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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...

Friday, 25 December 2015

Weekend Football Picks 2015 (26th December)

The Boxing Day fixtures start an eight day period when the majority of the top English teams will play three times as the squads are tested to the fullest.

At the end of that we will see the January transfer window opened as teams try to hold onto what they have while others strengthen for the big push towards the end of the season.

Let's see how things pan out by the end of the next week as some big games are played at the top and bottom of the Premier League before teams can begin to address their issues.

Stoke City v Manchester United Pick: It was an intriguing week at Old Trafford as rumours began to flow that Louis Van Gaal wasn't too far from the sack, but the Dutchman will take charge for the trip to Stoke City on Boxing Day. However I am not sure Van Gaal can survive another defeat and he could have asked for a much better couple of days than facing a trip to Stoke City and a home game with Chelsea.

There is no disguising the poor form Manchester United have been in as they look to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat. Injuries haven't helped Van Gaal, but the defensive strength they have shown has also seemed to have vanished as Manchester United have conceded at least two goals in their last three games.

The lack of goals that Manchester United have produced all season makes that a tally too difficult to overcome and it is now 6 games without a win for the club. Manchester United have only scored more than one goal in 2 of their last 13 games in all competitions and this is going to be a huge test for them to see if the players are still behind the manager.

Stoke City were beaten 1-2 by Crystal Palace here last weekend, but that game could easily have gone the other way while the side have beaten Chelsea and Manchester City in two previous home games in the Premier League. There is plenty of attacking talent that can give Manchester United's defence another problem and I think the home team are a huge price to win this game.

I seriously hope I am wrong, but Manchester United have won just 1 of their last 4 Premier League games at The Brittania Stadium. They lost here two seasons ago under David Moyes and were behind last season before earning a 1-1 draw.

I am just not sure this current group of players is completely behind Van Gaal and conceding the first goal to Stoke City might see the team produce a performance similar to the one that ended David Moyes' reign at Everton. At the price, you'd be foolish to ignore the home win in my opinion even if my heart is really hoping Manchester United can turn things around.

Bournemouth v Crystal Palace Pick: There aren't many teams that have a better three game stretch than Bournemouth who have beaten Chelsea, Manchester United and West Brom to move out of the bottom three. It is no surprise they are favoured to make it four in a row against Crystal Palace at home this Boxing Day, but I am more interested in the away underdog.

That is because Crystal Palace continue to be very effective away from home as they showed in a 1-2 win at Stoke City last weekend. Of course Crystal Palace will give teams a chance to get on the front foot, one that Bournemouth will take advantage of, but that opens up the counter attack where Alan Pardew's men are most effective.

And for all the success Bournemouth have had of late, they would have lost 3 in a row at home prior to the win over Manchester United if not somehow coming back from two goals down against Everton. This is a Crystal Palace side that has won 5 of 9 away games in the Premier League this season too and I really think they are worth a small interest to come out with the three points on Boxing Day.

Crystal Palace have rarely failed to find the net away from home and I do think Bournemouth have perhaps been over-rated by some positive results. I simply don't think they are as good as the results they have produced and I like the away team for a small interest.

Chelsea v Watford PickThere looked to be a lot more freedom in the Chelsea performance last weekend as they brushed aside Sunderland 3-1 at home, although I have no doubt they were helped by the team they were facing. However you can't ignore the fact that the players had seemingly had enough of Jose Mourinho and I can really see the side going on a bit of a run of successes.

That isn't to say it will be anything but a tough test against Watford who have proven they are more than capable of gelling a squad of players at the Premier League level. There is pace in the forward areas that makes them dangerous and Watford won't be intimidated by heading to Stamford Bridge having won 4 Premier League games in a row.

However, the game is at Stamford Bridge and I think that makes a big difference.

Guus Hiddink is clearly a popular figure for those Chelsea players left here from his last spell as interim manager and I do think he will get the team playing for him. Chelsea have too much talent to be left near the bottom of the table and I have already said I believe they will put a bit of a run together to spark a real move up the League table.

I am expecting Chelsea to use their talented attacking footballers to find a way past Watford on Boxing Day and I like them to win by a couple of goals.

Manchester City v Sunderland PickI think the biggest disappointment of the 2-1 loss to Arsenal will be the way Manchester City defended at key times of the match. The goal just seconds before half time that was conceded was a killer blow for Manchester City and I am expecting a response from the players.

The likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero are getting back to fitness and I wouldn't be surprised if one of those players is rested or put on limited minutes on Saturday.

However, Manchester City have enough quality to think they can beat Sunderland at home especially with the way the latter have defended on their travels. Sunderland are conceding far too many goals and the layers have appreciated that by asking Manchester City to cover a big spread to earn the win.

Instead I think there is a good reason to back Manchester City to score at least three goals on Saturday. That is a number they have reached in 6 of their last 10 games at The Etihad Stadium in all competitions and one that Sunderland have conceded in 4 of their last 6 away games.

That includes at Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool and Manchester City have a team that can match those which is what I am expecting on Boxing Day.

Tottenham Hotspur v Norwich City PickLast weekend was a stunning result for Norwich City in going to Manchester United and winning the game deservedly despite some poor recent away results. That might be a big reason why they are expected to give Tottenham Hotspur something to think about this weekend, but I can't help think Manchester United are not in as strong form as Spurs and I expect a much different result.

That isn't to say Tottenham Hotspur are anything but inconsistent as shown with a win at Southampton just a week after losing here to Newcastle United. That defeat does go against recent trends though as Tottenham Hotspur had won 4 of their last 5 home games before the loss to Newcastle and I think they can bounce back at White Hart Lane.

There has been a week of preparation for this game so tiredness shouldn't be a factor and I think Spurs are the better team.

For all the credit that Norwich City deserve having won at Old Trafford, this is a team that were fortunate in losing by single goal margins at Manchester City and Chelsea. Both of those teams had enough chances to win a couple of games and I think Tottenham Hotspur will take advantage of Alex Neil perhaps focusing on the home game with Aston Villa just two days later which is arguably the more important game.

Norwich City will expect to win that one rather than this game and I think Spurs win this by a couple of goals.

Newcastle United v Everton PickThe second live game on Boxing Day comes from St James' Park and I think this has the potential of being a pretty entertaining game between two teams that have looked positive going forward. Neither has shown enough defensively to think they are going to gain too many clean sheets of late and I think the fans and the viewers could have an enjoyable game to watch.

Picking a winner is much more difficult as both teams can make a good case of doing that. The draws in recent Everton games would put me off backing them as the favourite here, but Newcastle United have had two good wins before the draw with Aston Villa, a game they had enough chances to win.

The one scoreline that I perhaps fear the most in this game is 1-1 which looks a real player, but I think both managers are desperate for the three points. It looks like being a game that will see both Newcastle United and Everton attacking for the points that is valuable for them to achieve their goals and picking up momentum at the start of a busy period.

As long as there isn't a deluge of rain like what we saw last weekend here, I think there is every chance we can see at least three goals shared between these teams.

Southampton v Arsenal PickThe Premier League has been an inconsistent Division throughout the 2015/16 season and that has made things difficult to predict as times. From week to week we have seen teams produce some very good stuff and then followed that with some complete rubbish or vice versa.

Therefore I do have this gut feeling that Southampton may just surprise Arsenal this weekend especially as the latter are coming in off the high of beating Manchester City. However, I have to use the eye test and say Arsenal should not be odds against to win here on current form and for that reason The Gunners have to be backed to win and potentially move to the top of the table ahead of the end of the calendar year.

Arsenal have had a couple of impressive away wins behind them and will be expected to match North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur who won at St Mary's last weekend. That 0-2 win over Southampton has not impressed Ronald Koeman who believes his team are making too many individual mistakes at the moment which are costing them a chance to reverse recent form.

And recent form hasn't been good for Southampton who have also lost 3 of their last 4 games at home in all competitions which includes a thumping from Liverpool in the Capital One Cup. That has definitely knocked some confidence compared with Arsenal who are flying at the moment and so I am surprised they are odds against to win this Premier League game.

It hasn't been a great venue for Arsenal to visit in recent years, but I think they can reverse that on Boxing Day and have to be backed at the prices on offer.

MY PICKS: Stoke City @ 3.50 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Crystal Palace @ 3.10 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.15 (2 Units)
Manchester City Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 1.80 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Newcastle United-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal @ 2.15 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

December Update12-19, - 8.52 Units (52 Units Staked, - 16.38% 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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