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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (March 14-16)

The Premier League is back over the next two weeks before the international breaks return with some more Euro 2016 qualifiers. The next couple of weeks are going to be vital at the top and bottom of the League with games beginning to run out as teams fight for Champions League places and avoiding relegation to the Championship, especially after the new television deal was announced earlier this season.

Crystal Palace v Queens Park Rangers Pick: This is a really big game for both teams, but especially for Queens Park Rangers who need to find a win to snap their poor run of form and at least provide some confidence they can get out of trouble. They continue to be blighted by poor defensive performances which has seen Rangers concede too many goals, but in Charlie Austin they have a player that can score goals which may be crucial for them.

However, it won't be easy to deal with a Crystal Palace team that loves playing in front of their home crowd more than the 3 wins from 13 League games at Selhurst Park would suggest. Crystal Palace have pace in the forward positions, but the absence of Mile Jedinak is a blow when it comes to protecting their own defence which has allowed too many goals in recent games.

The 2-1 scoreline is prevalent in both of these teams home/away games respectively and I think the layers are perhaps taking a chance by not expecting at least three goals to be shared. Neither team will really settle for a draw and I think it could be quite an entertaining game between two teams in the bottom half of the Premier League table.

Mistakes might be a big feature of the game too and I do believe we will see chances at both ends with the likes of Glenn Murray and Charlie Austin in the kind of form to not let those go to waste. Picking a winner would see me leaning towards the home team because of Queens Park Rangers' away record, but I prefer backing goals at odds against in a game that could easily end 2-1 either way.

Arsenal v West Ham United Pick: There should be a lot of confidence surging through the Arsenal dressing room and training must have been a lot of fun this week as they have every chance of retaining the FA Cup they won last season and are in pole position to get back into the Champions League.

Outside of the home loss to Monaco in the Champions League, Arsenal have been very comfortable in the Emirates Stadium in recent weeks and they look like a team on the up. With games against Newcastle United and Liverpool upcoming, Arsene Wenger will also make sure his team know the importance of not dropping silly points with the race for the top four as tight as it is at the moment.

He might be fortunate to be running into West Ham United at the right time with the away side just struggling for form. Sam Allardyce's future remains unclear and it seems the players are having a difficult time maintaining the form that saw them as high as 4th earlier in the season.

The FA Cup loss at West Brom was a huge disappointment for the fans and West Ham United might have a hard time containing an Arsenal team scoring as many goals as they have in recent home games. Arsenal have usually been comfortable winners over West Ham at home in recent games here, although they have to be aware of the way West Ham raised their game in a 2-2 draw at Tottenham Hotspur.

That should give Arsenal extra focus to put together another win and earn some momentum to take into the Champions League game against Monaco next week.

Burnley v Manchester City Pick: Sean Dyche's Burnley have shown some tremendous heart and determination through the season, but a lack of quality might be too much to overcome when it is all said and done. They have earned a draw at Chelsea recently which shows they won't be intimidated by any game, but losses since then to Swansea and Liverpool have left Burnley in a desperate spot.

They shouldn't be overawed with playing Manchester City having earned a 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season, especially as Burnley were 2-0 down in that game. However, Turf Moor has seen Manchester City dominate games in recent years and they have scored 4 goals on three different occasions, while also hitting 6 goals twice including the last time these teams met in 2010.

A lot has changed in the intervening five years, but Burnley have to find the right balance in this game against a Manchester City team that has scored 3 goals at West Brom and 4 goals at Stoke City over the last couple of months.

It does seem that Manchester City play with more freedom away from the Etihad Stadium this season and they do create a lot of chances with the extra space teams tend to give them. Burnley will give it a right go, of that I am sure, but the likes of Yaya Toure, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero provide the real quality in the game.

Manuel Pellegrini might be a little worried about the defensive performances produced by his team, but I still expect Manchester City to be too strong and earn an important three points to try and keep the pressure on Chelsea at the top of the table. I expect Burnley to pose some problems, but their own defensive performances have been been disappointing of late and they might need Tom Heaton to be at the very top of his game to keep this one competitive.

Chelsea v Southampton Pick: The biggest disappointment for Jose Mourinho in the wake of the Champions League exit they suffered earlier this week has to be the lack of energy his team displayed despite having a week to get ready for the game. The manager has suggested it might have been the mental burden of playing against ten men that affected his team, but I think the majority of people out there are right to be criticising Chelsea for never taking that game by the scruff of the neck.

It is going to be very interesting to see how Chelsea respond this weekend against a tough Southampton team that are going to be set up to make life as difficult as possible. There is every chance that Manchester City will be breathing heavily down the back of the Chelsea necks in the Premier League table by winning on Saturday and it is a big test of character for Chelsea to respond to that.

They are playing at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea have been strong for much of the season, but even results here haven't been the most positive of late. Ronald Koeman has to be urging his team to remain concentrated and try and take advantage of any set pieces that come their way, a real achilles heel for Chelsea in the loss to Paris Saint-Germain, but Southampton haven't exactly been playing with a lot of confidence themselves.

The better teams in the League have generally been a little too good for Southampton and it is hard to expect anything other than a reaction from Chelsea following their criticisms received this week. Players like Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have the quality to unlock this Southampton team and I do think the latter have also been struggling to maintain the pace of a long season.

I am a little concerned that Chelsea could have a hangover and Southampton are well-rested which makes the shock a possibility, but the Blues rarely put in back to back poor performances under Jose Mourinho. I expect Mourinho to work on the mental side of things and I like Chelsea to come through with an important three points to keep them on track for the Premier League title.

Manchester United v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The criticism of Louis Van Gaal is beginning to pick up and not just by the media- I believe some of the fans are now beginning to feel that the Dutchman is not getting the best out of a squad that had a big investment last summer, while I have been openly critical of the substitutions he has made.

It was more of the same on Monday night in the loss to Arsenal with two defensive substitutions made at half time despite Manchester United being the better team at that point. The fear of losing took away the momentum that the home team had built and it was only magnified by a mistake made by Antonio Valencia in the second half.

How will that 'fear' play out on Sunday? Manchester United need to really win this game if they have a real ambition to play in the Champions League next season, especially with the big game at Anfield next on deck. The absence of Angel Di Maria is a disappointment for the home team and they are facing a Tottenham Hotspur team that has won a lot of games late in the day.

With Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur will create chances at Old Trafford but their defence remains questionable and Manchester United have to try and expose those issues.

It is a big game for both teams and the tension may lead to a tighter game than the layers are imagining. However, both teams have shown an ability to make big mistakes at the back and goals does look to be on offer on Sunday. Tottenham Hotspur should be confident having won on their last two visits to Old Trafford, but Manchester United have generally been better at home than on their travels and may just nick the three points in a tight game.

MY PICKS: Crystal Palace-Queens Park Rangers Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Stan James (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.09 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.11 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.14 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)

March Update13-9, + 10.36 Units (39 Units Staked, + 26.56% Yield)

February Final20-24-2, + 3.19 Units (75 Units Staked, + 4.25% Yield)
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 2014/15100-144-4, - 26.23 Units (421 Units Staked, - 6.23% 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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