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Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Midweek Football Picks 2016 (March 1-2)

With the European Championships taking place in France in June, the domestic season in England usually is ended slightly earlier than usual so the national team has enough time to prepare together for the Finals.

That does mean that there are a few of these midweek rounds of Premier League fixtures scattered through the course of the season and we have another this week. At this time of the season every game means so much more with the fixture list beginning to run down and this Tuesday/Wednesday is no different when it comes to the title and relegation battles which are warming up nicely.

Injuries, managing a crowded fixture list and picking the right teams to win the points is the reason these managers get paid as much as they do and there are some wonderful Premier League games on schedule in the coming days.

February followed January in being a strong month for the picks made and I am looking for March to continue the momentum after a terrible opening four months of the 2015/16 season. There has been no chasing which is always the key to preventing things from going bad to horrific, but the little elements of luck have most definitely been with me rather than against me in the last couple of months.

Hopefully Lady Luck has found no reason to desert me just yet.

Bournemouth v Southampton Pick: When you think the last time Bournemouth hosted Southampton in this south coast derby was only five seasons ago, it is hard to imagine both clubs were in League One at the time. Both have improved markedly from then, although Bournemouth still have a big task to ensure they are still playing at the same level as Southampton in the Premier League next season.

I am not going to criticise Eddie Howe for the brand of football that he insists Bournemouth play, but at this moment they need to knuckle down and grind out a result. They did that at Watford on Saturday, but it can be more difficult at home where the supporters want Bournemouth to get forward.

The fact is that Bournemouth have struggled at both ends of the pitch in recent weeks and that is highlighted by their 4 losses in their last 5 games at The Vitality Stadium. In all of those losses they have conceded at least twice, although they may feel that Southampton are not the kind of team that will score a lot of goals.

Ronald Koeman bases his tactics on a very solid defensive foundation and I don't think Southampton will change that style even if their 6 clean sheets in a row came to an end this past weekend. This is still a very solid Premier League team and I think they look overpriced to come to Bournemouth and become the latest to leave with the victory.

Bournemouth do put teams under pressure with their possession based game and ability to get crosses into the box, but Southampton shouldn't be as big a price as this. This is a team that has won 2 of their last 3 away games in the Premier League and have kept clean sheets in each of those games so Southampton should have the belief to win here and I will have a small interest they do that.

The Saints did lose at Norwich City at the start of January, but they have been improved since and worthy of a small interest.

Aston Villa v Everton Pick: Everton have had over a week off thanks to the Merseyside derby being postponed this weekend with Liverpool playing in the League Cup Final. This is an important time for Roberto Martinez after it was announced a new investor had arrived at Goodison Park and the Spaniard in the manager position has to get the fans onside to make sure any managerial changes are not made.

It has been something of a mixed response that Martinez has gotten from the Everton fans as they feel this is a team that should be much higher in the Premier League table. They can move back into the top half with a win at Villa Park where the fans have completely turned against their side and the inevitable drop into the Championship.

I really worry for Aston Villa who might be 8 points off safety, but who haven't shown they will get enough out of their remaining eleven games to get out of trouble. Another defeat on Saturday has kept them in a terrible spot, but I fear that this is a club that may slide through the Leagues in the next couple of years.

I don't see enough quality nor those who will have the stomach for the fight in the Championship and who knows if Remi Garde will really feel he is the man to restore this famous old club. Recent home losses to Manchester City (0-4) and Liverpool (0-6) have been bordering on the ridiculous having moved past embarrassing and Aston Villa had lost back to back home games against Everton before beating them last season.

With the team at Everton's disposal I expect them to get back to winning ways here. Everton have won 3 straight away games in all competitions and I think they can play with more freedom away from home without the same expectation they have at Goodison Park and I will back Everton to win here.

Norwich City v Chelsea Pick: You have to be impressed with the character and belief that Guus Hiddink has restored to the Chelsea side and the confidence has followed that. A 1-2 win at Southampton means Chelsea are very much in line to challenge for European places through their Premier League finish even if the priority is now on the Cup competitions in the FA Cup and Champions League.

Recent performances under Hiddink suggests Chelsea are close to being at their best and I am expecting them to be too strong for a Norwich City side who are struggling. Confidence has to be in a bad place on a poor run, but losing 1-0 at Leicester City in the final moments of that game will have been a huge body blow to the side.

Now they have to host Chelsea having conceded at least twice in their last 4 home games in all competitions. That includes conceding three times to Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur and now they face a Chelsea team that have looked much more threatening going forward.

The Blues have won 4 of their last 6 away games in all competitions and have crushed the likes of Crystal Palace and the MK Dons and now they face a team that might not have too much belief if they fall behind. Chelsea should be too good and I think they might win this by at least a two goal margin and have to be worth backing to cover the one goal Asian Handicap at Carrow Road.

Arsenal v Swansea City PickObviously as a Manchester United fan I was delighted with the performance, or lack thereof, that Arsenal produced at Old Trafford on Sunday. However as someone who might look to determine a Premier League title winner, I think Arsenal need to have a right good look in the mirror and ask themselves if they really believe they are capable of being Champions for the first time since 2004.

I have to think Arsene Wenger was absolutely disgusted by what he had seen on the pitch at Old Trafford and this is a big test for Arsenal to bounce back immediately. The late winner over Leicester City was supposed to propel Arsenal forward, but they have failed to win any of 3 games since and the defeat to an injury hit Manchester United was the most disappointing performance of them all.

This has been a tough fixture for Arsenal in recent seasons as they have failed to win any of 3 Premier League home games against Swansea City and been beaten in 2 of those games.

However it has to be said that this Swansea City team have to be short of confidence having been dominated by Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday and failing to hold onto a 0-1 lead they had in that game. Only an inspired display from Lukasz Fabianski kept the score respectable and I do think Arsenal are a team that can perform better when the pressure is off.

Depending on what Leicester City do on Tuesday evening, Arsenal might feel they have been ruled out of the title race and can string together some positive results. This is a must win game for them and I do think Swansea City are a team that will allow them to play their football and can be punished for that.

If Fabianski is not quite at the races, I think Arsenal will win this one comfortably enough on Wednesday and will back them to bounce back from Sunday with a win by at least two goals.

Stoke City v Newcastle United PickThe Premier League has been a very competitive Division and that is partly down to the fact that teams have struggled for their consistency through the course of the season. Stoke City are the highlight of those teams with some really good performances mixed in with some really atrocious ones.

They have been very strong against the teams struggling in the Division and Stoke City will look at Newcastle United as another one of those teams. Of the 6 Premier League wins at The Brittania Stadium this season, Stoke City have beaten 2 of the bottom 4 clubs and I do think they will be too strong for this Newcastle United.

Coming off the warm weather training and not having a competitive game for over two weeks is tough to overcome for Newcastle United who were active in the transfer window. They have a big Premier League game at home on Saturday when they host Bournemouth and a slow start here will give Stoke City the edge.

It has been a fixture Stoke City have enjoyed with 3 straight home wins over Newcastle United behind them and I do think The Potters have the positive momentum behind them. Newcastle United have lost 6 in a row away from home in all competitions and injuries have been a major factor against them.

At odds against I think Stoke City can be backed to pick up the three points and keep their Europa League ambitions alive.

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur PickThis London derby should really have had the television cameras in town for the live showing as both West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur put some long unbeaten runs at home/away respectively on the line. It is a huge game for both clubs who have some big ambitions at the upper end of the Premier League table and I think it is much closer than the layers believe.

I have a lot of respect for the way Tottenham Hotspur have played away from home and I can see why the layers won't take chances with their price. However I am not convinced they should only just odds against to win here, especially when you consider how well West Ham United have played at Upton Park.

The likes of Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City have tried to snap a long unbeaten run for West Ham United at home in the Premier League, but all failed. The Hammers have no love lost for Tottenham Hotspur so the fans will be completely behind their team and there is enough attacking talent to give the away side a lot of problems.

I do think the pace of Tottenham Hotspur makes them a threat on the counter-attack themselves and this has all the hallmarks of a really exciting game.

Before the 1-0 win over Sunderland, West Ham United had scored at least twice in 4 straight home Premier League games. Anyone who saw the game on Saturday will know West Ham United had plenty of chances to make that 5 in a row, but they also looked vulnerable defensively which is an area Tottenham Hotspur can exploit.

Tottenham Hotspur have scored at least twice in 5 of their last 6 away Premier League games, but they have also had a single clean sheet their last 5.

It does point to there being goals in this one and I prefer backing at least three to be scored than any Tottenham Hotspur price at evens. West Ham United certainly won't be rolling over for Tottenham Hotspur and this looks like being a 2-1 scoreline or a 2-2 draw to me and I will back there being at least three goals shared out.

Liverpool v Manchester City PickThe game at Wembley Stadium caught fire in the second half and better finishing from the likes of Raheem Sterling would have seen Manchester City win that game in normal time. Both teams have had to play the additional extra time and then the emotion of the penalty shoot-out and I think both squads will have some fatigue.

There were chances at both ends of the League Cup Final and mental tiredness might lead to more mistakes from both of these defences. I can see Liverpool and Manchester City creating chances and the need for the three points should keep both teams pushing forward with both Jurgen Klopp and Manuel Pellegrini advocating attacking football.

I picked there being goals when the teams met on Sunday and only barely missed out thanks to some erratic finishing and fine goalkeeping through the game, particularly from Simon Mignolet.

If he produces that level again I might be disappointed, but I have to think this game will likely produce at least three goals. The mental and physical tiredness should give the attacking players a little more room to find space to create chances and score goals.

I would be hoping for the quality players to show more composure and backing at least three goals to be shared out in a fixture that tends to produce plenty of goalmouth action looks to be the call.

Manchester United v Watford PickWhen I saw the line up that Manchester United had to put out and the one that Arsenal had on Sunday, I really didn't think Manchester United had a lot of hope in that game. However it was a strong performance from the home team for the most part, but that will all be for nought if they unable to back it up with a win over Watford on Wednesday.

It has been the games against the 'smaller' teams in the Premier League where Manchester United have been let down and they have to be careful not to underestimate their opponents. There is plenty of pace in the Watford forward line which can give a makeshift back four something to think about and some of the Manchester United defending hasn't been convincing.

Credit where credit is due though and I do think there have been better attacking phases from Manchester United. Memphis Depay has arguably had two of his bette performances in a Manchester United shirt, while Marcus Rashford has been a real find for them in the last couple of games.

I do think this is going to be a difficult match for Manchester United as Watford have shown their ability through much of the season. They haven't been as strong away from home although I still expect them to pose problems as they did for Chelsea and knowing Manchester United have looked vulnerable in defence in recent games.

The layers are sticking with their thoughts that Manchester United and Watford games have not been producing a lot of goals recently. However I think Manchester United have definitely looked better going forward without the defence quite following suit thanks to injuries and I can see both teams scoring in this one.

My feeling is that Manchester United will still win the game though and I will back at least three goals to be shared out at odds against.

MY PICKS: Southampton @ 2.70 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Everton @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.20 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
West Ham United-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester United-Watford Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)

February Final30-23-2, + 20.82 Units (105 Units Staked, + 19.83% 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 2015/16107-151-2, - 17.55 Units (572 Units Staked, - 3.07% 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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