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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Boxing Day Football Picks 2014 (December 26th)

After enjoying a short break around Christmas Day, players from the English Leagues will be getting set for a run of three games in seven days (those in the Premier League at least), while there is also the matter of FA Cup Third Round matches which will take place just nine days after the Boxing Day fixtures.

A full round of games on Boxing Day is a great time for football fans and I don't know whether this period would be as much fun if teams decided to take a 'Winter Break' like many of the other top European Leagues.

Hopefully Christmas has been a fun time for whatever readers get up to and a strong December showing continues in the same trend ahead of the final two rounds of games of 2014.

Chelsea v West Ham United Pick: When the fixture list was released in June, I think most would have picked this as a routine win for Chelsea on Boxing Day as they host West Ham United.

However, Sam Allardyce has got the best out of the Hammers this season and they are going to give Jose Mourinho's Chelsea a lot to think about in this game, especially if Eden Hazard is unavailable for the home team.

Chelsea have won all eight home games they have played in the Premier League and the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur have even failed to score here. They have only conceded 3 goals at home in the League, but they now face a West Ham United team that have looked very good going forward and they are the fifth highest scorers in the League. In fact, West Ham have only scored fewer than Chelsea and Manchester City in their away games this season and they have managed at least one in every away game they have played.

Last season, Mourinho accused West Ham of playing '19th Century football' in a goalless draw at Stamford Bridge, but I would expect a more proactive effort from West Ham this time around. I don't think they will be nervous ahead of the game and have played well enough to cause problems for Chelsea, although unlikely to actually get something from the game.

These next two games against Chelsea and Arsenal will show West Ham United fans whether they are a real challenger for a Champions League place that they currently occupy, but I am expecting them to come up short in this one. However, it won't surprise me if they become just the third League team to score at Stamford Bridge and I will back Chelsea to win a game where both teams score.

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The performances have been full of hard work and determination, but Leicester City have been lacking something in the final third and that has sparked some discontent at the KP Stadium. Nigel Pearson could handle things far better than he has, but I think that just highlights the pressure he is under to turn things around for the Foxes who are big favourites to return to the Championship in May.

Goals have been a real problem for Leicester City and that looks to be where any investment will be going in the January transfer window, but whether Pearson gets to spend it is another thing. Another loss could mean 2014 ends in the worst manner for the manager and Tottenham Hotspur have been playing well enough away from home to think they can win here.

Tottenham have won games at Hull City and Aston Villa thanks to a huge slice of luck of seeing the home teams reduced to ten men while leading those games, while they didn't deserve the 1-2 win they secured at Swansea. While the performances haven't always been the best, Spurs have goals in the side and that could prove to be a critical difference in this game.

Harry Kane might not be everyone's cup of tea, but the forward has found the net regularly for Spurs and gives them something of a target in the box. He has done enough to bring in the likes of Christian Eriksen in and around the box and the Dane can create chances and score goals which could prove to be a problem for Leicester City to deal with.

I am not convinced about Spurs because they have gotten away with too many performances that haven't always deserved the three points they have got in recent away games. However, I do think they are a team that has goals in the side and that may be enough to make the odds against quotes count in this game at Leicester City.

Manchester United v Newcastle United Pick: Louis Van Gaal is still not satisfied with the way that Manchester United have played this season and he was unhappy with the first half performance against Aston Villa, even if he did decide to compliment the performance of the home team.

I am sure Van Gaal is happy that Radamel Falcao was on the scoresheet considering some of the media reports that had come out in recent weeks about their relationship, while the Dutchman will be happier to have returned to Old Trafford.

Results at home have been a lot more consistent for Manchester United and they are getting healthier every day with less players needing the treatment room. Of course, the festive period means there could be changes with big away games at Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City in mind, but I expect an attacking Manchester United line up to take the field and one that can expose any confidence issues Newcastle United have.

Losing heavily at Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur would have been a disappointment for the fans, but the home loss to Sunderland is unforgivable. The fact remains that it is the third time that Sunderland have won at St James' Park in a row and Newcastle United have looked a little fragile at the back with injuries, while losing Cheick Tiote for this game means a big shield in front of the back four is out.

That should leave Newcastle a little exposed for this game and Manchester United have been clinical with the chances that have come their way. I would expect United to have the majority of the play and Newcastle to focus on the counter-attack with the pace they have up front.

While Newcastle will trouble a Manchester United defence that is still not playing to the level the fans would like to see, but I think Manchester United will have their chances to record another comfortable home win. Recent games against Newcastle United have been highly competitive games at Old Trafford, but I like Manchester United to win this one by a couple of goals at least.

Swansea v Aston Villa Pick: The festive period can prove to be a great time to build momentum for teams and Swansea will be hoping they can back up their 0-1 win at Hull City last weekend with another at home on Boxing Day. Swansea have played very well at home with their passing game mixed with some pace in the forward positions that can cause problems for defences throughout the Premier League and they will expect to do the same against Aston Villa.

Wilfried Bony was given a rest last weekend, but he should be restored to the starting eleven and Swansea should be ready to get back to winning ways at home after their loss to Tottenham Hotspur in their last outing at the Liberty Stadium.

They have also defended well at home and might need to be aware of the threat that Aston Villa will pose on the counter-attack. Gabby Agbonlahor, Andreas Weimann and Christian Benteke all have pace to really worry defences that might not have the same protection at home and Benteke is certainly looking more dangerous with match fitness improving after each game.

However, goals remain a problem for Aston Villa on their travels and Swansea can take advantage with their ability to create chances in front of their own fans. Swansea have scored at least twice in 6 of their 9 home games in all competitions this season and they should have had got to that number against Tottenham in their latest home game with a little bit more composure in front of goal.

If they can show that composure in this game, I would expect Swansea to be too strong for Aston Villa and record a vital three points in this one.

West Brom v Manchester City Pick: There is no doubt that any team that loses the likes of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic is going to be short up front, but David Silva showed why his return to the Manchester City team could be so important for them in this time. Without those three strikers, Manchester City need more from their midfield, but Silva provided that with 2 goals last weekend against Crystal Palace.

Silva is also capable of unlocking defences with the clever passing and turn of pace he possesses and that should give West Brom a lot of problems considering how short of confidence the home team has to be.

This is a West Brom team that has conceded at least two goals in 7 of their 11 home games this season and one that still has to be a little shell-shocked with the way they lost at Queens Park Rangers last weekend. It won't make them feel a lot better when considering how many goals Manchester City have been scoring away from home in recent games although someone was leading the line in the majority of those games.

Manchester City are on the other end of the scale when it comes to confidence and momentum compared with West Brom and they have to be looking at this time of the season as a real chance to close the gap on Chelsea. With Burnley and Sunderland visiting the Etihad Stadium after this game and Chelsea visiting Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City know they have to keep the pressure up on the League leaders.

They have won 8 in a row including their last 4 in a row away from home and Manchester City have been playing well enough to see off West Brom here too. I'd be more confident backing Manchester City if they had at least one of their strikers available to them, but I think the likes of Samir Nasri, David Silva, Frank Lampard and Yaya Toure have enough about them to create chances and score goals here and I think Manchester City win by more than a single strike.

Arsenal v Queens Park Rangers Pick: The biggest disappointment from the Arsenal game at Liverpool last weekend has to be the lack of real penetration the trio of Olivier Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Alexis Sanchez managed to get for much of the game. However, I expect that to be a different story for them in this game against a Queens Park Rangers that have conceded 20 goals in 8 away Premier League games this season.

I expect Arsenal will dominate possession and I do think they will create chances if they produce anything like the level of performance they had in their last home game against Newcastle United. These are the kinds of games where the quality that Arsenal have, despite a rash of injuries, should prove to be the difference on a normal day, but there is another element I am interested in.

Harry Redknapp and Queens Park Rangers may have had a few days of rest and recovery after their stunning 3-2 win over West Brom last weekend, but will the manager be tempted to look ahead to the games ahead. This game is played on Boxing Day, but Queens Park Rangers have two home games which are very winnable in the six days following this one and the players could be more interested in those games.

Two days after this one, QPR face Crystal Palace at home, a real relegation six pointer, and Redknapp may well focus the energies on that game rather than this one. Queens Park Rangers could play an excellent game full of endeavour and guts, but that might leave them short for the game against Palace and even that might not be enough to earn something from this game.

If Arsenal get ahead in the game, I wouldn't be surprised if Queens Park Rangers rest some of their key players and it wouldn't be that out of left field if a 'weaker' starting eleven begins this game.

Either way, I do think Arsenal's attacking power at home will be too much in this London derby and I like the home team to win by a couple of goals at least.

MY PICKS: Both Teams to Score and Chelsea to Win @ 3.10 Coral (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur to Win @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Swansea to Win @ 1.80 Coral (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.74 888sport (2 Units)

December Update18-14-1, + 14.74 Units (58 Units Staked, + 25.41% Yield)
November Final17-21, - 0.59 Units (69 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
October Final8-18, - 14.79 Units (47 Units Staked, - 31.47% Yield)
September Final12-18, - 2.28 Units (41 Units Staked, - 5.56% Yield)
August Final8-22, - 19.92 Units (51 Units Staked, - 39.06% Yield)

Season 2014/1545-79, - 37.58 Units (208 Units Staked, - 18.07% 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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