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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Midweek Football Picks 2016 (September 13-15)

This is going to be a busy week of football with every night having at least one live game in England.

However it is the start of the Champions League and Europa League Group Stage that will be the focus before the second Friday Night Football of the season when Chelsea host Liverpool.

For me much of the football I will be watching will be in Los Angeles and Las Vegas as I am off for a few days from this Wednesday through to the following Friday. I will have created a thread for the NFL, College Football and Weekend Football for the Premier League, but I am not sure all of those will be published before I go.

I will just have to access those with my mobile and make sure they go live before the games this weekend. In some cases it will simply be a short thread with the picks without the reasoning and others might have some games with the reasoning and the rest of the picks in the 'MY PICKS' section of any thread.

Basel v Ludogorets Pick: The Champions League Group containing Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain is made up by Basel and Ludogorets and they might be playing for third place and a spot in the Europa League Knock Out Stage. Basel have upset the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool in the Group Stage of the Champions League so Arsenal have to beware, but it would still be a big upset if they could do that this season.

This game could be key to determine which of these teams finish third in the Group and Basel have to feel home advantage is going to be key for them. They have beaten Ludogorets in the 2013/14 and 2014/15 Champions League seasons with comfortable wins in Basel and I think the home team will earn the three points in this one.

Basel have won all 8 games they have played in all competitions this season and they have lost 1 of their last 8 home European games which includes fixtures against the likes of Fiorentina and Sevilla. They have the deeper European experience than Ludogorets and I would be a little nervous if I supported the away team considering the amount of goals they have conceded on their travels.

You have to give Ludogorets credit for draws against Red Star Belgrade and Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League Qualifiers, but I think Basel represent another improvement in quality Ludogorets are facing. It might be the closest margin of defeat for Ludogorets when they visit Basel having gone down 2-0 and 4-0 previously, but I do believe it will be a margin of defeat.

I will back Basel to begin this Group with a win which will put some pressure on the two big names in the section, particularly the loser of their first match in Paris on the same night.

Benfica v Besiktas PickThis looks a tight Group with Dynamo Kiev and Napoli making up the quartet with Benfica and Besiktas and so the three home games are going to be very important for the teams that want to move through to the Second Round. Benfica have the better recent experience having reached the Champions League Quarter Final last season compared with Besiktas who were knocked out of the Europa League Group Stage.

Both teams have opened the season in good form but, as I have mentioned, home form is going to be key and Benfica have won plenty of home Champions League games in recent years. Only Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich, two of the four Semi Finalists in 2016, avoided defeat here last season and Benfica did win the other three games they played at home in the Champions League.

Compared to that, Besiktas have struggled away from home and the Turkish Champions are a much different threat on their travels. Benfica proved to be a little too good for Galatasaray when they played in the Group Stage last season, while Besiktas lost in Lisbon against Sporting in the Europa League Group Stage.

I do think Benfica will be a little too good for them on the day as they have made a strong start to the season. So have Besiktas but home advantage should be all important for Benfica even though Jonas looks set to miss out and I will back Benfica to take the three points.

Manchester City v Borussia Monchengladbach PickThere should be plenty of confidence coursing through the Manchester City veins heading into the opening Group game of the Champions League with their last two League performances showing off the best this squad has. Add Sergio Aguero to the mix and Manchester City will be expected to make a really positive start to the Group Stage which also includes two matches with Barcelona in the next few weeks.

Manchester City will be expected to move through to the Second Round with Barcelona, but they need to get off to a winning start to give them the momentum for the two matches with the Spanish Champions. They will be well aware of what Borussia Monchengladbach bring to the table considering Manchester City met them twice in the Group Stage last season, while Pep Guardiola was managing in the Bundesliga against them the last couple of years.

I expect a lot of attacking football in this one with both clubs comfortable getting on the front foot but perhaps not as strong defensively as they would like to be. However the Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1 loss at Freiburg shows that they remain a team that might be a little hit or miss away from home having finished with the 12th best away record in the Bundesliga last season.

They also had lost 3 of 5 away European games before the 1-3 win over Young Boys in the Play Offs and now face a Manchester City team that have won 4 of 6 at The Etihad Stadium in the Champions League. I expect Manchester City to win and I will look for them to cover the Asian Handicap despite only 1 of their last 12 home Champions League games ending with a win by at least two goals.

That did come against Borussia Monchengladbach and I think Manchester City will be the stronger team in the final third and can eventually pull away in this one and earn a vital three points.

Paris Saint-Germain v Arsenal PickParis Saint-Germain are the odds on favourites to win this opening Champions League Group game but I am not sure I would be comfortable backing them in that spot. They have not been playing up to their level in the last couple of League games as they continue to understand what Unai Emery wants from them and Paris Saint-Germain have won just half of their last 6 Champions League games at home.

They do have goals in the side which makes them dangerous and those goals remain despite Zlatan Ibrahimovic moving on to Manchester United. Players like Edinson Cavani and Angel Di Maria are real threats in the final third and I think they will give Arsenal some problems, especially as the latter have only had a single clean sheet in four games this season.

However I do also think Paris Saint-Germain are vulnerable when teams go on the attack against them and Arsene Wenger will usually put out a side that will get forward to score goals. The likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are top players that can cause problems for any team in Europe on their day and Paris Saint-Germain are a team that will leave spaces at the back when looking to score goals.

Over the last three seasons, Paris Saint-Germain have entertained Chelsea three times and Manchester City once and 3 of those 4 home games have ended with at least three goals scored. With the defensive issues both teams have had this season, I think both Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal can combine for at least three goals in this one as both look to take a big step towards winning this Group with Basel and Ludogorets to come.

5 of the last 7 away Champions League games that Arsenal have been involved in have reached that number and I will back goals from this fixture.

PSV Eindhoven v Atletico Madrid Pick: These teams met in the Second Round of the Champions League last season and you have to say all credit to PSV Eindhoven for taking that tie all the way to penalties. Anyone who watched any of those games would have seen Atletico Madrid dominate the shot count but fail to break down PSV Eindhoven in 210 total minutes of football before coming through a penalty shoot out success.

They meet again in the opening Group game of the 2016/17 Champions League season and it looks a big ask for PSV Eindhoven to make it back into the Knock Out Stage. This time they are facing Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich in the Group Stage although PSV Eindhoven will have a chance if they can match the three Group wins they secured twelve months ago.

It seems unlikely that they can do that this time around with the improved quality they are facing especially as last season they were a First Seed. PSV will be difficult to play at home but Atletico Madrid are coming off a really impressive 0-4 win at Celta Vigo on Saturday to get their season going.

Back to back draws with newly promoted clubs had people questioning whether Diego Simeone's time at the club needed to come to an end, but that looks foolish. The players clearly still enjoy playing for Simeone and the win and performance on Saturday should give Atletico Madrid the confidence to win here.

They had their chances to do that in their goalless draw in Eindhoven back in February, and Atletico Madrid now have Kevin Gameiro as another forward option. I expect they do enough to win this one and will back them to do so.

Derby County v Ipswich Town PickIt has been a tough start to the new season for Derby County who were expected to challenge for promotion under Nigel Pearson, but it is only a start and things can quickly be turned around.

That might not happen this week and I would not be keen on backing Derby County at odds on to beat an Ipswich Town team they have not earned the three points against in any of their last 8 home games.

The results might not have been that impressive for Ipswich Town either, but they have played better than the points indicate and look a team that can score here. One goal might be enough to avoid defeat against a Derby County team that are integrating a new look attack and who have only scored a single goal in the League this season.

Going back to last season, Derby County have not scored in any of their last 5 League games at the iPro Stadium and only managed 2 goals in total against Grimsby Town and Carlisle United in the English Football League Cup. While I do think they will turn things around with the talent in the squad, I am going to back Ipswich Town to earn something from this game at odds against.

Norwich City v Wigan Athletic PickThe layers have made Norwich City a really strong favourite to win this League game and the recent form is certainly pointing in their direction. However you would have to be a little concerned that Norwich City conceded twice at home on Saturday and also to Coventry City in the English Football League Cup, while Wigan Athletic have scored in every away game they have played this season.

With that in mind I do think Wigan Athletic can get amongst the goals in this one, although their own defensive issues have meant they have lost a 0-1 leads in two of their three away Championship games.

The Latics have conceded twice in all of their away games this season and I think this is a game that will provide at least three goals to be shared out between the clubs. Both teams should create chances and I think the most likely result is a 2-1 win for Norwich City so backing at least three goals to be scored is my pick.

Queens Park Rangers v Newcastle United PickThis is a big test for Newcastle United, but they overcame a difficult one on Saturday when beating Derby County at the iPro Stadium. While Queens Park Rangers have been in better form than Derby County, I think they will do well to contain a Newcastle United team that have been flying in recent weeks.

They have got the Rafa Benitez defensive shape which has seen them keep 4 clean sheets in a row, but Newcastle United also have the quality in the final third to create chances and score goals.

Queens Park Rangers were strong at home in the League last season and have begun the season in decent form under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. There have been some signs that they are having it a little more difficult of late with some tough results against them and I think Newcastle United can take advantage.

The Magpies lost here two seasons ago, but had won on 3 of 4 previous visits and they can't be ignored at odds against in current form with the strength of squad Newcastle United have.

Sheffield Wednesday v Bristol City PickYou have to give Bristol City a lot of credit for earning 10 points from 18 in the Championship when you think they have played all three teams that were relegated from the Premier League last season. Their two losses this season have come against two of those three teams but Bristol City have been playing with a lot of character and determination.

Coming back from 2-0 down at Rotherham United to earn a draw has kept Bristol City in the top half of the table, but it is a big challenge for them to travel to Sheffield Wednesday. Going 2-0 down here will be much more difficult to recover and I do thinK Sheffield Wednesday are going to take advantage of a vulnerable Bristol City defence in this one.

Snapping a 5 game run without a win would have given Sheffield Wednesday a big boost of confidence over the weekend and I think The Owls can back that up on Tuesday. They did have to come from behind to beat Wigan Athletic, but Sheffield Wednesday might have a little more control in this one and I think they can earn the three points in more routine manner by scoring first and controlling much of the match.

Wolves v Barnsley PickOne of the issues that Wolves are still trying to resolve is the lack of goals they are scoring which is preventing them making a significant move up the League table. A lack of goals could be costly when Barnsley come to town having been one of the free-scoring teams in the Division with an old school 4-4-2 system in place.

Barnsley are the highest scorers in the League, but they have been hurt by having one of the weaker defences and they will push this Wolves team.

It has been tough for Wolves to play the consistent football that will put together the wins they are looking for, but the way Barnsley play means there should be chances at both ends. At some point Barnsley will likely change their style to be more conservative when they hit a rough patch of form, but they are scoring plenty of goals at the moment and I expect them to make a game of this.

Home advantage has seen Wolves being hard to beat in recent games, but they will be challenged by Barnsley and I think we will see at least three goals shared out by these teams.

Club Brugge v Leicester City PickIt has been a difficult start to the new season for Leicester City although I don't want to be too harsh on a club that has had a difficult set of fixtures. Away games at an excited, newly promoted side and at Liverpool in their opening home fixture plus playing Arsenal at home is tough sledging for any team and Leicester City have found it difficult.

The defensive shape that had proven so important for them in the 2015/16 season has not been replicated while teams in the Premier League know a little more about what Leicester City want to do. The loss of N'Golo Kante has looked bigger and bigger in each passing week, but Leicester City have also been missing the fortunes that aided them early in the last season.

A game at Club Brugge is a big test for Leicester City who don't have a lot of European experience in their ranks. However Club Brugge have been in poor form in the defence of their own title won last season and the onus is on the Belgian side to get forward which should mean Leicester City have spaces to exploit.

Even though Leicester City have not played in Europe in recent years, their style will be familiar with the Premier League a well watched League around the world. I don't think anything will surprise Club Brugge but I do think Leicester City will be dangerous on the counter attack in this one and have the goals in the side to win this game.

They look a big price to win at a venue where Manchester United were dominant winners last season and Club Brugge have lost 3 of their last 4 at home in European competition. Club Brugge are conceding plenty of goals in the League themselves and I can see three goals shared out in this one, but I think Leicester City look a big price to open the Champions League campaign with a win.

I am going to say Leicester City's price has been affected by the poor opening, but those fixtures have been tougher than this one and I will back The Foxes at what looks a big price.

Juventus v Sevilla Pick: These two teams do look to be the ones to beat in this Champions League Group, but I also think Juventus are considerably stronger than the other three teams in the section. The Old Lady of Italian football looks improved to the point of being a genuine contender to win the Champions League this season and I think they can put together a statement win in this one.

While Sevilla might have won the Europa League again last season to get back into the Champions League, they did struggle in this competition last season when facing the better teams. A defeat to Juventus in Turin and two defeats to Manchester City meant Sevilla had to settle for a drop into the Europa League and they are also dealing with a new voice in the dressing room this time around.

Jorge Sampaoli is a top name in management after performing so well for the Chile national team, but Sevilla are still learning what he wants from them. They were fortunate to beat Las Palmas on Saturday and Sevilla somehow came away with a goalless draw from a visit to Villarreal.

Those performances won't inspire confidence though and playing like that in Juventus is only going to see this fixture end in the same way it did last year and that is a comfortable Juventus win. I really do think the Italian Champions have invested the Paul Pogba money very effectively and I will back them to win this by a couple of goals and put down a marker for the rest of the Champions League campaign.

Porto v Copenhagen Pick: These two teams join Leicester City and Club Brugge in the Group and all four teams will believe they can make the Second Round. Porto may feel they have the edge in terms of experience at the European level over the other four teams, but they are not the Porto team of recent years which have made it to the business end of the Champions League.

In saying that, I do think Porto can make a strong start to the Group ahead of the big game at Leicester City. The Play Off win over Roma is a standout result for Porto and that should give them confidence even if they are facing a Copenhagen team that have won a number of Qualifiers to get here.

That will make Copenhagen feel they can belong at this level but they are still trying to bridge the gap between their domestic competition and those they will see in the Champions League Group. I think Copenhagen will work hard and try and make life as difficult as possible for Porto, but ultimately I think the home team will be too strong.

It is important for Porto to get off to a good start in the Group and they have been playing well enough at home to think they win this by a couple of goals.

Real Madrid v Sporting Lisbon Pick: Over recent years, Real Madrid have tended to make light work of the majority of teams they face in the Champions League. With Cristiano Ronaldo back and ready to face the club where it all began for him, I think Sporting Lisbon are going to do very well to keep this one close.

The Portuguese team simply don't travel that well in European football and now face the defending Champions League winners in their opening Group game. They will have needed to improve drastically in defensive areas if they are going to compete with Real Madrid as Sporting Lisbon conceded twice in 4 of their 5 away European games last season and actually conceded three or more 3 times.

We all know how many goals Real Madrid can score at home and 7 of their last 10 home Group games have seen them win by at least three goals or more. That is quite a remarkable statistic when you consider some of those wins have come against Ajax, Galatasaray, Basel and Shakhtar Donetsk have been part of those teams to be crushed here.

I don't think Sporting Lisbon are much stronger than those teams mentioned and they might get overawed like many others in Real Madrid during the Group Stage. At odds against, I will look for Real Madrid to cover the Asian Handicap and secure another big home win in the Champions League Group Stage.

Tottenham Hotspur v Monaco PickFrom a financial point of view it is clear why Tottenham Hotspur are playing their home Champions League games at Wembley Stadium, but their rivals Arsenal will be the first to say losing home advantage for financial gain is not the smartest policy. Arsenal lost 2 of their 3 home games at Wembley Stadium in the 1999/2000 Champions League season and it is clear how important home form is in the Champions League.

Losing that is a blow on the field for Tottenham Hotspur, but they do have a Group they will be expected to negotiate through to the Second Round. With games against Bayer Leverkusen and CSKA Moscow to come, Tottenham Hotspur will be looking to get off to the perfect start by earning three important points in this one.

They looked good in the 0-4 at Stoke City although it has been a mixed start in terms of results and performances for Tottenham Hotspur so far. They did play well in the Europa League the last couple of years which will give this young squad confidence, but how they adjust to playing at Wembley rather than White Hart Lane is going to be key.

All of the teams look quite evenly matched in this Group, although I do think Tottenham Hotspur are the best of the four teams. They did beat a strong looking Monaco 4-1 at home in the Europa League Group Stage last season, but Monaco have opened this season in very strong form which includes a win in Villarreal and a home victory over Paris Saint-Germain.

Monaco have won 5 in a row in all competitions, but they don't have the best travelling record in European competition which could prove to be the difficulty of getting out of this Group. They have some quality players like Joao Moutinho and Radamel Falcao as well as Fabinho who has been linked with Manchester United, but Monaco have lost half of their last 6 away games in Europe.

I doubt very much we will see Tottenham Hotspur match the 4-1 win of last season over Monaco as they get used to the new surroundings. However I do think they will have just enough to open their Wembley Stadium games with a victory and I will back Tottenham Hotspur to do that against this solid Monaco team.

Feyenoord v Manchester United PickThere are likely to be plenty of changes in the Manchester United starting eleven for this game as they begin the Thursday-Sunday portion of the season which has affected so many clubs in England in the past. The good news for Jose Mourinho is that this is not a long trip for Manchester United as he looks to help the club bounce back from their disappointing defeat in the Manchester derby.

It will be far from an easy game in Rotterdam as Feyenoord have begun the season in fine form and also have been a tough place to play in European football. They did not play in Europe last season, but Feyenoord had won 4 in a row at home in the Europa League before the 1-2 defeat to Roma in the Last 32 two seasons ago.

Feyenoord have been scoring plenty of goals at home to open the season and they will surely have a go at Manchester United who will have a changed backline. That lack of familiarity early in the season can lead to mistakes and I do think Feyenoord will score in this one.

On the other hand I can see the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford causing plenty of problems for the Dutch side in this one.

I certainly feel there will be goals in this one and I am not confident of backing Manchester United at odds on when you think they have lost 4 of their last 5 away European games. Goals have been seen in those games and Feyenoord should play their part too and I will back at least three to be shared out at a bigger price than a Manchester United away win.

Rapid Vienna v Genk PickThese two teams look the weakest in the Group, but the winning team in the opening game in the section will believe they can build the momentum to challenge Sassuolo and Athletic Bilbao.

The home advantage should give Rapid Vienna enough of an edge to beat Genk, although the latter need to be respected having lost just 1 of their last 12 away Europa League games. Rapid Vienna have been beaten in 2 of their last 3 at home in the competition too, but they did win all 3 Group games last season and I think they can get off to a winning start.

Rapid Vienna haven't scored in their last 2 home games, but they are facing a team that was beaten without scoring at Gent and Standard Liege. I don't think there is a big difference between the talent levels of the teams from Belgium and Austria, but I do believe playing at home gives Rapid Vienna enough of an advantage to come through with a narrow win.

That will give them confidence to upset the Spanish or Italian side that makes up the Group and I will look for Rapid Vienna to earn the three points.

Sassuolo v Athletic Bilbao PickThis should be a good game between Sassuolo and Athletic Bilbao who look to be the best teams in this Europa League Group. Both teams may have hoped for better starts to the new season, but they have both been beaten by the reigning Champions in Italy and Spain respectively.

The momentum might be behind Athletic Bilbao who won their most recent game compared with Sassuolo who have not won in 3 games and lost back to back ones going into this fixture.

Sassuolo have been conceding goals at an alarming rate of late, but they have scored plenty of goals in front of their own fans which makes them dangerous. I did consider Athletic Bilbao to win here as they have won 4 of their last 5 away Europa League games, but the standout trend in their matches recently have been the amount of goals scored and conceded.

The home team have been doing the same and I think the teams can combine to score at least three goals in this one at odds against.

Konyaspor v Shakhtar Donetsk PickKonyaspor are in a difficult Group when you think of the lack of experience they have in the Europa League, but the most difficult test might be the one right out of the gate. For a team making their debut in European competition, Konyaspor might have wished for a much better game than facing Shakhtar Donetsk who reached the Semi Final of the Europa League just a few months ago.

A defeat to Young Boys in the Champions League shows that this is not the same strong Shakhtar Donetsk of years gone past, but they have won 4 of their last 6 away games in Europe. Add the fact they have won at Istanbul Basaksehir already just last month and I think Shakhtar Donetsk can head to Konyaspor with plenty of confidence behind them.

No doubt that it is never easy to play in Turkey for a visiting team, but Shakhtar Donetsk have recent experience of that and that could be an important factor in this match. The team they beat are leading the Turkish domestic League and I think getting odds against on Shakhtar Donetsk winning here has to be taken.

Southampton v Sparta Prague PickWhen you look at the market you have to say that Southampton look short considering they have yet to win under Claude Puel and are facing a team that reached the Quarter Final of the Europa League last season.

I do think they are the most likely winner, but Southampton have been conceding plenty of goals themselves and I expect them to be tested by Sparta Prague in this one. Sparta Prague played really well away from home in this competition last season and I can see them creating some chances, but ultimately I do think Southampton will find a narrow win.

Both teams are likely to score, but my feeling that Southampton win for the first time this season although that means I will prefer backing there being at least three goals in this one rather than picking a winner. I do think Sparta Prague will give it a go at St Mary's knowing a win will give them a great chance to reach the Last 32, while Southampton will have focused on trying to earn three wins at home in the Group.

It does come together to suggest a 2-1 scoreline is most likely so backing at least three goals to be scored at a little under odds against appeals most.

MY PICKS: Basel @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Benfica @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.87 Bet365 (2 Units)
Paris Saint-Germain-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Atletico Madrid @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Ipswich Town + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Norwich City-Wigan Athletic Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Newcastle United @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sheffield Wednesday @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Wolves-Barnsley Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City @ 2.50 Bet365 (2 Units)
Juventus - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Porto - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.92 Bet365 (2 Units)
Real Madrid - 2 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Feyenoord-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Rapid Vienna @ 1.82 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Sassuolo-Athletic Bilbao Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Coral (2 Units)
Shakhtar Donetsk @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Southampton-Sparta Prague Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)

September Update15-13-1, + 9.86 Units (49 Units Staked, + 20.12% Yield)
August Final31-38-2, - 9 Units (124 Units Staked, - 7.26% Yield)

Season 2015/16133-174-2, + 0.89 Units (669 Units Staked, + 0% 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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