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Saturday, 5 March 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (March 5-6)

Another round of the Premier League fixtures are to be played this weekend and it looks a big one for those chasing the title after a midweek in which none of the top four won.

The pressure is going to begin to be felt by all those fighting for the title and for the top four places, while we may be seeing a split at the bottom of the table with the four teams from 17th downwards looking like providing the three relegated teams.

I have a feeling this could be another week when the Premier League produces a lot of goals for the fans to enjoy as teams try and build some momentum with ten games left for most.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal PickThe Arsenal home fans are never too far away from booing their own team when things are not going to plan, but I have to say I agreed with their response on Wednesday night. For a team that is chasing the Premier League title, losing games to Manchester United and Swansea City, both of whom were far from being at their strongest, is a huge blow for Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal team.

They might still only be 6 points off the top, but I think this North London derby is an absolutely massive one for The Gunners. A defeat here and I would think Arsenal are out of the title race already with the games they have to come and it would also be a defeat that moves their arch-rivals Tottenham Hotspur back into favourites for the title.

Tottenham Hotspur had a really flat first half against West Ham United and were fortunate to go into the break just 1-0 down, but there were better signs in the second half. Some have suggested that fatigue could be a factor for a small squad that is heavily relying on Harry Kane up front, but Mauricio Pochettino's men can erase those doubts by winning this game.

It will be a chance for Tottenham Hotspur to have a mini-break following this one as they will have two weeks before playing in the Premier League again, although a huge Europa League tie with Borussia Dortmund will be played in that time. However I do think a win here might see Pochettino prioritise the Premier League and give some of his players a chance to rest.

On current form you have to think Tottenham Hotspur are going to win this game, especially when you think they have won 3 of the last 4 at White Hart Lane in the Premier League against Arsenal. Then again there is some real pressure on the home team who know how important it is to win the three points in this one and Arsenal are a better team than they have shown recently.

Games between these local rivals at White Hart Lane have usually been very entertaining and I can see both teams having their chances in this one. Arsenal losing the likes of Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny is a bitter blow, but I think Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez can help them on the other end of the pitch even if the latter has not been in top form.

The 1-1 draw won't be a result that either team will settle for easily, even if that might be a solid outcome for Arsenal. I do think the risk of going for the win will outweigh those concerns though and I believe we will see goals in this one and I am backing at least three to be shared out in the first Premier League game of the weekend.

Everton v West Ham United Pick: The Everton fans will be thinking their team should be challenging those teams fighting for Champions League spots considering how open the Premier League has been, while the West Ham United fans will be wondering how far their team can go.

A 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur has pushed West Ham United to the brink of the top four, but this is a big test for them at Goodison Park. As inconsistent as Everton have been to frustrate their fans, this is a team that has plenty of quality and I can see them giving The Hammers plenty of things to think about.

Then again the Everton defence have not played so well at home and West Ham United will feel they have the quality from set pieces and plenty of pace in open play to take advantage.

This is one of a number of matches in the League in which I am expecting both teams to score and backing at least three goals to be shared out wouldn't be a surprise. Roberto Martinez and Slaven Bilic won't want their team to take a backward step in this one and I expect this to be one of a number of high-scoring games this weekend.

Manchester City v Aston Villa PickBoth Manchester City and Aston Villa had morale sapping losses in the Premier League during the week, but there is a clear difference in quality in the two teams and I expect that will show up this weekend.

Some have suggested that Manuel Pellegrini might begin to rest players to concentrate on the Champions League as he is leaving Manchester City and finishing in the top four doesn't matter to him. I am not convinced this is a team that is out of the Premier League title challenge though and I do think Manchester City have the quality to get on a roll although they are very much in the last chance saloon.

Of their eleven games left to play, I think Manchester City are going to need to win at least nine if they are going to win the Premier League title. Games against a struggling team like Aston Villa has to be very high on the list of those they should win and I think the team almost certainly going to be playing in the Championship next season might not make it tough for the home team.

Defensively Aston Villa never seem too far from a catastrophe and their thumpings from Liverpool and Everton have to have sapped any remaining belief the players had that they could survive. Manchester City might have lost back to back Premier League games at The Etihad Stadium, but this is a team that can click into form and score plenty of goals at home.

Manchester City hit four past Aston Villa in the FA Cup at the end of January, while they have scored at least three goals in their last 6 at home in the Premier League against them. I think they recover from a big setback at Anfield by winning this game with some comfort and I will back Manchester City to score at least three times against Aston Villa again.

Watford v Leicester City PickThe fans of Leicester City have experienced heartbreak at the late stages of a season at Vicarage Road in recent memory, but this team looks to be one that is capable of handling the pressure of a trip to Watford. In the 2013 Championship Play Offs, a 3-1 loss at Watford in the Semi Final Second Leg knocked Leicester City from the tournament, but a loss on Saturday might be even more demoralising.

The midweek Premier League games could only have gone better for Leicester City if they had taken one of their chances towards the end of the game against West Brom and beaten their Midlands rivals. The following night saw Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester City lose so a win on Tuesday would have meant The Foxes would have come into this weekend with a 5 point lead.

Claudio Ranieri strikes me as a glass half full kind of guy though and I think he would have reiterated to his players that they have moved a point further clear with another game off the schedule. It will be games like this one that will determine whether Leicester City have enough to win the title and they will be aware that the four teams below them in the Premier League table have all won at Vicarage Road.

That isn't to say it will be an easy game for Leicester City as Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Manchester United needed goals in the 84th minute or later to win at Watford. The performance Watford produced at Old Trafford on Wednesday also suggests this team will be anything but a walkover for Leicester City and I think the layers might be underestimating the chance for goals.

Watford's home games against the other teams in the top five have all ended with at least three goals shared out and I think you have to believe that Watford won't be as generous in front of goal as they were against Manchester United. This is a team with power and pace and they are facing a Leicester City team that have struggled for away clean sheets.

However Leicester City have also shown a real attacking edge away from home as they have been able to use the counter attack effectively with their own pace in the forward areas. That has seen them score in all but one away game in the Premier League although some of the goals have also dried up for them in recent away games.

They won't stop attacking though and I think there will be chances at both ends in this one. With some composure when those come along, I think both teams will score and neither will sit back so backing at least three goals to be shared out looks the call.

Crystal Palace v Liverpool PickThere have been times when Liverpool have looked really good under Jurgen Klopp and one of those times was on Wednesday as they crushed Manchester City at Anfield. However they have yet to find the consistency in their results although an improving injury list makes them a dangerous team in the last couple of months of the season.

Alan Pardew will feel that some injuries have played a part in Crystal Palace's alarming set of results in the Premier League. He has admitted they are in a relegation battle and will be desperate to get to the 40 point mark as soon as possible and both teams should be getting forward for the three points.

I think Pardew didn't help himself by admitting there was so much focus on the FA Cup as Crystal Palace have been very good in that competition but lost 7 of their last 9 in the Premier League. That includes 4 straight home losses as they have conceded at least twice in each of those games.

When Liverpool get things right, they have every chance of matching that number after scoring 5 at Norwich City and 6 at Aston Villa. With Crystal Palace struggling, Jurgen Klopp will feel his team can keep the pressure on the Champions League positions with a vital win this week.

Both teams are likely to look for the goals that will give them success, but the layers don't seem to be expecting too many goals. That might be strange when thinking the last 4 Crystal Palace games here have seen at least three goals shared out, and 2 of the last 3 Liverpool games have done the same.

This is also a fixture that has produced goals with the last 7 between Crystal Palace and Liverpool finishing with at least three goals and that includes the last 4 at Selhurst Park. With the teams on display, this shouldn't be odds against for at least three goals to be shared out and I will back that to happen.

West Brom v Manchester United PickI am looking for an exciting Premier League weekend and I think the final game of the weekend will also be one that produces goals as West Brom and Manchester United meet at The Hawthornes.

The pressure has eased on West Brom in recent games as they have strung together a bunch of points to prevent being dragged into the relegation scrap. The last couple of games they have played with a little bit of swagger going forward, but the defensive issues have been a problem for Tony Pulis and one he will want to rectify.

However I think Pulis will have seen the chances that Watford created against Manchester United on Wednesday against a makeshift defensive unit and I think he will give this one a go. There is some pace and power in the West Brom team which will cause Manchester United problems, but I think the away team have a new found confidence and can cause one or two problems of their own.

It should be an entertaining end to the weekend as there is little reason for West Brom to sit back against this Manchester United team, while the away team need the three points to keep their challenge for a top four place on track.

The last eight times these teams have met at The Hawthornes have all seen at least three goals shared out and I can see this one going the same way at odds against.

MY PICKS: Tottenham Hotspur-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Stan James (2 Units)
Everton-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Manchester City Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Watford-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Brom-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.45 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

March Update: 3-4-1, - 1.30 Units (15 Units Staked, - 8.67% Yield)

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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