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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, 28 November 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (November 28-29)

It was another mixed week for the English teams involved in European competition or should I say that it was a decent week for all the clubs that don't play in Manchester.

Manchester City might be through to the Second Round in the Champions League, but their defeat to Juventus means they are likely to go through as a Second Seed meaning potentially a big game against the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in the Last 16.

At least they are through though.

Manchester United's home draw with PSV Eindhoven has left them in a remarkably vulnerable position in what looked to be a weak Group. In a couple of weeks Manchester United visit Wolfsburg knowing a defeat would see them out if PSV are able to avoid defeat at home to CSKA Moscow, while a draw is only good enough if PSV fail to win.

In saying that, a Manchester United in in Germany would mean they go through as a First Seed, but Louis Van Gaal has taken a lot of criticism in recent weeks which are unlikely to be quietened down by yet another goalless draw.

For the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea, their destiny in qualifying for the Last 16 will come down to the final day and both teams winning will give them a great chance of doing that. Of course Arsenal have the more difficult task needing to beat Olympiacos away from home by at least two goals or by scoring at least three goals, while Chelsea will win their Group if they can beat Porto at home.

Both Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur won games on Thursday in the Europa League which has put them through to the Last 32 in that competition. Those two teams will win their Groups if they can avoid defeat in their final games and they will be favoured to do that in a couple of weeks time.

Aston Villa v Watford PickThings are looking in a big mess at Villa Park and I am struggling to see how Aston Villa get out of trouble with a novice Premier League manager like Remi Garde at the helm. Defensively they are conceding far too many goals and there is still a lack of a consistent threat in the final third.

After flirting with relegation over the last few seasons it does look like Aston Villa are going to have a big problem escaping the bottom three this time around. With the way the financials of the club are working, Aston Villa are going to miss out on the big television deal in the top flight next season and might just struggle to make a quick return to the top flight like teams like Leeds United and Nottingham Forest.

The lack of goals is a real issue and missing both Jack Grealish and Gabby Agbonlahor is a problem for them this week.

Watford have also been performing effectively away from home and were unlucky not to get more out of their game at Leicester City in their last one on their travels, while even last week it was a late goal that helped Manchester United win at Vicarage Road.

The away side have scored two goals in half of their six away games in the Premier League and getting to that mark is going to give Watford a great chance to earn the three points here and move half-way to safety. I don't get Watford being an underdog here despite a historically poor record at Villa Park because those games have happened far enough in the past to be changed this season.

Just out of principle a small interest on the away team has to be warranted to win at Villa Park and give Remi Garde no doubt as to the size of the task in front of him.

Bournemouth v Everton PickYou can't doubt there has been an improving set of results and performances from Everton over the last few weeks, but they have to find a way to take their form from Goodison Park onto their travels. Everton have lost at Arsenal and drawn at West Ham United in their last couple of away games, which are not embarrassing results, but they need to start earning some wins to really make a consistent move up the League table.

This is the kind of game a team that wants to finish in the top four or top six should be looking to win, especially as Bournemouth have struggled at both ends of the field thanks to injuries. Bournemouth show plenty of quality in the middle third of the pitch, but they showed a lack of composure when the chances came their way against Newcastle United in their last game here and that has to be a concern.

I would think that Bournemouth will start scoring goals if they keep creating the chances because their luck has to change in front of goal, but it's hard to be confident in them at the moment.

I do think Bournemouth will cause Everton a few problems in this game, but I think the away side are beginning to take their chances and they might have a little too much for them in front of goal. Everton are not always the most trustworthy team to back on their travels, but a small interest at big odds is warranted.

Manchester City v Southampton Pick: Manchester City have a chance to reclaim top spot in the Premier League at least for a few hours when they play on Saturday afternoon. After back to back disappointing defeats this week, it is important for Manchester City to try and get some momentum behind them ahead of the busiest month in the English football calendar.

Injuries have been an issue for Manchester City and Joe Hart is the latest to suffer having had to come off against Juventus and he is a doubt for this game. David Silva is a potential returnee though and Manchester City might look to outscore a Southampton team that has plenty of pace up front to expose a team missing the likes of Hart, Pablo Zabaleta and Vincent Kompany at the back.

Graziano Pelle is suspended though and that might prevent Southampton from really finding their way to the upset.

The Saints were also beaten last week against Stoke City at home but they are unbeaten in 5 away games which includes a win at Chelsea and a draw with Liverpool. They won't be intimidated about coming here and I expect this to be a close game with both teams having their chances to score goals.

I still think Manchester City will have a response to their consecutive losses this week and might just end up on the right side of a exciting game where both teams score at least once.

Sunderland v Stoke City Pick: Sunderland battled very hard on Monday Night Football and they then got a bit of luck to help themselves to a 0-1 win at Crystal Palace. That win would have given Sam Allardyce some confidence that his team can remain in touch with those outside of the bottom three and he can bring in key players in January to ensure Sunderland can avoid relegation again.

This week is going to be a test for Sunderland who have to find the right balance between attack and defence at The Stadium of Light. Away from home it is much easier to sit back deep and wait for the counter attack, but fans at home won't be so easily accepting of such tactics even in such a difficult position.

Sunderland also face a Stoke City team that has performed very well away from home and have kept five clean sheets in a row on their travels. Stoke City have had four wins in that run, all by the same 0-1 scoreline, including at Southampton last weekend and The Potters won't be worried about having to travel for a second week in a row.

This hasn't been a happy hunting ground for Stoke City in the last few years although they did win a League Cup game here last season. At the odds though, I can't ignore the way Stoke City have performed away from home and I like them to win here.

Leicester City v Manchester United PickNot many would have picked Leicester City versus Manchester United as being a match between the top two teams in the Premier League at the end of November, but that is the case this weekend. By kick off it could have changed with Manchester City able to overtake both teams by winning their 3pm game against Southampton, but that doesn't change the fact that Leicester City and Manchester United lead the rest of the League coming into the weekend.

This is a big game for Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal who won't have missed the poor reaction from the Old Trafford crowd after yet another laboured display that resulted in a goalless draw.

The manager might be surprised by some of the reactions considering where his side are in the Premier League table, but there isn't a strong feeling that Manchester United can win the title. This is a very difficult test for the side against a Leicester City team that is blessed with pace up front and seemingly are not anxious about any football game they play.

Claudio Ranieri has refused to put the handbrake on his team which does mean Leicester City offer up chances to other teams and he won't mind if Manchester United dominate the ball as they can. That will allow Leicester City to slip out on the counter with room for the likes of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez to exploit space with their pace and I really do think the home team have the capability of their first statement win of the season.

However, Arsenal showed that the top teams should find spaces to exploit against Leicester City too and so goals looks the best way to get onto this game. That's not been a very good way to get into Manchester United games, but at least their away games have been a little more exciting than those at Old Trafford and Leicester City can make this a real contest.

I wouldn't put off anyone who thinks Leicester City can win this game because I certainly believe they can, but I do see both teams scoring and so backing goals looks a more positive way of getting involved in the game.

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea PickThe early kick off can play havoc on some of these Premier League games and the midday kick off hasn't impressed Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino who is rightly aggrieved.

His team won't be returning from Azerbaijan until Friday morning and he makes a point as to why this game wasn't allowed to be played on a Sunday afternoon or Monday evening, but television companies have overrode those concerns.

Pochettino is not making excuses and has to be confident with his Tottenham Hotspur side quietly moving up the Premier League table and earning some crushing wins at White Hart Lane in recent games. Tottenham Hotspur hammered West Ham United here last Sunday and they have also put Manchester City to the sword at White Hart Lane so they will be very confident of beating Chelsea.

That is a Chelsea side that has struggled away from home in the Premier League although they have also been a little unfortunate at times. Losing John Terry is a big blow considering they have had back to back clean sheets this week and keeping another here will be a difficult test, although Chelsea have shown they are creating chances at the other end too.

All in all it looks the making of an exciting London derby, one that Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have produced many times in recent years. I am concerned the players make 'sleep walk' through the first half with the early start, but I think both teams are looking effective when they get forward and perhaps not totally convincing at the back.

With that in mind, I think backing at least three goals to be shared out looks like a good chance of hitting. I am leaning towards Tottenham Hotspur using their home advantage to find the victory which looks an appealing price, but Chelsea have looked decent this past week so I'd rather stick with the goals from this match.

Norwich City v Arsenal PickIf you truly have ambitions of wanting to win the Premier League, visits to Norwich City have to be the kind of games you win especially off the back of a disappointing Premier League defeat. This is going to be a real test of Arsenal's title winning credentials having lost at West Brom and fighting through a host of injuries, but it is one that I would expect them to pass.

For all of the hard work that Norwich City will put into the game I don't think they have the necessary quality in the final third against the very best teams. At home they will offer a challenge, but Arsenal have managed their games here at Carrow Road with three wins in four visits and they have players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez that can unlock tight defensive formations.

At home Norwich City will need to offer more in the final third themselves and that space that Arsenal should have can be exploited by The Gunners.

The defeat at West Brom was a disappointment, but Arsenal had won 3 in a row away from home in the Premier League before that and all three wins have come by wide margins. I think Arsenal have enough quality in the final third to be able to come through by at least a couple of goals here too and I will back them to do that by asking them to cover the Asian Handicap.

MY PICKS: Watford @ 2.90 William Hill (1 Unit)
Everton @ 2.50 Coral (1 Unit)
Manchester City to Win and Both Teams to Score @ 3.10 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Stoke City @ 2.50 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Leicester City-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)

November Update9-14-1, - 8.94 Units (41 Units Staked, - 21.80% 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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