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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...

Friday, 25 September 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (September 26-28)

The Capital One Cup took centre stage during the week, while the European Leagues had a full schedule of games as their later start than the English Premier League means they are playing catch up in terms of number of games played going into the second international break.

That international break will be after the next round of Premier League games played in early October as the European Championships fills sixteen of the twenty-four places that are up for grabs in France next year.

I had a few comments out of the last weekend's football including Diego Costa, Anthony Martial and North East football troubles which can be read here.

The picks so far this season have been just missing the bit of luck they need which was highlighted by Bournemouth and Sunderland last week where two of the three goals I had predicted were scored in the first nine minutes. Some poor finishing and refereeing prevented the third goal being scored and that means the picks for September are narrowly in the red.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City PickIf this game had been played two weeks ago, I am convinced Manchester City would have been a much shorter price to win at White Hart Lane in the form that both themselves and Tottenham Hotspur had been in.

The losses to Juventus and West Ham United would have knocked some confidence from Manchester City, or at least inspired the opponents, and Tottenham Hotspur have also improved since then. Back to back Premier League wins has Spurs moving in the right direction, but they have been tight wins and I am not sure there is enough character in the team to recover if they were to fall behind.

I can't doubt the talent that Tottenham Hotspur have, but they do look short of the top teams and Mauricio Pochettino hasn't finishing building the squad to his own taste. While they will give Manchester City something to think about with some pacy players in the forward line, I don't know how the Spurs defence is going to cope with what Manchester City can throw at them the other way.

If David Silva is passed fit, Manchester City should have enough creativity to open up the Tottenham Hotspur defence and I do think they have enjoyed the space that the home team offer them in their visits. It was an impressive win for Spurs over Crystal Palace last weekend, but I think the level of opponent increases again and Manchester City have been scoring plenty of goals away from home to think they can come through with a victory here.

Leicester City v Arsenal Pick: How many people would have predicted that Leicester City versus Arsenal would be a top five match up after six games in the Premier League had been played? That is the surprising situation going into the weekend, although Leicester City have had to battle back from 0-2 deficits in their last two Premier League games to remain unbeaten.

One of those came at the KP Stadium when Leicester City didn't just come back from 0-2 down to Aston Villa, but they actually won the game 3-2. Character is not to be questioned, while Leicester City have the pace in the forward areas that is likely to give any team in England problems on their day.

This is a confident team that is clearly having a slight edge when it comes to fitness over opponents with the team finishing strongly in their last four Premier League games and being forced to come from behind in each one. The fact they have done that to remain unbeaten is a real testament to the work being done on the training ground, but three of their last four Premier League games have ended in draws while Leicester City needed extra time to beat West Ham United in the Capital One Cup.

Going behind to Arsenal is a different story than going behind to Aston Villa or Stoke City and I wouldn't fancy the Leicester City chances of recovering that deficit this weekend.

However, they might be able to take advantage if Arsenal are not fully focused considering The Gunners have a must win Champions League game against Olympiacos in just three days time. Defensively there have been some problems for Leicester City and I expect Arsenal will exploit some of those, but this is a team that is also scoring plenty of goals.

It would be a big surprise if both teams don't score on Saturday and this has all the makings of a game that will feature goals. This could easily feature as many as four goals with the way Leicester City have been attacking and defending and the natural way Arsenal approach games, but I will simply look for at least three goals to be shared out this week.

Liverpool v Aston Villa PickLiverpool and Aston Villa have both had a difficult time in recent games and there are going to be plenty of nerves and lots of tension in this fixture on Saturday. Both teams are desperate for the three points to ease some of the tension that exists at both clubs and that is going to make this a fascinating watch.

Tim Sherwood is not under pressure in his position as manager, but Aston Villa won't want to see another relegation battle develop in the coming months. He has made a lot of signings and there have been a few goings in the summer so the expectation is that Sherwood will be given the time to turn things around even if the immediate results don't pick up.

The same can't be said for Brendan Rodgers who has seen the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and Jurgen Klopp linked with the top job at Anfield in the last few days. A home draw with Norwich City has extended a poor turn in form and the two wins Liverpool opened the season with feel like they are a lifetime ago.

Liverpool haven't always played badly, but they have struggled to get the consistency in the final third, although a return of Daniel Sturridge could be huge for them. Christian Benteke might not be able to play against his former club, but that might work for Rodgers who can use Sturridge in his natural position and return to the kind of game many of these Liverpool players are more comfortable playing.

This has been something of a bogey fixture for Liverpool in recent seasons, winning just 1 of their last 6 at Anfield against Aston Villa and losing to them last season. Pressure does a funny thing to teams so it won't be easy for Liverpool, although Aston Villa's poor defensive record should give Liverpool a chance to earn the three points.

It is a 'must win' game for Liverpool which also produces funny results, but I think they can do that this weekend.

Manchester United v Sunderland PickI really don't know how many more defeats Dick Advocaat can take as manager of Sunderland before either he decides to give someone else a chance of the board makes that decision for him.

After seeing his Sunderland team beaten easily at the hands of Bournemouth and Manchester City during the week, the next two League games at Manchester United and at home against West Ham United are huge for Advocaat before the international break.

Two more losses might see Sunderland cut ties with their Dutch manager and this week he faces a compatriot in the opposite dug-out who was very impressed with the character Manchester United showed in winning 2-3 at Southampton last week.

Louis Van Gaal will be pleased that his side have begun to respond by scoring goals after a fairly slow start in front of goal and back to back Premier League games with three goals scored will please the manager. There is a real possibility that Manchester United can challenge for the Premier League title, but we will know more about them at the end of October once they have played Arsenal, Everton and Manchester City.

Those three games upcoming means Manchester United can't afford to drop points on Saturday and I don't think they will do that. Even the big Champions League game against Wolfsburg is played on Wednesday so there is enough recovery time for Manchester United ahead of that to ensure they are fully focused on the task at hand.

With the goals flowing again and Sunderland looking a mess at the back, I can see Manchester United reaching the three goal mark for the third League game in a row. This is a game I am expecting Manchester United to dominate and put that domination on the scoreboard with a confidence boosting win to take into the Champions League game next week.

Stoke City v Bournemouth PickThe story out of Stoke City's home draw with Leicester City was the home team were as good in the first half as they were bad in the second and that has to be a concern for Mark Hughes. No one expected Stoke City to be involved in the relegation scrap this season, but they will be a little nervous and looking to finally get the first League win on the board to build some momentum.

The longer they wait for that win, the more nervousness spreads around the squad and it becomes a vicious circle which can be hard to get out of. A home game with Bournemouth is the kind of match that Stoke City would be expecting to win and they will be given the chance to play their game against a team that likes to get the ball down themselves.

It could produce a pretty good game for the neutrals as both Stoke City and Bournemouth have shown they are perhaps better going forward than they have been defensively. That is especially the case for Bournemouth who have found goals at this level, but have struggled at the other end with the clean sheet against Sunderland the first of the season in the Premier League.

Even that clean sheet came thanks to a couple of poor refereeing decisions and I expect Stoke City to create chances as they did against Leicester City.

However, it is the nerves of trying to put the first win on the board that should give Bournemouth a chance to get amongst the goals themselves and I do think both teams will score in this one. The last two Bournemouth away games in the Premier League have produced at least three goals and Stoke City showed last week against Leicester City that they are capable of scoring goals while still a little unsure at the back.

At odds against, backing at least three goals looks to be the call.

West Ham United v Norwich City PickI don't think there will be too many teams that win at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City this season, but West Ham United have done that in their first three away games in the Premier League already. You can't take away home impressive some of those performances have been, but Slaven Bilic will be hoping to keep that form going at Upton Park where they have lost 2 of their 3 League games.

The start of that was a 2-0 win over Newcastle United a couple of weeks ago and West Ham United will certainly put the pressure on Norwich City, but they can't take this game for granted.

Despite returning to the Premier League this season, Norwich City have shown they are capable of mixing with teams at this level with some decent results through the first two months of the campaign. A 1-1 draw at Liverpool showed that Norwich City will be tough to beat for any team at the moment, but West Ham United have pace and power in forward areas and can prove too good.

The Hammers have played well against Norwich City at home in recent years and did win their last League game against them at Upton Park two years ago. This game is going to be all about making a positive start as they did against Newcastle United because the counter attack is definitely a tactic that suits West Ham United more than having to do the consistent pressing.

That is part of the reason they have been so much more effective away from home yet have lost home games against Leicester City and Bournemouth. Those losses will give Norwich City confidence, but West Ham United look a decent price at odds against to win this weekend.

Newcastle United v Chelsea Pick: Go back ten days and all the stories were about the pressure that Jose Mourinho was under at Stamford Bridge, but three consecutive wins over three competitions have eased those tensions. It doesn't mean Chelsea can exhale now as they continue to try and build up some steam to move up the Premier League table as Mourinho takes his side to St James' Park where he has yet to win as a manager.

The Blues have lost their last two visits to St James' Park and this is clearly a bogey ground for Mourinho, although it is hard to see how Newcastle United lift themselves after the knocks they have taken over the last month. All the positives of the beginning of the Steve McClaren reign are gone and Mourinho was sympathetic to the former England manager who is beginning to feel the pressure at Newcastle United.

Of course the new signings made in the summer means there is going to be a transition period for Newcastle United, but the fans expected much more than being 19th in the League table after half a dozen games. Going out of the League Cup to a side from the Championship and seeing that result drop Newcastle United to a 3 game losing run at home is beginning to turn St James' Park into anything other than the fortress it should be.

A lack of goals is a problem that McClaren has to fix, although Chelsea haven't exactly been watertight for much of the season, and it is hard to see where Newcastle United go from here. A home game with Chelsea followed by a trip to Manchester City might leave McClaren in a nervy spot during the two week international break and it is going to be tough for them to raise their game on Saturday.

Players can be motivated by the fact they are playing the Champions and they have beaten Chelsea twice in a row here, but I think Mourinho's side might have turned a corner. They haven't played too many top teams in their 3 game winning run, but Chelsea look confident although the absence of Diego Costa is a blow.

There are still players capable of winning this game for Chelsea although they look short enough considering recent results in this part of the North East. I do think Chelsea have looked like they have got some defensive organisation back and the fans might just put too much pressure on the home side to get anything consistent going in the final third. Newcastle United have only scored one goal in their last three games at home and I think Chelsea can find their way to the three points while keeping a clean sheet this weekend.

MY PICKS: Manchester City @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Leicester City-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.73 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Stoke City-Bournemouth Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
West Ham United @ 2.25 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Chelsea Win to Nil @ 2.88 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

September Update19-22-2, - 0.88 Units (80.5 Units Staked, - 1% 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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