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Saturday, 7 March 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (March 7-9)

There isn't much going on regarding the top of the English game with the FA Cup Sixth Round decimating the Premier League schedule and leaving just one game to play. Out of the four Quarter Final Cup games, the best game has been left to last on the Monday so it is a fairly quiet week all things considered.

All of the top teams in the Premier League won during the week meaning we are as we were in those positions, but the Aston Villa late win over West Brom might be a critical three points that can keep that team in the top flight. There are still plenty of twists and turns to come over the next few weeks, but it does put pressure on Queens Park Rangers to earn something from the home game with Tottenham Hotspur and avoid the bottom three being cut off already.

The three teams that were promoted last season occupy the bottom three places, but I still think Leicester City have the best chance of getting out of trouble with the fixtures they have remaining. Of course that means winning games they are supposed to and it will all depend on whether Nigel Pearson can motivate his players and give them the belief that they are good enough to stay in the Premier League.

Queens Park Rangers v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: This is a big game for both Queens Park Rangers and Tottenham Hotspur if they are to achieve their individual goals for the season and the three points should be precious enough to see both Chris Ramsey and Mauricio Pochettino set up their sides to earn those.

It should be an exciting game because Tottenham Hotspur have shown enough going forward to make them a threat to score goals, but have not been very good defensively. The two full-backs are both liabilities when it comes to defending, and that is me being kind about Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, and I do think Queens Park Rangers will create chances.

Charlie Austin has shown he can score goals at this level, but QPR have also been very vulnerable defensively and it would be a real surprise to me if this is a low-scoring game to be perfectly honest.

The feeling is that this will be a 2-1 scoreline either way, but I think Tottenham Hotspur are too short at odds against to trust considering they have only won 1 of their last 6 away games in all competitions. 

The layers have the same expectation for goals, but I can't argue against those and will back there being at least three goals shared by these teams on Saturday.

Bradford City v Reading Pick: This is the opening FA Cup tie of Sixth Round weekend as Bradford City look to earn another surprise win in this competition this season. They have beaten teams from higher Divisions in each of their last three ties and Bradford City's 2-4 win at Stamford Bridge will live long in the memory of the fans that were lucky enough to attend that afternoon.

Phil Parkinson has to think that Bradford City won't have a better chance to reach the Semi Final at Wembley Stadium than this weekend with a home draw against the lowest team left in the competition, aside from themselves of course, and having the home draw.

That is likely the exact way Reading are feeling except not playing at home, but that might also be a benefit for the Royals who have saved their best performances for away from the Majedski Stadium. They have won all three FA Cup ties this season away from home and Reading have only lost 1 of their last 7 away games so may feel they can do enough to get something from Valley Parade and a move into the Semi Final themselves.

The pitch at Valley Parade hasn't been in the best condition so this could be tough for either team to really play their football and I do imagine a tight game developing between them. The prize at the end of ninety minutes is going to create tension of it's own and both Bradford City and Reading will be looking at their home/away forms respectively and feel they can win this game.

It might only take a goal to separate the teams at the end of this one, but there is every chance that Bradford and Reading have to do it again in Berkshire in two weeks time. I'll back this tie to end up being too tight and tense to find a winner and a replay to be the outcome in ten days time.

Aston Villa v West Brom Pick: During the week these two teams came up against one another in the Premier League and I felt it was going to be a tight, tense encounter that might not produce a lot of goals. However, Aston Villa took the game to West Brom and perhaps should have been out of sight by half time, but showed their own vulnerabilities by allowing the Baggies back into the game.

It was a remarkable piece of poor goalkeeping from Ben Foster that cost West Brom from getting anything from that game and now the same two teams meet in the FA Cup Sixth Round with a place at Wembley Stadium on the line.

Out of the two managers, you have to think that Tim Sherwood is likely to stick with a more consistent line up compared with Tony Pulis who may not want to risk players that have been carrying knocks. However, West Brom are in a decent position in the Premier League and fans won't be happy if their manager decides to give up a place in the FA Cup Semi Final without a fight and I do think both teams will be able to play with more freedom than in the Premier League game.

Neither team will really want a replay to congest their Premier League schedule and I think there was enough going forward in the League game to suggest the layers are taking a chance with there being goals in this one. The last 5 Aston Villa games at Villa Park in all competitions have provided at least three goals in them, while 3 of the last 4 West Brom away games have done the same.

I would note that 4 of the last 5 Aston Villa games have seen a 90th minute goal to take it over the two goal mark so the layers are perhaps thinking that kind of luck has to change. However, Aston Villa created enough chances in the game during the week to think they can score in this one, while their own defensive problems mean West Brom will have a chance to score goals themselves.

With the freedom of the Cup rather than priceless points on the line, I think the teams will give this game more of a go and I will back there being at least three goals at a big price.

Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers Pick: I have been warily watching Liverpool from a distance over the last couple of months as a Manchester United fan as each dropped points by my team was seeing Liverpool close in on the top four. They are now the biggest threat to Manchester United making their way into the Champions League places and that form should carry them through to the FA Cup Semi Final with this home tie against Blackburn Rovers to come.

You do have to credit Blackburn Rovers from coming from a goal down to beat Swansea and Stoke City in the previous two Rounds, but they had the benefit of seeing both of those teams reduced to ten men. Swansea lost a player at 0-0, while Stoke City lost a player at 1-1 and I do think something like that will need to happen for Blackburn Rovers to avoid a comfortable loss here.

There is pace in the Blackburn forward line which will give Liverpool some problems, but Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge have all been playing very well and should hurt Blackburn. There is pace, ingenuity and finishing ability amongst those forward players for Liverpool and they have been creating plenty of chances to score goals.

It took an inspired Tom Heaton performance to prevent Burnley taking a real hammering on Wednesday and Blackburn Rovers may be reliant on Jason Steele/Simon Eastwood to prevent them taking that beating instead.

Blackburn Rovers may have some joy going forward, but I fear they are going to be on the defensive for much of this game and an early Liverpool game may see the home team ease through to the Semi Final. With plenty of time to wait before being back in action again, Brendan Rodgers won't want a replay so I expect a strong Liverpool team to be put out and the home team to come through with a win by at least two goals.

Manchester United v Arsenal Pick: This is easily the tie of the Round and both Manchester United and Arsenal will know who their likely Semi Final opponent is before the game kicks off on Monday evening. Both teams have similar aims remaining for the season with the ambition of picking up the FA Cup in May and also securing a top four berth in the Champions League.

The winner of the tie will certainly feel they can go all the way in this competition, but Arsenal look in a stronger position to finish in the top four of the Premier League than Manchester United at this current stage. Their second League meeting in May could have a huge factor in that and this tie could produce a psychological edge for the remainder of the season.

It might be a really big game for Manchester United to prove they can beat the best teams in the Premier League knowing they play Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool in the remainder of the month. Louis Van Gaal's tactics have begun to be criticised for disciplining the players to the extent that their creative freedom is being strangled, but Manchester United have been much more effective at home and that edge might prove to be critical in this one.

Manchester United have won a lot of games at Old Trafford last season and have gotten the better of Arsenal in their games in this Stadium with 9 wins from the last 10 games. That includes beating Arsenal 4-0 and 2-0 in FA Cup ties in recent seasons, although Arsene Wenger can be criticised for making too many changes to his Arsenal team in those games.

I can't imagine that being the case on Monday, although I do think Arsenal have looked a little nervous in their two wins since losing to Monaco. The first goal could be critical in this one and it might mean a nervy first half, but neither side will really want to add extra games to their remaining schedules so I do think both will look to get forward and score goals.

Both teams have match winners in their line up, but both defences seem to be just a moment away from panicking badly if they make one or two mistakes. I do think there will be goals in the game on Monday, but Manchester United look a very big price considering their successes against Arsenal. Even the smash n grab at the Emirates Stadium shows the players still believe they can beat the Gunners and Manchester United have been very good at Old Trafford.

Manchester United are a lot shorter to beat Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League the week after this game and I don't think Arsenal are that much better that the price for the home win is as big as we see.

MY PICK: Queens Park Rangers-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Bradford City-Reading Draw @ 3.40 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Aston Villa-West Brom Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.55 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United @ 2.50 Bet Fred (2 Units)

March Update: 3-4, + 1.70 Units (10 Units Staked, + 17% 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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