an Aston Villa team that have been playing with some confidence.

However, Aston Villa have played well against teams that are perhaps a level below the standard that Liverpool have been playing at over the last twelve months and I do think the home team will have a little too much for them this weekend.

Even without the two star forwards from last season, Mario Balotelli is a capable replacement, while Raheem Sterling is enjoying the space he operates in further up the field. Liverpool will still create chances, although they have to defend better where they have sometimes shown some vulnerabilities.

Missing Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson may weaken Liverpool further at the back so there is every chance that Aston Villa can counter-attack for a goal at a ground where they have proven difficult to beat in recent seasons despite general struggles in the League season.

However, that record isn't enough to deter me from believing Liverpool are the likely winners in this game. My initial thought was backing Liverpool to win by a couple of goals, but those odds are poor to say the least, while Aston Villa could score once which will make it difficult for Liverpool to cover a two goal margin.

I do think there will be goals in the game and so backing Liverpool to win a game where three or four goals are scored looks to be the best way forward. That would have been a winner in 4 of the last 6 home games Liverpool have played in the Premier League and looks to be worth an interest at a big looking price.

Manchester United v Queens Park Rangers Pick: Ed Woodward announced the financial statement for Manchester United on Wednesday and began the Conference by describing this as the beginning of 'something special' for the club. Paddy Crerand was another who believes the 'season starts here' for Manchester United after a lot of investment in the transfer window including bringing in Radamel Falcao.

Louis Van Gaal now has to find a way to get the best out of all the attacking talent that has been invested in for the club, while he will also hoping Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo offer more protection for a vulnerable defence.

There is renewed expectation from the fans who have felt a little disappointed with the performances in the first four games of the season and I think the next month is very important for Manchester United.

Games against Leicester City and West Ham United conclude the month and Manchester United need to win the next three games if they have serious ambitions of finishing in the top four this season. While other teams begin focusing on European football, Manchester United can put all their energy into the Premier League and I think Queens Park Rangers could be in for a tough afternoon.

Harry Redknapp's men were poor in their loss to Tottenham Hotspur and they have struggled for goals early in the new season. Sandro may give them more help defensively, but they could be in big trouble if they concede early on Sunday with the Manchester United crowd baying for a big performance from the home team.

The lack of pace at the back is another issue for Redknapp to try and disguise and I think it may be beyond them as Manchester United win this by a couple of goals or more.

MY PICKS: Arsenal-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Chelsea Win and Both Teams to Score @ 3.40 Coral (1 Unit)
Southampton @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 2.15 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool to Win and 3 or 4 Total Goals in the Match @ 2.80 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Pinnacle (2 Units)

August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/15: 8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% 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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