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Friday, 26 September 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (September 27-29)

Last weekend produced a lot of high-scoring games with some stunning results as the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Manchester United all were defeated. Strange refereeing decisions contributed to some of the results and it just shows how tough the Premier League has been with a number of 'strange' results in the first five rounds of fixtures.

The Manchester United game is still not quite fully understood from my part as the team were firmly in control of the game and looked set to record a very big win at the King Power Stadium. Mark Clattenburg certainly changed the momentum with back to back outrageous decisions that led to the Leicester City penalty to halve their deficit, but the defending from that point was embarrassing to say the least.

Wayne Rooney might have got the big-time pictures after the third goal went in as he chased around the defence to bark at them for the goal, but it was his poor clearance that gave Leicester the ball back in a dangerous position.

I was disappointed with a lack of change made by Louis Van Gaal when the momentum was clearly against United, although the two goals came in quick succession, and he should have made some sort of change to the formation at 3-3. Leicester were clearly getting far too much room and I have no idea why Van Gaal decided to play Adnan Januzaj up front?

The Dutchman did say it was going to be a frustrating three months, but the failure to buy a centre-half looks a poor decision and I am not surprised that Michael Carrick is being suggested as someone who will be used there. I actually thought Carrick would be part of a three that play at the back as a player who would be comfortable with the ball at his feet, but am less convinced if the back four system continues to be used.

It also feels United are missing a big chance to set the marker for the season with five points coming from home games against Swansea and Queens Park Rangers and three away games at Sunderland, Burnley and Leicester City. When the fixture list was announced, I would have expected United to be much closer to 13 points and the only saving grace is that the top four haven't gotten away from the side.

However, I agree with Juan Mata that United have to win the next two games before the international break with both taking place at Old Trafford, if only to get some momentum before a run of games where the side take on Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal in the space of a few weeks.

I just can't catch much of a break with the picks at the moment as I just feel things are conspiring against me. It's a bit disappointing to be honest, but I also feel that it will turnaround as long as I don't panic and make radical changes to what has produced two winning seasons in a row.

Chelsea v Aston Villa Pick: After drawing 1-1 with Schalke and Manchester City in consecutive games, the feeling is that Chelsea will be itching to get back to winning ways this weekend and Aston Villa may have been exposed by Arsenal last weekend in a 0-3 home loss.

However, Aston Villa have looked a more effective away team for a couple of seasons now and I think they will have a chance to counter a Chelsea team that definitely looks more proactive going forward. Jose Mourinho is delivering the attacking football he failed to in his first stint in West London and there are definitely goals in the home side, but they have also looked more vulnerable defensively than they did in that first time as manager.

Aston Villa have shown in their performances at Stoke City and Liverpool that they can cause problems when going forward, but I think the best they can hope for this weekend is getting on the scoreboard.

That won't be easy for a Villa side that doesn't seem to have a lot of goals in the side, but they could grab something late as Chelsea turn their attention to the Champions League game at Sporting Lisbon during the week. However, I think Chelsea win so a small interest on the home side winning a game where both teams score is the call.

Hull City v Manchester City Pick: It has been a rough few weeks for Manchester City who have not started the defence of their title in the manner they would have liked, while some are comparing this season to the one under Roberto Mancini when defending that title in 2012. However, the players seem to be a lot happier under Manuel Pellegrini and you have to say their fixture list has been far from straight-forward, while some bad luck has also been a factor.

In saying that, Pellegrini was also very comfortable with the way the team has been playing and admitted that the win over Sheffield Wednesday will hopefully be a spark for his side in the Premier League. Going to Hull City is a tough test for many teams these days, but Manchester City will feel confident considering the amount of goals the home side have been conceding in recent games.

One factor that could play a part is that this is another Champions League week and Manchester City have a big home game against Roma that they can't afford to lose. Whether that shows in the team line up on Saturday is anyone's guess at the moment, but the squad should be able to cope with those demands.

Steve Bruce doesn't have to worry about European commitments anymore thanks to Hull City's early exit, but he has to pick up a team that conceded twice in the final minutes at West Brom to exit the League Cup too. While Hull have been playing well going forward, the goals being conceded have to be a real worry for Bruce with survival in the Premier League the real goal of the season.

Games like this are not where Hull will lay the foundation for that survival and it is telling that they lost to the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton by more than a single goal at home last season. Add in the fact that Manchester City did that with ten men too and I do think Manuel Pellegrini can pick a team that highlights the goals being conceded by the home team and covers the one goal Asian Handicap.

Manchester United v West Ham United Pick: The Manchester United teams of years gone by would have been chomping at the bit to remove the bad taste of their last defeat out of their mouths and you have to feel this current squad will believe they are going to do the same thing. There is a lot of attacking quality in the side that will make them dangerous, but Manchester United have to be careful of a new found attacking West Ham United against a makeshift back three/four depending on what formation Louis Van Gaal goes with.

Whenever a team can rely on the likes of Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata, Radamel Falcao, Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, there should be goals in the side and I have little doubt that Manchester United will provide those this weekend.

The big question is whether they can perform effectively enough at the back to make this a routine win or whether the vulnerabilities highlighted by Leicester City last weekend are shown up again. West Ham United play with wingers and will put in a lot of crosses into the Manchester United box to try and expose the problems the home side have been having and I do hope Van Gaal has prepared for that.

With the way both teams have played this season, there is a huge potential for a few goals to be scored at Old Trafford and I very much doubt Manchester United games will be lacking entertainment. Sam Allardyce might not be quite ready to allow his team to express themselves in games like this and that might be the downfall for West Ham on Saturday and I expect Manchester United to come through with a win by a couple of goals at least.

Southampton v Queens Park Rangers Pick: Queens Park Rangers have suffered back to back heavy losses at sides that finished in the top half of the Premier League table last season and they may struggle to avoid another loss on Saturday at St Mary's.

As much of a motivator that Harry Redknapp has proven to be, his QPR side seem to lack a bit of quality in the forward areas and they were a little fortunate to earn a home result against Stoke City last weekend.

Defensively they have struggled with the pace of the Premier League attacks as Rio Ferdinand's pace is no longer something they can rely upon. That was exposed time after time by Stoke City, while both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United could have scored whenever they felt like in the two away games that Rangers have played.

Southampton have been in very strong form of late to think they are capable of causing plenty of problems for Queens Park Rangers in this one, especially if they start as they did against Newcastle United in their last home game. Ronald Koeman has the side playing very good attacking football and this could become another long day in the office for the Rangers defenders.

Teams simply don't keep conceding four goals in games so I can't imagine Southampton reach that number as the third team in a row against QPR. However, the forward struggles of the away team as well as Southampton's recent form suggests they can win this by a couple of goals at least.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: This is a fascinating North London derby if only because Tottenham Hotspur have looked a far more effective side on their travels than they have at White Hart Lane. There is little doubt that they don't necessarily have the quality to open up teams that are sitting back and defending deep which can happen at White Hart Lane, but they do expose the gaps away from home on the counter attack.

In saying that, there is a distinct lack of quality in some of the attacking play that Tottenham have produced this season and I think their defensive problems are going to be hard to disguise against this Arsenal team.

Arsenal may have lost to Southampton in the League Cup, but the performance at Aston Villa last week showed what they are capable of when they begin to click going forward. Danny Welbeck could be a different player with the confidence of a goal behind him, while the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez should be able to create chances against this Spurs back line.

It will be very difficult for Tottenham to contain Arsenal through this North London derby and I think they will struggle to get much change out of the Gunners. Arsenal have won 4 in a row at home against Spurs and also won all 3 games last season without conceding a goal- at the price, I think Arsenal are likely to grab the three points this week.

Stoke City v Newcastle United Pick: I have backed to Stoke City to beat Aston Villa and Leicester City at the Brittania Stadium already this season and I will look for them to get third time lucky to earn their first home win of the season.

They should have enough to take advantage of a Newcastle United team that have conceded plenty of goals in recent weeks, particularly if Stoke play like they did in their away draw at Queens Park Rangers. At least if Stoke City attack in that manner, they should have a real chance of exposing the Newcastle defensive issues, but Mark Hughes will also be expecting his team to perform much better at the back.

Alan Pardew remains an unpopular manager at Newcastle, but his side have shown tremendous heart in the last two games which suggests he is still being backed by his players. They will need all that determination on what has been a difficult trip for Newcastle in recent years and at a ground that is not normally as generous as it has been to Aston Villa and Leicester City already this season.

As long as Stoke City defend a little better than they have at times, they should have a little too much going forward for Newcastle in this one. At odds against, Stoke City are the call for the third time in the hope they can rediscover their home form or bring their away form into these games.

MY PICKS: Both Teams to Score and Chelsea to Win @ 3.50 Coral (1 Unit)
Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Southampton - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 2.20 Stan James (2 Units)

September Update9-13, - 1.28 Units (27 Units Staked, - 4.74% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/158-22, - 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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