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Saturday, 20 September 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (September 20-21)

There is a full schedule of domestic football being played this week and the following are the picks from the weekend schedule.

Aston Villa v Arsenal Pick: Arsenal look awfully short to win this game at Villa Park on recent form of both of these sides, although I am not sure how Aston Villa will handle the change in their approach from last week. Against Liverpool, Aston Villa could sit deep and look to counter attack but they have to be a little more proactive in front of their own fans, although the confidence has to be flowing through a set of players that were expected to be battling relegation.

Even in saying that, Arsenal have failed to win any of their previous 4 away games played this season and were awful in their loss at Borussia Dortmund, while not much better in the draws at Everton and Besiktas. All of those sides could argue they are better than Aston Villa, but Leicester City were another team that gave Arsenal all they could handle so Paul Lambert has to believe his team can secure a second surprise win in a week.

Overcoming their long run without a win at home against Arsenal won't be easy for Aston Villa, especially against an Arsenal team that does have attacking options. Danny Welbeck hasn't settled yet, but he looks like he will get goals through perseverance, even if Louis Van Gaal looks spot on with his opinion of the England international at this moment.

Both teams will believe they can get in behind the other defence, especially Aston Villa who will have seen the amount of goals that Arsenal have conceded this season. With Mathieu Debuchy out, there are more changes in the backline and Villa can expose those issues.

I also believe Arsenal can hurt Aston Villa that will be missing Ron Vlaar, especially if they can take advantage of a slightly more adventurous Villa side than the one that played at Anfield.

Goals have been a feature of games between these two teams and this one has a chance of following suit at odds against.

Newcastle United v Hull City Pick: Alan Pardew will be perfectly aware of the importance of winning this game as the pressure builds from the Newcastle United fans as well as the rumours of protests that will be taking place inside the Stadium.

It is rare that a team can find their best form when under that time pressure and I think Hull City have every chance to extend a surprisingly strong recent run of results at St James' Park. They have won 4 of their last 5 visits to this ground including the last 3 in a row and Steve Bruce might improve his standing with the home crowd if he can mastermind another success that sees the end of the Pardew era.

However, I can't bring myself to back Hull City to win this game because of their own poor recent record away from home with 6 losses in their last 8 games on their travels.

I do expect there will be goals in the game though as Newcastle United have conceded 7 goals in their last 2 League games and have also kept just 1 clean sheet from their last 6 home games. On the other hand, Hull City have scored in 8 of their last 9 away games in the Premier League, while conceding at least 2 goals in 5 of their last 7 away League games.

All of that suggests the 2.25 there will be at least three goals in this one is perhaps a little too high as both teams will feel they can get forward in this one and I do think it could be entertaining if ultimately an unsuccessful day for Alan Pardew.

West Ham United v Liverpool Pick: Even with Daniel Sturridge on the sidelines, Liverpool will believe they can come to Upton Park and become the latest Premier League side to leave this part of East London with the three points.

The big question for Liverpool is whether they can get the right balance between the Premier League and the Champions League having not been used to playing European football last season. With a squad that has a few injuries to contend with, Brendan Rodgers has to get the right system in place to manage his players to the best of his ability.

Despite West Ham's poor run of form at home in the Premier League where they have lost 4 of their last 5 games, including both played last season, they have actually been playing some decent football.

They will be able to pose Liverpool some problems, but I would be surprised if Liverpool don't find the space on the counter attack that they might not see at Anfield these days. It does feel that Liverpool will be a better away side than a home one this season in my opinion as I am not sure they have know-how to break down teams that will defend deep.

West Ham are likely to push forward in this one and that might work in Liverpool's favour and they can win a game where three or more goals are scored.

Leicester City v Manchester United Pick: I've said that the easiest thing that people can be guilty of doing is overreacting to one result in the world of sports and focusing overly on that performance rather than a general view.

Manchester United looked a lot better against Queens Park Rangers, but really kicked on once they scored and I also have to say that the visitors were as poor a team as I have seen in some time. The performances produced by Leicester City over the first four Premier League games suggests this is going to be a far more difficult challenge for the new-look Manchester United team than the one they faced a week ago.

The likes of Everton and Arsenal have both failed to win at the King Power Stadium, despite them holding the lead on three different occasions combined. That just shows the belief that Leicester City have in what they are doing and I certainly think they are capable of exposing some problems in the Manchester United back four/back five that will start in this game.

Leonardo Ullua has been clinical in front of goal and will be a threat, but I do also think the Manchester United players will enjoy playing a team that is not going to sit deep for long periods in this game. Angel Di Maria looks a match winner and the ability to bring on someone like Radamel Falcao does have me leaning towards Manchester United to win, although not at the short odds on quotes that are littered around.

Instead, I believe both teams are likely to hit the back of the net during the game where the defences may be under pressure from two teams that will like going forward. Leicester have shown they can score against Premier League defences with goals against Everton and Arsenal, as well as Manchester City in the League Cup last season, while Manchester United looked a much more dangerous prospect going forward last weekend.

Both teams are likely to score in my opinion, but I still lean towards Manchester United and will back them to win this game after both defences are breached.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Brom Pick: Last season, 7 of Tottenham Hotspur's 12 Premier League defeats came following a Europa League tie and that has to be something that has been on the back of the mind of manager Mauricio Pochettino. Make no mistake, if I know that statistic there is absolutely no chance that the Tottenham players and staff don't know the same.

Hopefully that will focus them for this game on Sunday as I do think they are going to have too much for a West Brom team that have lost confidence and are clearly struggling. The two heavy losses they have suffered against Swansea and Everton wouldn't have helped and Spurs have recorded big wins over AEL Limassol and Queens Park Rangers here already this season.

Tottenham Hotspur had also been on a good run of form at White Hart Lane before running into Liverpool and I do think they can get back to winning ways against a goal-shy opponent as long as the trip to Belgrade hasn't taken too much from the squad.

I have to respect the fact that West Brom have been tough opponents for Spurs in recent visits to this part of North London, but they don't look like a great team and the lack of confidence means heads could potentially drop if they fall behind.

Before the loss to Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur had won 5 straight home games in all competitions by at least two goals or more and I will back them to cover the one goal Asian Handicap this weekend.

Everton v Crystal Palace Pick: Liverpool aren't the only team in that city that are trying to figure out the best way to balance European commitments with their Premier League ambitions. Roberto Martinez played a very strong team in Everton's 4-1 win over Wolfsburg on Thursday so it will be interesting to see the recovery they have made ahead of this League game.

Everton are the right favourites to win this game after already securing their first two wins of the season over the last seven days, but I would be surprised if it is straight-forward.

They are playing a Crystal Palace team that have found goals on their travels and one that could pose problems moving forward if the Everton players are a little tired. However, I think Palace are still getting to grips with what Neil Warnock wants from them after the abrupt departure of Tony Pulis and this might be the best time to play the Eagles.

Last season Palace surprised Everton with a win here late in the season that effectively ended Everton's Champions League ambitions. That should focus Everton minds, although they might only earn the three points after both teams score.

Manchester City v Chelsea Pick: This is by far and away the biggest Premier League game of the weekend as Chelsea look to legitimise their position as favourites to win the Premier League by going into the home of the Champions.

After a perfect game plan was executed to beat Manchester City in the Premier League last season, Jose Mourinho couldn't find the right formula in the FA Cup and you can't ignore the poor record Chelsea have here in recent seasons.

I am also still not convinced about Chelsea, despite the new-look spine of the team which has impressed, because I don't think they have had the most difficult of fixtures to get through. The crushing win over Everton at Goodison Park was impressive, but no one can deny that Chelsea were rocking at times in that game despite the two early goals to get into a strong position, while both Leicester City and Swansea have caused problems for them.

Manchester City aren't in the best form, but should have a very strong team out for this game and they remain a very strong team at home despite the setback against Stoke City. I can see their forward players giving Chelsea a fair few problems at the back, although the fun of this match is that the away side will have space to exploit on the counter attack and have scored goals for fun in the League.

I also don't want to dismiss Chelsea finding the right game plan again under Mourinho, but Manchester City are a big price considering their home record over the last couple of seasons. The first goal could be critical in the game, but I fancy Manchester City to just halt the Chelsea run and get back to within striking distance of the West London club, which is important even at this early stage of the season.

MY PICKS: Aston Villa-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Newcastle United-Hull City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Liverpool Win and Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.40 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Manchester United to Win @ 3.40 Coral (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Everton to Win @ 3.25 Coral (1 Unit)
Manchester City @ 2.50 Coral (2 Units)

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