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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Midweek Football Picks 2015 (November 24-26)

I'll be honest, I can't seem to get out of my own way when it comes to the football picks this season with so many games seemingly going far away from where I expected them to.

Only a few of those have been down to bad luck so I can't even point to that, but they have simply been bad picks and I have to be better.

Last season wasn't great, but the previous years have been positive so unless the Premier League and Champions League have literally changed something fundamentally, I expect improvements.

Arsenal v Dinamo Zagreb Pick: Arsenal's home win over Bayern Munich last month has given them an outside chance of making it through to the Second Round of the Champions League. The two opening losses to the weaker teams in the Group has given Arsenal a mountain to climb and they do need help from the Bavarian giants, but The Gunners should have a chance to qualify for the next Round in the next couple of weeks.

First off they need to beat Dinamo Zagreb at The Emirates Stadium and I expect they are going to be far too good for the Croatian Champions. A 2-1 defeat in Zagreb was a huge surprise result for Arsenal, but they should have been well ahead in that game prior to going behind and then losing Olivier Giroud to a first half red card made it a very difficult challenge.

Injuries are a big problem for Arsenal at the moment, but their attacking threat through Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud should pay off against a team that really isn't up to this level.

Dinamo Zagreb might dominate their domestic League, but they won't face teams like Arsenal too often and were crushed by Bayern Munich in their visit to Germany. If Arsenal can get their noses in front in the first half hour of this game, I would expect them to take revenge over Dinamo Zagreb with a comfortable win and then keep an ear out for the result of the Bayern Munich-Olympiacos game which will be played at the same time.

Barcelona v Roma Pick: Barcelona are coming in off an almost perfect performance when they crushed Real Madrid 0-4 away from home in the Spanish Primera Division. That result will make Barcelona strong favourites to retain their title, especially with Lionel Messi back after a two month absence, and now they will focus on booking their place in the Champions League Second Round.

A win on Tuesday will ensure Barcelona win the Group regardless of what happens in the other game in the section and they look a team with a lot of confidence behind them. Messi is expected to start to build his match fitness and Roma will do well to stay with them in the Nou Camp.

Roma are very much looking to book their place in the Second Round too and a win on Tuesday will make them favourites to follow Barcelona into the Last 16.

This is not a team that travels very well in the Champions League and I think it is a big test for Roma to take on a rampant Barcelona who have been keeping clean sheets and scoring plenty of goals. A defeat isn't the end of the road for Roma, although the permutations for qualifying to the Second Round will be clear at the end of the evening.

I struggle to see Roma keeping up with the Barcelona attacking quality and with the confidence the home team has and I will back the defending Champions to win by a couple of goals.

Maccabi Tel Aviv v Chelsea Pick: A really disappointing season to this point for Chelsea can show some light at the end of the tunnel if they can move through to the Second Round of the Champions League. Chelsea are a club in turmoil, or so it seems from outside of Stamford Bridge, but a victory in Israel coupled with a Dynamo Kiev failure to win in Porto will be enough for Jose Mourinho's side.

They should be too good for Maccabi Tel Aviv who have been overmatched in the Group Stage of the Champions League having surprisingly come through the Qualifiers. Maccabi Tel Aviv have lost all four games in the Group by at leas two goals including home defeats to both Dynamo Kiev (0-2) and Porto (1-3).

My one concern in backing Chelsea is that they haven't won any of their last 6 away games in all competitions and even that last victory came at League One Walsall.

Only one of their last ten away Champions League games has seen Chelsea win the game by more than a single goal, but they will have taken some heart from the performance in the 1-0 win over Norwich City. With the home side not likely to prevent at least two goals being scored against them, I do think Chelsea will be able to win this by a couple of goals on the night and will back them to do so.

CSKA Moscow v Wolfsburg PickThis is a big game for both CSKA Moscow and Wolfsburg and the importance of the three points from the fixture will not be lost on either team. For CSKA Moscow it is much more simple than it is for Wolfsburg as any defeat means they will be out of the Champions League regardless of what happens in the other game later in the evening and even a draw might not be good enough for them.

That should mean CSKA Moscow look to get on the front foot in this one and they have been a team that can score goals, although recent form has been a real concern for them.

For Wolfsburg a defeat might not be the end of the road, but they will have a keen interest in the other game being played at Old Trafford, especially as they face Manchester United at home to end the Group Stage. Wolfsburg might feel confident of their chances at home to beat United, but they have struggled away from home which is a concern in this fixture.

Wolfsburg have lost 5 of their last 6 away games in all competitions including conceding twice at both Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven. A lack of goals has to be a bother for the away side having failed to hit the net in 3 of their last 4 away games, but this is a game which should feature both teams looking to get forward to score the goals that will take them potentially through to the Second Round.

You have to remember that CSKA Moscow have conceded at least once in their last 12 away games in the Champions League, but have also scored in 10 of their last 11 at home. If this game does get to 1-1, I don't think either team will settle for that result and will still look to secure the win and so backing at least three goals to be shared in the early game on Wednesday looks the call.

Juventus v Manchester City PickThis is almost a 'nothing to lose' game for both Juventus and Manchester City in terms of being knocked out of the Champions League, but the importance of winning the Group will not be lost on either team. However, both teams seem to be ones that will look to make things happen rather than sitting back and hoping things happen and so there could be some entertainment for those watching.

Juventus at home will be expected to get forward, but Manchester City have shown that they not a side that will look to settle for a point and instead will look to play attractive attacking football.

For Manchester City the concern has to be the absence of Vincent Kompany which has seen the team concede far too many goals. However the return of Sergio Aguero means they have a focal point who can score goals and I think the layers might have got it a little wrong with their lack of expectation for goals.

Neither side has any reason to step back in this one and I think both teams will score at least once and there could be spaces to exploit as the game wears on. Winning the Group is so important for both teams that I think they will search for the win until the end of the game and I can see at least three goals shared by these teams for a second time this season.

Malmo v Paris Saint-Germain PickIt is going to be an emotional time for Zlatan Ibrahimovic returning to Malmo even if he won't say as much in the media. The fans are certainly going to give their national hero a big ovation before Malmo look to earn a surprise win over Paris Saint-Germain that will give them an outside chance of moving into the Second Round of the Champions League at PSG's expense.

That is a big ask for Malmo having to beat PSG and Real Madrid in consecutive games and this is a team that has struggled to compete with the top teams in the Champions League over the last couple of years. Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Real Madrid have all won here by the same 0-2 scoreline and Paris Saint-Germain are certainly of that level of team.

Malmo will certainly try to make life difficult for their visitors and the conditions in Sweden means there is snow and cold that Paris Saint-Germain need to deal with.

However, I am not convinced that it is going to be enough to put these teams on an equal setting and Paris Saint-Germain should be too good on the day. It wouldn't surprise me if Ibrahimovic scores the winner in this one, but I think backing PSG to become the fourth team in the last two Group Stages to win here with a clean sheet looks to be the call.

Manchester United v PSV Eindhoven PickManchester United and PSV Eindhoven both have a very big opportunity to get through to the Second Round of the Champions League and this could be the pivotal game to decide which one of those teams are able to do that. It is arguably more important for Manchester United to win the game with a visit to Wolfsburg to come, while on the other hand PSV Eindhoven could overcome a loss by beating CSKA Moscow at home in their final game and hope Manchester United beat Wolfsburg.

In all honesty PSV Eindhoven can't rely on that to happen as a win would almost give Manchester United a reason to rest some players in the final game at Wolfsburg knowing qualification is assured. Of course Manchester United will want to win the Group to avoid the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Second Round, so the pressure is on United to win this game and get into a position to do so.

Both home wins in the Champions League have come after facing some adversity and that has to be a concern for Manchester United fans. CSKA Moscow could easily have gone a goal ahead just thirty seconds before Wayne Rooney scored the winning goal in Manchester United's last game at Old Trafford, while Wolfsburg took the lead here.

However, both teams are arguably better than PSV Eindhoven and the Dutch Champions have conceded at least two goals in each away defeat in the Group. PSV were 3-0 down at CSKA Moscow before fighting back for a 3-2 loss and they were beaten 2-0 at Wolfsburg, while Manchester United outplayed them for much of the first half in the first game of the Group.

That injury suffered by Luke Shaw seemed to affect Manchester United badly, as you would expect, but I expect the team to be a little more ready this time. Manchester United might not be the most exhilarating team to watch at this moment of time, and they do have a big Premier League game at leaders Leicester City on Saturday, but I still think the home team win this by a couple of goals.

PSV Eindhoven have conceded too many on their travels in the Group so far and even in the Dutch League they have been poor defensively. While they have had the quality to make up for that in the Eredivisie, it has been harder in the Champions League and I like Manchester United to win by a couple of goals.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Real Madrid PickAfter keeping Rafa Benitez in the role of manager for the foreseeable future, Real Madrid will be looking for an immediate reaction to their 0-4 home defeat to Barcelona by confirming top spot in their Champions League Group. Shakhtar Donetsk are expecting a backlash from Real Madrid and they have struggled to match Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid in earlier games in the Group and might find it difficult again.

I fully expect Benitez to go back to basics after seeing his side concede seven games in the last two games and making sure Real Madrid are solid at the back.

That could be a key to their performance in the Ukraine as their attacking threats should provide a way to goal to secure the win and Real Madrid have kept clean sheets in all four Champions League games.

As well as Shakhtar Donetsk have done in the past in this competition, they have failed to score in three of four games in the Group and were beaten to nil by Paris Saint-Germain here. They have also failed to score in half of their last six Champions League home games which have all been played away from Donetsk and I think a small interest on Real Madrid bouncing back in the correct manner from their El Classico humiliation has to be taken.

That small interest should be on Real Madrid wining this game with a clean sheet and that is what I will back.

Monaco v Anderlecht PickThis Group has been tight from the beginning, but we might finally get some separation on Match Day 5.

Home advantages could be key in the two games to be played this week and it is Monaco who I believe will have a little too much for Anderlecht in this game. A win for Monaco would virtually assure them of a place in the Last 32 on Thursday ahead of their final game in London against Tottenham Hotspur and I think they will just about get over the line to get that.

Monaco have won 3 in a row at home by narrow 1-0 margins, but they should be too good for Anderlecht who have lost 4 in a row away from home in the Europa League. Losses in Qarabag and Tottenham Hotspur won't inspire much confidence in the Anderlecht squad and I think Monaco will prove a little too good on the night and earn a vital three points in the Group.

AZ Alkmaar v Partizan Belgrade PickThis should be a tense game for both AZ Alkmaar and Partizan Belgrade who will be desperate for the three points in order to aid their ambitions of getting through to the Last 32.

For AZ Alkmaar things are very simple as they look to win this game and then hope to do the same in their last game at Athletic Bilbao, who may have qualified by then, to give themselves a chance to get into the next Round. On the other hand, Partizan Belgrade are trying to snap a 2 game losing run in the Europa League which has set them back in the Group after opening up with back to back wins.

Partizan Belgrade had an impressive win at Augsburg earlier in the Group, but generally have been poor travellers in European football. With AZ Alkmaar being a pretty strong home team both domestically and in European football I think they can be backed at odds against to win this game and get back into contention in the Group.

Lazio v Dnipro PickNeither Lazio nor Dnipro can point to recent form to suggest they are going to win this game, but the home side have the benefit of knowing a draw is good enough for them to get through to the Last 32. Now I am not expecting Lazio to play for the draw as they would like to win the Group too, but it does mean the onus is on Dnipro to find the win here and that means Lazio can pick them off on the counter-attack.

This has been a strong ground for Lazio for the majority of the season and even the two recent poor results here might not have dented their confidence too much.

They have won all 3 home games in European football this season and Lazio are facing a Dnipro team that has struggled on their travels even during their run to the Europa League Final last season. I can see a situation where a desperate Dnipro are perhaps picked off late in this one as they try and stay alive in the Group and I like Lazio to win this game and erase their last couple of performances in front of their own fans.

Celtic v Ajax PickThis is a huge game for both Celtic and Ajax as they look to keep their Europa League dreams alive and the pressure would certainly be amped up on both teams if they hear news of Fenerbahce leading against an already qualified Molde team.

A draw doesn't do anything for either Celtic or Ajax so it is hard to imagine either team really sitting back and hoping things happen for them. The game between them earlier in the Group was an exciting one and all of Celtic's games in the Europa League this season have seen plenty of goals shared out.

That hasn't been the case for Ajax since the opening 2-2 draw with Celtic, but they have to get something here and will certainly pose some problems when going forward. Defensively they can be caught out at times and the fact that neither team is looking to draw this game should keep the intensity up throughout.

With the importance of earning the three points, gaps could certainly open up as this game is played and I like the chance of there being at least three goals for a fifth consecutive Celtic Europa League game.

Liverpool v Bordeaux PickThe Europa League is clearly a competition that Jurgen Klopp is looking at to build momentum in the Premier League and he has made it clear it isn't a hindrance to what he wants to achieve at Anfield.

Form has certainly improved of late, although Liverpool's style might make them a more effective away from home in the immediate future. In fact their recent run of wins have mainly come on their travels, but Liverpool know Bordeaux need to win this game to give themselves a real chance to move into the Last 32 so they might be able to hit the French side on the counter.

You do have to think Liverpool will pick a strong team to make sure they are through with a game to spare and able to rest players ahead of the Christmas schedule next month. I think the home team will be confident and likely have a significant edge in the contest against a team that will be pushing late on to try and win the game.

I can see a situation where Liverpool are leading going into the final twenty minutes of the game and then able to hit Bordeaux on the break to win this by a couple of goals. I'll back Liverpool on the Asian Handicap to win this by a couple of goals knowing a one goal win will return the stake.

MY PICKS: Arsenal - 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Barcelona - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
CSKA Moscow-Wolfsburg Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Stan James (2 Units)
Juventus-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Paris Saint-Germain Win to Nil @ 2.10 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Real Madrid Win to Nil @ 4.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Monaco @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
AZ Alkmaar @ 2.00 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Lazio @ 1.83 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Celtic-Ajax Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Liverpool - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

November Update3-8, - 8.58 Units (21 Units Staked, - 40.86% Yield)

October Final16-25, - 13.51 Units (79.50 Units Staked, - 16.99% 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 2015/1661-86-4, - 33.67 Units (291 Units Staked, - 11.57% 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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