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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Australian Open Tennis Day 14 Picks- Men's Final (January 31st)

If the first Singles Final of the 2016 Tennis Grand Slam season is setting the standards that we can expect all season, then we are going to have a really enjoyable time watching the sport this season.

Both Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber played their part in a drama filled match and it was the latter who surprised most observers by beating the World Number 1 over three sets. Kerber deserved her win and her place as the World Number 2 as she finally won the big one.

I will admit that I thought she might have missed her window to win a Grand Slam, but it goes to show what hard work will reward you with and Kerber is a deserved winner. Backing up this start to the season is going to be a huge task for the first German Grand Slam winner this century, while Serena Williams has to pick herself up from a second consecutive Slam disappointment.

History is going to begin to weigh on her shoulders, but there was enough form shown by Serena Williams over the last two weeks to think she goes into every tournament she enters as a big favourite. It would be nice for Serena to win one of these matches that goes into a third set on the big stage just to reignite any confidence that might have been lost, but I think the American can have a very big 2016 season and get past Steffi Graf's 22 Grand Slam titles.

Whenever the World Number 1 and World Number 2 meet in a Grand Slam Final, most would be expecting a competitive affair. However, Novak Djokovic's comprehensive hammering of Roger Federer over four sets on Thursday night had made him a strong favourite to beat Andy Murray who played his Semi Final a day later and was forced to dig deep in a five set win over Milos Raonic.

The layers might not be expecting the most entertaining Australian Open Final, but I do think they could be surprised in this one.

Novak Djokovic- Andy Murray over 36.5 total games: The layers have looked at the way the second Semi Final went down for Andy Murray as he was dragged into a long five setter while Novak Djokovic was resting at home after a relatively straight-forward Semi Final win the night before.

There is no doubting that Novak Djokovic believes he is the fittest player on the Tour and he has regularly made not to mention that he always feels he can out-last Andy Murray if it comes down to their physical fitness. Having an extra day of recovery no doubt gives Novak Djokovic an edge in this one especially as the World Number 1 would have been a strong favourite even if he had played the Friday Semi Final.

Djokovic has looked very strong in his last two matches since being given a scare by Gilles Simon and I can't see him losing this Final now. He has beaten Murray in ten of their last eleven matches since the Wimbledon Final of 2013 and his run of victories include winning all three matches they have played at Grand Slams since that defeat.

One of those matches was last year in the Final at the Australian Open as Novak Djokovic wore down Murray after splitting the first two sets. He dropped just three games in the final two sets after being forced into two tie-breakers and it is a feature of their previous matches that there are tight moments when Murray is able to have success before Novak Djokovic eventually takes control.

I do think Andy Murray needs a fast start to get the adrenaline pumping and to ignore the tiredness he may be feeling after the match with Milos Raonic. Eventually you have to think that will help wear down Murray as Djokovic uses his physical advantages to take control of the match but I wouldn't be surprised if the World Number 2 can take a set in this one.

Djokovic has only beaten Murray in straight sets once before so there is a reasonable thought to backing the Serb to win this one in four sets. Murray isn't as aggressive as Federer and he can sometimes make enough balls to force Djokovic into a few mistakes and it is only after a couple of hours when Djokovic's superior movement and ability to get around the court begins to take control in previous matches.

I know Djokovic has beaten Murray quite easily in two matches at the back end of last season and the latter is in a tough position having played the second Semi Final and being kept out on the court for a long time. However, I am seeing that five of the last six Grand Slam matches between these players have gone at least four sets and surpassed this number of games and I do think Murray can match up well with Djokovic for a certain amount of time before perhaps falling slightly below that level and falling away.

I really see a situation where they will play two competitive sets that will perhaps be split one each before Djokovic begins to take control and move away from Murray. It is hard to imagine Murray allowing himself to crumble as badly as he did last season when bagelled in the fourth set, but that shouldn't matter in getting over this number of total games.

MY PICK: Novak Djokovic-Andy Murray Over 36.5 Total Games @ 1.73 Sky Bet (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 30-47, - 34.10 Units (148 Units Staked, - 23.04% Yield)

Friday, 29 January 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (January 29-31)

The FA Cup has taken centre stage this weekend with the Fourth Round to be played over three days. With the Euro 2016 tournament fast approaching, it does also mean there are two Premier League round of fixtures to be played during the week as well as those sides from the Championship involved in the Fourth Round making up for the weekend postponed games.

The Third Round and Fourth Round ties have not exactly got the pulses racing for the fans, but that does mean the FA Cup is likely to produce some big ties in the coming months.

There are some big ties in the Fourth Round, but the big names of the Premier League are expected to progress into the Fifth Round when teams really begin to believe they are going to make it all the way to Wembley.

It is also a big Round for managers under pressure, Louis Van Gaal springing to mind, as well as those who are desperate to stay in touch for some silverware.

Derby County v Manchester United PickNeither Derby County nor Manchester United are coming into this Fourth Round FA Cup tie with a lot of momentum and confidence behind them and that makes it a fascinating Cup tie.

It is no surprise that the television cameras have pitched up to the iPro Stadium with this looking the standout tie of the Round, and especially the one that looks like it could produce a big surprise. Derby County have been strong at the iPro Stadium all season, but they were beaten 0-3 by Birmingham City in their last game here and that has to have knocked belief.

On the other hand, Manchester United have continued to play an ineffective style that has both bored the fans and, according to the man himself, the manager. There have been too many games when Manchester United insist on the slow build up play that has allowed teams to sit deep and contain them comfortably, but they have at least shown more life away from home.

I have begun to wonder if the players have started to dislike playing at Old Trafford where the tension from the stands is being felt. Away from home has seen Manchester United find more goals, although they have looked much weaker defensively in those games too and that makes me believe this Cup tie could actually produce some entertainment for the fans.

There have been a lot more goals scored and conceded by Manchester United away from home, and Derby County will certainly look to expose those vulnerabilities. I couldn't get close to backing Manchester United at short odds to win this game on their current form, but they will have an opportunity in what should be a game with chances at both ends.

I am expecting both teams to score once in this one and then it is a case of tossing a coin and picking the winner... For me, I believe the layers are offering too big a price on there being at least three goals scored in this one.

Colchester United v Tottenham Hotspur PickThe FA Cup might not be top of the list of priorities for many managers in the Premier League, but Mauricio Pochettino won't want his Tottenham Hotspur side to have their confidence dented with an upset loss. This also represents a good chance for silverware which will underline the strong job the Argentinian is doing at White Hart Lane and he would love to get this done in the initial tie with a busy February already in place.

Tottenham Hotspur will be playing a well rested Norwich City team in the Premier League on Tuesday so I expect they will make some changes, but Pochettino has still played a strong team in the two matches so far this season. He did the same last season and I do think Tottenham Hotspur will come here fully focused on the task at hand.

It will be tough for Colchester United to bridge the gap in quality as they continue to struggle in League One and look set to fall into the fourth tier of English football. The home win over Charlton Athletic in the Third Round will have given them the taste for an upset, but this Spurs team is much stronger than their fellow Londoners.

I expect Colchester United will try and get in the faces of their Premier League guests and make things awkward for them before and during this match. However, eventually I am expecting Tottenham Hotspur to show off their Premier League quality and get the win in the initial tie and I like them to win this one by a couple of goals.

Arsenal v Burnley PickThe home advantage in this FA Cup tie does take away some of the chances of there being an upset and I do think Arsenal are going to take this competition a little more seriously than Burnley. That is not to say that Sean Dyche will send a team out expecting to lose, but their focus is on the Championship and Burnley don't have the same squad depth as a team like Arsenal.

I also think the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud may be given their opportunities to play in this one as Arsenal won't want to get dragged into a replay. There is a big Premier League schedule coming during the week again, but Arsene Wenger made sure he played a strong looking side in the Third Round and I think he will want to remove the Chelsea defeat with a win this week.

Arsenal have had time to prepare and they have a very strong recent record against Burnley at home. The FA Cup has also been a competition they have enjoyed and most of their recent home wins in the FA Cup have come by a couple of goals.

With Burnley perhaps making a few chances themselves, Arsenal should have too much for them this weekend and I think they win this one with a relatively comfortable margin.

Aston Villa v Manchester City Pick: All talk of the Quadruple are off the agenda for Manuel Pellegrini who knows how unrealistic the chances of that happening are for Manchester City. Getting through to the League Cup Final is a big achievement, but Manchester City already have a very busy few months ahead and they can ill afford a Replay in this Fourth Round tie.

Pellegrini has admitted that too but is also insistent that he will play a strong squad to make sure Manchester City move into the Fifth Round at the first time of asking. Losing Kevin de Bruyne for the next three months is a big blow for Manchester City with their summer signing proving inspirational in the final third, but they can recover from that if David Silva can rediscover his form.

Sergio Aguero has gotten back to his best which is a key for Manchester City- keeping him healthy will make the side favourites to win the Premier League title and it was his goal in the Third Round that sent the side on their way through against Norwich City.

Norwich City were less concerned with an FA Cup run, but this week Manchester City will face an Aston Villa team with only a strong Cup run to look forward to at the end of this season. Last year they reached the FA Cup Final and it might be the only thing keeping the fans from outright mutiny in the final months of the season and the inevitable drop into the Championship.

Aston Villa have earned some more positive results of late, but they are struggling to earn the wins they need to start closing the gap to the teams in the safety positions. They had a hard time seeing off Wycombe Wanderers in the Third Round as well and Manchester City can expose a vulnerable defensive unit.

These two teams did have to settle for a goalless draw when they met at Villa Park earlier in the season but both Aguero and Silva missed that game. Both are back and, prior to the draw this season, Manchester City had won three of four at Villa Park and I think they will win this weekend too.

Oxford United v Blackburn Rovers Pick: In the Third Round of the FA Cup, Oxford United beat Swansea City from the Premier League at this Stadium and they actually come into the game as favourites against Blackburn Rovers of the Championship.

This could be quite a good game to watch for the fans in attendance with Oxford United playing an attractive, attacking style of football. That will also give Blackburn Rovers a chance to get the ball down and try to expose the difference between a League Two side and a Championship side, and Blackburn Rovers did win at Newport County from this Division in the Third Round.

While their Premier League status is gone and Blackburn Rovers have struggled for the consistency they need in the League, this club did reach the Sixth Round last season and were also in the Sixth Round a couple of years prior to that.

Blackburn Rovers have been struggling of late and that does make them ripe for the upset when you consider the goal-scoring exploits of Oxford United at home. However, the home team are also defensively vulnerable in their home games with their style of play giving their opponents a chance to play their football too and I do think there will be at least three goals shared between the teams.

Portsmouth v Bournemouth PickLeague Two versus Premier League is the kind of FA Cup game that people talk about when talking about the 'magic' of the competition. It is only a few seasons ago that the status of the two clubs would have been reversed, but this season it is Portsmouth who are the underdogs at home to beat Bournemouth.

A 0-1 home loss to Oxford United would have dented some confidence for Portsmouth, but they will still believe they have a chance of earning the upset. They did beat Ipswich Town here in the Third Round and they are playing a Bournemouth team that will likely make a host of changes.

That didn't affect Bournemouth in their Third Round win at Birmingham City and the fans will be keen to avoid an upset against a south coast rival. Eddie Howe's own priority is making sure Bournemouth are going to stay alive in the Premier League but a Cup run can't hurt as they try and put some momentum behind them going into the last few months of the season.

This does look a tough test for Bournemouth against a team that plays well in front of the loud support they will get at Fratton Park. However the feeling is that the Premier League fitness will help Bournemouth get through the difficult patches against Portsmouth and likely see them through to the Fifth Round.

At first glance Bournemouth do look a very big price to win this game, but I think this is a game that is going to produce at least three goals which can be backed at odds against. Recent games for Portsmouth at home and Bournemouth away have suggested goals are likely to be in the offing in this Fourth Round tie and I do think both teams will score in what looks a likely entertaining game at Fratton Park.

Shrewsbury Town v Sheffield Wednesday Pick: Both Shrewsbury Town and Sheffield Wednesday have big League assignments during the week, but a chance to get to the FA Cup Fifth Round is a big carrot to keep them motivated. These teams have different League goals with Shrewsbury Town battling against relegation in League One and Sheffield Wednesday trying to get back into the Premier League from the Championship.

The edge has to be given to Sheffield Wednesday who have been a strong Cup team in the last couple of seasons having reached the Fifth Round of the FA Cup last season. They were also League Cup Quarter Finalists this season and Sheffield Wednesday have been in some very good form at the moment.

A game with Burnley at home is a big game on Tuesday, but Sheffield Wednesday won't want to lose momentum ahead of that one by being upset in the Fourth Round. The majority of Sheffield Wednesday's recent positive form has come at Hillsborough and one concern for me is that they have won just 1 of their last 8 away games in all competitions.

However, Shrewsbury Town have lost 3 of their last 4 home games at the lower level and even their win at Cardiff City in the Third Round is a rare positive in recent weeks. The quality should be coming from the Sheffield Wednesday half of the field and I think they look an appealing price at odds against to win here.

Liverpool v West Ham United PickI do think one of the 'trendy' picks of the Fourth Round is going to be West Ham United earning a result at Anfield and I also think The Hammers have every chance of doing that on Saturday afternoon.

The Liverpool squad is ravaged by injuries and they haven't been able to bring in the reinforcements expected in the January transfer window. Having played 120 minutes in the League Cup Semi Final Second Leg on Tuesday and then coming through the emotions of penalties, you have to think Jurgen Klopp will make changes especially with two Premier League games to come in the next week.

Those changes will mean they will likely need to bring in some younger players with less experience and West Ham United will have had plenty of time to prepare for this one. Slaven Bilic can play as strong a team as he likes and the FA Cup is a good chance for West Ham United to have a very deep run in the competition.

Recent weeks have seen West Ham United struggle away from home a little more than they did at the beginning of the season when they won at The Emirates Stadium, Anfield and The Etihad Stadium. West Ham United have also won at Crystal Palace and avoided defeat at Old Trafford so this is a team that won't be intimidated by the atmosphere they face at Liverpool.

West Ham United will have confidence that comes from doing the League double over Liverpool and their added fitness has to give them a real edge. I really considered backing the away team to win this one at the first opportunity, but instead the safer option seems like backing West Ham United to avoid defeat.

A replay won't be what Jurgen Klopp wants with a busy February and March coming up, while West Ham United have a 'freer' time to ensure they can play a strong team to progress if the game is taken back to Upton Park. The away team can expose Liverpool's vulnerabilities from set pieces and I like West Ham United getting some sort of result in this one.

Carlisle United v Everton Pick: The flooding in the north of England affected Carlisle United Football Club massively, but they have relaid the turf at Brunton Park and are ready to host Premier League Everton in the FA Cup Fourth Round. Carlisle United have experience of taking on a big Premier League club having taken Liverpool to penalties in the League Cup before ultimately losing and they will look to make life as uncomfortable for Everton as possible.

The flooding means the away dressing room has been moved outside and that is not something the pampered players of the Premier League will be prepared for. Everton also have to pick themselves up from a really disappointing League Cup Semi Final loss at Manchester City when a controversial second goal for the home team was allowed to stand and shift the momentum of that tie.

Roberto Martinez has been put under pressure by the fans who have expected so much more from this Everton squad that has a very decent spine. I think they are underachieving in the Premier League and going out of the FA Cup to a team from League Two is going to really put the fans on the Spaniard's back.

However, Martinez has experience of leading Wigan Athletic to the FA Cup in recent years and Everton are a match for anyone on a one-off occasion. A strong team should be used to make sure they avoid the banana skin at Carlisle United and this is a big gap for them to bridge.

If Everton can ride out some pressure that Carlisle United will likely produce early in this one, I think their quality will shine through in the second half and they can pull away for the win. Everton have a real chance of going all the way in this competition which will give Martinez more time as manager and I expect them to get this done at the first time of asking as I look for them to cover the Asian Handicap.

MK Dons v Chelsea Pick: When the draw for the Fourth Round was made, the MK Dons looked like the team most likely in a good position to upset Chelsea who are having a really poor year by their own standards. However, Karl Robinson's attention is on survival in the Championship and he may make some changes to his starting eleven, while Chelsea have a confidence boosting 0-1 win at Arsenal behind them.

There are two big Premier League games to come this week for Chelsea, but the top four looks gone and they are too good to go down. That means the FA Cup has taken on an added importance for them along with the Champions League so I expect Guus Hiddink to play a strong team.

Some will look to the MK Dons 4-0 win over Manchester United in the League Cup last season as evidence they can create an upset. That is a fair point, but the MK Dons are not the same side as they were back then and I am not sure Robinson is going to pick his strongest team which raises doubts.

On the other hand I do expect the big names to be out there for Chelsea and this is a lovely Stadium where the away team will be comfortable getting the ball down and playing. Chelsea are unbeaten in all 3 away games played under Hiddink and they are yet to concede a goal in those games, while winning their last two at Crystal Palace (0-3) and Arsenal (0-1).

Chelsea beat Scunthorpe United comfortably at home in the Third Round and I think they are going to be too good for the changed MK Dons on the day. Backing the away side to win by at least a couple of goals is the call for me in the final Fourth Round tie of the weekend.

MY PICKS: Derby County-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City @ 1.75 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Oxford United-Blackburn Rovers Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Coral (2 Units)
Portsmouth-Bournemouth Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Sheffield Wednesday @ 2.05 Bet Fred (2 Units)
West Ham United + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.25 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)

Australian Open Tennis Day 13 Picks 2016- Women's Final (January 30th)

And so this is it... The two Singles Finals at the Australian Open 2016 have been set and the first of those will be the Women's Final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.

The favourite holds the experience edge by some margin, but the underdog can play with a 'nothing to lose' attitude having surpassed expectations to reach the Final.

I am not really someone who likes the 'nothing to lose' tag for Finals because you have to think Kerber works so hard on the court to make sure she wins a Grand Slam. This might be her best opportunity to ever to do so and that will play a part too, but on to the pick.

Serena Williams - 5.5 games v Angelique Kerber: Serena Williams is unsurprisingly the big favourite to win this Grand Slam title and make it five Grand Slam wins from the last six competed. 2014 seems a long time ago when Serena Williams 'only' won the US Open, but she will be expected to make it 22 career Grand Slams by winning in Australia and having every chance of surpassing Margaret Court's record 24 Single Slams by the end of the season.

The World Number 1 has played with a chip on her shoulder this entire tournament even if she would be loathed to admit that. After losing in the US Open Semi Final last season and then pulling out of the Tour the rest of the way to recover, some questioned whether that was a mental blow from which she would not recover.

The knee issue at the Hopman Cup which forced another withdrawal only clouded her status all the more and Serena Williams came into the tournament at what was most likely her biggest price to win a Grand Slam for at least three years. But Serena has made little work of the draw following a First Round win over Camila Giorgi and the confidence has to be flowing through her ahead of the Final, even if she has admitted having nerves going into these matches in the past.

Williams lost nine games in her First Round match but has lost just seventeen in her next five matches combined and the serve seems to be working effectively. Issues with the sun have affected the ball toss in previous matches, but this is a night session match and it is going to take a monumental effort from Angelique Kerber to keep this one competitive.

I do like what Kerber brings to the court with the power to turn defence into attack very quickly and movement that can frustrate the best players on the Tour. Her first serve has actually been working much better than expected with a few cheap points coming from it and Kerber will need to keep that at a high percentage if she is going to earn the surprise win.

The lefty play might also disrupt Serena Williams a little bit, but Kerber will find it hard to match the power on the other side of the court and it does feel the match is going to be dictated on the American's racquet. Unlike Agnieszka Radwanska, Kerber has beaten Serena Williams in the past which might give her a little more belief in her game and two of their seven previous matches would have seen her cover this number of games.

However, that also means five out of seven has seen Serena cover and I think it is telling that Kerber has never won more than 30% of the return points against the Williams serve. With the way Serena has been serving in this tournament, it is hard to imagine that changing significantly which it would need to if Kerber was to win this match.

I actually think it is a number she will need to improve to simply stay in this one too and I believe Serena Williams is in such magnificent form that I expect her to win this one 62, 64.

MY PICKS: Serena Williams - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Boyle Sports (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 30-46, - 32.10 Units (146 Units Staked, - 21.30% Yield)

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Australian Open Tennis Day 12 Picks 2016 (January 29th)

The final three days of the Australian Open will see one Singles match per day with the second of the Men's Semi Finals set for Friday before the Women's Final on Saturday and the Men's Final on Sunday.

All of the matches are set for the cooler night conditions which do take some of the pace out of the courts, but there should still be three fun matches for the fans to enjoy.

The Women's Final was set between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber as both won their matches in straight sets on Thursday.

Serena Williams was very dominant against Agnieszka Radwanska even if she hit a bit of a slump in the second set when up a break in that one. Playing someone who retrieves the ball as well as Radwanska will set up Williams for her match with Kerber, although the latter does have a little more behind her groundstrokes that will give the World Number 1 something different to look at.

Angelique Kerber handled her nerves well to beat Johanna Konta after a tight first set and she was a deserved Finalist from the bottom half of the draw. The German has flattered to deceive in recent years but finally put it all together to take advantage of a section that saw most of the Seeds beaten early, although Kerber's win over Victoria Azarenka was the kind of win that deserved to see her book through to the Final.

You have to give credit to Johanna Konta for the tournament she has had and I would be surprised if anyone was critical of the British Number 1 who has also moved inside the top 30 of the World Rankings. With little points to defend in the coming months, I can see Konta pushing on inside the top 20 of the World Rankings with a couple more strong tournaments especially with direct entry into the biggest Premier Events heading through to the French Open.

A Seeded Women's player at Wimbledon will really be a big deal for the home fans at Wimbledon who have been used to simply focusing on Andy Murray for the most part of that two week event. All it will take is a couple of wins at each of the Premier Events coming up in the coming months and Konta will certainly be in line to achieve that which justifies all the belief her supporters will have had in her game.

Novak Djokovic became the first Men's Finalist after a near perfect performance in dispatching Roger Federer in four sets. It took a monumental effort from Federer to even take a set in this match having won just three games in the first two sets and Bernard Tomic's comments about the gap between Djokovic and Federer were underlined in this one.

I will say the opening few months of the Tour favour Djokovic more than Federer (outside Dubai) and so the win for the World Number 1 wasn't a big surprise, especially in the night session where the courts suit him even more in Australia. It is going to take something special to stop Djokovic winning his fourth Grand Slam in five played and I think a lot of people will consider him the favourite to win all four Slams in 2016.

The Calendar Slam would be a huge achievement in Men's tennis, but if Djokovic also adds the Singles Gold Medal at the Olympics and I think it might be the greatest achievement in the sport.

Can he do that? It is a possibility but I think Djokovic will have to get through a couple of really big matches and stay healthy and neither is guaranteed. He was close to an exit here against Gilles Simon and he was close to an exit against Kevin Anderson last year at Wimbledon, while someone like Stan Wawrinka is capable of being one of the few players to take the racquet out of Djokovic's hands when he is playing his best.

Plus Novak Djokovic won't be looking ahead to the rest of the season when there is still one more match to be played here at the Australian Open.

Andy Murray - 3.5 games v Milos Raonic: This is a very interesting Semi Final as Milos Raonic looks to announce himself at the very top of the men's game if he can reach his first Grand Slam Final. Beating someone of the level of Andy Murray would be a huge achievement for Raonic who has made his first Grand Slam Semi Final in eighteen months after something of a disappointing 2015 season.

2016 has started in a much more positive fashion for Raonic who won the title in Brisbane and who has come through the draw with just three sets dropped. However, those have been dropped in the last couple of Rounds and I do wonder if the Canadian is really ready to face someone like Murray who is capable of getting a lot of balls back in play off the serve.

The conditions might favour Murray, but Raonic was an impressive winner in the night session during his Quarter Final against Gael Monfils. The latter is probably the best athlete on the Tour, but he isn't as effective a returner as Murray and I think that is where the World Number 2 will get some joy on a slightly slower court than the way it plays during the day.

It might be a bit different if the expected rain arrives which means this match will be played indoors, but the conditions could be similar to the O2 Arena where Murray beat Raonic at the end of 2014 in straight sets. Murray has won their last two matches after losing the previous two and I do think Raonic has improved his overall game which backs up his big serve.

Andy Murray will have to serve well but I think he is playing some top tennis this week and he will have the mental edge of having been in and won Grand Slam Semi Finals. He has enjoyed his time at the Australian Open without quite winning the title, but I think he will set up another shot at Novak Djokovic by being awkward enough in the return games to get through this match.

I am expecting Murray to come through in three or four sets and I will back him to cover this number of games.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Sporting Bet (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 29-46, - 33.76 Units (144 Units Staked, - 23.44% Yield)

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Australian Open Tennis Day 11 Picks 2016 (January 28th)

It was something of a frustrating Day 10 as I was close to getting three out of four picks in the bag, but more disappointing was the exit of Victoria Azarenka, my first outright pick that has gone down.

The whole tournament has been something of a frustration with many surprises which isn't always a good thing, but I am really happy for Johanna Konta who has surpassed all expectations that I had from her game.

I genuinely thought she had a solid enough game to get into the top 32 of the World Rankings and that was something I made clear before Wimbledon last year, but a run to the Semi Final of a Grand Slam was not something I thought was really possible. Konta has had a bit of luck running into a couple of injured opponents and perhaps getting into a Quarter Final against an overmatched opponent, but you can only beat what is in front of you and she needs to be given credit.

No one in the Konta camp will be expecting this run to come to an end just yet and it is all about controlling nerves when she steps out for the Semi Final on Thursday.

Both Women's Semi Finals are played on Day 11 during the day and then the rest of the tournament will be set as 'night session' matches. The first of those is the huge Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer Men's Semi Final and I think both players will be very happy that they have a couple of days to rest after this match before the Final.

The winner will be a strong favourite to take the title home on Sunday, although Andy Murray and Milos Raonic will have plenty to say about that.

Serena Williams - 5.5 games v Agnieszka Radwanska: The exit of Victoria Azarenka won't just have been celebrated in Angelique Kerber's camp, but perhaps also in Serena Williams' as the former World Number 1 has arguably been her biggest threat on the Tour. There have been many times Azarenka has pushed Williams far beyond most others can, but Serena won't be overlooking Agnieszka Radwanska.

Williams has said a lot of positive things about Radwanska and was beaten in the Hopman Cup by her in 2015, but main Tour matches have gone in favour of the American 8-0. All but one of those has been very competitive with Serena Williams using her power and big serve to set herself up for a comfortable afternoon more often than not.

Aside from that close match at the Canadian Masters in 2013, Serena Williams would have covered this number of games against Radwanska every time. For all of the movement and variation in the Radwanska game, she is likely going to have to do a lot of chasing as long as Williams comes out a little more accurate than she began the match with Maria Sharapova.

Radwanska has only won the one previous set against Serena Williams and I am finding it hard to see why this match is going to go much differently. The Radwanska serve is a real weakness, especially if she has to throw in too many second serves and I think Serena Williams will eventually wear down her opponent in a 63, 62 win.

Johanna Konta + 4.5 games v Angelique Kerber: As soon as this match was set for the Semi Final, my first feeling was getting anything over three games in favour of Johanna Konta would be a lot of games for Angelique Kerber to cover. I have been surprised by the fact the layers have actually given Konta as many as 4.5 games on the handicap and I do think the British Number 1 will have enough in her game to stay competitive.

Perhaps the layers are looking for Konta to finally show some nerves in this Grand Slam Semi Final, but she has remained mentally strong throughout the tournament. Working on the mental side of things have really helped Konta and she looks like someone who really is taking it a point at a time on the court.

This is the second time she will be coming up a lefty server so Konta should be prepared for what Angelique Kerber will bring to the table. I also think there is a lot more pressure on the latter who has never reached a Grand Slam Final, but has lost two Semi Finals, and must be feeling that this is her best chance of doing that.

Kerber is also coming in off an emotional win over Victoria Azarenka, but if she is serving as effectively as in the Quarter Final she will make it difficult for Konta. The German has to be aware that her forehand will naturally go into Konta's best shot, the backhand, and she will have to return well against a very good Konta serve.

The last four Rounds have seen Kerber really win her matches with room to spare, but I am not sure this will be so easy as she is bound to have some nerves. I do think she might eventually have a little too much for Konta, but the latter is playing well enough on serve and return to cover this number of games.

Novak Djokovic win 3-1 v Roger Federer: I was looking at a couple of other markets for this Semi Final, but ultimately settled on what is the most likely set score between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at this time of their careers.

Novak Djokovic has been a dominant player on the Tour over the last couple of years, but he has dominated in Australia for a lot longer than that. The courts have been speeded up a little this time around, but this match takes place in the night session when they have been a touch slower and Federer has made a note of saying it should favour Djokovic a little more.

I am not sure that is simply gamesmanship and Roger Federer will be looking to play some aggressive tennis to try and put the pressure on Djokovic in this one. He will definitely feel he will have a good chance if he can be a little more clinical when the break points come his way as that cost Federer in the US Open Final, but Djokovic has the returning ability to put plenty of pressure back on his opponent.

That return will eventually wear on Federer who can't get on the front foot when every return is coming at his feet and landing on the baseline. It is that element of the Djokovic game that has proven the difference while he has superior movement these days and the serve is a little under-rated, particularly how good it is under pressure.

Novak Djokovic won both Grand Slam matches between these two in four sets in 2015 and prior to that he was a five set winner at Wimbledon although that was a match in which he blew a big fourth set lead to finish in four too. The slightly quicker conditions in Australia should give Federer a chance to steal a set in this one too, but Novak Djokovic will ultimately be too strong on his favourite court where he has enjoyed the most success and I expect him to move into the Final in four sets.

MY PICKS: Serena Williams - 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Johanna Konta + 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Novak Djokovic Win 3-1 @ 3.80 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)

Australian Open Update: 27-45, - 36.38 Units (139 Units Staked, - 26.17% Yield)

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Australian Open Tennis Day 10 Picks 2016 (January 27th)

With just days remaining at the Australian Open, this could easily become an indoor tournament now the weather is set to take a turn for the worse in Melbourne. The next few days are supposed to be very rainy and I do wonder if that is going to give Novak Djokovic, the best indoor player in the world, another advantage.

The first two Semi Finals were set on Tuesday and you have to be excited about both even if we will have two clear favourites.

Agnieszka Radwanska might be able to play enough variation in her tennis to give Serena Williams something to think about, while the match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic is always one that the fans will be looking forward to, especially at this Stage of a Grand Slam.

Roger Federer also helped the first of three outright picks come in from the beginning of the tournament as he won the second quarter of the draw. The remaining three outright picks are also still in a position to produce some more winners and ensure that this tournament is not a complete write off and putting me in a big hole for the season.

Day 10 of the Australian Open sees the remaining four Quarter Finals played and it is an intriguing one with a couple of surprise names left in the draws. The Australian Open through the years has a tendency to produce these surprises as the early placement in the new season can see some of the other players a little undercooked, although it still looks like the cream will rise to the top for the Finals at the end of the week.

With just five days left of the first Grand Slam of the season, let us all hope for a strong set of matches to enjoy.

Andy Murray - 5.5 games v David Ferrer: There was little doubt that the last few days were going to be emotional for Andy Murray with him being days away from becoming a father for the first time. That has been coupled with the collapse of his father-in-law Nigel Sears during the Ana Ivanovic match on Sunday, but fortunately Sears is on his way back to the United Kingdom looking to be over the worst of his situation.

After the tough straight sets win over Bernard Tomic, Murray admitted there had been a draining amount of emotions leading up to the match, but he has got through and should be in a better place mentally in this one. The match up with David Ferrer should suit Murray too having won five in a row against the Spaniard and only dropping a couple of sets in that run.

Anyone with anything but respect for David Ferrer have to be criticised- he has made the most out of his game and with very little sign he is slowing down. Off season changes in the racquet haven't affected his game and Ferrer has come through four Rounds without dropping a set, although this is by far the greatest challenge he will have faced.

This is a match where Ferrer will know that Murray is capable of rallying with him as long as is needed while he has a definite edge when it comes to the first serve and the backhand wing. It has seen Murray wear him down in recent matches between them and I think we will see something similar in this one, although I won't be that surprised at all if there are a number of breaks of serve for both men.

Even then, Murray should have the majority of chances and will be much better prepared mentally knowing Nigel Sears is over the worst. In what will be a match seeing some long rallies, I eventually believe Murray will come through and I can see a double break of serve in a set being the reason he gets over this number.

Gael Monfils-Milos Raonic over 41.5 total games: This is a Quarter Final where both Gael Monfils and Milos Raonic have to believe they are capable of winning and that could make it very, very interesting. The layers have Raonic has a fairly confident favourite, but I am not so sure it will be so straight forward if Monfils serves well especially as the latter should be in stronger physical shape.

The Fourth Round win over Stan Wawrinka has to have taken something emotionally from Raonic too having dropped a 2-0 lead in set to eventually prevail in five sets. While the Brisbane Champion has looked like he has added some creases to his game, he has perhaps ridden his luck a little to have got past Tommy Robredo in straight sets in the First Round and Victor Troicki in straight sets in the Third Round.

Both Robredo and Troicki don't have a first serve like Monfils which can get the Frenchman out of trouble at times, nor do they have the physical athleticism to get around the court like Monfils. That athleticism will see him make a few more balls than Raonic is expecting and it can help him exploit mistakes, although I would love to see Monfils perhaps being a little more aggressive with his groundstrokes as many others would too.

It would be a mistake to allow Raonic to dictate the rallies as he has shown a confidence to get to the net and put away volleys if he needs to, while Monfils needs to serve well to keep the Canadian at bay.

Monfils does lead the head to head, but that is almost irrelevant with the last meeting coming in 2013 and Raonic a much improved player all around since then. This does have the makings of a tight match though and I would be surprised if either player is able to come through in straight sets which makes this number of games seem appealing.

With the serving that both are capable of, I would not be surprised to see a couple of tie-breakers being played and that should make it possible for this one to go over this number of games as long as it goes to a fourth set at least. I will be looking for the first two sets to be split between the players and there is a real chance this goes to five with the way both Monfils and Raonic have been playing so I will take the total games on.

Victoria Azarenka - 4.5 games v Angelique Kerber: The opening Quarter Final on the Rod Laver Arena looks the like the one that is most likely going to produce the Women's Finalist from the bottom half of the draw. Both Victoria Azarenka and Angelique Kerber will be big favourites to win their Semi Final which is played on Thursday, but they have to focus on the more immediate task of this Quarter Final.

It is no surprise that Azarenka is a healthy favourite to win the match having dismissed Kerber for the loss of just four games while winning the Brisbane title, and that win also improved her head to head to 6-0 against the German. However, Kerber gave Azarenka all she could handle in a three set defeat at the US Open last September so the former two-time Australian Open Champion has to be on her game.

So far, so good for Azarenka in 2016 though and she has won all nine matches she has played this season with Barbora Strycova getting the 'closest' by winning six games in the Fourth Round here. Azarenka has looked confident and strong through the first three weeks of the season and Kerber's only real hope is to frustrate her and find a way to force a number of unforced errors from her game.

She has some hope doing that as one of the strongest movers on the Tour, but Kerber is still working on getting more out of her serve which remains something of a liability. It hasn't really been exploited since her tough First Round win so Kerber will be feeling good about where her game is, but this has always been a tough match up for her.

Some of the matches in the past have been very competitive from these two as Kerber does have the ability to get a lot of balls back in play. However, Azarenka is in tremendous form at the moment and is serving and returning so effectively that it is hard to see this going much differently from their match in the Brisbane Final. I do think Kerber adds a couple more games on the board, but ultimately Azarenka will be too strong for the German and this number of games she is being asked to cover.

Johanna Konta - 3.5 games v Shuai Zhang: The last time Johanna Konta and Shuai Zhang met was also in a Quarter Final, but that was back in 2013 and at a far different level to a Grand Slam. There will be nerves because I am not sure either player will really get a better chance to reach a Grand Slam Semi Final, and that will obviously make it very tense in this match.

I am a little concerned with the emotional and physical effort Konta had to put into her Fourth Round win over Ekaterina Makarova. She admitted 'she left it all out there' after that match and I do wonder if a day of rest is enough to get her prepared, although Konta has been so mentally strong over the last six months.

And it isn't like Shuai Zhang had a straight-forward win in the Fourth Round, although her final set decided wasn't as taxing as Konta's. Zhang was fortunate that Madison Keys suffered a big time injury that restricted her completely in the last couple of sets, but Konta looks healthy and I think this is a match the British Number 1 can win and cement herself into a top 32 World Ranking.

One key is the way Konta has been serving- her opponents have struggled to win a large percentage of points on the return, the best being 38% from Makarova in the Fourth Round. Coupled with Konta getting a lot of joy from return games, it is no surprise that she has protected serve for the most part during the last ten days.

Compare that to Zhang who has allowed opponents to win at least 40% of the returning points from the first three Rounds but then held an injured Keys to 35%. It has also been a very, very long tournament for Zhang having come through the Qualifiers and I think Konta will have an edge in this match.

Expect to see some breaks of serve, but ultimately I think Konta will have enough to come through this one in straight sets which sees her cover this number.

MY PICKS: Andy Murray - 5.5 Games @ 1.83 Stan James (2 Units)
Gael Monfils-Milos Raonic Over 41.5 Total Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Victoria Azarenka - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Stan James (2 Units)
Johanna Konta - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Australian Open Update: 25-43, - 35.86 Units (131 Units Staked, - 27.37% Yield)

Monday, 25 January 2016

NBA Picks January 2016 (January 25-31)

There have been some big moves in the NBA over the past week and none more so than the firing of David Blatt in Cleveland.

That was a huge story considering the Cavaliers are leading the Eastern Conference, but it looks like they were not convinced Blatt was going to help them close the gap on the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs who look the teams to beat.

It might not be the only move in Cleveland with suggestions that Kevin Love will perhaps be traded before the deadline next month as the Cavaliers look for better chemistry with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

Talking about the Warriors and Spurs, they will meet for the first time this season on Monday, but Gregg Popovich has done a typical Pop move and already announced Tim Duncan will sit. I would not be surprised at all if other starters are given the night off with Popovich looking to get his team ready for the Play Offs and surprise the Warriors with what they are going to do in a potential Western Conference Finals.

It was a much better week for the picks after the disaster of the week before and has moved the January totals into a position where I can potentially end the month with a profit. It does mean having another big week to get that moved back around, but at least a chance has been created with a strong week last week.

Monday 25th January
There are plenty of games set for Monday, but it has been a little difficult finding an angle to go with although I do have a couple of picks from the day.

Boston Celtics @ Washington Wizards Pick: The Boston Celtics had an unforeseen back to back after the storm on the United States east coast meant their game against Philadelphia was postponed for a day. It didn't matter to the Celtics who blew out the 76ers on the road and now make the short trip to the Washington Wizards who were beaten by the Celtics just a couple of weeks ago.

The back to back hasn't been a big issue for the Celtics who have a 7-3 record in the second of those games this season, 4-2 on the road. Boston have also been in decent shape the last couple of weeks as they look to make sure they remain on course for a Play Off spot in the surprisingly competitive Eastern Conference.

It will need a big effort from the Celtics to beat Washington again considering the latter have also shown some decent results recently. They snapped their two game losing run at home by blowing out the Miami Heat and have been well rested with their last game being postponed due to the poor weather in the area.

Washington have been very good when playing with three or more days rest, going 3-0 against the spread in that spot this season. However, I think the Boston Celtics can match up well with them and have been a strong road underdog to back and I will take the points in this one.

Atlanta Hawks @ Denver Nuggets Pick: The Denver Nuggets will be missing Kenneth Faried in this game, but I still think they are being given too many points at home in this one. The Nuggets have gone 4-3 on their current home stand which comes to a close on Monday, but they are 6-1 against the spread in those games as they have played teams competitively.

It looks like another game where they will be able to give their visitors all they can handle, especially if the Atlanta Hawks can't find the consistency that helped them to the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference last season. The Hawks return home after this game, but back to back losses to Sacramento and Phoenix are disappointing considering what Atlanta believe they are capable of achieving.

This hasn't looked a great position for Atlanta in the past to cover spreads and they are just 1-4 against the spread when favoured by between 3.5 and 6 points on the road. And throw in the fact that all of Denver's last seven home games have been decided by 6 points or fewer, six of those games by 3 points or fewer, and this looks a lot of points for the Nuggets to be given.

I hate the fact that Faried is likely out because he is a big presence on the boards both Offensively and Defensively, but I still think Atlanta have played up and down all season. That inconsistency is hard to ignore and I like the home underdog to stay within this number.

Tuesday 26th January
It was a mixed bag of results from the opening day of this week, while the Tuesday schedule looks a difficult one to negotiate too. Looking through the games, only one really appealed.

Sacramento Kings @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: Two teams who are trying their best to get into the Western Conference Play Off picture face one another on Tuesday. However this looks a really difficult position for the Sacramento Kings to compete and I would be surprised if the Portland Trail Blazers cannot take advantage.

While Portland have been resting since Saturday, this will be Sacramento's third game in four nights and they are coming in on the second of a back to back. That alone might not be an issue as the Kings have a solid 7-4 record against the spread in the second of those games this season, but the difference this time is that the Kings had to play a double Overtime game on Monday.

They will also have taken an emotional body blow having lost that game to Charlotte and it might be difficult for them to really pick themselves up for this road game. Portland have the speed and scoring power to make it very hard for a fatigued Sacramento team and it is hard to imagine them having enough in the tank for this game.

Sacramento have been a strong road underdog but this looks a bad spot for them. Add to that the fact that Portland are 6-1 against the spread when having a couple of days to rest and they have a solid enough 6-4 record against the spread as the home favourite this season to think they can take advantage if the Kings are physically spent.

Wednesday 27th January
The Portland Trail Blazers did the business comfortably on Tuesday against a tired Sacramento Kings team.

However, I have nothing to back that up with on Wednesday with the lines intriguing me in a couple of games but ultimately falling a little too short for me to get involved. Hopefully Thursday will provide better options.

Thursday 28th January
I had a look through the six games to be played in the NBA on Thursday and once again there isn't a game that really stands out for me to make a pick.

Hopefully the nine games on Friday will produce an angle worth backing after only making three picks through the first four days of this week.

Friday 29th January
After a couple of days off from making picks due to not really being convinced, Friday has offered up some angles that I am hoping to exploit.

Cleveland Cavaliers @ Detroit Pistons Pick: The firing of David Blatt was the big news story of last week, but Cleveland have responded with back to back wins following a loss against the Chicago Bulls. However those have come against some of the weaker teams in the NBA and this is a big challenge for them up against the Detroit Pistons.

There aren't too many teams that are as up and down as the Pistons- they have beaten the likes of Golden State and Houston, but lost to New Orleans and Denver as they struggle for those consistencies.

I like the Pistons in this spot even though they go on the road to the hot Toronto Raptors on Saturday. Playing the best team in the Eastern Conference at home should have some inspired for a big effort as they look to put another win in the column against the Cleveland Cavaliers having done that earlier this season.

And while the Pistons are in a tough spot, Cleveland are hosting the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday which is certainly going to take some of their focus from this one-stop road game. Cleveland are trying to prove they can handle the best in the Western Conference after being blown out by the LA Clippers, while the Cavaliers are a poor road favourite to back, going 13-22 against the spread when favoured by six points or fewer on the road.

This isn't a lot of points for the home underdog to be given, but I like the Pistons in this spot with the points.

Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder Pick: The Houston Rockets were embarrassed by the San Antonio Spurs in their last game and will be expecting a much better effort when they face the Oklahoma City Thunder. While all of the attention in the NBA is on the two leading teams in the Western Conference, Oklahoma City are quietly going about their business and will not be overlooked easily with both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in their starting line up.

The Thunder have only had only sloppy loss in recent weeks and they have some revenge on their minds as an injury ravaged squad was beaten by Houston all three times last season. Houston have backed that up with another win this season to make it five in a row against the Thunder, but this might be the best Oklahoma City they have played in that time.

Oklahoma City have played very well at home and they have a decent record here when playing teams with winning records. That has not been the case for Houston who are 4-8 against the spread as the road underdog, while they are 3-6 against the spread when playing a team with a winning record on the road.

I'd be more than a little stunned if Houston are blown out again as they were in San Antonio, but I expect Oklahoma City to do enough to win this one and cover the points.

Charlotte Hornets @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: The Charlotte Hornets have a very good record as the road underdog of six points or fewer in the last couple of seasons. They seem to thrive in that spot, but I am not sure they will be able to do that against the Portland Trail Blazers who are looking to maintain their position in the Western Conference.

I wouldn't take the Charlotte blow out loss in Utah as anything more than an accumulation of fatigue from their double overtime win in Sacramento. That win will give them confidence they can beat another of the teams chasing the Number 8 spot in the Western Conference, but I think the injuries in the rotation are hurting the team.

Portland have overachieved this season with many expecting them to fall off after losing key contributors in the off-season. Damien Lilliard has been backed up by CJ McCollum to give Portland a strong back court and the team have filled some holes effectively while the Trail Blazers also have a strong record against Charlotte, going 6-1 against the spread in the last seven at the Rose Garden and 9-4 against the spread in the last thirteen of this series.

The Trail Blazes are also 6-2 against the spread when facing teams with losing records at home and they should have too much for a short-handed Charlotte team almost concluding their road trip.

Saturday 30th January
It seems the days off from the NBA Picks were justified after the Friday picks went 2-1.

With just two days left of the month, another couple of winning days will make sure the month ends without a loss after a miserable middle week which was the worst of the season so far. On Saturday we have a number of games being played and I should have at least one pick with my shortlist completed but waiting for the final lines.

Detroit Pistons @ Toronto Raptors Pick: It wasn't a great performance from Detroit on Friday night as they failed to really stop Cleveland getting what they wanted Offensively through the first three quarters. That effectively ended that game as Detroit came into the fourth quarter down by eighteen points and even a fourth quarter fightback was never looking like being anything but pride salvaging.

Now they take on the second best team in the Eastern Conference and one that will have the confidence flowing through them following a ten game winning run. That is a franchise record for the Toronto Raptors who will be heading on the road after this game.

First Toronto conclude a seven game home stand and they have been dominant winning all six as they look to complete a sweep on Saturday. All but one have been comfortable wins for the Raptors who are playing a Pistons team that are just 3-6 against the spread when on the second of back to back nights play.

I hate underestimating Detroit who have been capable of raising their level, but they might have put in too much of an effort in the latter stages of their loss to Cleveland. Fatigue has to play some part, while Toronto are playing much better Defensively which can set them up for a decent win.

Sacramento Kings @ Memphis Grizzlies Pick: The Memphis Grizzlies are almost certainly going to make the Play Offs, but the future of the franchise has some big questions to answer. They did sign up Marc Gasol for the long-term, but Mike Conley could potentially move on this summer while a changing identity has made them a little hit or miss this season.

While they have been able to handle some of the weaker teams in the NBA, Memphis have been battered when facing the best. Maybe they can surprise someone in the First Round of the Play Offs, but they don't look a genuine threat in the Western Conference.

The Grizzlies won't be able to underestimate the Sacramento Kings who have DeMarcus Cousins firing, but who have to snap a three game losing run. Sacramento are trying to get into the Play Offs, but there are some moves that still need to be made to make the Kings a threat in a tough Conference.

Sacramento haven't been that strong in this series and I think Memphis will make enough stops Defensively to put themselves into a position to win this one. The Kings are 2-3 against the spread as the road underdog being given three points or fewer compared with Memphis going 17-9 against the spread when favoured by three points or fewer at home.

After a real battle, I expect Memphis to make some stops late to ensure they win this one by at least three points.

San Antonio Spurs @ Cleveland Cavaliers Pick: This is a big game for the Cleveland Cavaliers who are still trying to prove themselves in the wake of the firing of David Blatt. A very good looking win at the Detroit Pistons can't be dismissed easily, but now they are on a back to back where they are 3-4-1 against the spread this season and trying to show that they have learnt a lot from their blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors here.

The San Antonio Spurs have also been blown out by the Warriors, but they recovered to hand out a beating to the Houston Rockets at home. Unlike Cleveland, San Antonio are well rested and have a 5-2 record against the spread when having two days rest between games.

There is something to prove for the Spurs after that loss to Golden State and they are going to be missing Tim Duncan as they look for a season sweep of the Cavaliers. There has been a change in the way Cleveland are playing under Tyronn Lue as they look to move the ball quicker than they did under Blatt and the team have responded well, although they did lose their first game against the Chicago Bulls.

Being a home underdog is a strange spot for Cleveland but they are 4-4 against the spread as a small home underdog of three points or fewer over the last couple of seasons. It has not been a great spot for the Spurs either as the small road favourite, but I think there is more consistency with the way they want to play and I believe they win a big national game while covering this number.

Sunday 31st January
You can't be anything but frustrated with Saturday picks- the Cleveland Cavaliers were brilliant and deserved their win over the San Antonio Spurs, but I should really have had two winners from three picks.

However, both Toronto and Memphis blew twenty point leads in the fourth quarter with the Grizzlies barely holding on and the Raptors failing to cover. That is frustrating when you think of the numbers they had to cover and had a knock on the weekly totals.

There is just one day left in this month and I have a couple of picks from the games to be played on Sunday.

Boston Celtics @ Orlando Magic Pick: The Boston Celtics are looking for a home and home sweep of the fading Orlando Magic as they look to improve their own standing in the Eastern Conference. Boston have looked very strong at both ends of the court in their five game winning run and Orlando will have seen at first hand a few days ago as to how difficult playing the Celtics is at this moment.

The Celtics have scored at least 109 points in nine straight games which is incredible when coupled with the way the Defensive side of the court is being looked after. Only one of their last four opponents have managed to get into triple figures and facing an Orlando team who have lost eight in a row will give the Celtics a significant edge.

Playing teams with losing records on the road has been productive for Boston who are 7-2 against the spread in that spot this season. The Celtics haven't been a great road favourite to back though, which does concern me, but this is a team streaking at the moment and who dominated Orlando just days ago.

I am also a little worried that the last nine games in the series have been won by the home team and Boston are 0-4 against the spread in their last four visits to this part of Florida. Numbers are made to be snapped though and Boston are a stronger team than Orlando at this moment and I will back them to cover.

Minnesota Timberwolves @ Portland Trail Blazers Pick: The Portland Trail Blazers are enjoying a long home stand which is going to be used to spark their push towards the Western Conference Play Offs. After losing their opening game, Portland have won three in a row at the Rose Garden and will be very confident they can get the better of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The young Timberwolves have been competitive in some games, but they have had difficulties on the road where their concentration can be questioned. It has been a disappointing season for Minnesota who thought they could have a step up in their performances with their young core earning some experience.

That hasn't really happened for them and Minnesota have already been beaten by the Portland Trail Blazers twice at home this season. Now they go on the road where they are 0-6-1 against the spread in their last seven games in Portland, while Minnesota are also 3-7 against the spread on the road against teams with losing records.

On the other hand, Portland are 6-2 against the spread at home when playing teams with losing records. It does look a good spot for Portland to make it four in a row at home and I like them to cover this number.

MY PICKS: 25/01 Boston Celtics + 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
25/01 Denver Nuggets + 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
26/01 Portland Trail Blazers - 4 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
29/01 Detroit Pistons + 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Coral (1 Unit)
29/01 Oklahoma City Thunder - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
29/01 Portland Trail Blazers - 5.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
30/01 Toronto Raptors - 7.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
30/01 Memphis Grizzlies - 2.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
30/01 San Antonio Spurs - 2 Points @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
31/01 Boston Celtics - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
31/01 Portland Trail Blazers - 7 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

January 25-31 Update: 5-6, - 1.45 Units

January 18-24 Final: 8-3, + 4.37 Units
January 11-17 Final2-9, - 7.18 Units
January 4-10 Final6-5-2, + 0.46 Units

January Update16-17-2, - 2.35 Units

December Final27-21-3, + 3.67 Units
November Final27-22-1, + 2.69 Units
October Final5-4, + 0.57 Units
Season 201659-47-4, + 6.93 Units

Final Season 2015109-108-5, - 6.91 Units
Final Season 201458-72-1, - 16.86 Units
Final Season 2013105-93-3, + 10.49 Units
Final Season 201279-53-1, + 27.48 Units