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Saturday, 8 November 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (November 8-9)

After a couple of successful years, the opening months of the 2014/15 season have been terrible, but this is one time when I will say I think the bad luck some of the picks have had surround them have not been balanced by the good.

Just the last month there are a number of examples of teams blowing their chances but it was encapsulated by Tuesday night Champions League action by Arsenal and Juventus.

I understand the defensive problems Arsenal are having, but there is no way a young and inexperienced Anderlecht side should be coming back from 3-0 down, but the bad luck really comes from the linesman missing the first goal being scored from a position of at least five yards offside. There is no doubt that changes the game, but Arsenal should still be winning that one comfortably and had chances to extend their lead despite the defensive vulnerabilities that were later exposed.

Add the Juventus game where the side came from 1-2 down to lead 3-2 and then awarded a penalty with what will essentially be the final kick of the game. Arturo Vidal got the crowd going and then subsequently missed his kick which meant I didn’t receive any fortune from that pick either.

It got to the point that I actually know, like really know, that he would have buried it with no problem if I had picked Olympiacos + 1.5 instead of Juventus to win by two or more goals.

Other examples have seen Vito Mannone gift Arsenal a killer second goal in the final moments of the Sunderland 0-2 loss (I had Arsenal to win by one goal) or Manchester United blowing a 1-3 lead at Leicester City (Both Teams to Score and Manchester United to Win) and just those four games where an outrageous bit of bad fortune or a turnaround for the ages could have made the world of difference to the record (produces a 15.4 Unit swing towards the positive which is unbelievable really).

It really has been a game of inches for me in the first three months and seemingly every bounce of the ball has gone in the wrong direction. Don’t misunderstand though, there has been a lot of bad picks too, but bad and good picks balance out, you need the bits of fortune to do the same (as any relegated team will tell you!)

Liverpool v Chelsea Pick: This is quite easily the biggest game of the weekend, but it is also one that Brendan Rodgers daren't see his Liverpool side lose. After receiving a lot of criticism of his team selected in the 1-0 loss to Real Madrid, many will be looking to see how Liverpool do in this game and a defeat will really amp up the pressure on Rodgers.

I really do think he would have picked any other team rather than Chelsea to be visiting this weekend as Jose Mourinho has really got his team playing effective football and put them in a strong position in the Premier League already.

If it wasn't for late goals at the Etihad Stadium and Old Trafford for the two Manchester clubs, Chelsea would have secured vital wins at those grounds and I don't think Anfield will intimidate them on current form.

Defensively Liverpool have been struggling and Chelsea have players like Diego Costa, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Cesc Fabregas that can really expose those problems, while they are also a big side at set pieces which is another area of concern for the home team. On the other hand, Chelsea have been much more solid at the back and will feel they can contain the pace of Raheem Sterling to give them a great chance to win this game and put up another important three points.

Late goals conceded in away games have to be a concern for Jose Mourinho, but I think Chelsea are the right side in this one and they can win Anfield to really prove themselves as title favourites.

Manchester United v Crystal Palace Pick: The one element from Manchester United games that have been noticeable early in the campaign is how quick and effective they have been in the first half, but they have also struggled a little in the second half. That might be changing though with some big moments in securing late draws with West Brom and Chelsea, and coming close to doing the same in the Manchester derby with three late chances to snatch something from the Etihad Stadium.

That strength can only be good news for Louis Van Gaal and I think Manchester United will have a good chance to get back to winning ways this weekend. They are facing a Crystal Palace team that will cause problems with their pace on the counter attack against a makeshift Manchester United defence, but also one that is conceding too many goals against whom Radamel Falcao, Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and Angel Di Maria will feel they can expose.

Manchester United have dominated Crystal Palace in the past and they have made very good starts at Old Trafford with goals in the first half hour against Queens Park Rangers, West Ham United and Everton.

I do think if Manchester United can score early that they can make this a very tough day in the office for Neil Warnock and his men and that will be a concern for Crystal Palace considering the amount of goals they have conceded on their travels. With the team also beginning to look a little stronger for the full ninety minutes, there is enough attacking talent in the home dressing room to secure a vital three points with a win by at least two goals.

Queens Park Rangers v Manchester City Pick: On current form of these two teams, especially when it comes to performances being produced on the field, Manchester City look remarkably short to beat Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Saturday afternoon.

There seems to be a real lack of confidence in the Manchester City squad that has come from the failure to beat CSKA Moscow in the game played in Russia and they have struggled for results since then. More of a disappointment will be the lack of performances produced by the side which saw them lose their last Premier League game  at Upton Park and Queens Park Rangers will get amongst the City players like West Ham United did.

The results might not be there for Queens Park Rangers, but they have pushed both Liverpool and Chelsea in recent games and this is a team that has rested and prepared for this game all week.

Queens Park Rangers can definitely cause panic in the Manchester City defence as they are backed by their home crowd as they did against Liverpool and Chelsea. I can see them getting on the scoreboard and there is a chance they can upset Manchester City, but defensively Rangers have also struggled for clean sheets against the best teams which will be a concern with Sergio Aguero in the Manchester City line up.

4 of the last 6 Queens Park Rangers games have ended with both teams scoring and 6 of the last 10 Manchester City games has done the same. With both defences being vulnerable, I think there is every chance that happens in this late Saturday kick off.

However, I also think you can go further and back over 3.5 goals in this one which has occurred in 2 of QPR's first 5 home games as this does look a game that will be full of goals.

West Brom v Newcastle United Pick: This is actually quite an important game for two teams that have shown decent form since the last international break and they would definitely both want a positive result to take into the next one. That will maintain the momentum and does make me wonder if both managers would take a draw right now, although I don't think either will play for that result.

Alan Pardew has used the pace that Newcastle United have in forward positions that can be very effective away from home when the counter attack is available to them. They have scored at least two goals in three straight away games and the 4 straight wins Newcastle have earned has definitely eased the pressure on the manager.

Defensively they have looked decent too, although they should be tested by a West Brom team that have scored plenty of goals in their recent games.

It was a tough start for Alan Irvine as manager of the side, but West Brom have picked up some positive results of late, although there are still some defensive vulnerabilities that Newcastle United will feel they can expose. However, West Brom have scored at least two goals in four straight home games in all competitions which has disguised the amount of goals they have been conceding at the Hawthornes.

The layers believe goals may be tough to come by this weekend, but I am not of that belief as both teams have shown they are capable of scoring goals. This is also a fixture that has produced at least three goals in 8 of the last 10 games between them and this could be another at odds against.

Swansea v Arsenal Pick: No matter how many defensive injuries a team has nor how unsure they have been at the back, no one should be losing a 3-0 home lead against a team like Anderlecht who have a lot of youth and heart, but not really the quality of the Champions League level. However, that is exactly what Arsenal managed to do and their defence is likely to be tested again this weekend against a Swansea team that have scored at least twice in 4 of their last 5 home games including 3 in a row.

Wilfried Bony will be looking forward to seeing an Arsenal centre back pairing that includes Nacho Monreal, who was totally exposed against Anderlecht, and it will be tough for Arsenal.

However, I also think the forwards like Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck can give Swansea some problems too and this Arsenal team definitely have goals in the side.

Unsurprisingly, I am picking this game to feature goals as Swansea look capable of giving Arsenal plenty of problems when going forward, while Arsenal themselves have attacking players that can produce magic.

The fixture has seen 3 of the 4 games played at the Liberty Stadium feature at least three goals and a little under odds against quotes makes that an appealing option for this one.

MY PICKS: Chelsea @ 2.38 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Queens Park Rangers-Manchester City Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)
West Brom-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Swansea-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 William Hill (2 Units)

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