Featured post

NFL Week 14 Picks 2019 (December 5-9)

This is it. This is now the final stretch towards the PlayOffs and we have begun to see a number of teams being eliminated while others are ...

Friday, 28 August 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (August 29-30)

It feels like the new domestic European seasons have just started before we are heading into a two week international break as the Euro 2016 Qualifiers get into the business end of that competition. By the end of the next set of Qualifiers, I imagine a few nations will have booked their place in France 2016, but the focus this week for all the players that might be involved in those Qualifiers is putting in one more big performance for their club sides.

It is a stranger situation for the Spanish and Italian teams this weekend as they will only have played two League games before another two week break between games.

On the other hand, the Premier League will have had four rounds of matches that have been played before this international break and that will mean the Division is beginning to take shape. As I mentioned two weeks ago, I think a lot of the teams in the Premier League are more evenly matched than you may think and that has shown up in the results already with every team earning at least one point from their opening three games and just three points separating Everton in 7th place and Sunderland bottom of the League.

Most do say that the League table isn't really relevant until nine games have been played, but you can begin to see elements of the League forming together already.

I have written a few points from the last weekend Premier League football which can be read here.

The Champions League Group Stage was also drawn on Thursday and my reaction and early predictions of how the Groups will finish can be read here.

On Friday, the Europa League draw was made and the two English representatives left in the competition might have hoped for an easier Group than both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur were handed. The 'look down the nose' attitude that a lot of English clubs have towards the Europa League is a real reason that none of the clubs have come close to winning the competition in recent years, although you might argue that this is the best chance Tottenham Hotspur have of getting into the Champions League.

I do think it is more likely they can negotiate their way through to the Final and win it rather than finishing top four in the Premier League, but it is up to Mauricio Pochettino to balance the two competitions together.

Both Spurs and Liverpool should still qualify for the Last 32, but Celtic have to feel really disappointed with their Group having been knocked out of the Champions League during the week. Ajax, Fenerbahce and Molde is a tough set of teams for Celtic to deal with and it will take a big effort for them to match their Last 32 appearance in the Europa League from last season.

Newcastle United v Arsenal Pick: Newcastle United had to battle hard to take away a point from Old Trafford last week, but their away form has generally been sketchier than their form at St James' Park and they might feel they can be more proactive this weekend.

However, Newcastle United have a very tough match against Arsenal in front of the television cameras even if The Gunners have been a little lacklustre in their early Premier League performances. After another impressive end to last season followed by a Community Shield win over Chelsea at the beginning of this one, Arsenal were expected to be a real challenger for the Premier League title, but they haven't hit the ground running as expected.

Arsene Wenger is not quick to criticise his team so his comments about Arsenal being 'very average' in their first three games has to have hit home for the players. Failing to score in both Premier League games at The Emirates Stadium is a real surprise from a team with the talent Arsenal have in the attacking third, but they were one of three teams to win double digit away games last season and already won at Crystal Palace.

There will be a little more space for Arsenal to operate in away from home as Newcastle United will be expected to come forward. If both Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are missing again, Arsenal could be in a bit of bother against this Newcastle United team that have shown a threat in games against Southampton and Manchester United.

Both Gabriel and Calum Chambers, particularly the latter, were given a thorough examination from Liverpool on Monday Night Football and Newcastle United will feel they can expose that soft underbelly if both are to start at the heart of the defence again. However, Arsenal have a very strong record here in recent years with three straight Premier League wins at St James' Park and I do think they find a way to bounce back from a disappointing home result as they did at Crystal Palace.

It will likely be tight though and backing Arsenal to win this by a single goal margin looks to be the call for a small interest.

Bournemouth v Leicester City PickThis looks like it could be one of the more entertaining games of the Premier League weekend as both Bournemouth and Leicester City have shown they are capable of scoring goals, but also don't look the most secure defensively. Bournemouth might not have scored in their first couple of Premier League games, but they had created chances and have now banged in eight goals in two games this week.

With Callum Wilson earning a morale boosting hat-trick in the Premier League last weekend, I expect the striker to begin to feel settled in the top flight. That also goes for the rest of the squad as Bournemouth would have felt much more comfortable after an impressive win at West Ham United last week and games like this one might have been circled as ones they have to win to stay in the top flight for more than one season.

They are facing a Leicester City team that has conceded at least once in all of their four games played this season, but they have pace in the forward areas which can be very effective on the counter attack. That pace will give Bournemouth something to think about and I do think both teams will score at least once in this one.

Neither Eddie Howe nor Claudio Ranieri will want to put the handbrake on their respective teams either as they will believe three points are possible out of this game and I expect to see chances at both ends. If the likes of Wilson, Matt Richie, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez continue showing their abilities in front of goal, I think this game will feature at least three goals.

Chelsea v Crystal Palace PickIt might be a blessing in disguise that John Terry is suspended for this game because the last thing a defender with limited pace who is under pressure is going to want to face is the pace and power Crystal Palace have up front. Crystal Palace could be a very dangerous team on the counter attack, but the absence of Yannick Bolasie would be a blow, although Alan Pardew is correct not to rush him back.

There is still going to be a threat from Crystal Palace, but Chelsea might have just got their ship turned around with their win at West Brom. In all honesty Chelsea had taken some extreme criticism over the last couple of weeks, but I am not convinced they were as bad as the papers would have you believe.

Yes, Chelsea were outplayed in the first half by Manchester City, but they were much better in the second half and a better finish from Eden Hazard would have produced an equaliser in that game. Against Swansea, Chelsea looked to be in control before an equaliser against the run of play went against them and they again looked to be in the dominant position before the sending off of Thibaut Courtois.

Once again Chelsea looked to be in complete control against West Brom before another twist of fate against them and it does feel they are just swimming against the fortune tide at the moment. I expect Chelsea to have got back to strength mentally from recent blows they have taken with the win over West Brom and I expect Jose Mourinho to get another determined performance from his team.

They have to be better defensively than what they have shown in the first three games, but I can't see them continuing to concede at two goals per game. Mourinho should look to nullify the Crystal Palace threat and they now have an additional attacking threat from Pedro and I like Chelsea to cover the Asian Handicap.

Liverpool v West Ham United PickHow can a team produce the kind of level they did to beat Arsenal, but then look completely at unease with the tactics and defensively in home losses to the likes of Leicester City and Bournemouth? That is the question that has been bothering the West Ham United fans over the last couple of weeks, but there will be a belief they can be inspired for another top performance at a big Premier League ground this weekend.

Heading to Liverpool might not be easy though as the home side have been playing some pretty good football to open the new season. It was arguably their best forty-five minutes of the new season on Monday Night Football as they outplayed Arsenal and it was only the woodwork and a poor miss from Christian Beneteke that prevented Liverpool having a lead to take into half time.

Producing that level again will give Liverpool a clear edge in this Premier League game and Brendan Rodgers looks to have got the team playing in a manner he expects after a disappointing 2014/15 season. There is some real talent in the Liverpool squad that perhaps needs some luck in staying healthy to challenge for a top four place in the Premier League, although they will hope Jordan Henderson is back this week to compete with the West Ham United energy in the middle of the park.

West Ham will likely look to employ some energy in that midfield to prevent Liverpool from playing the brand of football that Rodgers wants, but defensively they have to be a lot better. Conceding six goals to Leicester City and Bournemouth in two home games is not going to cut it, and it does feel the win over Arsenal was an exception from their early season form in the Premier League and Europa League.

There weren't many games where Liverpool won comfortably at Anfield last season in the Premier League, but this might be one of those. The West Ham United team have looked like they will give opponents chances and Liverpool will surely become a little more clinical as the season develops when those chances come their way as they did at Arsenal.

With that in mind, I think Liverpool win this and cover the Asian Handicap.

Manchester City v Watford PickI can only have respect for the way that Watford have begun the Premier League season with a strong performance at Everton in a 2-2 draw at Goodison Park. However, the back to back goalless draws with West Brom and Southampton might have highlighted an area that Quique Sanchez Flores will be looking to strengthen before the transfer window is closed next Tuesday.

Goals at this level are very important for every club in the Division and Watford need to find a consistent avenue for goals if they are going to maintain their status as a Premier League club beyond this one season. Now they are also going to be put to the test by arguably the best team in the Premier League with a difficult visit to The Etihad Stadium where Manchester City have been rampant.

That is not just about the big wins they have achieved this season overall nor the 3-0 win over Chelsea in the Premier League earlier this season but going back to the last campaign. Manchester City have won 8 in a row at home in the Premier League and have kept 7 clean sheets in those games while scoring 26 goals in that run too.

Watford might have been defensively sound in their last couple of home games against West Brom and Southampton, but this attack with David Silva, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero are going to pose plenty more problems for the visitors to deal with. 'Only' half of the 8 home wins Manchester City have achieved in a row have come by more than two goals, but this is a chance for them to put another big victory on the board and show the rest of the Division they mean business.

Manchester City should prove too good in this one if they show some clinical finishing and I like them to cover the Asian Handicap.

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton PickAfter watching the first three games of the Premier League season, Mauricio Pochettino is well aware that Tottenham Hotspur need some attacking options to join Harry Kane and fire the team to glory. It says something about the policy that Daniel Levy uses that Tottenham Hotspur didn't address an obvious need far before the transfer window gets ready to close and that does mean a busy final week before September 1st for the Chairman.

Missing out on targets earlier in the summer, or failing to really go after the players the manager required, has put Tottenham Hotspur on the back foot early in the season as they have failed to win any of their 3 Premier League games. Challenging for a top four place was going to be a difficult test for Spurs anyway this season, but allowing points to slip away in the manner they have against Stoke City and Leicester City has frustrated the manager.

In both games Tottenham Hotspur were leading and only earning 2 points from those games is a big disappointment. Harry Kane has needed more support, but Spurs have also looked vulnerable defensively and Everton will certainly feel they can use the counter attack to attack those vulnerabilities.

They might have lost 0-2 to Manchester City last weekend, but Everton had their chances while the game was goalless to put a different slant on the result. Roberto Martinez is hoping to hang onto John Stones, but he has to find a way to get a run of consistent results together to make sure Everton are not having another difficult season like last season.

Everton do look like a team that will create chances, but I am not convinced about them at the back and it took some good saves from Tim Howard from allowing Manchester City to really get away in that game. Southampton also created chances at 0-0 in the eventual 0-3 win for Everton and I think Tottenham Hotspur will have some success in the final third.

It looks like a game that the television cameras will enjoy broadcasting to the neutrals as both teams should create chances to score goals. Games between these teams have been tight over the last couple of seasons, but this might be one that produces at least three goals with the expectation both score at least once and neither manager is going to settle for a point at this stage of the season.

Swansea City v Manchester United Pick: I'd be surprised if there isn't a fair few people out there backing Swansea City to beat Manchester United at what looks a huge price in the last game of the weekend in the Premier League.

Swansea City are 3.75 to beat Manchester United at The Liberty Stadium and that is going to be a price that tempts a fair few, although I have decided to move past that pick.

I do think Swansea are going to give Manchester United the toughest test they have faced in the first month of the new season as they have pace in the forward areas, but are also very confident having earned five points from a possible nine. The fact they showed their heart and determination to twice recover a goal deficit at Stamford Bridge on the opening day highlights the belief Garry Monk has injected into the squad and I expect Swansea to get forward and put this Manchester United defence under some real pressure that other clubs have failed to do consistently.

The home team beat Newcastle United in their first game here and it shouldn't be forgotten that Swansea did the Premier League double over Manchester United last season and have won three out of four games in all competitions over their more illustrious opponents.

All of those wins have come by the same 2-1 scoreline and I think that is a big player on Sunday even if Manchester United have restricted their first three Premier League opponents to just five shots. I just don't believe Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa nor Newcastle United pose the same threat with pace and power that Swansea do and Monk will have his side try and match the possession that Louis Van Gaal wants from Manchester United.

I do think the direct style that Swansea use by getting the ball out wide and having the likes of Jefferson Montero and Andre Ayew beat men as well as supporting Bafetimbi Gomes has given them a new threat this season and I do expect Manchester United to be really tested.

The win over Club Brugge will have given Manchester United a confidence boost, especially the manner of the 0-4 win in Belgium, but a lot of spaces were opened up by the home team chasing the game. Swansea came from a goal down to beat Manchester United here last season so won't be 'chasing' the game like Club Brugge had to in the Second Leg.

Club Brugge still created chances with the pacy forwards they employed in both Legs of that Champions League Play Off tie and I expect Swansea will be able to as well. They have been clinical in front of goal for the most part this season, while Manchester United will have opportunities of their own and the chance for goals looks like it has been underestimated.

I wouldn't be surprised if Swansea City win this game, but goals is my pick as five of the last six between these teams have produced at least three goals and both teams look like they can create chances. A 2-1 scoreline either way looks the most likely scoreline, although my gut feeling, despite being a Manchester United fan, is that Swansea are the team that achieve that result. Hopefully I am wrong about that result, but I do see goals in this game.

MY PICKS: Arsenal to Win by One Goal @ 3.80 Betway (1 Unit)
Bournemouth-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.14 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Swansea City-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

August Update: 14-27, - 21.44 Units (81 Units Staked, - 26.47% Yield)

Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% 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)

No comments:

Post a Comment