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Sunday, 24 May 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (May 24th)

The final day of the Premier League season sees all of the League matches commence at the same time on Sunday 24th May 2015, but the television cameras might be a little disappointed that most of the drama has been concluded.

Let's face facts- Chelsea are the Champions and the top four places have all been settled, while Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United are almost certainly going to finish in that order.

Two teams have already been relegated as Burnley and Queens Park Rangers look to rebuild for the Championship, while Sunderland ensured their Premier League future with a hard earned goalless draw at Arsenal on Wednesday. That means the television cameras will pitch up at Hull City and Newcastle United this weekend and they have to be hoping that either Hull City score early against Manchester United or West Ham United score first in their game at Newcastle United to really give the day some drama.

Even the Europa League places would have been decided assuming Arsenal will beat Aston Villa in the FA Cup Final next weekend and it just feels like the final day is one where many teams will be going through the motions. Of course no one wants to lose going into the long summer break, but players also want to have some rest while avoiding injuries and so the last day can be a strange one.

Aston Villa v Burnley Pick: Fortunately for Aston Villa, Hull City couldn't find a result at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend which would have put some pressure on the home team to find a result in this one. Coming off the embarrassing 6-1 loss at Southampton, it might have been a difficult week for Aston Villa, but they have been saved and can play this game with an element of freedom mentally.

Tim Sherwood might not have admitted laying into his players after their recent performances, but there is no doubt he would have been disgusted by the capitulation at St Mary's. I am convinced he has told his players in no uncertain terms that they are playing for their places in the FA Cup Final starting line up and that should provoke some sort of reaction from them.

In all honesty, Aston Villa had been performing very well prior to that game last week and I am pretty sure that was an outlier in what has otherwise been a tight group of performances. They have been playing particularly well at Villa Park and Sherwood has helped to restore the confidence in their forward play which could be a problem for a team like Burnley who simply don't score enough.

All credit to Burnley for the heart and determination they have put into their performances this season, but there has been a lack of quality that has prevented them from really having a chance to avoid the drop. Tenacity is one thing, but you need some guile to create chances and score goals and that has been lacking for Burnley, especially away from home where they have scored just 13 goals.

They might have more joy against an Aston Villa team that haven't defended that well all season, but I think the home team can get to two goals which might be enough for them to take the three points. There should be plenty of motivation in the Aston Villa team to win and take some momentum into the FA Cup Final, while players are not entirely sure of their places, and I expect that motivation to pay off at odds against.

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The last day of the season is tough to predict as you have to try and work out motivation of teams, but Everton have to be given the edge in this one as they look to close this poor season with a positive result at home. Another factor has to be the poor performances of Tottenham Hotspur of late as tiredness and perhaps fear of what the future holds for some of the players has affected their play.

Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane both have had a lot of weight on their shoulders and neither has been in great form and the Tottenham Hotspur defence is always looking slightly vulnerable.

Everton had been playing very well at Goodison Park before the defeat to Sunderland, but they were unfortunate not to get something from that game. A similar level of performance will give Everton every chance to win this game and they do have a strong home record against Tottenham Hotspur.

If they can get in front in this one, Tottenham Hotspur may end up looking ahead to their summer break and they have been playing poorly away from White Hart Lane in recent weeks. I like Everton's motivation to ensure a top half finish and keep the fans happy after a season when the expectations would have been much higher than the results produced.

It's a big price for the home win on current form and I will back Everton to earn the three points.

Hull City v Manchester United Pick: This might not be a game that Manchester United need to win, but the layers are certainly taking a chance by offering them at odds against to win at Hull City on Sunday as the Premier League season comes to an end. Part of that reason has to be that Hull City 'must win' if they are to survive in the Premier League, but that isn't a good reason to disregard Manchester United's chances of winning at the KC Stadium, especially as they have proven to be too good for Hull City in recent years.

Steve Bruce might have a long connection with Manchester United, but the former captain at Old Trafford won't be expecting his former club to lie down in this one. His Hull City team have dug themselves into a big hole with the 0-1 home loss to Burnley looking like the vital defeat that will prevent them from playing in the Premier League next season.

Hull City's loss in that game means they have to win on the final day and hope Sunderland either lose their remaining two games or Newcastle United fail to beat West Ham United at home. That is a lot of pressure on Hull City as they look to find the right balance in this one to win the game and try to shift that pressure to St James' Park or Stamford Bridge where Newcastle United and Sunderland will be playing respectively.

The problem for Hull City will come if either Newcastle United or Sunderland take the lead as that score will quickly filter down onto the field in this world where scores are at the fingertips of every fan in the Stadium. The other factor is simply they are playing a Manchester United team that will look to end the season with a positive result to give them more belief to take into the next season when Louis Van Gaal will expect a bigger title challenge.

It would be fun for the neutrals if Hull City could win this game, or lead, as it would really make the games in Newcastle and Chelsea all the more interesting, but that won't be easy on current form. Manchester United have been playing well enough to end the season on a positive run and I think they are a big price to win this game.

Manchester City v Southampton Pick: There were going to be some tough questions for Manuel Pellegrini to answer no matter how Manchester City ended this season and even the 5 game winning run won't be enough for the board to be satisfied. Even with that run in mind, Manchester City are still far too far behind Chelsea and the fans and owners would have expected a much better challenge to retain the Premier League title they won last season.

The winning run has at least given Manchester City a real chance of finishing 2nd in the Premier League table which would mean a top two finish in four consecutive seasons for the club. Winning just 2 titles in that time won't be considered good enough when you work out the amount of money they have invested on the playing staff and Pellegrini's chances of extending his time as manager is far from certain.

Manchester City can at least sign off at home with another win and they have been playing well here in the Premier League with 6 straight wins and 5 of those coming by at least two goals. Compare that with Southampton who have just lost their way outside of St Mary's having lost 5 of their 6 on their travels in the League including 4 in a row.

The 6-1 home win over Aston Villa has at least ensured they can finish in the top seven at the end of what has been a successful season, but Ronald Koeman will be hoping they can earn a result here which would get them into the Europa League. 7th place will be good enough if Arsenal win the FA Cup next week, but Southampton would love to do it on their own merits although getting a result here will be far from easy.

The Saints have lost some disappointing away games of late and that will be a concern for them heading to the North West. It has been a long season where they have overachieved and Manchester City are playing at a very high level at the moment which is going to be tough to contain.

Not many teams have beaten Southampton 'easily' but I think Manchester City can win this one by a couple of goals and will back them to cover the Asian Handicap.

Stoke City v Liverpool Pick: The Raheem Sterling story will take centre stage for Liverpool fans this week as they hope to hear news that their young winger has changed his mind and will sign a new contract at Anfield. Sterling does have two years left on his contract, but if he isn't going to sign, Brendan Rodgers may feel it is best to cash in now and look to rebuild a squad that will be expected to challenge for the top four places next season.

It won't be easy for Liverpool if they have to negotiate the Europa League along with the Premier League next season, while being out of the Champions League means Liverpool have lost some of the appeal they may have had. This team can't compete with the finances on offer at Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea and even Arsenal have become a more appealing destination for players heading to England.

Brendan Rodgers has a big task on his hand to bridge the gap between Liverpool and the top four next season, but he will want his team to end this season in the right way after the disappointing home loss to Crystal Palace last weekend.

However, the players have to be a little distracted with Sterling's story and Steven Gerrard playing his last game for Liverpool and that should give Stoke City a chance to earn an upset win.

Stoke City have beaten Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur here in recent games and they have won 4 of their last 6 games while playing with the confidence that follows matching last season's Premier League finish and surpassing their points total from that campaign.

Mark Hughes has kept the team focused even with nothing to play for down the stretch and playing at home will give them further motivation to end the season on a high note. They do look overpriced to beat Liverpool if you consider Stoke City had won 3 in a row against them at home prior to the 3-5 defeat last season and the lack of form Liverpool have been playing with in recent weeks is another problem.

On current form and in this venue it is hard to call Stoke City the underdog and they have to be worth an interest on the final day to earn the upset win.

MY PICKS: Aston Villa @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Everton @ 2.40 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Manchester United @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 3.50 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

May Update8-15, - 9.96 Units (43 Units Staked, - 23.16% 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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