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Saturday, 2 May 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (May 2-4)

The Championship regular season comes to a close this weekend and the Premier League top four places look almost settled as the final month of the season comes into play.

It is an important month with relegation from the top flight decided, especially as Leicester City and Hull City have given themselves a huge shot in the arm to avoid the drop. The FA Cup Final will be played later in the month too as Aston Villa look to go into that game as a Premier League club and not one that has just been relegated, while the Finals in the Champions League and Europa League will also be set.

With games running out, every weekend has become a big one for the teams involved at the top and bottom of the Premier League.

Leicester City v Newcastle United Pick: John Carver is going to be meeting with some angry fans in the near future, but his meeting with Mike Ashley later this month is probably a lot bigger as his future as manager of Newcastle United is decided. It would be something special if Carver is able to survive as the permanent manager considering Newcastle United have lost 7 League games in a row and the players have the appearance of having 'downed tools' in some of their recent performances.

The improvement of Hull City, Aston Villa and Leicester City has dragged Newcastle United back into the relegation battle that has developed below them and another defeat on Saturday will certainly increase the tension at St James' Park. I would still be surprised if Newcastle United were to be relegated having a 5 point lead over Sunderland in the bottom three and just four games left to play, but a defeat coupled with a win for Sunderland over Southampton later in the day will certainly make it a nervy final month of the campaign.

It is hard to see how Newcastle United can turn around the form they have been displaying but John Carver will say they have mainly come against better teams, although the defeat at Sunderland is another painful blow to the temporary manager.

And they are in for a really tough test at the King Power Stadium as Leicester City only saw their 4 game winning run come to an end at the hands of Chelsea. Aside from a very bizarre post-match conference that Nigel Pearson was involved in, Leicester City have been winning the games they have needed to get out of the bottom three and give themselves every chance to avoid relegation back to the Championship.

The Foxes had beaten West Ham United and Swansea at home in recent games before the defeat to Chelsea and you have to be an 'ostrich with your head in the sand' if you haven't seen the improvement Leicester City have displayed. They look a team with more belief than Newcastle United and more heart in the performances and I do think they will beat the latter and extend their losing run to 8 games in a row.

Aston Villa v Everton Pick: Tim Sherwood was disgusted that the post-game interviewer dared to question him about relegation after Aston Villa had come very close to picking up a result at the Etihad Stadium last weekend. His side had fought back from 2-0 down to almost earn the draw, but a late decision went against Aston Villa and they were on the wrong side of a 3-2 defeat.

Sherwood was obviously impressed with the performance and the battling display Aston Villa produced, but wins for Hull City and Leicester City has really put Aston Villa back under pressure in the fight to avoid the drop. 

Only 2 points separates Aston Villa and Sunderland in the bottom three so it the question asked to Sherwood wasn't that out of order, although those performances in the last few weeks will have given the manager confidence his side can get remain out of trouble.

The consistency is still lacking in the Aston Villa game though and that is where some of the fans will remain concerned that they can't escape the bottom three as the teams below them continue to win. A few weeks ago, Aston Villa might have looked at this game as a winnable one, but Everton have improved greatly and come into Villa Park off the back of an impressive 3-0 win over Manchester United last weekend.

That win means Everton are unbeaten in their last 6 games in the Premier League and they have won 5 of those games. It has been more of struggle for Everton when they have played away from home, but they should have some room to employ the counter-attack that was so effective against Manchester United last weekend, especially as Aston Villa have been feeling more confident when going forward.

I do think Aston Villa will have their success in this game too though as they have been playing with a lot of confidence going forward under Tim Sherwood. The manager deserves a lot of credit for that, but defensively they remain vulnerable and I can see both teams scoring in this one.

Neither side should be sitting back feeling comfortable with the draw either and I am expecting goals in this game.

These teams have a habit of being involved in some high-scoring games and I am expecting both to score. I don't expect either to take a backward step with the win available and I can see this game ending with at least three goals.

Manchester United v West Brom Pick: Louis Van Gaal questioned the attitude of the Manchester United players following their 3-0 defeat at Everton last weekend and the away form remains sketchy to say the least. In all honest, Manchester United could have considered themselves unfortunate to be one goal down at half time last weekend, let alone two, although the second half display was far below the standards that this team have set over the last six weeks.

The danger for Manchester United was seeing the teams below them in the race for the Champions League places picking up points as they slumped to losses at Chelsea and Everton, but that has not been the case. Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have dropped points themselves and Manchester United should not be feeling the pressure of losing a top four spot going into this weekend.

They also have the benefit of returning to Old Trafford where the form has remained very strong for the majority of this season, while the visit of West Brom may have come at the right time.

After slipping back towards the bottom three, West Brom have earned four points from their last couple of games and gone back to Tony Pulis basics by earning clean sheets in both wins. Those four points should be enough for West Brom to maintain their Premier League status for another season and they might come to Manchester United with a nothing to lose attitude.

However, the players were guilty of taking their eye off the prize just a couple of weeks ago when it looked like West Brom would survive in the Premier League and that will be the fear again on Saturday. Pulis will set his side up to be difficult to beat in the late Saturday kick off, but Manchester United have scored plenty of goals at Old Trafford and it is hard to see how West Brom will keep tabs on them.

The potential absence of Wayne Rooney is a blow, but that does mean Van Gaal doesn’t have to change his system either with Robin Van Persie back in contention. That familiarity should help Manchester United bounce back from a couple of disappointing losses and get back to winning ways at Old Trafford while taking another big step towards the Champions League for next season.

There have been plenty of goals scored by Manchester United at home and I think they will be too strong for a West Brom team that might breath a sigh of relief after a couple of positive weeks.

Relegation isn’t completely averted, but West Brom will feel comfortable in the position they are in and that should give Manchester United the onus to attack as Tony Pulis sets his team up to defend deep. 

I expect Manchester United to break them down and win this by a couple of goals. Even though West Brom won at Old Trafford last season, I still think that is a big ask for them at this moment and Manchester United looking to bounce back from two losses in a row.

Chelsea v Crystal Palace Pick: It has really bothered Jose Mourinho that his side were described as 'boring' by the Arsenal fans last weekend, while some of the pundits have also made it clear that they don't feel Chelsea are the most attractive side to watch. That might be the case, but Chelsea remain the best team in England and a win on Sunday will mean they are once again the Champions of the Premier League.

A come from behind win over Leicester City has put Chelsea on the brink of winning the title and another win on Sunday against Crystal Palace will be enough to secure another Premier League title. Their form at Stamford Bridge has played a huge part in getting Chelsea into this position in the Premier League and they might be facing Crystal Palace at the right time as Alan Pardew's men have just struggled of late.

Back to back home losses to West Brom and Hull City have been a bitter blow to Crystal Palace who had looked like they could finish in the top half of the Premier League table. There is still a real chance that Palace can end in those positions, but they might be up against the momentum on Sunday which can be tough to reverse.

There is pace in the forward lines for Crystal Palace and they have used that to their advantage away from home where the side have won 7 of their last 8 games in all competitions and only lost 1 of 10. However, I do wonder if they have called time on this season which has seen them earn another year in the Premier League, and now they face a team that can win the title this weekend.

That motivation can be tough to contain, although I remain concerned that Chelsea have failed to win by more than a solitary goal since the early part of January. However, everything seems to be going Chelsea's way at the moment and Jose Mourinho won't want to wait around to confirm their place as Champions of England and Crystal Palace may be in for a hard time on Sunday.

While they are not everyone's cup of tea, Chelsea have to be respected and I think they can win the Premier League title in style. Crystal Palace have just dropped their form at the wrong time of the season and I like Chelsea to win by a couple of goals.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City Pick: Any chances that Tottenham Hotspur have left in making the top four in the Premier League will be wiped out if they fail to beat Manchester City at White Hart Lane on Sunday. The 2-2 draw at Southampton last weekend did nothing for either of those sides and even a victory in the live game on Sunday might not be anything but a consolation for the team and a 'what might have been' for the fans.

When Spurs beat Arsenal 2-1 at White Hart Lane in a come from behind victory back in February, it looked like Mauricio Pochettino's men would be challenging for a Champions League spot going into the final month of the season. 

That would have been the minimum expectation for the team, but Tottenham Hotspur have been inconsistent and the home loss to Aston Villa two weeks ago might have dented all serious aspirations of playing in the Champions League next season.

Defeats at Liverpool and Manchester United didn't help Tottenham Hotspur to pick up the momentum they needed after the North London derby victory and 7 points to make up looks a huge task with just 12 left to play for. 

Tottenham Hotspur have at least been productive at White Hart Lane, but this is a team that concedes far too many goals and that is a problem against Manchester City who might just have turned a corner when it comes to their form.

Of course I am expecting Tottenham Hotspur to cause Manchester City plenty of problems in this game too at home, especially as Manchester City have struggled on their travels of late.

Back to back home wins over West Ham United and Aston Villa, despite another wobble in the latter game, has eased the tension around Manchester City that they might fall out of the Champions League places. That would have been embarrassing considering Manchester City won the Premier League title last season and would have almost certainly cost Manuel Pellegrini his job despite the Chilean still sitting on a very warm seat.

Now they have to try and snap a five game losing run on the road which includes four away losses in a row including the heavy 4-2 defeat at Old Trafford in the Manchester derby. Manchester City have won 2 of their last 3 visits to White Hart Lane, but goals have not been in short supply in any of those games and that might be the case this weekend.

Prior to the 0-1 loss to Aston Villa, Tottenham Hotspur had scored at least twice in 6 straight home games in the Premier League, but they had also conceded at least twice in 4 of those games including the last three in a row.

The last three games at White Hart Lane between these teams have also seen at least four goals shared and Manchester City have conceded at least twice in 3 of their last 4 away games in the Premier League.

Goals look like they could be on the cards in this one and backing at least four to be shared out by these teams could be the play in the second live game of Sunday afternoon.

Hull City v Arsenal Pick: A couple of weeks ago it looked like Hull City were in big danger of relegation, although they could be grateful that their relegation rivals were all struggling. However, the likes of Leicester City have begun to pick up wins and that put the pressure on Hull City who responded by beating Crystal Palace and Liverpool in the space of four days without conceding a goal.

That has given Hull City a real sense of being able to earn their survival in the Premier League with five games to go, but the big games keep coming. This week Arsenal visit the KC Stadium where Hull City have won 3 of their last 5 League games and only lost once at the hands of Champions elect Chelsea.

A 1-0 win over Liverpool here during the week has given Hull City a nice buffer to the bottom three in the Premier League, but there is still some work to be done on Monday Night Football. They will be given a severe test this time around against an Arsenal team that has exploited the mistakes made against them and who had scored at least twice in five games in a row on their travels before the Gunners beat Burnley 0-1 at Turf Moor.

Arsenal failed to break down Chelsea last week at the Emirates Stadium which effectively ended their title challenge, but they can still finish in the top three which means avoiding a Champions League qualifier next season. That is the primary goal for Arsenal who can wrap up the season with another FA Cup win as they take on Aston Villa at the end of the month.

There should be enough quality for Arsenal to show off their capabilities at the KC Stadium, but Hull City have momentum behind them. I just feel they have put in a lot of effort into those games and they might be lacking something here on Monday.

The Gunners have won all 3 games at Hull City over the last six seasons and they have the attacking talent to have a lot of success in this one. However, I can't overlook how well Hull City have done to win back to back Premier League games and give their survival hopes a shot in the arm.

Both teams should be on the attack which could lead to a more open game than some of the layers believe.

As long as Arsenal remain focused, they should have enough chances to win the game. However, I think the fixture will provide goals as it has in recent seasons and backing at least three goals at a little under odds against is the call.

MY PICKS: Leicester City @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Aston Villa-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur-Manchester City Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.50 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Hull City-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)

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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