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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (February 7-8)

There is a lot of football condensed into the short month that is February including four rounds of Premier League games, the first legs of the Champions League Last 16 ties, the completion of the Europa League Last 32 and the FA Cup Fifth Round all to get through.

It all begins with two rounds of Premier League football as this weekend games are quickly followed by another full round on Tuesday/Wednesday.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal Pick: The two North London clubs are unlikely to be involved in a Premier League title challenge, but both will completely believe that they can at least challenge for a Champions League spot by finishing in the top four.

Both teams are in decent form too so this North London Derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal looks like one that can produce fireworks to open this round of Premier League games. The early start can sometimes catch the players wiping the sleep from their eyes, but you would imagine the atmosphere at White Hart Lane is going to help on that matter and help produce a game that is entertaining for the neutrals, and tension filled for the fans of both clubs.

Tottenham Hotspur have won 4 of their last 6 home games in the Premier League including crushing Chelsea 5-3 on New Year's Day, while Arsenal have won 5 straight games since losing at Southampton on the same day. That includes Arsenal going to Manchester City and winning 0-2 and there is further good news by the potential return of Alexis Sanchez despite Arsene Wenger initially ruling him out.

Out of the two teams, Arsenal look the one with the more secure defensive performances, but they have allowed the opposition to create chances even if those haven't been taken. Harry Kane is playing with the confidence to take the chances that do come his way and I think Spurs can score in this one, although they have looked very suspect at the back and will do very well to stop Arsenal doing the same.

One element that may favour Spurs is the work they have been forced to go through in training sessions which has seen them 'out-last' teams and the number of late goals they have scored is a testament to that hard work. This has been a fixture that usually produced plenty of goals at White Hart Lane and there is every chance a late goal determines which of these teams comes through with the win.

A 2-1 scoreline either way has been such a feature of Tottenham Hotspur games and it won't surprise me to see that happen here so I will back Over 2.5 Goals in the first game of the weekend.

Manchester City v Hull City Pick: Any kind of points that Hull City can earn from the Etihad Stadium will be seen as a bonus for them to achieve their goal of staying in the Premier League this season, but it will be a tough test for them if Manchester City come close to producing the level they did against Chelsea last weekend.

While Hull had been largely outplayed by Newcastle United once they fell behind, Manchester City looked the far better team than Chelsea for the majority of that game. Even after Chelsea took the lead, Manchester City didn’t allow their head to drop and they dominated the second half without earning the three points they deserved.

Vincent Kompany has been vocal this week that Manchester City are unconcerned about being 5 points behind Chelsea considering how many points are still up for grabs. However, they can’t afford another sloppy performance at the Etihad Stadium where they have lost 2 games in a row and also conceded at least twice in 4 of their last 5 games.

Whether Hull City have the firepower to do the same is another question after creating chances last weekend but not having the composure nor the luck to make the net bustle. You would think they will get those breaks sooner or later, but the concentration may easily be on the home game against Aston Villa which is next on deck.

The layers seem to think so with Manchester City being asked to cover a 2 goal head start given to Hull and that seems a lot. I do think the home side win fairly easily, but Hull have been beaten by two goals at Chelsea and Arsenal. Backing Manchester City to keep a clean sheet looks a big risk on their recent performances so instead it seems like dutching the home team to win by two or three goals could be the best way forward.

Hull City have not suffered an away loss by more than three goals since returning to the Premier League last season and Manchester City are missing the services of Yaya Toure and possibly Samir Nasri. Manuel Pellegrini will be looking for any kind of win and Manchester City look too strong to win by just one goal.

Dutching those two margins of victory produces an odds against quote and looks worth backing.

Queens Park Rangers v Southampton Pick: He might have claimed an upcoming knee replacement surgery was the reason for his departure, but not many are completely convinced by that statement from Harry Redknapp. Losing a manager can be a tough proposition for any team, but losing one just a few hours after the close of the transfer window will always suggest there was something more than meets the eye to the decision.

The big question now is how will the Queens Park Rangers players respond to the departure of Redknapp? There will be some like Adel Taarabt who are probably celebrating in private having been pushed to the outskirts of the squad during this season, but others seemed to have a good relationship with the manager.

Southampton will visit West London in a bid to take advantage of any lingering issues at Loftus Road and the Saints have certainly played well enough on their travels to think they can do that. The side have won 4 straight away games in all competitions which includes wins at Old Trafford and St James’ Park and they will feel they can bet set up in a manner where they can catch QPR on the counter-attack.

Ronald Koeman has to pick up a side that has lost back to back games, but the return of players like Victor Wanyama and Morgan Schneiderlin can make a big difference to them. Those two players provide a shield from which Southampton can build attacks and both are set to take part this weekend.

I am not happy that Southampton are given odds on quotes of winning here considering how well Queens Park Rangers have played at Loftus Road for much of the season. However, QPR have lost back to back games here and losing their manager during the week has to have an effect on their performance.

With Southampton winning as many away games as they have recently, I think they can be backed here on Saturday.

Everton v Liverpool Pick: Merseyside Derby games are fast and furious and it is no surprise that this fixture has produced as many red cards as it has in the past. The fixture seems to come at a good time for Liverpool, but Everton’s win over Crystal Palace last weekend may have given them a shot in the arm that they needed prior to a tough run of games which begins on Saturday.

Roberto Martinez had been insisting his Everton team were not far away from turning a corner after a long run of poor results that had seen the side booed off by their own fans. A lack of composure in front of goal had not been helped by a porous defence and that could be a problem if Liverpool come in with the form that has been producing positive results all around.

The return of Daniel Sturridge will be a boost and the England striker showed what he can do in front of goal by scoring against West Ham United last weekend. Two substitute appearances may be enough for Brendan Rodgers to risk him this week and he did score three times against Everton last season.

I do expect Liverpool will create chances in this one with the way they have performing. That can be coupled with Everton’s recent games where they have struggled defensively and I can understand why Liverpool have been set as the favourite to win here.

However, derby games can be tough to predict and the last two games at Goodison Park have both ended in draws, while they shared the spoils at Anfield earlier this season. The draw might then be a popular pick between these sides, but Liverpool edge it for me on their current form and belief in what they are doing.

In saying that, I couldn’t back them to win a fourth consecutive away game in the Premier League because Everton have been tough to beat at Goodison Park. Goals might not be in short supply with both defences having their own issues in recent weeks and there are attacking players on the field who can take advantage of that. 

At close to odds against, this could be the third straight Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park that produces entertainment for those watching.

Newcastle United v Stoke City Pick: Both teams already look well on their way to ensuring their place in the Premier League next season and I imagine both John Carver and Mark Hughes are looking at the teams above them rather than below Newcastle United and Stoke City respectively.

Stoke City at least have the FA Cup as a form of distraction from League matters, but both look set to challenge each other for a place in the top half of the Premier League table in the coming months.

There is also little to separate the teams when it comes to their form at home/away respectively and I think Sunday’s live game could be a good one. Newcastle United and Stoke City have nothing to lose in trying to win the game and I imagine both manager’s will be thinking the same thing.

I can understand the layers setting Newcastle United as the favourites considering they do have home advantage and have played well at St James’ Park during the course of the season. However, the have conceded at least twice in their last three home games and Stoke City have the ability to extend that run even if they have only scored two goals in 1 of their last 9 away games in the League.

Hull City caused Newcastle United some problems in defence last week so I do think Stoke City can do the same, while the pace up the other end will be an issue for the away side if Ryan Shawcross and Erik Pieters are not fully fit to return.

Picking a winner looks tough, but goals could be the order of the day from a fixture that has seen at least three goals shared in 8 games in a row between them at this ground. I do think both will score at least once and the odds against quotes on a third goal to be produced looks very big to me.

West Ham United v Manchester United Pick: West Ham United are not really a side that likes rolling over for Manchester United and the fans love reminding their opponents of the fact that they essentially cost them the Premier League title what will be twenty seasons ago.

That was on the last day of the season at Upton Park, but recent home League games against Manchester United have not been so successful and will be something Sam Allardyce looks to change. They have lost 4 of their last 5 home games against Manchester United, but the season before last saw the away team score late goals in a League and Cup game here to earn draws in both.

Manchester United have been enjoying a run of decent form, but the performances haven’t been that inspiring and I think they look remarkably short in this game. I might be a Manchester United fan, but I am not an idiot and seeing West Ham United at 3-1 looks absolutely huge in all honesty.

West Ham have beaten Liverpool and Manchester City here and were unfortunate to lose to Arsenal and the side are playing with the kind of confidence that is going to cause Manchester United lots of problems. In saying that, Manchester United have found a way to keep grinding out the results, although turning draws into wins on their travels is still proving problematic.

That does make me think the 1-1 score has a high chance of hitting, but West Ham are unlikely to take a step back in this one and I think those attacking instincts will mean chances are created at both ends of the pitch. 

With the strikers that are likely to take the field, it isn’t hard to imagine those chances being taken too and I like the over 2.5 goals in this one at just under odds against.

MY PICKS: Tottenham Hotspur-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City to Win by 2 Goals/Manchester City to Win by 3 Goals @ 2.17 Bet365 (2 Units)
Southampton to Win @ 1.90 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Everton-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.93 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Newcastle United-Stoke City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Sky Bet (2 Units)
West Ham United-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

January Final10-22-1, - 10.54 Units (57 Units Staked, - 18.49% Yield)
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 2014/15: 80-120-2, - 29.42 Units (346 Units Staked, - 8.50% 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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