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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Midweek Football Picks 2016 (April 12-14)

I've not made any picks from the football over the last few weeks thanks to a busy trip to Las Vegas and perhaps not finding the right choices over the last weekend. Sometimes it is better to err on the side of caution when you feel the right decisions are not going to be made through lack of time to research, or simply a gut feeling it isn't right.

It has worked for me over the last three months which have all produced a positive return from the football picks as I get this season turned around after a pretty horrific start. There is still work to do over the last couple of months to make sure this is a positive season, which would be huge considering I had all but given up on that happening back in December.

The first picks from the April matches comes from the Second Legs of the European Quarter Finals to be played this week as well as from the FA Cup Sixth Round Replay between West Ham United and Manchester United. There is also a single Premier League game to be played as teams try to make sure they are on schedule to finish the season on time and that game involves two teams that will be playing at Wembley Stadium in under two weeks time in the FA Cup Semi Finals, although Crystal Palace and Everton are not facing one another in that Semi Final.

It is a big week for the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain who are trying to reach the Champions League Semi Final for the first time under current ownership, while Louis Van Gaal will be desperate for a positive result in the Cup for Manchester United.

Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund meet again for a place in the Europa League Semi Final and it should be an interesting three days of football for the neutrals out there.

Manchester City v Paris Saint-Germain PickThis is a huge game for two clubs owned by people based in the Middle East as both Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are on the edge of making the Champions League Semi Final. The 2-2 draw in Paris has set up the Second Leg in Manchester nicely and I can only see another game where both clubs put their attacking talent on show.

There is no doubt that Paris Saint-Germain have to go forward as they need to score at least once to earn their way into the Semi Final. The game last week has still given them confidence they can win this tie after creating plenty of chances, while suspensions to the likes of David Luiz and Blaise Matuidi means they can't rely on their defence to help them through.

On the other hand, Manuel Pellegrini has admitted that he will not play for the draw as that will likely mean Manchester City are going to be knocked out of the competition. That means an attacking team looking to take advantage of the missing defensive pieces for Paris Saint-Germain and it is all pointing to another game featuring goals.

The layers understand the situation and the prices for goals have been shrunk in the last week and I can completely agree with those hammering those prices. I can only see the Second Leg having a similar feel to the First Leg and I can see both teams looking to get forward as much as possible to score the goals to help them into a maiden Semi Final.

Backing goals was my feeling from this game since the tie was made and I am not going to change my mind on that front.

Real Madrid v Wolfsburg PickIt was easily the most stunning result of the Champions League Quarter Final First Legs as Wolfsburg took a commanding lead over Real Madrid. This tie is far from over though and I think the home team have been playing well enough to get things turned around, especially if Wolfsburg are as poor as they were at Manchester United and PSV Eindhoven earlier in the Champions League.

This is a difficult position for Wolfsburg to be in- do they twist and look for the away goal that might be enough to put this tie to bed, or do they sit back and hope to defend their 2-0 advantage?

That uncertainty should give Real Madrid a chance to build up some momentum and this is a team that has scored plenty of goals at home. With a full squad, I do think Real Madrid will be confident they can get this deficit turned around and I believe they are going to have a similar response to when Bayern Munich overturned their First Leg deficit against Porto twelve months ago.

I am not disrespecting Wolfsburg in that sense, but I simply don't believe they are able to stand up to the pressure they will be under this week. Playing away from home in a raucous Madrid cauldron is tough and that has helped Real Madrid overturn First Leg defeats in the past.

Real Madrid will get through is my feeling and I am going to back them on the Asian Handicap to cover the two goals they are being asked to by the layers.

Atletico Madrid v Barcelona PickAll four Champions League Quarter Finals look to be in the balance and this one between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona is one that all the other teams will have a keen eye on. Before the First Legs, Barcelona looked to be the team to beat in the Champions League, but they are in a very dangerous position against an Atletico Madrid team that recorded a 1-0 win over them at this stage two seasons ago to progress to the Semi Finals.

That experience will be key for Atletico Madrid, but they have struggled to put together the Diego Simeone game plan against Barcelona so far this season. Last week they were unfortunate in being reduced to ten men early in the game, but the more worrying factor has to be that Atletico Madrid have had the lead in all three games against Barcelona this season and lost all three of them by the same 2-1 scoreline.

What I have come to expect from a Simeone side is a strong defensive shape that would be incredibly tough to break down once Atletico Madrid have had the lead, but Barcelona have not been fazed so far.

On the other hand, Barcelona are arguably coming into this Second Leg at their lowest ebb in terms of confidence for over twelve months. They seem to be over-reliant on the front three doing all the attacking damage and it is clear Barcelona will need more than Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez to unlock an eleven man Atletico Madrid team.

We will also see Atletico Madrid have to come forward as they need at least one goal and I think this is an intriguing Second Leg for the neutrals to enjoy.

The layers are expecting a tight game, but I think we may see goals again between these two teams with Barcelona always dangerous and Atletico Madrid likely needing a couple of goals themselves to stay in the tie. I was a little surprised that the layers have dangled odds against quotes for at least three goals to be shared out for a fourth time between these teams this season and I am finding it hard to ignore that.

This is a game that could easily see a late goal with the chances of entering the final 15 minutes at 1-1 and that meaning counter attacking opportunities as well as a team loading the box with attacking players. The odds against quote for goals just looks wrong to me and I will back at least three goals to be shared out in this one.

Benfica v Bayern Munich PickAnother Champions League tie which is finely balanced heading into the Second Leg takes place in Lisbon on Wednesday and this could be a surprisingly open game if the First Leg is anything to go by. It might have ended 1-0 to Bayern Munich in Germany last week, but there were chances at both ends and an early goal in Lisbon will open things up you would expect.

Some might think a 1-0 lead for Benfica will slow things down, but Bayern Munich are unlikely to change their game plan and the home side will be expected to get forward where possible. On the other hand, an away goal for Bayern Munich will force Benfica to get forward to score the three goals to move into the Semi Final for the first time in over twenty-five years.

Perhaps things will be tighter after an open game in Munich, but I can't see either team changing their style too much in this one. Bayern Munich have a few defensive injuries which make them vulnerable and Benfica have to take heart from the fact that Porto beat this team 3-1 at home at this stage of the Champions League last season.

It would be a big surprise to see Bayern Munich fall into such a defeat again and I have to say this is a team that has goals in the squad as they showed in Turin in a 2-2 draw with Juventus. Bayern Munich also look vulnerable when they concede though and I think there might be a few goals shared out between the teams in this Second Leg.

At odds against, backing at least three goals to be scored as the teams show a little more composure in front of goal looks to be the call for me. I fancy Bayern Munich will win the game, but they look like a team that might concede in doing so and backing goals looks to be the outcome of this one.

West Ham United v Manchester United PickAfter the capitulation at White Hart Lane and the stories that the players were vocal in their lack of support for Louis Van Gaal this has become a huge game for the manager if he wants to see out his contract as manager of Manchester United.

The FA Cup might not be salvation enough for Van Gaal without a top four position in the bag, but it is a competition in which he is desperate to progress. The pressure is on Manchester United having failed to win the initial tie at Old Trafford especially as they have lost 5 of their last 7 away games in all competitions.

That task is only made tougher by the form West Ham United have been producing in recent months and there is no doubt that they are rightly favoured. Up until the game on Sunday at White Hart Lane, Manchester United had bafflingly been made the favourites to win this Replay, but I can't see how anyone could have suggested that on the form of the two clubs.

Take away the names involved and it is hard to imagine how West Ham United are not stronger favourites to win this one. They have the creativity and pace in forward areas that Manchester United fans will be envious of and Slaven Bilic has put a lot of faith in his side winning the Cup this season.

Manchester United have struggled away from home in recent games and West Ham United look a team that can score goals which is going to be tough for Louis Van Gaal's team to keep up with. As a fan I would love for Manchester United to prove me wrong, but West Ham United look a really big price to win this Replay and their current form suggests this is likely to only go one way.

Crystal Palace v Everton PickA win for either of these teams in the Premier League on Wednesday should be enough to make sure they are going to be playing in this League again next season. There should be some freedom in the way both teams are able to play in this fixture with the three points on the line and no immediate concern regarding relegation especially for Crystal Palace after beating Norwich City over the weekend.

Both teams have shown some defensive vulnerabilities and both have attacking talent at their disposal which should lead to an entertaining game for the fans who get to watch this one.

It has to be noted that both Crystal Palace and Everton home/away games respectively have not featured a lot of goals in recent games, but there is a chance this one bucks the trend.

There is enough in the forward areas to think both teams will have chances in this one and I think the problems in defence that both Crystal Palace and Everton have had can see openings for both. With both managers desperate for a win, I can see this being an attacking game for the most part and backing goals at odds against looks to be the call.

Sparta Prague v Villarreal PickA 2-1 defeat in Spain would have given Sparta Prague the kind of platform to earn their way past Villarreal in this Quarter Final, but it looks like the home team are facing an injury crisis at the wrong time. That won't have sapped all their confidence with Sparta Prague having a really good run in the Europa League and they have won 4 of their last 6 home games in this competition.

Even a full strength Sparta Prague team might have been considered the underdog against Villarreal with a 1-2 deficit to overturn, but they would have been feeling more confident if they could call on everyone.

However they will go into this Second Leg in the position they are in and a long unbeaten run at home will get the fans behind them as they look to surprise Villarreal. The Spanish side have not exactly pulled up too many trees when travelling in the Europa League while they have recently ended an 8 game away run without a win with a victory at Eibar.

That might make this more of a Second Leg than the layers think as they have placed Villarreal as odds on favourites to win here. I think the home side will push Villarreal despite the injuries through the squad and Sparta Prague have proven they can upset teams through their run to the Europa League Quarter Final.

It would be a surprise if Sparta Prague didn't continue to try and impose their attacking style on proceedings and that might help this become an entertaining game for those watching. I will be backing both teams to earn some goal-scoring chances through the contest and I will back at least three goals to be shared out.

Liverpool v Borussia Dortmund PickJurgen Klopp has been the focal point for this Europa League Quarter Final tie and there should be more of the same when Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund meet at Anfield on Thursday. The tie is finely balanced for the Second Leg following the 1-1 draw in Dortmund last week, although it is the German side that remain the favourites to progress.

If last week is anything to go by, this Second Leg could be another very interesting and exciting game to watch for the neutrals. Jurgen Klopp will ask his team to get forward and it has been made clear by Thomas Tuchel that he will send his Borussia Dortmund team out looking for goals and taking risks to achieve their goals.

This should really be a fast paced game and either team scoring should spark the game into life and you have to think goals will be produced.

Both teams have some real attacking talent and neither defence can really say they are strong enough to repel attack after attack for long periods. That should see both managers urging their team forward to win the game rather than protect whatever they may have and that should produce at least one more goal than last week.

Backing at least three goals to be shared out looks the call from this game.

Sevilla v Athletic Bilbao PickBoth Sevilla and Athletic Bilbao have just hit a stumbling block in terms of form in recent games, but it is Sevilla who have a distinct advantage in this Quarter Final having won the First Leg 1-2 away from home.

There is little doubt that Sevilla are now putting all their eggs in the Europa League basket as they look to get back into the Champions League. With the added experience of having won this competition two years in a row, Sevilla should know exactly what they need to do to make sure they are moving through to yet another Semi Final.

I am sure they will be pushed by Athletic Bilbao, but this is a team that had lost 3 of 4 games prior to their 1-0 win over Rayo Vallecano this past weekend. Athletic Bilbao have also lost their last 2 away games and have been beaten in 3 of their last 4 away visits to Seville.

The pressure is on Athletic Bilbao to make the running as they need to score at least twice to win this Quarter Final and I think that will work for Sevilla. The home team might have seen their 17 game winning run in front of their own fans come to an end in their last game against Real Sociedad, but Sevilla are comfortable in their home surroundings.

I can see Sevilla picking off Athletic Bilbao if the away side begin to get desperate to get back into this tie and I like Sevilla to win the Second Leg to comfortably move into the Semi Final.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Sporting Braga PickShakhtar Donetsk looked to be the much stronger team when they visited Sporting Braga in the First Leg and they are deservedly in the lead in the tie. There is a feeling the lead should be by a wider margin than it is, but Shakhtar Donetsk will still be strong favourites to progress to the Semi Final.

The onus is on Sporting Braga to push the tempo, but they will have to be a lot better defensively if they are going to have a chance to turn around the deficit in this Quarter Final. Finding the right balance between attack and defence is the key for Sporting Braga, but they have not played well in recent away games.

That suggests it is going to be beyond their capabilities to earn the victory in the Ukraine to move into the Semi Final and I think Shakhtar Donetsk can pick them off when the Portuguese visitors over-commit. Shakhtar Donetsk are the team in better form and have home advantage and I can see them continuing their run of successes in the Knock Out Stage of the Europa League.

Shakhtar Donetsk have won 4 straight Knock Out ties and I am expecting them to get themselves into the Semi Final draw with another victory on Thursday in the Second Leg.

MY PICKS: Manchester City-PSG Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.65 Bet365 (2 Units)
Real Madrid - 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Atletico Madrid-Barcelona Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Benfica-Bayern Munich Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United @ 2.70 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sparta Prague-Villarreal Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Liverpool-Borussia Dortmund Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sevilla @ 2.05 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Shakhtar Donetsk @ 1.73 Bet Victor (2 Units)

March Final22-17-2, + 9.06 Units (80 Units Staked, + 11.33% 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 2015/16129-168-2, - 8.49 Units (652 Units Staked, - 1.30% 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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