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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (September 19-20)

It has been a pretty disappointing week in Europe for the English sides and that has led to new fears that the fourth Champions League spot in the Premier League is under threat from the improved Italian League.

One journalist has wrote that the Italian teams need to better the English results by one draw over the course of this season for that fourth place to be moved from England to Italy and that has to be a real fear for the Premier League.

Three defeats in four Champions League games puts some pressure on the English teams in that competition, although the Group Stage means they have recovery time. The bigger concern has to the relative coolness English teams have shown towards the Europa League in recent years which has seen managers pick weakened teams compared with Italy whose sides see the benefit of being involved in that tournament.

The Manchester City defeat to Juventus be seen as the reality of the moving of the fourth spot, although I still don't understand why the English team continues to show real nervousness in that competition. There is so much talent and experience in the Manchester City squad that it is becoming a real mental issue for the players that they play so far within themselves in the Champions League and it will be the reason Manuel Pellegrini loses his job at the end of the season if they don't make an impact in the competition this season.

Manchester United and Arsenal suffered embarrassing losses on foreign fields, but the former will only be concerned about the injury suffered by Luke Shaw.

Shaw was fast becoming one of my favourite players at Old Trafford after a stunning start to the new season when he has arguably been Manchester United's best player and I think his absence is a big blow to the 'balance' Louis Van Gaal has been looking for in his team.

I can only hope Shaw's recovery goes to plan and he comes back stronger than ever.

Chelsea got back to winning ways during the week and that will have given them a boost going into the Premier League game with Arsenal this weekend and it looks to be a really interesting game that should develop at Stamford Bridge.

You can read last week's thoughts from the Premier League here.

Chelsea v Arsenal PickThis is the biggest game of the week, but I guess the television companies would have expected to have seen two teams at the very top of the Premier League.

Instead they get a 17th placed Chelsea against 4th placed Arsenal, but there have only been five games and I expect both sides to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.

Without a doubt the game means more to Chelsea who need to start winning games and moving up the Premier League table, but Arsene Wenger will be desperate for Arsenal to bounce back from an embarrassing Champions League defeat.

There is no love lost between the managers which also makes this a game of fascination for the neutrals tuning in and I think it will be a close game. The Chelsea defence still doesn't look like they are playing with too much confidence, but Arsenal have mental issues to overcome despite beating Chelsea in the Community Shield.

Despite the better start to the season, Arsenal still look vulnerable and I think there is a lack of characters in the squad that can pull them up when under the cosh. They've had the tougher game during the week having to play with ten men for a long period in Croatia, but enough players were rested who can come in and make a difference.

Tough match to call, but I do think Chelsea look a very generous price off the back of a morale boosting Champions League win and their record against Arsenal in recent years. It will be tight and tense with both teams knowing the importance of the fixture even at this stage of the season, but I fancy Jose Mourinho gets the better of Wenger again and helps find a way for his side to earn the three points.

Bournemouth v Sunderland PickThis already has the makings of a huge game that could be vital in deciding the relegation places next May as Bournemouth and Sunderland try to win their first home/away League game of the season.

Both might feel they have dropped points in those games that they shouldn't have as Bournemouth conceded late to draw with Leicester City in their last game here and Sunderland had led at Aston Villa in an eventual draw.

Clean sheets have proved to be a problem for both teams, but both have also shown they can score goals which makes it a surprise to me that the layers have at least three goals to be shared at odds against.

The two Sunderland away games have seen the side both score and concede at least two goals and there will be opportunities for Bournemouth to get their chances and score the goals to win the game.

However, it also seems clear that Sunderland are capable of scoring goals on their travels and I expect they will also get amongst the goals in this one. I like the chances of both teams hitting the net at least once and I think the draw is not exactly a result that Eddie Howe or Dick Advocaat will want to settle for so this could be a surprisingly entertaining game.

Backing goals is far more appealing than backing Bournemouth at a comically short price and that is the angle I will go.

Stoke City v Leicester City PickThe early League games for Stoke City have been a disappointment, but there have been some factors as to why they haven't won a game yet and I think the points tally doesn't tell the full picture. Stoke City lost to a late Liverpool goal and were reduced to nine men before losing to West Brom in their two home games and I expect a much better outing from them in this one.

There is too much attacking talent in the Stoke City squad to continue to struggle in front of goal and they are facing a Leicester City team that haven't exactly been watertight at the back.

It has been a successful season for Leicester City in terms of results achieved, but they have yet to keep a clean sheet and that is where Stoke City will look to take advantage.

However, Leicester City have shown they have plenty of pace in the forward areas to give Stoke City plenty of problems too and I am looking for another game that might produce a few goals on Saturday.

The layers are expecting both teams to score, as am I, but I think there is real tempting price being put out on there being at least three goals shared by the teams and one that looks worth backing. Neither League game was goal-filled last season, but both teams have a real attacking intent this year and with a lack of clean sheets from the teams, I think goals are the order of the day.

Swansea City v Everton PickThis is a difficult game to predict a winner from as Swansea City would have had some confidence dented in the 1-0 loss at Watford, while Everton will have been boosted by a 3-1 win over Chelsea last weekend.

They have the same number of points after five Premier League games and both have progressed in the Capital One Cup so there are plenty of similarities between Swansea City and Everton. Both have come through some difficult games to reach the 8 points they have and this has all the makings of a tight game that is decided by a moment of magic or a mistake.

Swansea City have been solid at home, but Everton have been tough to beat on their travels and the draw has to be a huge player in the match.

The home team are a pretty healthy favourite to win the game, but Everton have loved coming to The Liberty Stadium in the Premier League with 3 wins and a draw in their four League games here.

I think Swansea City will cause some problems and it will be a 'pretty' game as both teams like to get the ball on the floor and present a strong passing game. Both have direct players out wide that can carry the ball against the other and I think both Swansea City and Everton will have their chances.

4 of the last 6 fixtures between these teams have seen both teams get on the scoreboard and I think both teams will score at least once in this one in what could easily be a 1-1 draw.

Manchester City v West Ham United PickAnother disappointing Champions League night has to be put to the back of the Manchester City minds as they return to Premier League action this weekend. Manuel Pellegrini was extremely disappointed that Manchester City lost the game against Juventus and you don't blame him as the side lost a lead at home, while also showing some naivety that you would have thought their experience would have eliminated.

It makes life difficult in the Group, but Manchester City have time to turn things around and will be looking to maintain their impressive start to the Premier League season.

They won't be underestimating a West Ham United team that has won impressively at Arsenal and Liverpool already this season and looked confident in a 2-0 home win over Newcastle United.

Slaven Bilic has found the perfect away formula in the first two Premier League games, but I think Manchester City are playing on a different level to Arsenal and Liverpool at the moment. You have to think there will be a backlash to the Champions League loss during the week and the return of Sergio Aguero makes them a far more intimidating threat going forward.

West Ham United will make life difficult and try and hit Manchester City on the break which might be successful if Vincent Kompany can't be around to marshall the defence. There is a threat from The Hammers who have some pace in the forward areas, but I think Manchester City will prove a little too strong on the day and make it six wins from six games.

Once Manchester City make the breakthrough, I expect them to go up the gears and win this one by a couple of goals and keep the pressure on the title rivals hoping to peg them back.

Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace Pick: The Premier League teams clearly feel that playing in the Europa League messes too much with their League schedule and Tottenham Hotspur have seemingly struggled out of the Europa League games.

I had a quick look at that and they did have three wins and six games they failed to win following their last nine Europa League games so there might be something there. Not many believe the two days rest between Thursday and Sunday is sufficient and you can see why Mauricio Pochettino rested so many starters in the win over Qarabag this week.

Harry Kane will back in along with players like Nacer Chadli in the forward positions, but Son Heung-Min has to feel he has done enough to start this week.

Even though a few players were rested, this is a big test for Tottenham Hotspur in front of the television cameras as Crystal Palace come to town. The Eagles won at Chelsea in their most recent away game which means they have won 8 of their last 10 away games in the Premier League which is an incredible run.

You can easily see why Crystal Palace have been so successful as they are blessed with pace in the forward areas which makes them a constant menace on the counter attack. Playing away from home seems to suit them perfectly as they do tend to have more space to exploit and Alan Pardew's men won't be intimidated by facing Spurs having already played Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City this season.

OK, they did lose two of those games, but Arsenal and Manchester City had to work incredibly hard to do that while not many teams will follow Crystal Palace in beating Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the League this season.

While there will be many who might back Crystal Palace at a little under odds against to simply avoid defeat, I think a small interest in them in the 'Draw No Bet' market is warranted. They have been on a great winning run away from home and Crystal Palace could exploit any tired legs that remain in the Tottenham Hotspur line up.

Crystal Palace might not have won on their last four visits to White Hart Lane, but the stars might have aligned for them to snap that run here and a small interest in them to do so with a return in case of the draw is warranted.

MY PICKS: Chelsea @ 2.45 Bet365 (2 Units)
Bournemouth-Sunderland Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Stoke City-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Swansea City-Everton Both Teams to Score @ 1.89 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace Draw No Bet @ 3.00 Coral (1 Unit)

September Update17-18-2, + 0.92 Units (69.5 Units Staked, + 1.32% 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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