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Saturday, 11 April 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (April 11-13)

The Manchester derby will take centre stage over the next three days as another round of Premier League fixtures are played.

With that in mind, you can read my list of 10 names that are likely to take over as manager of Manchester City this summer.

I have also made a list of 5 ways Louis Van Gaal has turned around some of the criticism that he had begun to receive a month ago and those can be read here.

Finally, in preparation of the second Manchester derby of the season, I have compiled a list of 10 games which have taken place over the last five years which have had an important impact at both clubs which can be read here.

Southampton v Hull City Pick: This game is a big one for Hull City as they look to do enough to avoid finishing in the bottom three of the Premier League, but it is going to be very difficult considering five of their last seven games are against teams in the top seven of the Premier League.

Out of those games, the trip to St Mary's might be the 'easiest' considering the lack of consistency that Southampton have produced in recent weeks. However, the Saints have won consecutive home games which includes a fairly routine win over another struggling team in Burnley.

The lack of goals is a major reason Southampton have slipped off the top four pace, but they still have enough quality to hurt a Hull City team that didn't play well in defeat at Swansea last weekend. The return of Curtis Davies and Andrew Robertson will perhaps make Hull City a little more solid at the back, but the pressure of the situation could also lead to more mistakes.

Southampton don't concede a lot of goals at home too and that could lead to them having the edge in the game. Ronald Koeman will be hoping the 2-0 win over Burnley may see them turn a corner with their struggles in front of goal in the last couple of months, and I do think the home team can win by a couple of goals this weekend.

Sunderland v Crystal Palace Pick: It took something quite special to win the Tyne-Wear derby for Sunderland last week and those priceless three points may be key in helping the side avoid relegation. It was a vital victory on a weekend where both Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City had won and Burnley had also earned a point, although the 29 points earned by Sunderland are not enough on their own.

There will be hope they can use the momentum of the success of last week to propel them to a second win at the Stadium of Light in seven days, but Sunderland have to be careful of the Crystal Palace team that are coming to town.

Sunderland have failed to score in 5 of their previous 6 home games in all competitions before the win over Newcastle United and they had lost to the likes of Queens Park Rangers and Aston Villa. That isn't the most inspiring set of results and Crystal Palace will be heading to the North-East with plenty of confidence themselves having beaten Manchester City 2-1 at home on Monday night.

The Eagles have won 4 of their last 5 Premier League games and Crystal Palace have won 6 of their last 7 away games in all competitions. They have won games at Burnley and Leicester City in that time, two teams that have been struggling against relegation, while Crystal Palace have had impressive other wins at West Ham United and Stoke City.

Alan Pardew has gotten the best out of Glenn Murray up front, but he has been well supported by the likes of Yannick Bolasie and Wilfried Zaha and that pace will give Sunderland plenty to worry about. As well as Sunderland did in their win over Newcastle United, I don't think confidence is fully restored in the home side and going a goal behind might be a tough position to recover from.

Tottenham Hotspur v Aston Villa Pick: You have to give Tim Sherwood some credit that he has managed to reinvigorate the goalscoring ability of Aston Villa and especially Christian Benteke who had been struggling earlier this season. While the Belgian has already scored four goals this week, the defensive problems continue to trouble Aston Villa and they have conceded six goals in the last couple of games.

Those issues will be tested to the full by Tottenham Hotspur who might have failed to score in their last two away games, but who have scored at least twice in 6 straight Premier League games. Spurs have needed to do that because they have been poor defensively themselves and they haven't kept a clean sheet in that run of games, while they have conceded at least two goals in their last 3 games at White Hart Lane in the Premier League.

Sherwood is not someone who will ask his Aston Villa team to take a backward step and I think he will want them to express themselves at the club where he was the manager last season. He clearly believes Aston Villa have to score goals with their problems at the back and Tottenham Hotspur will be hoping Harry Kane can win the battle of the two in-form strikers that will take to the field on Saturday.

Games between these teams have been entertaining and I think both teams will create their chances in this one. There have been plenty of goals scored in recent games at White Hart Lane and Aston Villa seem to have found something going forward so I will back there being at least three goals in this one.

Burnley v Arsenal Pick: This is the fifth straight game that Burnley will be taking on a side that is based in the top seven of the Premier League and picking up four points from a possible twelve is not a bad return for a side battling against relegation. However, games are running out for Burnley to try and make their escape from the bottom three and they have to continue earning points even in the face of an in-form Arsenal visiting Turf Moor.

Burnley did beat Manchester City and draw with Tottenham Hotspur in their last two games at home and they have kept clean sheets in both, but Arsenal are expected to pose a different challenge. Both City and Spurs were not in the greatest of form heading into games with Burnley, but Arsenal have won 7 of their last 8 away games in all competitions including the last 5 in a row.

Prior to their last two results, Burnley haven't exactly been watertight at home and Arsenal have plenty of attacking options to cause problems. I don't want to dismiss Burnley so I do have to say Arsenal look short enough for this live game on Saturday evening, but I think backing the away side to score either two or three goals at odds against might be a decent option.

Arsenal have scored either two or three goals in 7 of their last 8 away games with the only exception coming in a 2-1 loss at Tottenham Hotspur. They are also playing with the confidence to close the gap on Chelsea at the top of the Premier League even if a real title challenge is perhaps beyond them at this stage of the season.

The Gunners scored three times in the last 20 minutes in a 3-0 home win over Burnley earlier this season and I don't think they allow Burnley to get away without being posed the questions in defence that both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur failed to do.

Queens Park Rangers v Chelsea Pick: A late Christian Benteke goal pushed Queens Park Rangers back into the bottom three during the week, but there were plenty of positives to take out of that game following the win over West Brom last Saturday. The players have spoken of their desire to ride that momentum into this West London derby on Sunday and they clearly feel they can trouble Chelsea.

However, Chris Ramsey is going to have to find the right balance between attack and defence against the pace of the forward players that Chelsea will look to employ on the counter-attack. While Queens Park Rangers have begun to score goals and will feel they can threaten the Chelsea defence, they also have to be aware of former player Loic Remy who will be leading the line for the away side.

Queens Park Rangers will likely have a tough time escaping the bottom three if they can't improve a defence that has conceded plenty of goals, including at least two goals to the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Everton at Loftus Road over the last couple of months.

Chelsea will look to become the latest to do that as they have scored at least twice in 4 of their last 5 away games in the Premier League, but it is their own vulnerability at the back that Queens Park Rangers will look to expose. Hull City scored twice against Chelsea in a recent game at the KC Stadium and Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora can both cause problems in this one.

Games between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road have been tight affairs in recent seasons, but this one looks like it could buck the trend. Last week Super Sunday was a let down for those who like seeing goals, but this game could provide at least three as both teams look to get forward to win the game.

Manchester United v Manchester City Pick: Over the last few seasons, games between Manchester City and Manchester United have been key ones when it came to deciding the Premier League title winners. This season is very different in that regard with both teams off the pace set by Chelsea, but this is still a huge game considering the top four ramifications it could have.

The losing team in the Manchester derby could find themselves being put under pressure by Liverpool on Monday evening when it comes to Champions League places.

The momentum is with Manchester United who have been producing some quality football in recent games and who have won 5 straight Premier League games. Louis Van Gaal isn't backing down from the reigning Champions either considering how well Manchester United have played at Old Trafford, especially the fact they have scored plenty of goals here.

However, Van Gaal is smart enough to know that this is going to be anything but a straight forward game for Manchester United considering the quality that Manuel Pellegrini has at his disposal. Manchester City might have lost again on Monday, but they had enough chances to win the game at Selhurst Park and you have to think they won't be as wasteful again.

Manchester City also have enjoyed playing at Old Trafford in recent years with 3 straight wins in the Premier League, including two by wide margins.

I can see both teams having their chances to score considering how vulnerable Manchester City have been at times and the manner in which Manchester United have performed. On the other hand, Manchester City can create plenty themselves and this could be yet another entertaining Manchester derby for the neutrals.

The last six games between these teams at Old Trafford have seen at least three goals shared between them. Picking a winner is tough, but backing there being at least three goals again between these teams looks the call.

Liverpool v Newcastle United Pick: Some of the tempo has come out of the Liverpool play in recent games which has been identified as the reason behind their losses against Manchester United and Arsenal by Brendan Rodgers. The playing surface at Anfield has also come in for some criticism by the manager, but Liverpool have to put that all to one side as their last chance to get into the top four in the Premier League begins this week.

Liverpool have to win their final seven games in the League and hope Manchester City or Manchester United slip up- the former has been in poor form of late and dropping a lot of points, while the latter still has a difficult fixture list to negotiate.

The loser of the Manchester derby on Sunday will be the team that Liverpool can begin to target, but they have to win on Monday if there is any hope left that Champions League football can return to Anfield for a second season in succession.

They might not have been able to pick a better opponent than Newcastle United- the Magpies look to be safe from the relegation battle, but don't have a lot to aim for in the remainder of the season and were beaten by Sunderland yet again last weekend.

Injuries have hurt Newcastle United defensively and John Carver is not getting the right response from his players, while they have suffered some heavy defeats in recent away games. Both Manchester City and Everton crushed Newcastle United and an early goal for Liverpool, who have won 8 of 9 at Anfield against these visitors, could lead to another collapse of sorts from the Magpies.

An extra day rest between the game at Blackburn Rovers and this one should only benefit Liverpool and I fancy them to win by a couple of goals at least.

MY PICKS: Southampton - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.93 Bet365 (2 Units)
Crystal Palace @ 2.75 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur-Aston Villa Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.73 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Arsenal Total Goals: 2-3 Goals @ 2.05 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Queens Park Rangers-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.73 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Manchester United-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.17 Bet Victor (2 Units)

April Update4-3, + 1.70 Units (14 Units Staked, + 12.14% 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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