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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (February 13-14)

European Football returns this week with the Second Round Champions League and Last 32 Europa League games scheduled from Tuesday to Thursday.

Before that we have another round of domestic football to be played this weekend and all those who wanted to have a long, romantic Valentines Day may have changed their plans. Instead seeing the top four in the Premier League face one another is a hard draw to ignore and Super Sunday could live up to its billing this week.

Games are beginning to wind down now which increases the importance of each round of fixtures at the top and bottom of the Premier League.

February has opened up decent enough to follow a strong January, but there is still some work to do to try and improve the season totals which took a heavy shot at the beginning of the season. Another solid weekend would help matters, but it is a long game being played rather than the quick fix.

Sunderland v Manchester United PickLouis Van Gaal is getting angrier and angrier with the English media who have all but announced Jose Mourinho is going to take over at Manchester United in the summer. That should make for another interesting press conference on Friday when Van Gaal faces the media again, but the Dutchman must privately be very impressed with the way the players have responded.

Manchester United have looked like a Manchester United team in recent games and they were unfortunate to concede as late as they did against Chelsea. While in most seasons a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge would be considered a good result, this time around it has left Manchester United still 6 points off the top four with games beginning to run out.

This is a big weekend in that regards- Manchester United play on Saturday to pressure the top four who play one another on Sunday and a win is vital for the club to start cutting that gap to the Champions League places.

It looks like it will be far from a comfortable time getting those points though as Sunderland have put in two excellent performances against Manchester City and Liverpool. While they haven't been fully rewarded, Sunderland will feel confident they can get back on the heels of Newcastle United with an important three points to keep in touch with those teams outside the bottom three.

Points are more important than performances for both teams, but the way they have been playing suggests this could be a rare occasion at the Stadium of Light where Sunderland and Manchester United contribute for goals. This hasn't always been a high-scoring fixture in the North East, but both teams have scored in their last 3 against one another here and both teams have shown enough positivity going forward to think that could be the case again.

Only a superb Joe Hart performance kept Sunderland from scoring against Manchester City ten days ago, but they looked more composed against Liverpool. They should have chances, as will Manchester United and the importance of the three points means both teams will go for this one.

The layers don't see many goals, but I think they might be surprised and am backing at least three goals to be scored in the first game of this round of fixtures.

Bournemouth v Stoke City PickRecent form might have given the layers an idea that this might not be the most free-scoring of Premier League games this weekend, but I am not convinced that will be the case. Bournemouth continue to play some neat, attacking football but look vulnerable at the back and Stoke City have got more about them than they have shown themselves.

On the other hand, Stoke City are also conceding goals at an alarming rate in recent games and Bournemouth have to feel they will have chances to score. With the attacking talent Stoke City possess, I fully expect them to give Bournemouth a few things to think about too and I really do think the layers are taking a chance with big quotes for at least three goals to be shared.

Only an inspired Petr Cech prevented Bournemouth's last home game reaching three goals at least but 4 of their previous 5 home games in the Premier League had reached that number. Stoke City might not have scored in their last couple of away games in the Premier League, but this is a team that has conceded at least twice in their last 4 on their travels and 3 of those games saw them concede three times.

The game between the sides earlier this season produced at least three goals and I can see this one following suit as Stoke City rediscover their touch in front of goal and both Bournemouth and Stoke struggle defensively to perhaps keep out the better attacking players on the field.

Everton v West Brom Pick: Whenever it seems like Everton have turned a corner in their season, Roberto Martinez' men find a way to throw in a really sloppy match. This looks a dangerous one for them as West Brom will make it tough by sitting deep and with plenty of numbers behind the ball, although it is hard to see anything but a home win.

That is because the away side are dealing with a number of injuries and were just extended into extra time and penalties in a FA Cup Fourth Round Replay at Peterborough United during the week. There isn't much Tony Pulis can do in terms of changes and I do think West Brom are a very average team.

The Baggies have had some decent results away from home with draws at the likes of West Ham United, Liverpool and Chelsea, but they were also completely outplayed by Southampton and Newcastle United. Now they face an Everton team who have bounced back from their League Cup Semi Final loss by winning 3 games in a row by the same 3-0 scoreline.

Everton have had difficulties against West Brom in recent seasons and they will have to be clever in breaking them down. A tired West Brom could struggle to stay in this one mentally and I think it would be a surprise if Everton not only win the game, but win by a couple of goals at least.

Norwich City v West Ham United PickThe biggest concern I have for West Ham United is that they won't have the energy in this game that has made them a threat away from home earlier in the season. The FA Cup Fourth Round Replay would have been both a physical effort and an emotional victory can also tire players out.

In saying that, Norwich City's defending can only be described as generous in recent weeks and West Ham United certainly have the attacking players to make the most of any gifts given to them. Norwich City have lost 6 on the spin in all competitions and the bigger concern was they had conceded at least three goals in the first 5 of those before losing 2-0 at Aston Villa.

That is not going to keep The Canaries perched in the top flight and Alex Neil has to find the answers. The situation of West Ham United playing in the FA Cup during the week should give Norwich City the chance to take advantage especially as The Hammers are an injury hit team in defensive areas and have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 4 away Premier League games.

Slaven Bilic could easily decide attack is the best form of defence for his team in this fixture and it looks like one that can produce goals.

Earlier this season the teams shared four goals and I can see opportunities at both ends of the field in this one. Norwich City haven't been scoring too many goals of late, but they have found that easier at home while conceding goals for fun of late.

It looks like a fixture that might produce a 2-1 scoreline either way and I will back there being at least three goals in another Premier League fixture this weekend at odds against.

Chelsea v Newcastle United Pick: Any hopes of finishing in the top four have been gone for a while for Chelsea fans, but a loss on Saturday would seriously start to raise the question about relegation. Despite the arrival of Guus Hiddink, Chelsea are still only 7 points clear of the bottom three and it might have been even worse if not for an injury time equaliser for the second time in a row at home.

The first of those came in a 3-3 draw where Chelsea were very fortunate, the second was against Manchester United when a draw was arguably a fairer result. It has been really tough work for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge as they have drawn 4 Premier League games in a row here despite scoring plenty of goals in those games.

Facing an inconsistent Newcastle United is not an easy game for Chelsea- there have been times when Newcastle United have looked very good, even away from home, but others they have looked really short of the standard needed in the Premier League.

New signings like Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend should give Newcastle United a boost as they bid to avoid relegation in a tight battle down the bottom of the table. The visits to Stamford Bridge have been difficult in the past for Newcastle United and I do think Chelsea are showing enough signs that a winning run might not be too far away.

You have to wonder if their focus is completely on this game with the Champions League Second Round First Leg played in Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday. However, it is a big game for Chelsea to make sure they are not going to be pulled back towards the bottom three and I like The Blues to win this one with a little more ease than they have managed to do at Stamford Bridge for most of the season.

Arsenal v Leicester City PickWhen the television cameras describe the upcoming weekend as having a 'Super Sunday', this is the kind of weekend they really want to be talking about. The top four teams meet in the Premier League beginning with this game at The Emirates Stadium as Arsenal look to peg back Leicester City who have grown a 5 point lead at the top of the table.

There is no denying the importance of this game for both teams- for Arsenal they can start building the pressure on Leicester City by moving to within 2 points of the leaders, while Leicester City have to think a win here and there really isn't too many teams left to play that can pose a lot of problems.

Of course that is underestimating what pressure can do to a team and it wasn't that long ago that Leicester City were failing to break down ten man Bournemouth or drawing with Aston Villa.

Even then, for Arsenal they can't afford to go 8 points behind Leicester City with a defeat knowing they have some big games to come and the pressure certainly on them. At home you have to think Arsenal have the edge, while mentally the Leicester City players will surely wonder if the 2-5 home defeat earlier this season will play a part.

I do think Leicester City are defending much better now than they have been, but I also think the win at Manchester City, as impressive as it was, might have been overblown. For starters Arsenal are much healthier at the front and back and this is a team that has defended well at home, while creating plenty of chances.

I also think the early goal for Leicester City changed the entire dynamics of that game at Manchester City and I think Arsenal will be a lot readier to play than Manuel Pellegrini's team were. Arsenal might not have scored in their last couple of home games, but they had chances to win ten games in their goalless draw with Southampton while the early red card against Chelsea changed the direction of that game.

For me there is too much attacking talent in the Arsenal team for Leicester City to cope with and I do think The Gunners will win this game. I respect what Leicester City have done, but Arsenal still look an appealing price to win this game and they would have been a lot shorter a week ago so I will back them to take the three points and reignite the Premier League title race.

Aston Villa v Liverpool Pick: There has to be a temptation for Jurgen Klopp to put all his eggs in one basket and focus on the Cup competitions for Liverpool after dropping two more League points last week. That has left them very much off the pace when it comes to potentially finishing in the top four in the Premier League and going out of the FA Cup during the week would have been a disappointment.

There is still hope that Liverpool can play in Europe's premier competition by winning the Europa League this season and I do think Klopp will prioritise that tournament as well as the League Cup Final over the Premier League at this point.

He does have a few days to get the team right for the Europa League game at Augsburg so I expect Klopp will pick a strong Liverpool team to try and get some momentum behind his team. Recent seasons have seen Liverpool enjoy their visits to Villa Park, although Aston Villa have given themselves a chance of survival with some solid recent performances.

There are still 8 points for Aston Villa to make up on Newcastle United and get out of the bottom three which looks a big task, but they have picked up 8 points from a possible 12 in the Premier League at home. Aston Villa have come from behind to earn draws with West Ham United and Leicester City in recent home games and they might feel they won't have a better time to play Liverpool than coming off an extra time Cup loss while they were resting.

I am still not convinced that Aston Villa haven't been riding their luck a little bit and Liverpool have been much better away from home under Klopp. With the injuries beginning to clear up for Liverpool, I think Klopp will look for some momentum to take them into the Europa League and this Liverpool team is better than their counterparts at Aston Villa.

I think Liverpool win this one, although it should be another tight game.

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur PickSuper Sunday is going to be fantastic for the viewers, although a number of relationships could be in danger of breaking up on Valentines Day.

It might also be the day when the top four in the Premier League begin to find some separation between the teams depending how the results go.

The second of the really big games on Sunday involves Manchester City hosting Tottenham Hotspur and trying to recover from a devastating defeat here last weekend. Manchester City looked lost at times in their 1-3 defeat to Leicester City, but the return of Vincent Kompany is perhaps a game changer for them.

They will most certainly need Kompany to give a stronger platform for the more attack minded players to build upon. Manchester City have looked shaky without him and Tottenham Hotspur have shown they can score plenty of goals away from home while trying to snap a poor run at The Etihad Stadium.

Spurs might not have a better chance to beat Manchester City here with the home team struggling in the final third thanks to injuries to key players. A young Tottenham Hotspur team should have the energy in midfield to be able to dictate play and they definitely look a live contender to win here at a big price.

However this is a Manchester City team that has bounced back from big defeats already this season although I would worry that the Manuel Pellegrini announcement about his impending departure has knocked the squad off track. Manchester City will need to be focused if they want to win this game and they still have deadly Sergio Aguero in the line up and firing in recent games.

The fixture has usually provided plenty of entertainment when Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur play one another and I think there is a chance this one will too. I was leaning towards Manchester City earlier in the week, but injuries to key players has lessened that enthusiasm and I will look for at least three goals to be shared out by two teams who score plenty of goals at home/away respectively.

MY PICKS: Sunderland-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Bournemouth-Stoke City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Everton - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Norwich City-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal @ 1.75 William Hill (2 Units)
Liverpool @ 1.91 Coral (2 Units)
Manchester City-Tottenham Hotspur @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)

February Update8-5-1, + 7.24 Units (26 Units Staked, + 27.85% Yield)

January Final19-13, + 17.56 Units (61 Units Staked, + 28.79% Yield)
December Final15-23, - 9.32 Units (64 Units Staked, - 14.56% 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 2015/1687-128-5, - 38.37 Units (467 Units Staked, - 8.22% 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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