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Weekend Football Picks 2017 (August 19-21)

The second week of the new Premier League season begins on Saturday lunchtime and will be played through to Monday night. This week is a b...

Friday, 16 October 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (October 17-19)

The Euro 2016 Qualifiers break has concluded and it is back on with the domestic and European football for the next month of the season. There is one more international break to come in November and that will be it until March and teams can focus on picking up some real momentum at that point in all the competitions played.

I put together a few thoughts from the last Premier League weekend which can be read here.


The Euro 2016 tournament looks like it will be a very good one even in the extended format and all the twenty teams who have booked their place in France deserve to be there. It is a shame that the Netherlands were unable to turn things around to get into the tournament, but any team that loses all four games played against the Czech Republic and Iceland and takes one point from six against Turkey were unlikely to really improve a tournament.

Of course the Netherlands fans will be a miss as they really bring colour to these tournaments, but otherwise it looks a very strong tournament in the making. It is great for the likes of Northern Ireland, Wales, Iceland and Albania that they are going to be playing in a major international tournament, but the European Championships might be the limit of their ambition at the moment.

All four teams will go into the World Cup Qualifiers with some confidence, but that tournament won’t be offering as many places as the European Championships did for nations on the continent. All of those teams have some difficult Groups to negotiate if they are going to reach the World Cup in Russia in two and a half years time, but they won’t be concerning themselves with that and instead deserve to enjoy their time in the limelight.

They will be Seeded in the bottom pot for the European Championships but I do think International football has certainly seen a gap close between the top Seeds and these Fourth Seeds and I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more of the nations make a real impact next summer.

If I was asked to pick now, I’d go with Wales who have been defensively sound and have a big match winner in Gareth Bale, a player their neighbours in England would love to have in the squad (he’d be the best player in the England squad too).


Anyway, it is back to the Premier League this weekend before the big Champions League and Europa League games during the week and you have to say domestic football is back with a bang with some good looking games on deck. The big story will be at White Hart Lane where Jurgen Klopp opens up his tenure as manager of Liverpool, while Everton host Manchester United later in the day.


Injuries to Sergio Aguero and David Silva might have knocked Manchester City off course a little, and the next few weeks before the next international break look like they will be a lot of fun.


Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool PickThere will be a lot of Liverpool fans out there who will feel the only way is up for the side having appointed Jurgen Klopp to take over from Brendan Rodgers as manager. The German will take charge for his first game at White Hart Lane where Rodgers had led Liverpool to two big wins in the last couple of years and I can't help but feel the Northern Irishman didn't get the benefit of being given a chance this season.

It was almost like the board saw the early fixtures and gave them to Brendan Rodgers knowing they would likely bring in a new manager for an 'easier' set of games. However, that might have meant keeping Rodgers for at least another month although it looks like his support had gone at the club and Klopp's indication he was willing to move to England was enough for the move to be made.

Rodgers is being harshly judged since his departure, but Liverpool are not exactly that far off the pace with 6 points between them and the top of the Premier League table. It will take Klopp some time to get his ideas across to the players, but a fit Daniel Sturridge is a boost for Liverpool and I can see them giving Tottenham Hotspur some problems in this one.

Defensively Tottenham Hotspur haven't always been sound, but the return of Christian Eriksen is a huge boost for them going the other way. They will recognise this Liverpool team isn't exactly watertight themselves and the 1-1 result has to be a big player considering 5 of the last 6 Liverpool games have ended in that scoreline.

However, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have produced plenty of goals in recent games against one another and there should be chances at both ends of the pitch in this one. The last 6 games overall and the last 8 at White Hart Lane have all produced at least three goals and I imagine this game will have every chance of hitting that total too.

Both teams are better going forward than defensively although the one unknown is how quickly Liverpool will get used to what Jurgen Klopp is going to want from them. With players being away for international duty, it will be tough to implement too much in time for an early Saturday kick off so I do favour Spurs to win the game, but backing goals looks a much more appealing option considering the defensive issues and history of the fixture.


Chelsea v Aston Villa PickJose Mourinho has said he won't walk away from the Chelsea job and almost dared the board to make the decision to sack him in the wake of the 1-3 defeat to Southampton two weeks ago. There is little doubt that the pressure is beginning to increase on Mourinho with rumours of the squad being fractured from the manager, while Mourinho's own unhappiness has been in the headlines all season.

Everyone at Stamford Bridge are disputing the stories out there, but Chelsea have looked so far away from the side that walked to the Premier League title just a few months ago. Signings that Mourinho wanted were not forthcoming in the transfer window and it does look like some players have perhaps not worked as hard as when they were chasing the title as they need to if they want to defend it.

This is almost a 'must win' game for Chelsea as they try to get some momentum behind them for another difficult month before the final international break before the end of the year. The title might be gone already, but Chelsea must finish top four and need to start chasing down those positions now.

Chelsea should be too good for Aston Villa in a normal season, especially as the latter have been struggling and their own manager is under pressure. Tim Sherwood has rued the fact that he moved away from his own philosophies in the 0-1 loss to Stoke City last time out and he is expected to ask for a much more usual attacking approach from his team.

Sherwood might actually be more in danger of losing his job than Mourinho at the moment and another couple of defeats in the next two weeks might spell the end for him. However, his Aston Villa team have plenty of pace to hurt Chelsea and Sherwood might be using this as a game where they have nothing to lose and so will have a go at Chelsea.

Aston Villa have scored in all 4 away games in the Premier League this season and that has increased their goalscoring run to 9 away games in the League going back to last season. They don't keep too many clean sheets either and Chelsea's own defensive concerns makes the odds against quotes for both teams to score look far too appealing to ignore.


Crystal Palace v West Ham United PickAlan Pardew has done a fantastic job at Crystal Palace which has seen him linked with the England job if Roy Hodgson is forced to step down next summer.

They still look very short to me to win this game against a West Ham United team that have been rampant away from home this season, especially in games they have not been expected to win. Victories at Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City is mighty fine form, although The Hammers didn’t deal with the expectation at Sunderland when they had to fight back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw.

Even that result shows that Slaven Bilic has got his West Ham United side on point when it comes to paying away from home and this could be a tight game as both teams are happier playing on the counter attack. Crystal Palace dealt with the onus of having to attack in a 2-0 win over West Brom, but the latter didn’t offer as much of a threat as I would expect from West Ham United on the counter in this one.

A derby game can produce some funny moments too, but I do think Palace are short considering they have not been the same team at home as they have on their travels. Wins over Aston Villa and West Brom might change that perception, but Crystal Palace needed a late, late goal to beat Aston Villa and I like the way Bilic has West Ham United playing away from Upton Park.

The expectation is all on Crystal Palace to win the game, but I like West Ham United playing them tough and earning some kind of positive result.


Everton v Manchester United PickTrips to Goodison Park have been very difficult for Manchester United in recent years and losing three straight times here will give the side something other to think about than merely trying to recover from a very one-sided loss at Arsenal.

It will be far from easy and I am shocked that Manchester United are as short a price to win here as they are. In fact you can go the other way and say Everton are a very appealing price to win this game when you take in they have lost 1 in 7 at home to Manchester United and have those three straight wins behind them, all without conceding a goal.

This Manchester United have at least looked a little more threatening when going forward and I think they will have chances even if John Stones returns for the home team. Manchester United have been involved in some high scoring away games recently because they still look very suspect at the back when teams try and attack them and Everton will certainly not be shy about doing that.

The game might work out for them as Roberto Martinez can employ his counter attacking tactics against a Louis Van Gaal team that will often dominate the possession. I am not a big fan of possession for possession's sake and there have been times when Manchester United have lacked an impetus to get the ball forward and become predictable with their passing.

That can make them easier to defend, but they have also used the pace of Anthony Martial and his ability to get behind the last man to create opportunities. The last five Manchester United away games have all produced at least three goals each time because of their defensive mistakes as well as an ability to score goals, while Everton have shown they can score goals themselves but also look vulnerable at the back.

Both Premier League games last season saw the teams share three goals each time and I think this is a fixture that can certainly see that target reached again. Hopefully Manchester United can bounce back from their loss to Arsenal, but this is a difficult match for them and looks like a 2-1 scoreline either way.


Southampton v Leicester City PickBoth Ronald Koeman and Claudio Ranieri have to be praised for the way their Southampton and Leicester City teams have performed this season even if that doesn't always receive the praise of other managers.

Jose Mourinho criticised Ranieri for his lack of success as a manager in terms of winning trophies, but Leicester City won't worry about a relegation candidate at the moment and instead will focus on themselves. There has been an immense show of character in the squad and finishing in the European places would be the equivalent of a trophy in terms of success and Ranieri has to be given credit for his team's belief.

There will be plenty of eyes watching Ronald Koeman too, particularly from his home nation where the national team are on the look-out for a new manager. Koeman has long been linked with that role and his success with Southampton might make him the favourite to take over as the Netherlands manager in the near future.

For now they concentrate on Southampton hosting Leicester City and I think this could be another exciting game this weekend. Of course the players returning from international duty might have taken away some momentum, but Leicester City have both scored and conceded plenty of goals and I don't believe they step back from the attacking approach that has paid out dividends.

All four of Southampton's League games at St Mary's have also produced goals and they have plenty of pace in the forward areas that cause problems, as do Leicester City.

Southampton look short to win the game and I think the option of there being at least three goals shared out at a slightly bigger price is much more appealing. Both teams have scored and conceded goals fairly regularly in their home and away games respectively and I wouldn't be surprised of a high scoring draw of a 2-1 success for one of these teams.


Watford v Arsenal PickThis must have been a frustrating two weeks for Arsene Wenger who must surely have wanted to play another game as soon as possible after a near perfect win over Manchester United in the Premier League. The team were flying, particularly Alexis Sanchez, and Wenger will be hoping that Arsenal can pick up from where they left off.

Sanchez will be returning from two internationals with Chile and I wonder if he is going to be rested with a big game against Bayern Munich to come just days later. The long travel is a problem, but Sanchez was flying before heading off to represent Chile and looks to be over the emotion of winning the Copa America with his nation.

While he has been a key part of the recent success Arsenal were having, the rest of the team have also played well in wins at Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur. There are goals in the Arsenal team and I do wonder if Watford are going to be capable of keeping up in a shoot-out especially with their own troubles in front of goal noted.

I respect the way Watford have performed defensively since returning to the Premier League, but this Arsenal team had been rampant going into the international break aside from the loss to Olympiacos. I do wonder if the Bayern Munich game coming up during the week will have taken some of the focus from the team, but I don't think that will be the case with their run in the Premier League up the table.

It has been a while since Watford have hosted Arsenal and the fans will definitely be up for the game against a North London opponent which is effectively a local derby. However, I am not sure they have the quality to really contain them especially as the game at Vicarage Road will have the fans urging the team to get forward when they can.

That might leave some space for Arsenal to exploit and they have played well away from home with that result at Leicester City the stand out one. I'll back Arsenal to win this one by a couple of goals and look for them to cover the one goal Asian Handicap here at odds against.

MY PICKS: Tottenham Hotspur-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Chelsea-Aston Villa Both Teams to Score @ 2.05 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
West Ham United + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet365 (2 Units)
Everton-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Coral (2 Units)
Southampton-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

Arsenal - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)

October Update5-9, - 6 Units (25.50 Units Staked, - 23.53% Yield)
September Final29-30-3, + 4.18 Units (117.5 Units Staked, + 3.58% 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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