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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (December 16-17)

The League Cup, otherwise known as the Capital One Cup, takes centre stage this week as we have reached the Quarter Final stage of that competition, but it was the Champions League and Europa League draws that will be making the headlines after those were completed on Monday morning.

All three ties involving the English clubs in the Champions League are intriguing, although the one between Arsenal and Monaco is more to do with the links that Arsene Wenger has with both clubs. On paper, Arsenal should finally return to the Quarter Final of the Champions League having exited at the Last 16 stage four years in a row.

The ties between Chelsea/Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City/Barcelona are rematches from last season, a factor of the Champions League draw thanks to the rules forbidding clubs from the same association meeting before the Quarter Finals. Will we see the same winners as last season from those ties? I would guess 'yes' at the moment, but injuries and form will have to be factored in when the tournament returns in February.

With the Europa League winner now getting a place in the Champions League, the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton may all feel their best chance of getting into that competition is by winning the Europa League.

Everton have been given a decent Last 32 draw against Young Boys of Switzerland, but both Liverpool and Spurs have a couple of tough teams to overcome in Besiktas and Fiorentina respectively. The other factor is that the winner of the Europa League has to still play 9 games to win that event and the English teams might not be ready to throw all their eggs in that basket until their Premier League top four credentials have completely extinguished.

In saying that, both Liverpool and Everton may be in that position by February/March, although Tottenham Hotspur could be challenging for a top four place as long as they can improve their form at White Hart Lane.

Another game that might be getting a few more interested people tuning in is the FA Cup Second Round Replay between Yeovil Town and Accrington Stanley which takes place on Tuesday. With the winner of that having a huge financial boost by hosting Manchester United in the FA Cup Third Round early next month, expect a lot of interest from the fans of both clubs as well as the media, although it was a surprise to me that the game wasn't picked as one of the two for live viewing.

The World Club Championship also gets going with both Real Madrid and San Lorenzo entering at the Semi Final stage of that tournament and the expectation is that Real Madrid will add a title that they have yet to win to an ever-growing trophy cabinet.

Cruz Azul v Real Madrid Pick: At this moment in time, Real Madrid don't have too many peers in European football and it does seem a big ask for Cruz Azul to be the team to upset them in this World Club Championship Semi Final. It has been made clear all season that Real Madrid see this as a vital tournament to win and so desire can't be questioned, while they also have a proud 20 game winning run to protect so any hopes that Cruz Azul have might be fleeting at best.

Cruz Azul were struggling to see off the Western Sydney Wanderers in the Quarter Final and the CONCACAF representative has seen this tournament a tough one to deal with. Some of that will have to do with the travelling as Dubai and Morocco have hosted recent editions of the World Club Championship, but I also think the best players from those nations tend to ply their trade in either South America or Europe.

The European representative has been comfortable in the Semi Final of the competition and they have won the last 9 of those by a 29-5 scoreline. Real Madrid obviously have a lot of power in forward positions and have been scoring so many goals in recent games that it might end with another big win for the UEFA team in the Semi Final.

I don't think Cruz Azul will give up, but these players will know all about the big names that Real Madrid have and that can be tough to deal with with some more interested in whose shirt they will be able to swap at the end of the game. Real Madrid won't want to embarrass any team, but they have scored so many goals and have so many attacking options that it is hard to see how Cruz Azul will contain them.

Real Madrid have won 14 of their 20 games in their winning run by at least three goals and I will back them to do that again in this Semi Final and continue the UEFA dominance at this stage of the competition.

Derby County v Chelsea Pick: This is the kind of game that Steve McClaren and the Derby County players want to bring to the fans on a weekly basis by earning promotion to the Premier League and some may be calling for a surprise result if Chelsea make too many changes to their starting eleven.

However, Derby County have not been in the best form in recent weeks with 2 losses from their last 3 games and they were also outplayed by Chelsea in their home loss in the FA Cup last season.

Jose Mourinho also holds the League Cup in pretty high regards and he is likely to put out a Chelsea team that doesn't have a host of changes considering they have six days before the next Premier League game. Chelsea haven't been playing as well away from home in their most recent games, but they are a solid team and should be far too good for lower League opposition.

It should be an entertaining game as Derby County are the kind of team that will come forward and try and make things happen, which should also make it easier for Chelsea to play their football. Even with some of the changes that are likely to be made, I would still think Chelsea prove too good and they might end up with a similar result to the FA Cup win here last season.

Bournemouth v Liverpool Pick: There won't be too many better opportunities for Bournemouth to beat a team of the size of Liverpool as in this League Cup Quarter Final and the confident leaders of the Championship have to be fully motivated to do that. A chance to get into the League Cup Semi Final is one benefit, but the confidence a win over Liverpool could give Bournemouth to take into the rest of the League season could be critical in helping them earn promotion to the top flight for the first time.

Bournemouth have scored at least twice in their last 6 home games in all competitions and that includes a 2-1 win over West Brom in the last Round of the League Cup, while they have won 4 of those games.

However, Liverpool finally showed some creative life in their loss at Manchester United with the 3-0 scoreline flattering to the home team. David De Gea made some top saves, but it was poor finishing from the Liverpool forwards that prevented them scoring at least once, although Brendan Rodgers is happier with the chances that were created.

How much of that is down to the poor defensive performances that Manchester United have put in is hard to say, but I do think Liverpool are more suited to playing away from Anfield at the moment. They are given extra space in these away games as the home team has an onus on them to attack and I don't think Eddie Howe's Bournemouth are going to take a backward step.

One concern for Bournemouth has to be the fact they have conceded at least twice in their last 4 home games and I do think Liverpool have their chances in this one too. Seeing at least three goals looks a pretty big price, but I think there is something in taking there being at least four goals shared in this one.

The last 4 Bournemouth home games have seen that number hit, while Liverpool's 3 away games before the one at Old Trafford also saw that number reached. Add the chances up in the game at Manchester United and that game could easily have seen at least four goals shared by the teams and I think the 3.20 offered for that happening in this game is too big to ignore.

Tottenham Hotspur v Newcastle United Pick: Newcastle United may have had a poor result in North London on Saturday, but they will point to their 1-2 success at Tottenham Hotspur earlier this season as a confidence inspiring result that could see them come through this League Cup Quarter Final.

Both sets of fans will be dreaming that they are capable of reaching the Final if they come through this tie and likely avoid Chelsea in the Semi Final draw. That should inspire a big game from both sets of players and I think this has the elements that could make it a very entertaining game.

Neither manager will want his team pushed into extra time with the games coming thick and fast over the next month and I can see both looking to win this game from the off. Tottenham Hotspur created enough chances in the first game between these teams to have had the game won by half time, but Newcastle United will feel the pace in their forward lines will make them a dangerous proposition throughout the game on the counter-attack.

Neither defence is the most reliable either so I am expecting this Cup Quarter Final to produce goals with both Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United expected to score.

These teams have produced the goods when facing each other in recent seasons and 6 of the last 7 have seen at least three goals shared. At White Hart Lane, 3 of the last 4 have seen at least three goals shared and gaps would certainly open up in this game if one team is chasing the game with the pace and counter-attacking ability of the other.

Both games on Wednesday night in the League Cup look like they could be action filled, although I will take this one to end with at least three goals.

MY PICKS: Real Madrid - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet365 (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.11 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bournemouth-Liverpool Over 3.5 Goals @ 3.20 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

December Update11-11-1, + 4.76 Units (40 Units Staked, + 11.90% 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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