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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Weekend Football Picks (November 1-3)

This has just been one of those weeks that has felt 'long' and I am glad to see the end of it to be perfectly honest.

With the Manchester derby coming up on Sunday, I am at least excited about the football taking place and the absence of David Silva could give Manchester United a real opportunity to win at the Etihad Stadium, although I can still understand why Manchester City are the favourite despite their 'poor' form of late.

Newcastle United v Liverpool Pick: I really feel I can make a case for either team to win this game- Newcastle United have been in very good form over the last two weeks as they have finally put together a couple of wins and decent performances; on the other hand, Liverpool snapped a mini-run of games without a win and have had their chances against Hull City last week which they may be more ready to take after a late show against Swansea.

One thing games between Newcastle United and Liverpool haven't lacked is goals and both defences have looked vulnerable which suggests this Saturday early kick off could be an entertaining one.

That is especially the case with the speed both teams have in the forward positions which should cause some problems for the defences. Before the clean sheet against Leicester City, Newcastle had conceded at least two goals in 6 of their previous 7 home games in the Premier League. It is no surprise that 6 of their last 8 games have produced at least three goals shared in that time.

Liverpool have conceded at least two goals in 5 of their last 6 away games in the League and every single one of those have ended with at least three goals being shared. In fact, the last 11 away games in the Premier League that Liverpool have played have seen three or more goals scored.

This fixture usually provides goals with it being the highest-scoring one in the Premier League and I don't think either side will get through the game without giving up chances to the other. It has obviously been priced down with the way games between Newcastle United and Liverpool have previously gone, but I still like over 2.5 goals in a game that should have the chances to surpass that number.

Arsenal v Burnley Pick: Inconsistent results and performances have prevented Arsenal from gathering more points in the Premier League this season, but this looks the perfect game from which they can earn the three points and move into the Champions League game against Anderlecht with some confidence.

As much as Arsenal have struggled to put in ninety minute performances, the step up from the Championship has been too much to ask for these Burnley players. They have played a couple of tough matches including earning a draw with Manchester United and at Crystal Palace, but there have been too many 'comfortable' losses too.

The last two losses have both come by the same 1-3 scoreline and Burnley's defence, which was a huge key to their success last season, have found the extra quality too much to handle in the Premier League.

Arsenal have not dominated any team in the Premier League at home and their defence will offer Burnley some encouragement, but their forward options look very intimidating. Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck have played well since being brought into the club, but the return of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott gives Arsene Wenger more options and I think Burnley will do very well to hold Arsenal down in this one.

A defence that is conceding a few goals and a lack of consistent play the other way doesn't bode well for Burnley and I like Arsenal to win this one by a couple of goals at least.

Chelsea v Queens Park Rangers Pick: The last two games that Queens Park Rangers have played against Liverpool and Aston Villa have certainly been positive in terms of performance and Harry Redknapp would have been very happy with the three points his side picked up against the latter. They should have got something from the game against Liverpool too and the performance showed that Queens Park Rangers may be getting to grips with being back in the Premier League.

It is, of course, a completely different test going against a Chelsea team that have been winning games very comfortably at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League. Even without Diego Costa, Chelsea haven't missed much of a beat and there is enough talent in the squad to make up for the Spaniard's absence, although he could be available in this game.

Jose Mourinho might not have been manager of Chelsea the last time Queens Park Rangers visited and surprised the home faithful, but he is a manager that would remind his players of getting too complacent and what can happen. That should keep Chelsea focused on the task at hand and they should create chances against this defence which is a little susceptible to pacy teams.

Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian are all players that can be picked out by the likes of Cesc Fabregas and I do think Chelsea will prove too strong. The layers feel the same and Chelsea are expected to win this game fairly comfortably despite the Champions League game that is next on deck for them.

The layers are giving nothing away, but I like the almost odds against quotes that Chelsea can become the latest team to take advantage of the defensive mistakes Queens Park Rangers have made. Every League away game has seen QPR concede at least two goals, but I think Chelsea can join Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in scoring at least three times.

Chelsea have reached that number in just half of their home games this season and they have the attacking talent to do that yet again.

Everton v Swansea Pick: In recent weeks, Everton have begun to show better form while Swansea had started to get some inconsistent results and there is a real chance that Everton can overtake their opponents this weekend as long as they win the game. The defensive concerns are still there though which will make Swansea a danger thanks to the pace they have in the forward positions.

Everton have scored three goals in each of their last two Premier League games which have resulted in back to back League wins and they have had a few extra days to get ready for this game. On the other hand, Swansea were suffering a heart-breaking exit in the League Cup during the week and this is one of the few times this season where Everton have had a few more days to rest than their opponents thanks to Europa League commitments.

The match should edge towards Everton, but they look very short in the market to simply win the game, but is hard to ignore Swansea's recent struggles away from home. However, one thing that does stick out from their 3 losses from their last 4 away games is the fact that Swansea have scored in each one of those defeats.

Everton have only had one clean sheet at home this season, albeit in their last game, but I expect Swansea to offer much more going forward than Aston Villa. As I said, I still think Everton will end up winning the game, but I won't at all be surprised if Swansea score in this game too.

Last season, Everton beat Swansea 3-1 and 3-2 at Goodison Park and I think they will need to score at least twice to win this one because I can't see them keeping a clean sheet.

Hull City v Southampton Pick: This could be a surprisingly entertaining game on Saturday as both Hull City and Southampton have certainly known where the back of the net is in recent games. Southampton had to play during the week in the League Cup win at Stoke City which could have some impact in this match, but that game was played on Tuesday and the confidence that comes from winning a lot of games is flowing through the side.

Hull City won't be intimidated though as they are unbeaten in 3 games since giving Manchester City all they could handle in a 2-4 home loss and that run of games includes earning draws at the Emirates Stadium and at Anfield.

The Tigers had scored at least two goals in five straight games before the goalless draw at Anfield, but that would be considered a positive result and they certainly will feel they can cause Southampton problems at the KC Stadium.

On the other hand, Southampton have won 9 of their last 10 games in all competitions and they have scored more than one goal in 7 of those games.

Both teams have shown they can score goals, but both also concede goals and that could make this a game that features at least three goals which seems to be under-rated a little by the layers. The last two League games at the KC Stadium between these two teams haven't produced three goals, but these two teams look capable of getting to that mark with the way they have been succeeding when going forward in recent games and with some of the defensive vulnerabilities that both have shown at home/away respectively.

Manchester City v Manchester United Pick: The Manchester derby has been one of the most entertaining games in the Premier League over the last few seasons, although recent editions haven't been much fun for Manchester United fans as Manchester City have won three in a row.

The defensive frailties that both sides have shown off during the last few weeks could set us up for another high-scoring game between these rivals, especially if you consider the attacking talent available to both managers.

I can't see a reason for either manager to back down and remove their attacking philosophies and that should see chances created at both ends of the field.

Manchester City are under some pressure after receiving plenty of criticism for their recent form which began with a sloppy draw at CSKA Moscow in the Champions League two weeks ago. They did have their chances against both West Ham United and Newcastle United in their last two losses and there is little doubt that Manchester City are a different proposition at home despite that loss to Newcastle.

My worry for Manchester United is that they have clearly not been as good away from home than at Old Trafford, although they created plenty of opportunities to score goals in those games. Unfortunately the defence has really failed to perform in away games to the level expected, although injuries are beginning to clear up which will give Louis Van Gaal more options.

Recent results have put a few doubts in the Manchester City players which may make this a more competitive game than I was fearing for Manchester United, although I can understand why the home team are still a pretty strong favourite. Whether United can maintain a performance through ninety minutes might be key in a fixture that has produced plenty of late goals in recent games, but instead of the match result, I will look to the total goals market.

That hasn't been a problem in many recent Manchester derbies with 3 of the last 4 at the Etihad Stadium producing at least five goals each time. In the last three years, we have also seen seven goals produced in a game at Old Trafford and a five goal Community Shield game.

With both defences struggling at times, this is another Manchester derby that could produce fireworks three days before Guy Fawkes Night and a small interest on at least five goals being shared may pay off.

MY PICKS: Newcastle United-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Both Teams to Score and Swansea to Win @ 3.50 William Hill (1 Unit)
Hull City-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Manchester City-Manchester United Over 4.5 Goals @ 5.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

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