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Saturday, 12 September 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (September 12-14)

The two week international break always feels like a really long time to wait for the Premier League games to restart, but at least this set of Euro 2016 Qualifiers were a little more interesting with so much at stake.

Only five of the twenty-four teams that will be playing in France were confirmed, but the likes of Spain, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Portugal are on the brink of qualifying too.

Wales look almost certain to join England as one of the home nations in France next summer, while Northern Ireland's late equaliser against Hungary puts them on the brink too.


It wasn't all fun and games for the nations of interest though as the Netherlands were beaten twice and now need to win their final two games and hope Turkey either lose one or fail to win both to just get into the Play Offs.

Most Scottish fans will have just considered 'Scotland being Scotland' in putting in a terrible performance against Georgia before an outstanding effort against Germany which ended up providing them a grand total of zero points. That means automatic qualification is almost gone for Scotland and even overturning the Republic of Ireland in 3rd is going to take some effort, although Scotland have the 'easier' remaining two games in the Group.


Anyway, you can put a pin in the European Championships for now as we have a month of domestic action as well as the start of the Champions League and Europa League to come before another break in play after the first weekend in October.

There are some big matches in both the Premier League and European competition in that time and the picture in the League table should become clearer.

Before I get onto the weekend picks, you can read a few things that interested me about the last Premier League weekend two weeks ago here.


Everton v Chelsea PickThe third year of a Jose Mourinho tenure at previous clubs has been seen as the tipping point where his 'us against the world' mentality turns to 'Mourinho against the world'. Falling out with owners or players has been a feature of that third year by the end of which everyone has seemingly had enough of him and a parting of the ways is agreed.

Chelsea fans will be hoping that rumours of discontent behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge are only rumours, but Mourinho hasn't looked happy from the opening day of the season. He clearly wanted reinforcements that haven't arrived at the club and Chelsea's poor start to the new season has only increased the pressure to get things right.

Do I think the Chelsea players have aged overnight or lost their appetite for winning trophies? No, I think it has been a mix of bad luck and running into a couple of teams in very strong form and I do expect them to be there or thereabouts when the Premier League is decided in May.

However, they have to start winning now and a game at Goodison Park is far from easy, especially as the home crowd will be baying for blood after Chelsea's fruitless pursuit of John Stones over the last three months. There is clearly a straining of the relationship between the clubs and a fired up atmosphere could lead to a very good game on Saturday lunchtime.

Neither team has looked convincing at the back, but both have shown they have the capabilities of scoring goals and that is where I am looking for this opening game of the next round of Premier League games. Jose Mourinho will start getting things right defensively, but they haven't had a clean sheet at Everton in their last 8 visits in all competitions and many of the Chelsea players have been on international duty this past week.

On the other hand, Everton have conceded twice in both home games this season and have looked a little shaky at the back. It won't match the nine goals scored here in this fixture last season, but an odds against quote for there being at least three goals looks appealing, far more so than the comically short price on a Chelsea win.


Arsenal v Stoke City PickIt is hard to imagine Arsenal keep firing blanks at home, but The Gunners have seemingly been out of bullets here since the end of last season with 5 of their last 6 games at The Emirates Stadium ending with a '0' by the home teams name.

However, this is just a weird trend if you ask me because Arsenal have plenty of attacking options at their disposal and have created enough chances in the first couple of games here to think the goals will soon come. To be honest it feels someone is going to take something of a hiding here sooner or later and Stoke City might be ripe for that this weekend.

This isn't the Stoke City of Tony Pulis who will come and focus all attention of making life difficult for Arsenal, but Mark Hughes' team who like to try and play their football. It isn't always the best policy when Arsenal are in form and that has resulted in Stoke City conceding three times in both visits to this part of North London under Hughes.

Stoke City fans might say that this Arsenal team isn't in the best of form and it is a perfect time to catch them, but I do think the home team have created enough chances to think they will eventually start scoring them. Giving Arsenal the time and room to play their football is never really a good thing and I am expecting them to put up their first home three points of the new season.

I do think Stoke City will have their moments, but Arsenal should be too strong and I will back them to beat a Mark Hughes Stoke City side by at least two goals for the third season in a row.


Crystal Palace v Manchester City Pick: It has been a brilliant start to the new season for Manchester City who have come out of the blocks hungry and looking to regain the Premier League title they gave up without much of a fight last season. This seems to be a squad that thrives when they have something to prove and how they handle their Champions League commitments alongside the Premier League ones will determine if Manchester City are able to get into a huge lead by the turn of the year.

They would have enjoyed seeing the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool all dropping points in the first month of the season and Manchester City are the only team in the Premier League that has won all 4 League games played.

And it hasn't been like Manchester City have taken advantage of an 'easy' early fixture list having won at West Brom and Everton and beaten the Champions Chelsea at home, all by convincing margins. However, I don't think any of those teams came into those games in the kind of confidence Crystal Palace will this weekend having beaten Chelsea prior to the international break at Stamford Bridge no less.

Alan Pardew has really done a good job at Selhurst Park over the last nine months and there is pace and power in the forward lines that makes them dangerous. I do think they will be a better team away from home when they can really employ the counter attack which makes them as dangerous as almost any in the Premier League.

Even in a game like this, Pardew will know Manchester City will dominate the possession and he will look for the side to get the ball quickly to the likes of Yannick Bolasie to turn the table on Manchester City. Crystal Palace are a threat and they beat Manchester City here last season, but they didn't really have enough to take on the best teams outside of that.

Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United all won here in the League last season and Arsenal have already recorded a 1-2 win here this. Liverpool also won a Cup game here, but all of those games were tight with Crystal Palace losing every one by the same 1-2 scoreline.

That has to be a real player again this weekend and I wouldn't put off anyone who wants a small interest in Manchester City winning this game 1-2 at 8.50.


Norwich City v Bournemouth PickThis is the kind of game that teams look back on in April and say 'if only' when they are perhaps struggling for points later in the campaign. Both Alex Neil and Eddie Howe will understand the importance of putting points on the board for Norwich City and Bournemouth respectively and you have to think both will feel confident their sides have enough to secure the three points.

Norwich City and Bournemouth have both settled into life in the Premier League having found their way onto the scoreboard in games and both having won their first games of the season.

The chance of seeing goals might actually be a touch under-rated by the layers in this one as both teams have shown their ability in front of goal, but also perhaps the defensive lack of concentration. Neither team has achieved a clean sheet in the Premier League this season and both games involving these two in the Championship last year saw the teams hit the back of the net.

The Canaries are home and they will be expected to come forward, but Bournemouth have shown they might have unearthed a striker capable of scoring goals at this level in Callum Wilson and will be dangerous on the counter attack. It wouldn't surprise me at all if both Norwich City and Bournemouth were to score and neither manager is likely to settle for a point if those goals come early enough.

I think there is a distinct possibility this game will end up in a 2-1 scoreline to one of the teams and backing at least three goals to be scored looks the call.


Watford v Swansea City PickThis has been a game that the layers have found it tough to separate Watford and Swansea City and you can understand where they are coming from. They might be at opposite ends of the early Premier League table, but Watford have only been beaten once this season and Swansea City have failed to win away from home.

The draw does look a big player in this one, but I think a small interest is warranted on Swansea City rectifying their lack of away wins by picking up the three points here. While Watford have been tough at the back with a couple of clean sheets at home, I would argue that Swansea City are the most dynamic attack they would have faced with plenty of pace and power in the forward areas to score goals.

Swansea have scored in all 5 games they have played this season in all competitions and they will have room on the counter attack to get at Watford despite the two clean sheets kept by The Hornets at home. Watford have been unlucky in a couple of games this season, especially the home game with West Brom, but they are still trying to find a genuine goalscorer at this level and that might be the difference between the teams.

While Watford have struggled for goals, Swansea have Bafetimbi Gomes and Andre Ayew in very good form and the return of Jefferson Montero gives them more pace on the left side of attack. Swansea City should really have won at Sunderland in the Premier League and I think they will create the chances to win this one.

A little more clinical execution in front of goal should give Garry Monk's side every chance of earning the three points and a small interest in them doing so is warranted.


Manchester United v Liverpool PickThere is no bigger game in English football as the two most successful clubs in the country meet on Saturday, although these days it might be more about trying to finish in the top four than winning the top flight title.

Neither sets of fans will want to admit that, but both Manchester United and Liverpool still look short of the standards being set by Chelsea and Manchester City and finishing in the top four has to be the minimum expected due to the size of the clubs.

Out of the two, Manchester United perhaps look a little stronger in all areas especially now they have managed to keep David De Gea out of the clutches of Real Madrid for another season at least. It is unlikely the Spanish goalkeeper extends his contract, but Louis Van Gaal has to throw him back in on Saturday after Sergio Romero showed why Sampdoria were happy to release him on a free transfer in a poor performance at Swansea City.

It was only a matter of time before Romero had the rush of blood to the head having gotten away with a couple of strange moments and at least it didn't happen in the Liverpool game (touch wood if he is playing on Saturday).

Liverpool had made a positive start to the new season, but a 0-3 home defeat to West Ham United has to have shaken their belief, while losing Philippe Coutinho to suspension is a huge blow. If Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana are also missing, Manchester United should be able to dictate proceedings through their midfield and I do think the home team can extend a strong recent record against their rivals.

Home wins have been one feature of recent games at Old Trafford, but goals has been the other big trend when these two teams meet. 13 of the last 16 Premier League fixtures has seen at least three goals shared by the teams, while the last 8 League games at Old Trafford have seen that number reached.

Early performances from both teams might not have inspired too many to believe they will be seeing goals on Saturday and that is shown up in what the layers think. However, anyone who watched the Arsenal versus Liverpool game earlier this season will know how many chances were created and I do think we will see at least three goals on Saturday.

However, my pick is actually going to be backing Manchester United to win coupled with at least three goals being scored in the match at a decent price. All 6 of Manchester United's last 6 home wins against Liverpool have seen this goal tally reached while the games under Louis Van Gaal against the top teams last season at Old Trafford also saw plenty of wins and goals.

I do think the absence of Coutinho and possibly Henderson and Lallana will give Liverpool big holes to fill and Manchester United can get a tough couple of months off to a flying start on Saturday.


Leicester City v Aston Villa Pick: There are two Super Sunday offerings this week with the prices similar in both when it comes to the win-draw-win markets. Both matches have an odds on favourite to win, but I fancy Leicester City a lot more than I would goal-shy Tottenham Hotspur to earn the three points this weekend.

Pace, movement and clinical finishing has been the key for Leicester City so far this season and that could give this Aston Villa backline plenty of questions to answer in what is a fairly local derby. Leicester City have also shown character as they have come from behind in their last two Premier League games to earn a point and Claudio Ranieri might be a little disappointed they couldn't turn around the game at Bournemouth completely in a 1-1 draw prior to the international break.

The Foxes have shown a consistent goal threat during their first five games in all competitions this season and Aston Villa's leaky defensive problems have shown little sign of abating. They haven't kept a clean sheet since the opening day and Aston Villa have conceded at least twice in each of their last three games in all competitions.

Tim Sherwood has at least given them an attacking platform as Aston Villa do look capable of scoring goals from set pieces and have pace of their own in wide areas and through the middle up front. However, I am not sure they will be able to handle Leicester City effectively through the ninety minutes and it looks like the home team can win this match for the second season in a row at the KP Stadium.


West Ham United v Newcastle United Pick: If you could guess which West Ham United team was going to turn up from week to week, you could be a very rich man already after one month of the season.

This is a team that has lost to 11.00 Birkirkara, 3.50 Bournemouth and 3.50 Leicester City this season, but won games at Arsenal and Liverpool at huge prices. The Jekyll and Hyde nature of the West Ham United team makes them hard to read and they can't underestimate a Newcastle United team that might be moulding into something pretty decent under Steve McClaren.

The Magpies have given both Manchester United and Arsenal tough games, although McClaren will be hoping for more in front of goals having failed to score since the opening day in the League. Alexander Mitrovic is suspended for this game to take away a threat up front (threat to be sent off rather than score at the moment to be honest), but Papiss Cisse can plug the hole and there is some talent behind him.

I expect Newcastle United to give this a right go on Monday Night Football and I do think they can pose West Ham United some problems. Defensively The Hammers have looked all over the place in their two League games at Upton Park, but again the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the team has seen them perform admirably in keeping clean sheets against Arsenal and Liverpool.

It might have something to do with the expectation at home and Slaven Bilic might have to play a little more open at Upton Park than he is expected to do in the away games they have played. Pushing forward has left a few more holes in the defence that have been exploited by the pace that Leicester City and Bournemouth had in forward areas and Newcastle United do have the players to do the same.

To that end having Cisse starting instead of Mitrovic might be a blessing and this could be the most entertaining of the Monday Night Football games to date this season.

MY PICKS: Everton-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City to Win 2-1 @ 8.50 Betfair Sportsbook (0.5 Units)
Norwich City-Bournemouth Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Swansea City @ 2.88 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Manchester United to Win & Over 2.5 Goals Scored @ 3.40 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Leicester City @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
West Ham United-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

September Update8-7-2, + 2.54 Units (33 Units Staked, + 7.70% Yield)

August Final16-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% Yield)

Season 2015/1616-31-1, - 24.34 Units (94 Units Staked, - 25.89% 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)

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