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You do begin to understand how much football is being played by the top Premier League players at this time of the year when noting another ...

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New Year's Day Football Picks 2015 (January 1st)

Time doesn't stop for anyone, but I can't be the only person that has seen the 2014 calendar year zip right past faster than the click of your fingers.

Just like that, I am writing a small post in preparation for the New Year's Day Premier League games where there is a full round of games ahead of the FA Cup Third Round 'weekend'. I put that in inverted commas simply because the Third Round has been spread from Friday through to Tuesday which takes away something from one of the most popular weekends of the domestic season.


January has four rounds of League fixtures in England, while the top European Leagues return to action too. The rest of the month sees the first domestic Cup Final of the season set up once the two legged League Cup Semi Finals are completed, while the FA Cup will have reached the Fifth Round by the end of the month.

Usually this is the slowest month of the season after the Christmas holidays, but there is plenty of top football to look forward to with the importance of games increasing on a week by week basis.


Stoke City v Manchester United Pick: 2014 ended in a much more positive manner for Manchester United than it started and the confidence in the side has improved markedly in that time. The fans are feeling like 2015 is going to be a much better season now that David Moyes is no longer in charge and they have every chance of getting the New Year off to the perfect start with a victory at Stoke City.

However, it is going to be more than a little test at the Brittania Stadium considering Stoke City's recent form which has seen them only lose against Chelsea over the last month. Back to back wins over Everton and West Brom will have built some confidence and this ground is regularly a tough one to visit.

This season has been a different story though with 4 out of 9 visitors to Stoke leaving with the three points and Manchester United have certainly created enough chances in recent games to think they can do the same. United will need to be much more clinical then they were at Tottenham Hotspur when they could have had as many as three goals by half time with a little more fortune and composure when the chances came their way.

It is hard to imagine Robin Van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney having another off day in front of goal, although the defence is still a concern even with injuries beginning to clear up. While Manchester United should create problems for a Stoke City team that has conceded twice in games against Arsenal and Chelsea at the Brittania Stadium in recent games, I also think Stoke are going to have some joy with balls into the box for the likes of Peter Crouch.

The goals might not have come at White Hart Lane, but Manchester United games have generally seen them going in and I expect that to return to the fore on Thursday. Stoke City have both scored and conceded plenty of goals in recent games at the Brittania Stadium and I wouldn't be surprised if both teams hit the net in this one and neither is likely to sit back and settle for a draw.


Liverpool v Leicester City Pick: The decision to move Raheem Sterling up front and allow the likes of Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho to play behind him has sparked something from Liverpool and they produced their best performance of the season at Anfield on Monday Night Football. Dismissing Swansea as comfortably as they did should give Liverpool some confidence and they are only 5 points off a Champions League place despite a very inconsistent season.

Facing Leicester City at Anfield should give Liverpool a real chance of making it three wins in a row and that kind of momentum that was sparked by the side at the beginning of the 2014 calendar year. With Daniel Sturridge still on the road back to fitness, Brendan Rodgers will believe his side are capable of putting together a string of wins that can lead to another tilt at the Champions League and the manager would expect to win this game.

Leicester City did beat Hull City on Sunday to end a long wait for a win and also end a long losing run away from home, but Liverpool will be a different test than the goal-shy Hull side. Nigel Pearson's men have conceded at least twice in 6 of their last 8 away games and they might find it hard to stay with the clever movement that Liverpool can produce up front.

Any similarities to the performance produced against Swansea should see Liverpool too strong for Leicester in this game, even with one less day of rest between games than their visitors. Over the last few weeks, Liverpool have really begun to create chances in their games and they should have those in this game too against a defence that has conceded plenty of goals on their travels.

If they show the same level of clinical finishing and up-tempo attacking play as they did on Monday night, Liverpool should win this by a couple of goals at least.


Queens Park Rangers v Swansea Pick: It was a disappointing goalless draw that Queens Park Rangers had to settle for in their last game at home against Crystal Palace, but I think they can bounce back in this game if Swansea are as poor defensively as they were in their loss at Liverpool.

Harry Redknapp has got the best out of his QPR side at Loftus Road and games like this, even though Swansea are in the top half of the Premier League table, are very important for Rangers to win if they want to avoid the drop. They have been very good at home all season and have caused problems for many of their visitors over the last couple of months and they have an attacking threat that will give Swansea issues to deal with.

However, I have to have a respect for the likes of Wilfried Bony, Gylfi Sigurdsson and the way Garry Monk has his team earning results this season. On the other hand, Swansea are not as good on their travels as they have been at the Liberty Stadium and they don't look the right favourite in this game.

Swansea have lost 5 of their 9 away games in the Premier League and I think QPR are a big price to put another notch in the loss column for them in this game. I'll keep stakes small though after Rangers lost some momentum at home with the draw against Palace on Sunday, but the home price is still too hard to ignore.


Southampton v Arsenal Pick: This is a big game for both Ronald Koeman and Arsene Wenger as they look to get their sides in a position to challenge for the top four in the second half of the season. Arsenal have been there, done that regularly over the last twenty years and that experience is likely to prove critical down the stretch, especially if Southampton continue to struggle against the best teams in the Premier League.

Southampton have failed to beat Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea at St Mary's this season and even the draw with the current leaders of the Premier League was a touch fortunate. The players had to put in a huge effort in that game, especially in the second half, and I do wonder if Southampton will have enough time to be fully ready for this game on New Year's Day.

There is pace up front that will cause Arsenal some problems, but Southampton have to find a way to be a little more clinical against the best teams and also to try and dictate the tempo in these games. To be fair to Koeman, Southampton have played well against teams outside of the top two and were unfortunate to lose at the Emirates Stadium as well as the home game against Manchester United.

A similar performance to the one they produced against Manchester United will give Southampton a real chance of earning a surprise win in this one, although they will also have trouble coping with the strength of the Arsenal attack. Laurent Koscielny's return to the Arsenal defence will help their cause, but this looks another game that should produce goals at both ends.

The last 4 Arsenal away games have all produced at least three goals, while Southampton had seen 3 in a row also do the same before the 1-1 draw with Chelsea which had enough chances for another goal. The over 2.5 goals option is at odds against and I do think that looks a little big in this game.


West Ham United v West Brom Pick: I don't think there was any surprise when West Brom announced that they had parted ways with Alan Irvine as the side continues to slide down the Premier League table. Most seem to suggest that Irvine is a really nice man and a decent Coach, but that isn't enough to become a strong manager in a tough environment like the Premier League, although he could have learned from his experiences.

For now, West Brom will head to Upton Park without a leader at the helm and it will say a lot about these players as to how much desire they show in the face of things going wrong. West Brom have struggled for goals and this looks a very tough game for them to pick themselves up after losing 3 of their last 4 away games in the Premier League.

While the side did cause some problems for Stoke City, it was the lack of composure up front that cost West Brom the chance to get anything from that game and they might be under more pressure here.

West Ham United might have had their confidence dented by their two League defeats to Chelsea and Arsenal, but they had enough chances in the latter game against the Gunners to believe they can get back to winning ways. The side have played some attractive football and can put a lot of pressure on a team like West Brom that might not be up for the battle in a tough venue.

If West Ham can put recent defeats to the back of their mind, they should prove to be too strong for West Brom and can score the goals to grab the three points. If the home side score twice, I think it will be too much for West Brom to get a result in this one and I will back West Ham to win the game.


Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea Pick: If you had hit the pause button just before some of the chances that were going to be created at White Hart Lane on Sunday, I am pretty sure most would have expected to see the net bulge soon after the shot/header had been taken. There must have been some huge forcefield in front of both goals during the Tottenham Hotspur game with Manchester United that prevented that ending up being a high-scoring game, but the chances were there for that to happen.

When Chelsea visit Spurs on New Year's Day, they will also bring some forwards that are capable of finishing the opportunities that come their way and I can see the away side posing some real problems. The pace of Eden Hazard and the passing of Cesc Fabregas creates space for Diego Costa and it would be something of a surprise if Tottenham Hotspur continue to get away with some shoddy defending they have produced.

On the other hand, I don't believe Chelsea are worthy of being such a short favourite to win considering recent results on their travels. There is plenty of quality in the Chelsea team, but their defence doesn't seem to be as strong when away from Stamford Bridge and Harry Kane has been in the kind of form where he only needs half a sight of goal to put the ball into the back of the net.

Tottenham Hotspur also have a decent home record against Chelsea in recent seasons, but I wouldn't be confident in backing them to take something from this game. My reasons are that they seem to have been getting a lot of luck for some of their results in recent weeks and even losing a bit of that will give the edge to Chelsea, who certainly have the players to take advantage.

Both teams should have their chances and I won't be surprised if both score with 1-1 being the predominant score in recent games at White Hart Lane between these two teams. In fact, 3 of the last 4 Premier League games at this ground between Spurs and Chelsea have ended 1-1, but I think the chances that are likely to be created will separate the teams and find a winner.

Therefore, I am backing over 2.5 goals in this game without the confidence of really knowing which team will win- Chelsea are more likely, but Spurs could ride their luck yet again and instead I will simply stick with the belief that there will be goals in the late kick off.

MY PICKS: Stoke City-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Queens Park Rangers @ 3.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Southampton-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
West Ham United to Win @ 1.90 Stan James (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur- Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

December Final25-19-1, + 18.70 Units (81 Units Staked, + 23.09% 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 2014/1570-98-1, - 18.88 Units (289 Units Staked, - 6.53% 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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