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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...

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Midweek Football Picks 2015 (December 1-2)

This really does feel like the calm before the storm as the opening few days in December are set aside for domestic Cup games, in England that being the Capital One Cup rather than the FA Cup.

After this week there really isn't much rest for the teams that play in England with a number of fixtures to be completed before the FA Cup Third Round weekend on January 9th.

In that time we will see the Group Stage of the Champions League/Europa League concluded, a number of domestic League games played as well as the FA Cup Second Round. That means draws for the big Third Round weekend as well as the Knock Out Stage of the European competition, while the focus in Europe will also be taken in seeing the Euro 2016 draw put together in the next couple of weeks.

I am not one of these people that want England to incorporate a 'Winter Break' and I am looking forward to this time of the year when there is plenty of good food and football to enjoy.

I have finally had time to get a Weekend Football Thoughts post put up having missed the last month thanks to life being busier than planned. This week I am looking at the difficulties at Aston Villa and Newcastle United as well as the poor form of Wayne Rooney and Diego Costa and finally looking ahead to the New Year and wondering which teams will be involved in a title race. Those issues can all be read here.

So the picks have been a bit of a disaster through the first three months, but there really isn't a lot you can do when you pick a team and they lead 0-2 with ten minutes left, score to go ahead in the 95th minute and still fail to win the game. Little things like that can make all the difference but I seem to be hitting plenty of bad luck to go with bad picks and that is never going to be a good thing.

It's disappointing to be honest, but I am thinking I am on the right path as long as I get a semblance of luck going my way.

Manchester City v Hull City PickWith the anticipated changes that Steve Bruce is likely to make to his Hull City team Manchester City are unsurprisingly strong favourites to progress to a second Semi Final in three years under Manuel Pellegrini.

You would expect Sergio Aguero to sit with the Christmas games in mind and having come off at the weekend, but Manchester City should still have too much quality in their ranks for Hull City. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling could be joined by David Silva in the starting line up as Manuel Pellegrini will look to get this tie in hand very quickly.

That has seen Manchester City win 4-1 at Sunderland and 5-1 at home against Crystal Palace in the last couple of Rounds of the Capital One Cup. It might be a little concern for Hull City that Sheffield Wednesday of the Championship were embarrassed 7-0 here last season, but Steve Bruce will just look for a big effort and a defeat wouldn't be the end of the world as his team focus on League matters.

No team is going to roll over so the changes made to the Hull City team should see players looking to prove themselves for selection in the coming months. This club have done well on their recent visits to The Etihad Stadium, but this does feel like the home team have too many advantages and I expect Manchester City to progress without too many difficulties.

Once Manchester City get control of the game, it is hard to see them letting it go and I like them to win this one by at least two goals so will back the home team to cover the Asian Handicap.

Middlesbrough v Everton PickThe two live games being picked for the Capital One Cup Quarter Finals both look like they could be highly competitive games including this one between Middlesbrough and Everton. There are three Championship versus Premier League fixtures in the Cup, but this is the only one where the lower League side is hosting and Middlesbrough will feel they can cause another upset.

The side defended well for long periods against Manchester United at Old Trafford in the last Round and Middlesbrough might even have won that game without the need for penalties with better composure in front of goal. That has been a problem for them in recent games including their last home game which resulted in a late penalty leading to a win over Queens Park Rangers.

Some of the home fans were unbelievably restless in that game to the point that Aitor Karanka has told the fans to stay behind the team and this is going to be the kind of game where Middlesbrough need their fans. Facing a tough Premier League team at home is not going to be easy but Middlesbrough won't be intimidated by an Everton team that have looked good going forward but also pretty average at the back.

Everton have shown some vulnerabilities against the lower League teams they have faced in the Capital One Cup as they needed extra time to see off League One Barnsley and were behind at Championship Reading before rallying for a 1-2 win.

And coming off the really disappointing draw with Bournemouth where they led 0-2 with ten minutes left and also 2-3 after a 95th minute goal is going to play with the Everton minds or so you would expect. Everton have been difficult to beat on their travels this season, but Middlesbrough have been very strong at home and these two teams might really negate one another and need extra time or penalties to separate them.

Neither Aitor Karanka nor Roberto Martinez will want those extra minutes with the Christmas period fast approaching, but a Semi Final spot is going to make it a tense game and it could end in a draw. That might be worth a small interest in the live showing on Tuesday evening.

Stoke City v Sheffield Wednesday PickThis should be the kind of tie that Stoke City win, but they look very short at healthy odds on to win the game and it is a spot in which they have failed a few times in the Premier League. The expectation that they should win this game can play on their mind and Sheffield Wednesday will come here with 'nothing to lose'.

That freedom has allowed Sheffield Wednesday to beat the likes of Newcastle United and Arsenal so they won't be overawed by having to play at Stoke City. Sheffield Wednesday have been playing very well over the last couple of months and they have been scoring goals on their travels which makes them a dangerous proposition for Stoke City.

It isn't that long ago since Watford came here and won 0-2 in the Premier League and I certainly think Sheffield Wednesday can cause some problems for Stoke City. In saying that, I also believe Stoke City will dig deep and find a way to win this game although they will have to come through some tense moments to reach the Semi Final in the League Cup.

I do see a situation where both teams will score in this one while the nature of the Cup tie could see spaces coming open if one team is chasing the game. That leads me to think we may see at least three goals in this one, which has been a feature of recent Sheffield Wednesday away games, and the layers might be offering too tempting a price on that happening.

Southampton v Liverpool PickIt was another difficult game for Jurgen Klopp at Anfield on Sunday, but his Liverpool team did maintain a strong winning run in the last few weeks by seeing off Swansea City 1-0. For all the difficulties they have had in imposing their style at Anfield, Liverpool have been a real force in their recent away games as shown by big wins at Chelsea and Manchester City.

Not often can it be said that Liverpool perhaps prefer playing away from the cauldron that Anfield can provide, but that might be the case for Klopp and the style he has put together with this current squad of players. They might actually enjoy the freedom the team get away from home where there is naturally more space to exploit and Liverpool will go to Southampton with plenty of confidence they can move into the Semi Finals of the League Cup.

Southampton did reach this stage last season, but they were in the midst of a poor run and that moved into their Cup performance in a disappointing 1-0 loss at Sheffield United. There are some similarities this time around too with Southampton suffering back to back Premier League losses ahead of the Quarter Final and that will be something of a concern for Ronald Koeman.

In saying that, Southampton played well at Manchester City in their 3-1 loss and that kind of level will give Liverpool problems. The layers are finding it hard to separate them and I am too although the gut feeling I have is that Liverpool are in the stronger form and play very well away from home in recent weeks to think they can edge this one.

One thing that has stood out in their away games is that there have been goals at both ends and that might be the case in this Capital One Cup game. Both teams should have their chances in this one and a 2-1 scoreline either way wouldn't surprise me too much, while there could be more space to exploit if a team is chasing this game.

The layers are not expecting goals but I think there will be at least three shared- I would favour Liverpool at the prices if I was convinced Jurgen Klopp would play his strongest eleven, but that doubt means I favour goals to be scored, a feature of recent Liverpool games under their new manager.

MY PICKS: Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet365 (2 Units)
Middlesbrough-Everton Draw @ 3.40 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Stoke City-Sheffield Wednesday Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Southampton-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)

November Final: 11-19-1, - 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, - 25.37% 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 2015/1672-105-5, - 46.61 Units (342 Units Staked, - 13.63% 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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