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Saturday, 16 May 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (May 16-18)

Southampton v Aston Villa Pick: The first game of the Premier League weekend should be an interesting one as Southampton have really picked up their form at home in recent weeks, while Aston Villa have given the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City something to think about in losing efforts at those grounds.

Wins at Sunderland and Tottenham Hotspur show how far Aston Villa have come when it comes to the mental side of the game and they are a team playing with confidence and belief that they can get a result anywhere.

I would expect both teams to try and get forward to score the goals to win this game and both have been doing that in recent weeks to give off the feeling that we will see goals in the game.

I'd likely favour Southampton because of their recent successes at St Mary's, but Aston Villa have been very dangerous in recent games. I would be surprised if Villa don't score at least once in this game and I am going to back there being at least three goals in this game.

Burnley v Stoke City Pick: The final home game of the season won't have the atmosphere that is typically associated with a relegated team as the Burnley fans are well aware that their team was limited, but have given their all through the season. There have been some special results for Burnley, including drawing at Chelsea and beating Manchester City at Turf Moor, but the team ultimately was short of goals and the necessary quality at this level.

Sean Dyche's attention may already have turned to next season and bringing in the players to ensure an immediate return to the Premier League, but he will want to end this season on a positive note. Avoiding bottom spot in the League table would be one such goal in mind and Burnley won't be rolling over for Stoke City even if they have been having a hard time scoring goals.

That might be an issue against a tough Stoke City team that will want a bit of revenge for a home loss to Burnley and who are also trying to finish as high as possible in the Premier League. Mark Hughes has been improving the way Stoke City have gone about their football and the team have responded with a top half of the table finish, which can be confirmed with a win on Saturday.

When thinking about it, I am finding it hard to see why Stoke City are the not the favourite to win this game aside from the Burnley team putting in a huge effort in their final home game. I don't expect it to be easy, but the lack of goals in the home team is a concern and Stoke City have been playing well in recent weeks, albeit not away from home.

They have lost 3 of their last 4 away games in the Premier League, but Stoke City are a big price to end their season on their travels with a victory. It has to be worth a small interest considering Burnley have had a tough time scoring goals at home in recent games and Stoke City can sneak the three points back down to the Brittania Stadium.

Sunderland v Leicester City Pick: If this game had been played last weekend, it would have been full of tension for both Sunderland and Leicester City, but I think the results have given the away side a little more freedom.

Sunderland may have pulled themselves out of the bottom three, but they are still in a dangerous position as a defeat here could potentially see them needing to earn results at either Arsenal or Chelsea to ensure they avoid the drop. That is a pressure situation for the home side, especially if they hear Hull City have the lead at White Hart Lane, while I think Leicester City have a lot of confidence and can play knowing they are almost safe.

It would take a real strange set of results for Leicester City to finish in the bottom three at this stage, but they won't want to go into the last day needing a result and Nigel Pearson will look for the points to secure top flight status on Saturday. His team have been scoring plenty of goals and you can't buy the confidence that comes from a run of 6 wins in 7 games.

Leicester City have won tough away games at West Brom and Burnley in that run too and the fact they have been scoring goals could give them the edge in this one.

I actually think the Foxes can win here and Sunderland may be looking for a favour or two from the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United to prevent Hull City overtaking them. You have to credit the steel with which Sunderland have been grinding out results as they use the experiences of twelve months ago to once again pull themselves out of a very sticky situation, but Leicester City are the team in form and can earn the three points.

Liverpool v Crystal Palace Pick: When the Sky television cameras decided to pitch up at Anfield for this game last month, they would have been expecting Liverpool to be firmly in the midst of challenging for a Champions League spot. However, the game doesn't have the same kind of feeling at all after Liverpool could only draw 1-1 at Chelsea last weekend and so the focus has shifted onto Steven Gerrard.

Gerrard plays his last game at Anfield for Liverpool this weekend and all of the attention is on him for this game, which has to be a real distraction to the players. The fact the Champions League is no out of reach is another issue the Liverpool players have to deal with as they look to the end of what has been a long and ultimately disappointing campaign for them.

And if Crystal Palace produce what they have in their recent losses at Chelsea and at home to Manchester United, they can take advantage of any lingering disappointment and frustration the home team might have. There is pace to burn in the forward areas for Crystal Palace and they should have a real chance to utilise the counter-attack that Alan Pardew prefers.

Any distraction or loss of focus in the home dressing room can be punished by Crystal Palace and I think Liverpool are a remarkably short price considering everything going on at the club.

Neither team has much to lose from this game, which can free players up in their minds, but Liverpool might be trying too hard to make this a memorable occasion for Steven Gerrard rather than trying to win the game. Of course they WANT to win, but Crystal Palace have the pace to expose what has been a soft underbelly and I like their chances to get something from this game.

It has to be worth a small interest in backing Crystal Palace on the English Handicap to avoid defeat at Anfield on Saturday.

Manchester United v Arsenal Pick: After some rough weeks with teams figuring out what Manchester United want to do, Louis Van Gaal had to be happy with the heart his team displayed in beating a Crystal Palace team that gave everything they could last weekend. That has put Manchester United all but into the Champions League for next season and now the focus turns to trying to steal 3rd place from under the noses of Arsenal.

This might be the kind of game that Manchester United need to get back to the form they showed to hammer Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester City in a small stretch of games. Unlike the likes of Chelsea and Everton, Arsenal are unlikely to do a man-marking job to stop Manchester United playing as Arsene Wenger has enough belief in his teams to outplay the opposition.

It just isn't in the Wenger make-up to try and stifle his opponents and he is much more comfortable allowing his own team to express themselves. For the most part in 2015, Arsenal have expressed themselves very well and even the loss to Swansea came because of a lack of composure in front of goal and former goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski having the game of his life.

If they create the same sort of chances at Old Trafford, it is unlikely that Arsenal will be as bad in front of goal for a second consecutive game. And Arsenal should have a chance to create those chances with the Manchester United defence still not 100% certain of keeping teams out unless David De Gea makes some fabulous saves as he did at Selhurst Park last weekend.

On the other hand, I am expecting Manchester United to have their success in front of goal too as Arsenal will give them a chance to play their game and create chances. Both Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie are expected to be available for selection so Manchester United should be capable of scoring goals and this could be an entertaining game on Sunday with plenty on the line.

Both games between Manchester United and Arsenal have featured goals this season and I will back there being at least three shared by the teams on Sunday.

MY PICKS: Southampton-Aston Villa Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 3.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Leicester City @ 2.80 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Crystal Palace + 1 English Handicap @ 2.70 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Manchester United-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

May Update6-12, - 9.66 Units (36 Units Staked, - 26.83% Yield)

April Final18-27-1, - 14.29 Units (83 Units Staked, - 17.22% 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 2014/15148-189-5, - 9.86 Units (592 Units Staked, - 1.67% 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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