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Saturday, 16 April 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (April 16-18)

The Premier League title race and relegation battle is really hotting up with the majority teams into their final five games of the season. Some of those issues might look a lot clearer after this weekend with Norwich City hosting Sunderland and Leicester City looking to avoid the stumble that most have expected them to take.

Maybe this will be the weekend when the Premier League title race is reignited with Leicester City facing a tough home game against West Ham United, but that will only put the pressure on Tottenham Hotspur to get a result at Stoke City on Monday night.

It should be interesting to see how Leicester City deal with things because I don't think I've ever seen a team manage their emotions at this stage of the season as well as they have, especially without the experience of a title winning mentality behind them. For a club that has not been in this position for a long, long time, Leicester City are getting through their games very effectively but this is a big game for them this weekend when you consider how their season ends with visits to Manchester United and Chelsea to come.

It was a mixed start for the picks in April as I look for another winning month to get this season turned around. Hopefully this weekend can provide a few more consistent results to get back into a positive position for the month.

Norwich City v Sunderland PickWith games beginning to run out on this Premier League season, this live offering on Saturday lunchtime really is a 'relegation six pointer' for both Norwich City and Sunderland. The home team are in the driving seat with a 4 point lead over Sunderland in the battle to avoid relegation and the pressure is on Sam Allardyce's men to find a way to earn the three points here.

Some may look at this as a 'must not lose' game for Sunderland, but the remaining fixtures suggests this is a 'must win' for the away team if they are going to overtake Norwich City. On the other hand, I think Alex Neil would be happy to take a point now, but a win for Norwich City might effectively be enough to take The Canaries too far for the bottom three teams to catch.

It will be a tense game with both teams knowing what is at stake, but both defences have looked vulnerable which suggests we could see plenty of opportunities at both ends. Sunderland will have to show a lot more composure than they did last week against Leicester City when those chances come, especially if Norwich City are as ruthless as they were when playing Newcastle United at the beginning of the month.

The layers don't seem to believe there will be many goals between these teams, but they shared out four in the first League game earlier this season. Add in the importance for both teams to try and win the game and I can see both teams pushing in the final moments of what could be an entertaining game for the neutrals.

My gut feeling is that Norwich City might have the momentum to carry them to the three points here, but ultimately I believe a 2-1 scoreline either way is the most likely result. Therefore I am backing goals in the opening game of another big weekend in the Premier League.

Manchester United v Aston Villa Pick: You have to credit Louis Van Gaal for finding a positive result every time he has come under pressure this season, but that might not be enough to keep him in his job as manager at Old Trafford. While Manchester United are now favourites to win the FA Cup, finishing outside of the top four would be a big blow to their ambitions and so they can't afford to drop points in this one.

The next two Premier League games are at Old Trafford and gives Manchester United a chance to put some pressure on Manchester City in the final Champions League spot. The first of those against Aston Villa should result in a win for Manchester United as the former European Champions look set to be relegated with a whimper.

Aston Villa have now lost 8 in a row in the Premier League and their goal against Bournemouth last week was the first they had scored in 5 games. They have lost 4 straight away games in the League and scored just one goal in that run and I think Manchester United can win this game without too much stress.

However I wouldn't want to be in a position to back Manchester United by a few goals because of the way they have played under Van Gaal. Not many teams have been put to the sword by Manchester United in the manner they might have been under Sir Alex Ferguson but I have still found an angle to play in this match.

For the majority of the season, Manchester United have played with enough shape to earn clean sheets and I think backing the home team to win this game while keeping a clean sheet looks the best option. That is a decent price being offered and beats backing them to cover any number more than one goal in my opinion.

Newcastle United v Swansea City PickDepending on what has happened earlier in the day at Carrow Road, Newcastle United could be drinking in the last chance saloon on Saturday afternoon when they host Swansea City. Rafa Benitez will know his side simply have to win this game if they have any chance of getting out of the bottom three and that will especially be the case if Norwich City beat Sunderland in the early kick off.

It has been tough sledging for Newcastle United as they have lost 6 of their last 7 Premier League games to fall into a big hole in the Premier League. They have been stronger at home, but the pressure to win this game coming from the stands makes this very difficult for Newcastle United.

They are also facing a confident Swansea City team who have won 4 of their last 6 Premier League games and who have begun to score goals for fun. They have scored at least twice in 4 of their last 6 away games in the League and Swansea City have to feel reaching that tally will be enough to avoid defeat here at the least.

This is also a fixture Swansea City have looked forward to with 6 wins from the last 7 Premier League games against Newcastle United. They have won on each of their last 3 visits to St James' Park and Newcastle United's defending in recent games has left much to be desired.

The atmosphere in the Stadium is going to depend very much on what has happened at Carrow Road earlier in the day, but this is going to be a tough match for Newcastle United regardless. The pressure to win games is huge at this time of the season for a team fighting at either end of the table and Swansea City have a little more freedom to play their football having reached the 40 point mark.

I will back the away side to continue their strong run against Newcastle United as well as in recent Premier League games. Backing them on the Asian Handicap to get something out of this game looks the right play to me.

Chelsea v Manchester City PickA much changed Chelsea team took to the field in their 1-0 defeat at Swansea City last weekend, but I expect a stronger team to come out at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

They will be looking to bring Manchester City back down to earth after seeing their opponents do what Chelsea couldn't in the Champions League and that is beat Paris Saint-Germain over two legs. Perhaps they will be looking to take advantage of any emotional and physical fatigue that could have set in while Chelsea had been preparing for this game, but it is a fixture that Manchester City can't ignore as they battle for a top four place.

Manchester United should have upped the pressure on their rivals with a win earlier in the day, while Manchester City also haven't been as strong away from home this season. Dealing with the pressure of a top four chase and trying to get up for a game after a big European night is tough for Manchester City, especially with another League game to come during the week.

However they have to like the fact that Chelsea have looked vulnerable defensively all season and have a number of players who are either just returning from injury, or will be missing out altogether. Those are in key defensive positions and Manchester City have the kind of attacking talent to cause plenty of problems even if they haven't been a free-scoring team away from home.

Chelsea should also have chances against this Manchester City defensive unit missing Vincent Kompany although the latter have looked a little better in recent games. Still, The Blues will be expected to push forward where they can in this one and I am expecting goals at both ends with a potential winner for one of these teams.

My gut feeling on this one is that Manchester City will be able to sneak the win and keep a firm grip on the top four, but I will back there being at least three goals shared out by these clubs for a third time this season.

Bournemouth v Liverpool Pick: The Thursday night Quarter Final win over Borussia Dortmund will likely live long in the memory for Liverpool fans and it is a big test for the players to pick themselves up from such an emotional occasion. With the Merseyside derby to come during the week, Jurgen Klopp may make a number of changes to ensure a strong team is played in that game against Everton and Bournemouth may be able to take advantage of that.

One element that won't change for either team is the way the managers will send their players out to play attacking football. Bournemouth and Liverpool will look to get on the front foot where possible and create chances in this game with nothing to lose for either when it comes to League positions.

Creating chances and scoring goals has been a feature of both Bournemouth and Liverpool games in recent weeks and that is unlikely to change here. I can see both teams scoring in this one and the fact there is nothing really on the line for either means they can push for a win to earn some momentum.

This game is not one of the live offerings on Sunday, but could be an entertaining one for those watching and I am backing at least three goals to be shared out.

Leicester City v West Ham United PickYou can't argue with the statistic that Leicester City have only been behind for 20 minutes since Boxing Day in the Premier League. That has put them on the brink of winning the Premier League title as Leicester City have continued to find ways to win games and keep a healthy distance between themselves and Tottenham Hotspur.

They can put the pressure on their closest rivals by adding another three points on the board twenty-four hours before Tottenham Hotspur play their next Premier League game. However it will be far from straight-forward for Leicester City against a West Ham United that have to be feeling disappointed about their performance during the week.

A 1-2 home defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup ended West Ham United's last chance of silverware this season, but the players have to be chomping at the bit to prove they are better than what they showed. The Hammers have hit something of a blip in recent games which is affecting their ability to finish in one of the Champions League places, but they are a team that can score goals.

For all the clean sheets that Leicester City have managed, they have ridden their luck at times while Sunderland created enough last week to think West Ham United will have their opportunities in this one. Defensively West Ham United might give Leicester City a few chances too and this might be the third time this season that these teams face one another and produce at least three goals.

Both teams have some quality in the forward areas and I think they will show that on Sunday as they combine for a high-scoring game. It could also be the stumble that Tottenham Hotspur are hoping Leicester City produce as West Ham United are more than capable of winning here when on top form, although I will simply be looking for goals out of this fixture.

Arsenal v Crystal Palace PickThis is a big game for Arsenal who are trying to stave off the two Manchester clubs when it comes to finding their way into the Champions League. Finishing 3rd is also essential to avoid having to play a Champions League Play Off in August when a large number of players will have played in the European Championships in the off-season.

They might be facing Crystal Palace at the right time with the latter perhaps looking ahead to the FA Cup Semi Final now their Premier League future has virtually been assured.

Now the pressure is off when it comes to winning the title, Arsenal have been able to put together some better results although they looked vulnerable defensively at West Ham United last week. However the attacking side of things has begun to gel together again and Arsenal have dominated Crystal Palace in recent games.

The Eagles are a very good counter attacking team which makes them dangerous, but the fact their players could be looking ahead to Wembley Stadium next week might mean they are not at 100% in terms of commitment. That could mean Arsenal are able to have control for much of this Premier League game and I think that could see them come through with a fairly comfortable win on the day.

That will keep Arsenal on the right path when it comes to finishing at least in the top three as they look to put together the wins in a busy week ahead.

MY PICKS: Norwich City-Sunderland Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester United Win to Nil @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Swansea City + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Chelsea-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bournemouth-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)

April Update: 5-5, - 1.24 Units (20 Units Staked, - 6.2% Yield)

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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