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NFL PlayOffs Divisional Round Weekend Picks 2020 (January 11-12)

The first weekend of the NFL PlayOffs did not let anyone down even though expectations had been raised by some of the performances of teams ...

Friday, 24 April 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (April 25-26)

Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Unless Aston Villa beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Final, which would be a big surprise, both of these teams will be playing in the Europa League next season. While that will be exciting for Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur fans will be disappointed they haven't found a way to challenge for a place in the Champions League.

Both of these teams weren't that far away from the top four places a couple of months ago, but neither Southampton nor Tottenham Hotspur have been consistent enough to keep up with the pace set by those sides. That is the main reason that there are now 7 points between these sides and Manchester City in the top four and games have run out to really expect either to challenge at this late stage.

The game was picked for television coverage at a time when it could have had huge Champions League implications, but both Ronald Koeman and Mauricio Pochettino might already have begun work on next season behind the scenes.

Tottenham Hotspur did win 1-3 at Newcastle United last weekend, but they had won just 1 of 5 away games in all competitions prior to that, while they had failed to score in 3 of 4 on their travels. That might be an issue as they visit St Mary's where Southampton have won 3 in a row in the Premier League and have kept clean sheets in each of those victories.

Suffice to say that Burnley and Hull City are not as good as Spurs going forward, but Crystal Palace were also prevented from scoring and that is more impressive from Southampton. Koeman will likely make sure his Saints team is hard to beat again this weekend, but I also expect the home team to have some chances because I don't trust this Tottenham Hotspur defence to keep teams out.

A small interest might be worth taking on Southampton to keep up their recent positive home form and backing them to win with a clean sheet looks a big price.

Burnley v Leicester City Pick: The term 'relegation six pointer' has been made for games like this- with five games left for Burnley and six left for Leicester City, it is no exaggeration to suggest the team that loses this weekend will occupy one of the bottom three places in May.

That will almost certainly be felt by the players too and this match could come down to which of the sets of players deals with the tension and pressure the best.

You could make a reasonable argument for any of these teams, but I am stunned to see Leicester City as such an underdog considering they are clearly the form team of the two. You do have to put in a disclaimer for Burnley in that they have faced the top seven in the Premier League in recent weeks, but I am not entirely convinced about them in the final third and now Ashley Barnes is suspended too.

A lack of goals has to be a real concern for Sean Dyche, especially as Leicester City will come to Turf Moor having scored 10 goals in their last 4 Premier League games. That includes hitting three goals at both Tottenham Hotspur and West Brom, while Leicester City also scored twice at Everton in a recent away game.

I'd fear for Burnley if Leicester City can score twice here, although the defence is still far from watertight and the home team will have chances. However, the expectation and need to win will force Burnley out of their own defensive shape of recent weeks and I think Leicester City have a huge chance of winning this game, far more than the layers seem to think anyway.

Nigel Pearson has seemed to have found the formula that has produced goals for Leicester City and I think that confidence can see them win this game and find a way to move out of the bottom three at a vital time.

Crystal Palace v Hull City Pick: I was very surprised to see Crystal Palace beaten last weekend, but perhaps even more surprised that their attacking talents were blunted as effectively as they were by West Brom. Much of that might have been down to the insight that Tony Pulis would have had having worked with these players last season, but Crystal Palace also didn't get a little bit of a break with the chances that fell to their players.

It might not be the case this weekend as they take on an out of form Hull City team that are under increasing pressure from the three teams below them in the Premier League table. The fact that those three teams occupy the relegation zone only makes it even harder for Steve Bruce and his men, while injuries have been hurting the side.

Bruce might have been grateful for the unexpected break that Hull City have had thanks to Liverpool playing in the FA Cup Semi Final, but they need to start picking up points if they are going to avoid the drop. With the owner threatening to withdraw from the club, the financial implications of relegation could be huge for a club like Hull City, but it is hard to see where they are going to get the points to survive.

Games like this are likely being circled as they face Liverpool and Arsenal at home next, but visiting Selhurst Park is far from easy with the pace and power Crystal Palace have in forward areas. The end of their 4 game winning run might have broken some momentum, but I am expecting Crystal Palace to get back to form this week and I think they will put Hull City under intense pressure.

If Hull City score first, they might get something here, but they have lost 3 of their last 4 away games in the Premier League and defeats at West Ham United, West Brom, Stoke City and Swansea won't fill Hull City with confidence. At odds against, Crystal Palace might be a better option this week than they were at odds on against West Brom last week.

Queens Park Rangers v West Ham United Pick: This is a big game for Chris Ramsey and his Queens Park Rangers team and a victory could see them move out of the bottom three which has become a real battle thanks to Leicester City's form. It was supposed to be the form at Loftus Road that was going to keep Queens Park Rangers in the Premier League, but they have lost 6 straight home games in the Premier League although they have come against sides in the top seven and Everton.

However, I do like the chances of Queens Park Rangers this weekend as they entertain a West Ham United team that looked disinterested at best at the Etihad Stadium last weekend, The uncertain future of Sam Allardyce is having a negative impact on a team that has also been hit hard by injuries and they do look a team that is there for the taking.

Leicester City took advantage of the problems at Upton Park by beating West Ham United at home and Queens Park Rangers have to match that result if they are going to survive in the Premier League. Performances have certainly improved in recent weeks for Queens Park Rangers and they were unfortunate to lost 0-1 to Chelsea in their last game here.

With Charlie Austin and Bobby Zamora up front, I expect Queens Park Rangers to cause West Ham United problems and they have to be worth a small interest to earn a priceless three points this weekend.

Stoke City v Sunderland Pick: I'll be the first to admit that certain teams in the Premier League should never be odds on to win a game of football, but Stoke City might just be playing well enough at the Brittania Stadium to make those count this weekend. The concern has to be Dick Advocaat getting an extra week to get a solid gameplan in place and Sunderland can be quite compact defensively, but their lack of goals and some of the heavy defeats has to have dented confidence.

There is a very similar situation to Hull City for Sunderland in saying they have a difficult run in this season and this is the one away game that they might have circled as one they can earn points from.

However, Stoke City have really turned their form around at the Brittania Stadium and are playing with a clear goal on improving on their 9th place Premier League finish from last season. The players are clearly focused having come from a goal behind to beat Southampton here last weekend and Stoke might have enough to earn the three points in this one.

As I said, the biggest issue may be Advocaat putting in a solid gameplan that allows Sunderland to battle to a point, but Stoke City have a strong home record in recent weeks and against Sunderland. First goal is always crucial in these kinds of games and hopefully Stoke City can get that on their way to three points.

West Brom v Liverpool Pick: The disappointment of this season has led to some Liverpool fans calling for the sacking of Brendan Rodgers, which is remarkable when you consider they were a slip away from winning the Premier League twelve months ago. Rodgers has to take some of the criticism for the season Liverpool have had because some of the signings were simply not up to scratch, but I don't think he has been helped by the early decision made by Steven Gerrard that he would be leaving and the long-term injury to Daniel Sturridge.

Up until the a month ago, Liverpool were considered the form team in the Premier League, but losing to Manchester United and Arsenal in the Premier League ended their Champions League ambitions, while the defeat to Aston Villa in the FA Cup was a huge blow.

It will be interesting to see how the players react to these blows over the last month of the season with not much left to play for. It is almost certain that Liverpool will be playing in the Europa League next season as long as Arsenal win the FA Cup, but even falling out of that competition might be better for their long-term prospects.

West Brom also come into the game with a lot of confidence having earned a surprising win at Selhurst Park last weekend and that result should be enough to keep them in the Premier League. Their last couple of games at The Hawthornes have been disappointing though as they have lost to Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City and West Brom might be preparing to face a wounded Liverpool who have the pace in forward positions to cause this defence some problems.

On the other hand, I would expect the Baggies to give Liverpool a lot of issues when they get forward too and it might produce a game where a number of chances are created. As long as the teams aren't wasting those chances, West Brom and Liverpool can combine for at least three goals in this one.

Manchester City v Aston Villa Pick: No matter what you think about Tim Sherwood, he deserves to be praised for guiding Aston Villa to the FA Cup Semi Final as well as the way they are fighting to avoid relegation in the Premier League. Sherwood has reinvigorated Christian Benteke, while the rest of the team are playing with a confidence that was severely lacking under Paul Lambert and makes Aston Villa a dangerous game for Manchester City.

However, this is a ground where Manchester City have really been performing well over the last few Premier League games and that comfort should lead to another win.

Manuel Pellegrini will be happy to hear that David Silva is unlikely to miss any playing time after a nasty looking injury picked up last Sunday, and Sergio Aguero looks like a player that might have returned to form just in time.

It isn't in time for a Premier League title challenge, but Manchester City can't afford to fall out of the top four in the table and Aguero's goals are vital for them to do that. The Argentinian might be able to add to his recent successes in front of goal considering the injuries that Aston Villa are dealing with at the back could be exposed in this one.

Aston Villa have struggled at the Etihad Stadium in the past, but they are arguably coming here with more confidence than at any time in recent seasons. However, Manchester City have won 4 in a row here in the Premier League, have played better defensively at home and all of those wins have come by at least two goals. I will back them to do the same this weekend.

Everton v Manchester United Pick: Even in defeat at Champions elect Chelsea, Manchester United showed enough to suggest the future could be very bright at Old Trafford, especially if more is spent to strengthen the squad in the summer. Personally I don't want to get ahead of myself with the additional games of the Champions League sapping more energy from the squad than they have had to face this season, but it is still exciting times.

For the fans, this is a chance to really exorcise the demons of the David Moyes era as Manchester United travel back to Goodison Park where Moyes' time was up a little over a year to the day. Last season Manchester United were beaten here 2-0 and barely looked interested, but things have changed for both clubs since then and the away side come here in a different frame of mind.

If the game had come a couple of months ago and Manchester United were displaying the form they are at the moment, they would be big favourites to win. However, Everton have just turned their own form around and have won their last 5 games at Goodison Park in all competitions which will give them a lot of confidence too.

The fans are always up for the visit of Manchester United so the atmosphere won't be lacking on Sunday and I can see both teams looking to get on the front foot. Manchester United should have an element in control of the midfield if Everton are without the likes of Leon Osman and Steven Pienaar, but the away side are still not completely convincing in defence.

Marouane Fellaini has been having a big impact at Old Trafford this season and might be the key player again against his former club and I can see both teams having their chances in this one. A draw isn't really anything for either team so I will back at least three goals being shared by them as both teams push for a big victory.

Arsenal v Chelsea Pick: Arsene Wenger has never beaten Jose Mourinho and Arsenal failing to beat Chelsea on Sunday will mean the Blues can win the Premier League title by winning their next two games and have it wrapped up a week on Sunday.

They have met five times at Arsenal with Mourinho in the Chelsea dugout and it is 2 wins for the away team and 3 draws and you would say that Chelsea will be very happy with a point in this one. Jose Mourinho will likely set his team up to defend well and hope to nick something on the break, but it has to be pointed out that Chelsea have drawn 3 of the 4 games at Arsenal in the League under Mourinho.

Arsenal are in very good form heading into the game and you can understand the confidence some of their fans will have for this game. They have won their last 11 home games in all competitions against English opposition and Arsenal have enough attacking talent to move this Chelsea team around.

On the other hand, I am not sure how Arsenal will cope with Eden Hazard who has been magnificent for Chelsea all season and likely to have some space for his speed and dribbling ability to exploit if Arsenal push too far ahead. The absence of Diego Costa does take away a real focal point for Chelsea and I won't be that surprised if they end up playing a 'false nine' system this weekend as both Didier Drogba and Loic Remy are also doubtful.

This just feels like the kind of game that Mourinho has thrived upon through his career as a manager and I expect Chelsea play Arsenal tough all game and take a point which will put them on the brink of becoming Champions of England once again.

MY PICKS: Southampton Win to Nil @ 3.50 Coral (1 Unit)
Leicester City @ 3.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Crystal Palace @ 2.10 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Queens Park Rangers @ 2.40 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Stoke City @ 1.95 Sky Bet (2 Units)
West Brom-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.98 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal-Chelsea Draw @ 3.30 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)

April Update15-21-1, - 10.79 Units (69 Units Staked, - 15.64% 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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