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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, 27 February 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (February 27-28)

It was a big European week of football and it was ended with an exclamation point as the draw for the Europa League pitted Liverpool versus Manchester United for the third and fourth time this season.

For a competition that is heavily derided in England, that is the kind of draw that will get the pulses racing and those matches that are set for March 10th and March 17th are going to be huge for both clubs that are desperate to get back into the Champions League.

Tottenham Hotspur fans will also have a big European tie ahead of them albeit one that has been overshadowed by the Liverpool-Manchester United one. Borussia Dortmund are considered the favourites to win the Europa League so the tie between those two teams should be a very good one with the winner likely to go into the Quarter Finals as arguably the team to beat.

Those matches will come in a few weeks, but before that there are some big Premier League games to be played as well as the first piece of silverware being decided at Wembley Stadium in the Capital One Cup. This is a big weekend for teams at the top and bottom of the Premier League as the season hots up once we reach March and the Easter Weekend is regularly seen as the signal for the final furlong of the season.

The February picks continue to produce decent numbers although the midweek picks were not up to the standard of the rest of the month. I am hoping for one more big weekend to wrap up this month in the correct way and keep the season totals moving back to respectable levels.

West Ham United v Sunderland PickThe return of Sam Allardyce to West Ham United is not going to get the welcome he arguably deserves having pulled the club back into the Premier League and re-establishing their position in the top flight. Most of the fans just simply couldn't stand the football being served up and they will be feeling much happier with the Slaven Bilic approach and are bound to let Allardyce know.

Big Sam is a big character and he won't mind the fans turning their attentions on him if it means his Sunderland side can produce a performance that earns them another point or three in the battle for survival. The team have to be feeling better following a 2-2 draw at Liverpool and beating Manchester United 2-1 at home, but maybe some momentum has been quelled with the two week break.

This is certainly a big test for Sunderland and I think there will be plenty of people who are tempted in by the West Ham United price considering how poorly Sunderland have played on their travels. However I have to respect the fact that this is a team that can score goals away from home and have earned 4 points from their last three away games in the League.

West Ham United will create chances with the fantastic attacking talent they have put together and Sunderland haven't figured things out defensively as they may have been expected to under Sam Allardyce. I can see the home team being able to cause problems but I also can't ignore the fact that Sunderland have scored nine away games in all competitions.

Yes, West Ham United are the more likely winners, but I prefer the bigger price on there being at least three goals with the feeling that the home team will need to score at least twice to take the three points. Sunderland themselves have scored at least twice in 2 of their last 3 away games in the Premier League and the chance for goals may have been overlooked.

Leicester City v Norwich City PickPreviously this season Leicester City have answered the questions as to how they will handle losses, but once again we will hear people wondering if they can recover from the heartbreaking 2-1 loss at Arsenal. I think the two week break would have refreshed some minds and I also think Leicester City have been given a 'nice' opportunity to bounce back against an out of form Norwich City.

Being out of form is one problem, but Norwich City have also been conceding goals at an alarming rate with twenty-one goals conceded in their last seven games in all competitions. In five of those games, opponents have actually reached at least three goals and that is not going to cut it in the Premier League.

Against the pace and creativity Leicester City have shown all season, Norwich City could find themselves under immense pressure through this one. They haven't shown they can dig in and resiliently grind out results too often which would be a major concern in the coming months and I think Leicester City are too good for them on the day.

My one concern is that Leicester City are now playing with a different expectation and how they manage that is going to be key. For all the plaudits they have rightly been given, Leicester City did fail to beat ten man Bournemouth at home last month and they will know how important it is to win and move the pressure to their title rivals who play on Sunday.

However, in saying all that, Leicester City are facing a Norwich City team conceding too many and I do think the home team can become the fifth straight team to beat The Canaries by at least two goals in front of their own fans.

Southampton v Chelsea PickThis looks to be a really interesting Premier League fixture between two clubs managed by Dutch managers and I am finding it hard to separate them. You can't ignore how well Southampton have been playing in recent weeks, but the same can be said for Chelsea who are improving under Guus Hiddink.

Both teams have been improved behind much better defensive performances and it is on those defences that I think a pick can be made.

Simply put, I don't think both teams will score in this one and there is every chance the goalless draw is a very, very big price.

Recent history between Chelsea and Southampton have shown that goals are in order, but these teams have not been doing a lot of scoring or conceding in recent home/away games. Southampton haven't conceded in their last 6 Premier League games and that includes the last 4 at St Mary's.

If not for a late Charlie Austin goal at Old Trafford, Southampton would have had 2 goalless draws in their last 6 Premier League games.

Chelsea haven't kept clean sheets at home under Guus Hiddink, but all 4 away games in the Premier League under the Dutchman have seen them keep clean sheets. That includes 2 goalless draws at Manchester United and Watford and I think both teams will be looking at keeping things tight.

The 'No Goalscorer' option at 9.00 is appealing for a small interest, but I will keep it more simple and back that one of these teams will not score at a little under odds against.

Watford v Bournemouth Pick: This is the kind of game that Bournemouth have to be looking at in the final months of the season in which they need to earn some kind of points if they are to avoid the drop. The Cherries have been unable to get away from the bottom three as those teams continue to pick up points and Bournemouth have lost 3 in a row in all competitions.

However they have really been struggling at the Vitality Stadium and Bournemouth are unbeaten in 5 in a row away from home in all competitions. They won their last away game at Crystal Palace but Watford are a very strong team at Vicarage Road although I don't think that sees Eddie Howe change his tactics for this game.

Bournemouth will look to get forward and score goals, but they are vulnerable defensively and that is where Watford are going to have their opportunities too.

It should be a surprisingly good game of football, especially if an early goal can open up the game a touch and I think both teams will give the game a good go. I am backing there being at least three goals in the game with the defences and attacks on show and that looks a big price at odds against.

Manchester United v Arsenal PickThe Premier League was formed in time for the 1992/93 season and this will be the first time that Arsenal will be travelling to Manchester United and set as the favourites to win the match. That has something to do with the injuries in the Manchester United squad, but I think it also says a lot about how far the team have dropped under Louis Van Gaal.

While most athletes say they don't pay attention to who is the favourite and who is not, I am sure most of the Manchester United players will be aware of the situation. I am not so sure that there are enough characters in the squad that will want to roll up their sleeves and play with a chip on their shoulder though and I think the layers have made no mistakes with who they expect to win.

I do have to say that Manchester United have played better in the 'big' games than they have in others for much of this season and they are hard to beat in these games. I expect Van Gaal will look for disciplined shape, but the defensive injuries make them vulnerable to an Arsenal team blessed with pace.

It is a very big week for Arsenal in the Premier League title race as they visit Old Trafford and White Hart Lane in a seven day period and also host Swansea City during the week. After the defeat to Barcelona the players do have to pull themselves back together and this has usually been a time of the season when The Gunners tend to shoot themselves in the foot.

You also can't ignore the poor recent away form in the Premier League with a run of 3 games without a win before beating Bournemouth. That coupled with Manchester United winning 4 of their last 5 games at Old Trafford in all competitions means this could be a tight and tense game.

There is no denying the importance of Manchester United winning the three points if they have serious ambitions of finishing in the top four and I think there is a chance of seeing goals in historically a high scoring game. Games at Old Trafford tend to be lower scoring than those in North London, but Arsenal are a much more comfortable team on the attack and Manchester United are expected to do the same at home.

My gut feeling is that Arsenal win this one, but I think Manchester United play their part and I will back at least three goals to be shared out in the live Sunday afternoon Premier League offering.

Tottenham Hotspur v Swansea City PickWhen Tottenham Hotspur were beaten 0-1 by Leicester City in the Premier League last month, most would have wondered about their chances of finishing in the top four. However they have since recorded 5 straight Premier League wins to move to within 2 points of Leicester City at the top of the table and the 1-2 win at Manchester City two weeks ago will have the fans believing.

This is a big week for Tottenham Hotspur who can't afford to slip up against the likes of Swansea City if there is a genuine feeling they can win the title. Following this one they have a tough game at West Ham United before hosting rivals Arsenal in a huge League game next weekend and so dropping any points this weekend could have a longer impact in terms of results than simply this one day.

Swansea City have been improving under Francesco Guidolin, but the team were beaten in their most recent game by Southampton. That was two weeks ago so Swansea City will be fresh to take on a Tottenham Hotspur side that have played three times since then including just three days ago.

The biggest concern for Tottenham Hotspur has to be the potential fatigue they are feeling, but Mauricio Pochettino has made full use of his squad for the Cup games and that should have kept them fresh enough for some big games upcoming.

Harry Kane's return is vital for Tottenham Hotspur and I think they have looked good the last couple of games at White Hart Lane in the Premier League. The League form in general has been very strong, but Tottenham Hotspur will have to be careful against a Swansea City team that did win at Everton last month.

The Swans have also had competitive defeats at Manchester City and Manchester United and they have rarely been beaten easily, even though they have 6 away losses to their name in the Premier League. Only a single one of those has come by more than a single goal and I think Tottenham Hotspur will be happy with any kind of win off the back off three games during a period Swansea City have been resting.

A small interest in Tottenham Hotspur winning by a single goal margin looks like being the right way to play this game.

Liverpool v Manchester City PickThe League Cup Final has been a fairly entertaining game in recent seasons and this one has the potential of being no different when Liverpool take on Manchester City at Wembley Stadium.

If someone was to ask me who is going to win this game, my gut feeling is that Manchester City are the better team and will show that on the day. However Manchester City have a few more injuries to deal with at the moment and Liverpool look a healthier squad now that the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge are back.

Add in the fact that Liverpool have won 3 of their last 4 games against Manchester City and crushed them 1-4 at The Etihad Stadium earlier this season and all of a sudden that gut feeling feels more like indigestion.

Both teams look like they will be threatening when getting forward and I think both Jurgen Klopp and Manuel Pellegrini will send out teams that will produce a very good game of football for the neutrals to watch. Both teams should create their chances and it will come down to which of the teams show better composure in front of goal.

That is where I think Sergio Aguero can make the difference for Manchester City compared with Daniel Sturridge who is still finding his feet after an injury. Clean sheets have been an issue for Manchester City more than Liverpool of late but this is the best attacking team that Liverpool have faced for a while.

Games between Liverpool and Manchester City have tended to be high-scoring recently and I prefer picking there being goals than a winner. The last 8 times these teams have played one another has seen at least three goals shared by them and 4 of the last 6 League Cup Finals have also seen that number reached.

Backing at least three goals to be scored between them in the Cup Final might be a little overpriced as far as I can see and I will back that to be the outcome of the match.

MY PICKS: West Ham United-Sunderland Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Leicester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Southampton-Chelsea Both Teams Not to Score @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Watford-Bournemouth Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester United-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.38 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur Win by One Goal @ 3.60 Stan James (1 Unit)
Liverpool-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

February Update28-19-1, + 23.46 Units (92 Units Staked, + 25.50% 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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