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Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Midweek Football Picks 2015 (April 21-23)

The Champions League and Europa League Semi Final line up will be set this week as the Second Legs of the Quarter Finals are completed. A couple of teams will already feel they have done enough from the First Legs last week, namely Barcelona and Napoli, but the other six ties to be played this week are finely poised.

Most eyes will likely be on Munich on Tuesday to see whether Bayern Munich can overturn a surprising 3-1 deficit against Porto, while on Wednesday the eighth Madrid derby of the season is played after a goalless draw last week.

Big games should produce some big moments over the next three days.


Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain Pick: It was a remarkably one-sided game in the First Leg as Barcelona dominated proceedings and deserved their victory in Paris. Barring a late defensive mistake, Barcelona would have already wrapped up their place in the Semi Final, but this is still a huge advantage and it will take something special for Paris Saint-Germain to earn a result.

The problem for the French side will be trying to get enough possession to score the three goals they need in the Nou Camp, while of course the big threat from the Barcelona front three means it is almost impossible to imagine a situation where the home team don't score.

Gaps are likely to open up if Paris Saint-Germain decide to chase the game, while injuries to key defensive figures mean it will be tough to contain what Barcelona throw at them. The returns of Marco Verratti and Zlatan Ibrahimovic from suspension means Paris Saint-Germain have two crucial figures back, but that won't help them keeping the backdoor closed and I think Barcelona are going to be far too strong for their visitors again.

In the last Round, Barcelona missed a host of chances to really hammer Manchester City and there is that to be concerned about as they won't need to win this game to progress. However, you have to think if those chances come again, the likes of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi won't be as proliferate again and with Paris Saint-Germain having to push on there should also be spaces to exploit.

I don't think Paris Saint-Germain will push forward too early, but Barcelona will really take advantage if they get in front in this tie and record a third comfortable victory over Paris Saint-Germain this season.


Bayern Munich v Porto Pick: I don't think I was the only person surprised by the manner of Porto's win over Bayern Munich last weekend, although the 3-1 margin wasn't enough for the layers to consider the Portuguese side the favourites to progress to the Semi Final.

However, it is a big advantage and I think the layers are perhaps overestimating Bayern Munich on past experiences, although it has to be said that they are dominant in front of their own fans.

The first goal is going to be so important in this Second Leg- you'd feel a Bayern Munich goal could inspire them to earn the win by at least two goals to try and book a place in the Semi Final. The Porto players could retreat and look to defend what they have which is very difficult at Bayern Munich and I'd favour the German side to qualify.

However, a Porto goal could see them counter-attack Bayern Munich and pick them off as they search for the three goals they would then need to progress. It is a tight balance in the tie, but I can't imagine Bayern Munich playing as badly as they did last week for the second time in this Quarter Final and I do think they will win this game.

Will it be enough to progress? I think there is every chance Bayern Munich will be too good for Porto this time around, but the pace in the forward positions that Porto have can't be ignored. Still, I fancy Bayern Munich to turn this tie around and win by a couple of goals at least.


Monaco v Juventus Pick: This might be the perfect position for Juventus to be in heading to Monaco as they look a team that is very comfortable playing on the counter-attack as they did in their victory at Borussia Dortmund in the last Round.

I also believe Monaco are much more comfortable when they are not being asked to push forward in search of goals and that is not something they can do with a deficit to chase. They prefer playing on the counter-attack themselves, but this might be a reverse of the First Leg with Juventus hanging back and Monaco perhaps being caught on the break.

Last week wasn't a great performance from Juventus, but they have the star striker on the field in Carlos Tevez and he will take the chances that he receives on the break and I do think Juventus can win this Second Leg.

Monaco just don't come off as a team that is going to score a lot of goals and while they have pace in forward areas, space might not be available like last week as Juventus draw them on and punish them on the break. That was the way Juventus hammered Borussia Dortmund in the last Round and I think they will be too good for Monaco in this one.

With the home team chasing, Juventus can grab a winning goal in this one and move into the Semi Final.


Real Madrid v Atletico Madrid Pick: The First Leg of this Quarter Final had to be one of the more entertaining goalless draws you can get as both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid created chances in the game at the Vicente Calderon.

Neither team really settled for the goalless draw either as they both attacked until the final minute and you have to think an early goal could really open this Second Leg up.

Real Madrid are the obvious favourites as they are going to be backed at home regardless, but they look remarkably short for a team that has yet to beat Atletico Madrid in seven attempts this season. Add in the fact they have won 1 of their last 6 home games against Atletico Madrid and lost half of those games and all of a sudden backing the visitors to avoid defeat at odds against looks a decent price.

Losing Luka Modric is a big blow to Real Madrid and their chances of winning trophies as the midfielder really bridges the defence to attack very effectively. Gareth Bale is another big loss, although he potentially takes part in this game and Atletico Madrid will believe one goal gives them a great chance of going through.

However, games between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in this Stadium usually do feature goals as there are spaces to be exploited. An early goal will only make it more open and this could be the fourth time in five games at the Santiago Bernebeu that we see at least three goals shared by the teams.

As I say though, an early goal would really open that chance up as teams will have to be a little more proactive. The longer it goes goalless, the more tension will come in and the fear of making a mistake that costs their team a place in the Semi Final will begin to affect the players.

There were enough chances last week to think the first goal can come within the first half hour of this game and that might lead to at least three goals being shared by the teams.


Dnipro v Club Brugge Pick: The game might have finished goalless in Brugge last week, but it was far from a drab affair and Dnipro might be kicking themselves for not grabbing an away goal having had the majority of the chances in the contest.

The feeling will still be that they are in a strong position to advance to the Semi Final, but they can't underestimate a Club Brugge team that has won 6 of 7 away games in the Europa League. The Belgian side will look to get more out of the counter attack in this one, but they also have to try and breach a Dnipro defence that has kept 7 clean sheets in a row at home and also has clean sheets in their last 3 home games in the Europa League.

Dnipro have won those 3 games including in both of the last two Knock Out Rounds and I think the Ukrainian team will have enough to progress to the Semi Final.

They are a decent enough price to back at odds against to win this Second Leg in the ninety minutes, but I think Club Brugge have shown enough through the competition to not be disregarded easily. Instead of just backing Dnipro to win, I am going to keep faith in their defensive performances too and I do think a small interest is warranted on them winning this one with a clean sheet to boot at a big price.


Fiorentina v Dynamo Kiev Pick: A goalless draw might be enough for Fiorentina to move through to the Semi Final, but it would be a real surprise if they want to risk sitting back in this Second Leg after the dominance they showed last week in Kiev. On another day, Fiorentina would have had a lead to take back home and they might also find themselves with more space as their opponents are going to have to score at least once and can't just sit deep like they did for much of the game at home.

Dynamo Kiev just haven't been as good on their travels and I think Fiorentina have a real edge in the tie. However, the confidence in the home dressing room as to have been dented from recent performances. Fiorentina have lost their last 2 home games in all competitions, while they have won 1 in 4 at home in the Europa League so there is plenty of life left in this tie, even if Dynamo Kiev have lost 3 of their last 4 away from home in this competition.

Any team getting ahead should open up spaces again as the team conceding will have to chase the game and this could be quite a fun game, especially if the first goal comes in the first half.

Both teams will have their chances in this one you would think and goals have been something of a feature of Dynamo Kiev's away games in the Europa League this season. Last week would have featured at least three goals with some better finishing in front of goal and this one will see spaces perhaps open up as the game develops which might see more opportunities created.

At odds against, I think backing at least three goals to be scored looks like it could be the right call from this game.


Napoli v Wolfsburg: The tie is over from a competitive standpoint, but Wolfsburg have had a strong season and won't want to exit the Europa League without showing Napoli they are far better than what they produced at home last week. They will likely get a chance to express themselves here as Napoli won't feel the urge to get forward and instead will look to exploit spaces on the counter attack which will suit Rafa Benitez just fine.

It was the high line that Wolfsburg played last week which ended up being a main factor in their downfall, and that might be the way Napoli expose them again this week. However, Wolfsburg are a team that can create chances and any complacency in the home squad thanks to a large lead might also help the German side score goals.

The layers clearly are offering some tempting prices for both teams to win because of the situation of the First Leg and I could make a case for either team winning. Napoli will have a chance on the counter-attack, while Wolfsburg will be looking to save some pride and the home team can take a narrow defeat and still progress.

They are also taking no chances of there being goals in this Second Leg, but I still think it might be worth backing there being at least three goals shared. Wolfsburg will play in a way that Napoli can get some opportunities on the counter-attack, while the German side are far better than what they produced last week. Both Napoli and Wolfsburg home/away games respectively have produced plenty of goals in the Europa League this season and I think this one will follow suit.

Of course there is a chance that some heads will drop in the away team if they fall behind early, but that might see Napoli run away with another big win as long as Rafa Benitez isn't ultra-conservative like he can be in Knock Out ties in European Football. I can see this game going in the 'open' direction though and I will back there being at least three goals shared.


Zenit St Petersburg v Sevilla Pick: It was a real surprise that a Zenit St Petersburg team missing four key players had played so well in Sevilla and the return of the likes of Danny and Hulk has to give the home team real belief they can overturn the 2-1 First Leg deficit.

You would be a fool to think that is a given against the defending Champions of the Europa League and Andre Villas-Boas has made it clear that he still thinks the edge rests with Sevilla. Of course holding a lead is important, but Zenit St Petersburg have been pretty strong defensively, especially at home, and keeping a clean sheet will give the Russian side every chance of stunning Sevilla.

That is also easier said than done as Sevilla have regularly found the net, but they don't travel as well as they play at home and were beaten in away games in the Quarter Final and Semi Final of the Europa League last season.

I do fancy Zenit St Petersburg's chances of coming through this tie when you consider they have clean sheets in 6 of their 7 home games in Europe this season. Earning another will give them every chance of securing the win in the Quarter Final, but I wouldn't be that surprised if this one goes into extra time either. I will back Andre Villas-Boas' men to secure the win in ninety minutes in the Second Leg.

MY PICKS: Barcelona - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.17 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bayern Munich - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.98 Bet365 (2 Units)
Juventus @ 2.40 William Hill (2 Units)
Real Madrid-Atletico Madrid Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Dnipro Win to Nil @ 3.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Fiorentina-Dynamo Kiev Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Napoli-Wolfsburg Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.67 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Zenit St Petersburg @ 2.30 Bet Fred (2 Units)

April Update11-17-1, - 10.93 Units (54 Units Staked, - 20.24% Yield)

March Final30-18, + 30.66 Units (88 Units Staked, + 34.84% 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 2014/15130-162-4, + 4.43 Units (509 Units Staked, + 0.09% 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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