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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, 8 December 2015

Midweek Football Picks 2015 (December 8-10)

I've never had a season picking games like the one I am having this year as I simply won't get any luck nor will I avoid the bad picks. Put those things together and there really isn't a lot of room for manoeuvre and the frustration is certainly high.

Let me just take this weekend as an example of some of the rubbish that seems to be coming my way.

So I had both Stoke City and Arsenal to win their games on the handicap on the shortlist, but was put off by the fact the former were in an early game against Manchester City who looked to be returning their key players, while the latter looked beat up through injuries.

Of course the Manchester City players that were expected back never materialised and Stoke City won easily, while Arsenal scored late to win by two clear goals as they would have needed to.

Instead I backed Southampton to beat Aston Villa essentially only for the latter to somehow survive the first half when they were battered from pillar to post and escape with a draw.

I back goals in games at Watford, West Brom and Everton where I looked for three to be shared out and in each of those games there were two goals scored... Forget the fact that there were enough chances for about a thousand goals that were missed this week, including Everton hitting the woodwork three times and you can see the trend.

It's bloody annoying because I know if I didn't expect goals that all of the strikers that were slightly off would have been slightly on and that little bit of luck has completely deserted me. It's embarrassing really and I wouldn't pay the slightest bit of attention to what I think is going to happen at the moment because invariably something comes up that sees the opposite occur.

The Champions League and Europa League are into Match Day 6 this week and there are big moments ahead for a number of teams. Of course the focus will be on the three English clubs who are teetering on the edge, notably Manchester United and Arsenal who have tough away assignments to negotiate if they are to reach the Second Round of the Champions League.

Chelsea have a bit more leeway in their game against Porto which is also being played at home, but Jose Mourinho's men are not exactly firing on all cylinders at the moment either.

The draw for the Knock Out Stage will be made next week on a Monday which seems strange, but perhaps it is to take away any focus from the Euro 2016 Finals draw which will be made on Saturday afternoon.

Galatasaray v Astana Pick: The chance to get into the Second Round of the Champions League might already be gone for both of these clubs, but there is still a decent prize to play for on Match Day 6. That is a place in the Europa League, but both Galatasaray and Astana won't look at that as a consolation and the chance to still be playing European football in the New Year is a big opportunity for both clubs.

It is Galatasaray who have the edge having earned a point more than Astana and now hosting the game in Istanbul. However, Astana have not played a competitive game since Match Day 5 and the 2-2 home draw with Benfica and that has allowed them to travel and prepare for this game in Turkey.

That might not be enough for the Kazakhstan club to get something from this game though and both of their away games have ended with defeats of at least two goals each time. Add in their 4-0 loss at Villarreal in the Europa League last season and you can see the mountain Astana have to climb to beat Galatasaray and steal the place in the Europa League.

The challenge is all the more difficult when you think Galatasaray have won 5 of their last 6 games in all competitions which includes coming from behind to beat Benfica 2-1 in the Champions League. Galatasaray's win over Benfica ended a run of 5 consecutive home games in the competition without a win, although the sides they have played have been of superior levels to Astana.

The onus is on the away team to make this a game as they have to win and it will be a big task considering the goals that Galatasaray have produced at home. I can see a situation where the home team is leading and able to pick off their visitors late in the game as Astana push forward to get back into this and Galatasaray can become the latest team to beat Astana by at least two goals at home.

Paris Saint-Germain v Shakhtar Donetsk Pick: Paris Saint-Germain are already through to the Last 16 of the Champions League and they know they will follow Real Madrid through. With this being a dead rubber, it is easy to suggest that Laurent Blanc will make a lot of changes, but the manager was talking about ending the campaign in style and I think they can do that.

While we would have all expected PSG and Read Madrid to make it through to the Second Round, Shakhtar Donetsk have still been a bit of a let down in my mind. I expected them to make it difficult for the two big teams in the Group but Shakhtar were crushed 0-3 at home by Paris Saint-Germain and were 0-4 down to Real Madrid before rallying in the second half and going down 3-4.

That will have disappointed the manager Mircea Lucescu who has blamed poor starts in games for Shakhtar's lack of success. Getting into the Europa League is still of high importance, but Shakhtar could afford to lose this game as long as Malmo do the same in Madrid where they take on Real at the same time.

It is difficult to see Shakhtar Donetsk getting more from this game than another Champions League away defeat. They have lost in Real Madrid and in Malmo without scoring a goal and Shakhtar Donetsk have only scored 2 goals in their last 9 away games in the Champions League if you dismiss a 0-7 win in BATE Borisov last season.

Paris Saint-Germain have looked to make this venue a fortress and they have made it clear they want to end the Group in style. That convinces me that they can win this game by a comfortable enough margin and Shakhtar Donetsk are given one more experience to show the difference between them and the very best in European football.

PSV Eindhoven v CSKA Moscow Pick: No matter what happens in the other game in the Group, things are very clear for PSV Eindhoven- win this game and they are into the Second Round of the Champions League against most expectations.

Now the layers have used that outcome as a reason to shorten the prices on a PSV Eindhoven win to an almost ridiculous price.

That isn't to say that I don't expect the home team to win the game though.

CSKA Moscow have been in terrible form and head into this fixture having failed to win any of their last 7 games and losing 6 of those, while they have scored just twice in that run. Add in the fact that CSKA Moscow have been terrible travellers in the Champions League where they have lost 9 of their last 11 games in the competition including both this season at Wolfsburg and Manchester United by the same 1-0 scoreline.

Confidence has to be an issue and I think PSV Eindhoven will take advantage with the home crowd firmly behind them. They have won their last 4 home games in a row and won both Champions League games here and I think it would be a huge surprise if they don't win tonight.

Value looks gone on the home win though as they have been heavily backed. Instead I think a small interest on them founding their success behind a solid defensive unit looks to be the call especially as CSKA Moscow have been struggling in front of goal and failed to score in both away games played in the Group.

PSV Eindhoven shut out Wolfsburg on the way to a 2-0 win and I will back them to win this one to nil.

Wolfsburg v Manchester United PickLouis Van Gaal may claim his team have been the better in every game they have played bar two away games in the Premier League, but Manchester United fans are not buying that. Another goalless draw at Old Trafford, this time against West Ham United, drew a poor reaction from the fans who decided to stay until the end at the weekend and boos were offered.

A draw might not be good enough for Manchester United to remain in the Champions League this week as I am expecting PSV Eindhoven to be too good for CSKA Moscow in the other game in the Group. That means Manchester United will have to match that result if they are to get through to the Second Round.

Getting a result at Wolfsburg won't be easy for Manchester United who lost in Eindhoven and only drew in Moscow, especially as Wolfsburg have been in some decent form at home. A late goal does mean Wolfsburg have lost 2 of their last 4 games here, but those came against Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, while Wolfsburg have won both Group games in the Champions League at home.

The layers certainly are not under-estimating Wolfsburg who have been set as the favourites to beat Manchester United. However, I do have to say that Van Gaal's team have been a little more positive away from home with the additional space they are usually afforded and I can see Manchester United winning here.

Nothing is going to come easy though and there might be a few more goals here than many expect- I am expecting PSV Eindhoven to win their game and I expect that news will filter through to the pitch. One of these teams is likely to be pushing forward in the final fifteen minutes looking for a crucial goal that might be the difference between the Champions League and Europa League and I think both are capable of being on the scoreboard before that.

Both teams have scored in both of Manchester United's away games in the Champions League Group Stage and with that space will likely come chances so backing at least three goals to be scored in the fourth successive game between these clubs looks to be overpriced.

Roma v BATE Borisov PickOne of the underperforming teams in European competition from Italy has to be Roma who have failed to really make an impact in the Champions League despite being Juventus' nearest challenger domestically. They can't have asked for much more than being asked to beat BATE Borisov at home to qualify for the Second Round, but Roma have just slipped a little in recent weeks which makes this dangerous.

In saying that, Roma are facing a BATE Borisov team that has lost 7 straight Group games away from home and all of those losses have come by at least two goals each.

Prior to the home loss to Atalanta, Roma had been playing very well at home although they are one of those teams I am never that comfortable backing to win a game with room to spare. That is especially the case when they play their home European games although Roma did crush CSKA Moscow 5-1 here last season.

That result and the way they have gone about their business in the Champions League this season makes me think they will be too good for BATE Borisov. The latter have lost their games with room to spare for the most part when facing the better teams in the Champions League and I will look for Roma to move into the Second Round behind a win by a couple of goals at least.

Chelsea v Porto PickYou can only say it has been a baffling season for Chelsea who won the Premier League title last May and have since fallen apart in the defence of their title. Jose Mourinho has admitted that getting into the top four is going to be difficult now and Chelsea remind me very much of Manchester United under David Moyes.

Like Moyes, Mourinho has been unable to find the right blend in the Premier League and he also hasn't had a lot of luck go the way of his Chelsea team. Also like Moyes, Mourinho's team have produced their best results in the Champions League and Chelsea will be expecting to get through to the Second Round.

Performances have not been terrible in recent games and Chelsea will feel their luck is due to turn with some poor non-penalty decisions going against them. They will also know the pressure is on Porto who have to win this game assuming Dynamo Kiev will be too strong for Maccabi Tel Aviv who they host in the Ukraine and knowing Maccabi have yet to pick up a single point.

A draw would mean Chelsea and Dynamo Kiev will move into the Second Round so Porto have to strike the right balance to ensure they give themselves a chance to get through. That could mean Chelsea are able to hit Porto late on as they begin to chase the game and you can't ignore that Chelsea have won both home games in the Champions League.

Porto haven't lost too many recent games on their travels in the Champions League with just a single defeat from 8 away games in the competition. However this looks to be the kind of game where Chelsea can show their quality as they try and pick off their visitors and I think the edge has to be given to the home team.

I would have wanted nothing to do with Chelsea at odds on in this game as they would have likely have been if they had won the game against Bournemouth on Saturday. However Chelsea look much more appealing at odds against and I can see them finishing Porto off on the break when news comes through that Dynamo Kiev are winning and Porto need to win this game to get through to the Second Round.

Winning the Group would be a bonus for Jose Mourinho and might ease some pressure that has to be building thanks to results over the first three months of the season.

Dinamo Zagreb v Bayern Munich PickWith a dead rubber like this one, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the team news especially from the Bayern Munich squad who are trying to bounce back from a 3-1 loss at Borussia Monchengladbach.

Even with the changes you would expect Bayern Munich to be too good for a Dinamo Zagreb team they outclassed at home. Dinamo Zagreb's win over Arsenal was a fantastic result, but the latter should not have lost that game and it is hard to see Bayern Munich faltering in that manner.

They have had some very poor results away from home in the Champions League in recent games which is another reason Pep Guardiola has to be looking for Bayern Munich to put another statement win down. I think that is a concern when looking later in the tournament and some big away games Bayern Munich will have to play, but they should be too strong for Dinamo Zagreb and I would expect the Bavarian giants to win this by a couple of goals.

Dinamo Zagreb have lost 6 of their last 8 home games in the Champions League Group Stage and 4 of those losses have come by at least two goals. I'd expect even a changed Bayern Munich team to match those results and put another strong away win in the Group Stage on the board.

Olympiacos v Arsenal PickThis is a huge game for Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side as they look to dig themselves out of a big hole in the Group and once again reach the Second Round of the Champions League. Finishing second in the Group has been an issue for the fans in the past, but this season it will be seen as a success as Arsenal look to avoid Manchester United's fate and end up in the Europa League.

Injuries are a big concern in the Arsenal squad ahead of a really busy Christmas period which is coming up, but they still have enough quality to get the job done in Greece. They can look to their 0-2 success at Monaco in the Second Round of the Champions League that followed a 1-3 home loss as a confidence booster to take into Match Day 6.

However, Olympiacos have plenty to hang their hat on with 11 wins in their last 14 Champions League home games including against some of the big names in European football like Manchester United, Juventus and Atletico Madrid. They have also beaten Arsenal three times at home in the last six seasons in the Champions League Group Stage so they shouldn't be worried about being able to do enough to get into the Last 16.

I can make a pretty good case for both teams, but I certainly think the layers have priced up Olympiacos with the knowledge that they can afford a narrow loss and still go through. That would be dangerous for Olympiacos who are trying to play their natural game, while Arsenal will have nothing to lose at some stage of the game and have the attacking players to do some damage.

Picking a winner might be difficult, but it does look a game that will likely see some spaces open up in the final twenty minutes with one team needing to push regardless of the score at that point.

The last two games in Greece between these teams has produced at least three goals and the last five overall have gone that way including earlier in the Group. There looks to be enough of an attacking threat and defensive vulnerabilities to think that can happen here and I will back at least three goals to be shared out.

Valencia v Lyon Pick: Gary Neville will take charge of Valencia for the first time after his surprise appointment last week. He watched Valencia battle back against Barcelona to draw 1-1 in La Liga on Saturday, but Neville's first challenge is to somehow help Valencia move into the Second Round of the Champions League.

Valencia really have to win this game and hope Gent are unable to beat Zenit St Petersburg at home at the same time if they are to make it through to the Second Round.

With the way Zenit St Petersburg have played in the Group that is possible, although the Russian team have won the section and have nothing to play for. Neville won't be worrying about that but will be preparing his Valencia side to beat Lyon who are out of European competition and who have been in poor form.

Lyon have lost 4 of their last 5 games in all competitions and have a big game against Paris Saint-Germain this weekend which might distract them. With Valencia winning 2 of their 3 home games in the Champions League you have to think the Spanish side will be too good for Lyon, especially as they have beaten Monaco 3-1 here in the Qualifiers already this season.

The recent form hasn't been productive for Valencia but they are unbeaten in 7 games at home in all competitions and I expect them to give Neville a winning start, although the former Manchester United right back might be joining his former team in the Europa League.

Unlike Manchester United, I can see Valencia at least winning their final game in the Champions League Group to give themselves a chance of remaining in this competition. I expect the home team win this by a couple of goals against a disinterested opponent.

Ajax v Molde PickThe Europa League is a competition in which Ajax would like to progress but it looks a difficult task with the way the results have gone. Hoping Fenerbahce lose to Celtic at home looks a long shot but I expect Ajax to at least do their part and hope results go their way.

I am expecting Ajax to be far too good for Molde who have not had much competitive football with their domestic season completed. They were outclassed by Fenerbahce in a home loss a couple of weeks ago and Ajax were unfortunate not to win in Norway.

Home advantage hasn't exactly been the most positive thing for Ajax in European competition this season, but I do think they are the better team on the field. Ajax have been scoring plenty of goals here in recent games, albeit against domestic opposition, but Molde aren't one of the stronger teams in the Europe.

Molde might play for the draw to get to finish top of the Group, but I think Ajax will win this by a comfortable margin on Thursday.

Sion v Liverpool Pick: There is no doubting the draw would satisfy both managers if they were offered to it now as it would mean Sion are through to the Last 32 and Liverpool have won the Group and will be Seeded for that draw.

Jurgen Klopp has brought an experimental squad over to Switzerland for the game, but he has clearly put some serious stock in the Europa League. His Borussia Dortmund team enjoyed considerable success in Europe in recent years and Liverpool have responded to the new voice in the dressing room.

Liverpool are trying to bounce back from their disappointing 2-0 defeat at Newcastle United last Sunday and I expecting a reaction from them. The scenario around the game is hard to ignore, but if news comes through that Rubin Kazan are losing in the other game, Sion may just come out trying to win the Group.

Klopp's team have shown they can be very dangerous on the counter attack though and I think Liverpool find a way to win this game.

Napoli v Legia Warsaw PickThe fact that qualification for the Last 32 has been secured does mean that Napoli will likely make some changes to their starting eleven with Roma set to visit here on Sunday.

However, Napoli have been dominant at home and I expect they will be focused having lost their last League game 3-2 at Bologna. Napoli have won 8 in a row at home and both Europa League games have ended with strong home wins.

Legia Warsaw have rarely been outclassed away from home in recent European games and they are coming into this with a win giving them a chance of moving into the Last 32 of the Europa League depending what happens in the other fixture in the Group.

However, that also means the onus is on them to get forward and Napoli may have a real chance to catch them on the counter attack a couple of times as the game wears on. With back to back 5-0 wins in Europe behind them, I am not anticipating Napoli get to those kind of margins as the attention will shift to the game with Roma.

I am expecting Napoli to strike late and win this one by a couple of goals though and will back them to cover the Asian Handicap.

Rapid Vienna v Dinamo Minsk PickWinning a Group in the Europa League looks certain to offer up an 'easier' draw in the Last 32 when you look at some of the names that will potentially be Seeded. It is no guarantee any team would receive that favourable draw, but Rapid Vienna will know the importance of winning this Group and that means surpassing the result Villarreal produce in Viktoria Plzen.

A draw is unlikely to be good enough for Rapid Vienna and they will want to put the pressure on Villarreal by getting into an early lead in this one. There is enough attacking potential in the team to make Rapid Vienna favourites to win the game, although they have been inconsistent of late.

That has not been the case at home though and Dinamo Minsk will do well to stay with Rapid Vienna having lost 3 away games in a row in the Europa League by at least two goal margins. A lack of goals has been a problem for Dinamo Minsk on their travels and I do think Rapid Vienna will be too good.

A fast start and the potential to dominate the chances should lead to a comfortable win for Rapid Vienna and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap.

Tottenham Hotspur v Monaco Pick: With just one point needed to top the Group, Tottenham Hotspur are in a strong position to get back into the Knock Out Rounds of the Europa League. This competition may provide another avenue into the Champions League these days, but some of the English teams have been less than impressed about being involved, although Tottenham Hotspur have given the Group plenty of respect.

There will be some changes made to the starting eleven, but Mauricio Pochettino has admitted he will still play a strong team to build some momentum.

The pressure is all on Monaco who have to win this game and hope Anderlecht fail to win theirs against Qarabag at the same time. This isn't the same Monaco that reached the Champions League Quarter Final last season and I think the focus for the club is to get back into a position to qualify for that tournament having been knocked out in the Qualifiers this season.

As they increasingly chase the game, I can see Spurs finding a way to hit Monaco on the counter attack and find a way to get back to winning ways at White Hart Lane after their 3 game winning run was ended in a goalless draw with Chelsea.

MY PICKS: Galatasaray - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.15 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Paris Saint-Germain - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
PSV Eindhoven Win to Nil @ 3.30 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Wolfsburg-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Unit)
Roma - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)

Chelsea @ 2.05 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Bayern Munich - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Olympiacos-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Valencia - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Ajax - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Liverpool @ 2.30 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Napoli - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Rapid Vienna - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur @ 2.10 Bet365 (1 Unit)

December Update3-7, - 6.20 Units (18 Units Staked, - 34.44% Yield)

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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