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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Midweek Football Picks 2016 (September 27-29)

The next international break is fast approaching, but before that we have Match Day 2 of the European competitions and then a final round of domestic football to play this weekend.

At least the next set of World Cup Qualifiers are a double header, but I can't help feel the break in the domestic season is as frustrating for the players and managers as it is for the fans. Momentum can be blocked, plus you never know what kind of condition players will return in.

This time around the two week break will be followed by a huge Liverpool vs Manchester United clash on Monday Night Football after the last one was followed by the Manchester derby, but it is a shame there has to be a break between the fixtures this weekend and the ones that will follow.

Match Day 2 won't make or break any team's chances of moving through to the Knock Out Stage of the Champions League and Europa League, but there are a couple of the English teams in a tough position right now. Neither Tottenham Hotspur or Manchester United can afford another loss already having been beaten in Match Day 1 and I think it is the former who have the tougher test, but Manchester United have the difficulty of Match Day 3 landing in a really awkward spot between fixtures at Liverpool and Chelsea so the pressure is on to win this week.

September has proven to be a very good month for the picks which has put the season totals in a strong place. There are still three important days to go in the month (I am putting Friday's games with the October totals) and I am just looking for a strong end to make sure nothing is given back now.

CSKA Moscow v Tottenham Hotspur PickThis is a pretty big Champions League game for both CSKA Moscow and Tottenham Hotspur considering it is only Match Day 2, but both teams will be looking at the fixture as one they need to get something from. A draw probably doesn't do either team that good, although I imagine Tottenham Hotspur would take that outcome right now, but for CSKA Moscow the importance of winning their home games will not have been lost on them.

That could make this a very interesting game of football as Tottenham Hotspur are likely to earn some space on the counter attack, while CSKA Moscow will get forward looking for goals.

I am anticipating goals in this one, especially when you consider CSKA Moscow had played 6 straight Champions League games here where both teams had scored before the 0-2 defeat to Wolfsburg. That includes a 1-1 draw with Manchester United last season and I do think Tottenham Hotspur can score goals even in the absence of Harry Kane.

Tottenham Hotspur have not looked as strong defensively in the early going of this season as they did last season and I think CSKA Moscow will be urged to get forward by the fans. That should mean there being chances at both ends with Tottenham Hotspur very comfortable countering teams that are coming onto them while CSKA Moscow have scored in all 13 home games since their loss to Wolfsburg in the Champions League.

I am looking for at least three goals to be shared out in this one as both clubs look for the first win in the competition and it looks a big price at odds against for three goals to be seen.

Copenhagen v Club Brugge Pick: After earning a 1-1 draw in Porto, Copenhagen will know that was a wasted effort if they cannot back it up by beating Club Brugge. Doing that will mean the double header with Leicester City will give Copenhagen a great chance of making it through to the Last 16 if they can earn four points from those two games too and I am backing Copenhagen to earn the three points from this game.

I thought Club Brugge may be the weakest team in the section when the draw was made, but not many would have tipped Leicester City to win as easily in Belgium as they did. The 0-3 home loss means Club Brugge are already battling for third place in the Group and a place in the Europa League Knock Out, but they have had a difficult start to the new season.

They might be the reigning Belgian Champions, but Club Brugge have opened the season in poor form and had lost 3 in a row away from home before the 0-3 win at Royal Excel Mouscron. Club Brugge will now face the Danish Champions who have won 12 of 13 at home in all competitions and Copenhagen have also won all 3 home games in the Qualifiers for the Champions League Group Stage.

Both teams do have goals in the side and Copenhagen have shortened in the markets over the last few days, but they still look worthy of being backed to win this game. Copenhagen have beaten the likes of Astra and APOEL already at home this season in the Champions League and I do think they will be slightly stronger than Club Brugge and I will back the home side to take the very important three points on offer.

Leicester City v Porto PickBeing Champions of England meant Leicester City benefited by being a First Seed in the Champions League Group Stage despite their low co-efficient. The Group came out pretty nicely for Leicester City and a win on Tuesday would put them in a very strong position to quality for the Last 16 as potential winners of the section.

Claudio Ranieri is unlikely to allow his team to look too far ahead though and no one will be taking Porto for granted even if they do have The Dragon Slayer in their ranks in Islam Slimani. His knowledge of the visitors will help, and I think Leicester City are going to cause Porto problems considering they have scored at least twice in 6 of their last 7 games at the King Power Stadium including the last 3 in a row.

This might not be the Porto side to rival the one that won the Champions League in 2004, but they are not one to be underestimated as they showed in an impressive 0-3 win in Roma in the Qualifiers. They have scored in 9 of their last 10 away games in the Champions League, but Porto have also conceded at least twice in 3 of their last 5 on their travels.

I can see both teams combining for goals in this one too as there will likely be times when both Leicester City and Porto are in control of this match. A draw isn't the worst result for either team, but the win would help put up a crucial three points and that reward should encourage attacking football.

Both teams have been scoring goals and conceding goals and 6 of the last 9 Porto away games in the Champions League have produced at least three goals. At odds against, I am backing Leicester City and Porto to combine for at least three goals in this one and I am leaning towards the home team earning another three points to move into a strong position to qualify for the Second Round.

Monaco v Bayer Leverkusen Pick: There are very few times when you really don't understand what the layers are thinking when they price up their markets. For the life of me, I cannot understand why Monaco are the home underdog against Bayer Leverkusen and I think the French side are worthy of a small interest to win this one.

Monaco have made a strong start to their domestic campaign and they have won 4 in a row at home in all competitions. They have also beaten Fenerbahce and Villarreal in the Champions League Qualifiers and two seasons ago beat Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 here in the Group Stage.

It does have to be noted that Bayer Leverkusen had a solid 2-3 win at Mainz last weekend, but that snapped a run of consecutive away defeats. Bayer Leverkusen have now failed to win any of their last 6 away games in the Champions League and they had lost 4 in a row before the 1-1 draw at BATE Borisov in the Group last season.

The German side do have goals in the side which makes them dangerous as Monaco are not likely to score too many themselves, but I think the odds are the wrong way around.

I thought Monaco would come in as the more likely winner and I am going to have a small interest in them keeping the home winning run going with another Champions League win to put themselves in a strong position to move into the Second Round for the second time in three seasons.

Arsenal v Basel PickManchester City and Liverpool might be taking all of the headlines in England, but Arsenal have quietly moved into a decent position in the Premier League. The fixture list should see them continue their run through the international break and into late October, but first they would like to get their Champions League Group commitments moving in the right direction.

A solid point was earned in Paris, but it won't mean anything if Arsenal can't win this home game against Basel. They have lost 3 of their last 5 Champions League games at The Emirates Stadium, but Arsenal are in very strong form and been scoring goals for fun with 11 goals scored in 3 games.

With the talent in the squad, Arsenal are the right favourites in this game, but they can't overlook Basel who have won 11 of 12 games in all competitions. The 1-1 draw with Ludogorets in the Champions League was a big disappointment for Basel, but Arsenal fans have to be aware that this is a club that has had plenty of success against English clubs in recent years.

Basel have lost just 1 of their last 5 away games against English clubs in Europe which includes draws at Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur and a win over Chelsea. That makes them more than capable of current form of upsetting the home team in this one, but I think Arsenal are flying at the moment and are clearly a superior team.

The confidence from the 3-0 win over Chelsea at the weekend should see Arsenal come into this one with some momentum and I think they may break down Basel early and then pull away. There are still some questions about Arsenal from a defensive standpoint, but I fancy them to be too good for Basel on Wednesday and I will back The Gunners to cover the Asian Handicap.

Celtic v Manchester City PickThis fixture will be described as a 'Battle of Britain' and it seems fair with both Celtic and Manchester City favourites to win the titles in Scotland and England respectively. That is where the similarity ends though as Manchester City can bring in some of the biggest names in world football compared with Celtic who have to try and build their squad in a much different manner.

The layers are expecting that to show up on the pitch on Wednesday especially in the light of the Celtic hammering at Barcelona on Match Day 1. To be fair, anything but a Manchester City win would be a surprise, but losing the talents of Kevin De Bruyne is a blow that can't be underestimated.

On the other hand, Manchester City played and beat Manchester United without Sergio Aguero so they are clearly buying into what Pep Guardiola is selling. They should have too much going forward for Celtic, but I also think the latter are going to be inspired by the home crowd and I expect they can cause one or two problems for a team that has not defended that well.

Celtic have been better at home than on their travels in European football and just months after Guardiola left Barcelona they were beating them 2-1 here. It would be a big surprise if they could do that to his current Manchester City team, but I do think Celtic will score in this one.

With the talent in the away squad even without De Bruyne, I can't imagine they don't score in this one and I am going to back both teams to get on the scoreboard.

Rostov v PSV Eindhoven PickThis is a Champions League game that might only really have an impact as to which of the clubs gets into the Europa League. Both Rostov and PSV Eindhoven are not really expected to challenge Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in the Group and their opening losses to those clubs has suggested that is not likely to change.

I will have to say I am surprised that Rostov are the underdog at home against PSV Eindhoven and probably has much to do with the experience the latter have compared with Rostov in European football. However Rostov hammered Ajax here in the Champions League Qualifiers and I like their chances of getting something from this game.

Rostov also managed to avoid defeat against Anderlecht in the Qualifiers and you can't ignore the fact that PSV Eindhoven have failed to win any of their last 6 away European games. They were also beaten in Russia by CSKA Moscow in the Group Stage last season and I simply can't have PSV Eindhoven as a favourite to win here despite their strong away results to open this season.

While PSV Eindhoven have a strong run of away results, Rostov are unbeaten in 24 at home in all competitions which includes the win over Ajax in the Qualifiers. Having a chance to back them with a start on the Asian Handicap looks very tempting and I do think they are the more likely winners in this match.

I will back Rostov to at least find a way to avoid defeat in this one and keep alive their chances of at least finishing third in the Group.

Fiorentina v Qarabag PickWhen you look at these teams on paper you would have to think the Italian side would be stronger than the one from Azerbaijan especially on home soil.

However Fiorentina have just been having a difficult time of late in turning draws into wins while they have also struggled at home in the Europa League despite getting to the later stages of the competition. The likes of Lech Poznan and Basel have won in Florence so Qarabag won't feel overawed especially as the latter have had tight losses in Tottenham Hotspur, Anderlecht and Monaco last season.

I do think Qarabag will sit back and try to make life as difficult for Fiorentina for as long as possible and perhaps nick a goal on the counter attack. The problem they will have is that Fiorentina have defended well at home in recent games and are yet to concede a goal here this season.

That should give Fiorentina enough of an edge to earn a narrow win in this one and I will back them to win this game by a single goal margin.

Hapoel Be'er Sheva v Southampton Pick: Both Hapoel Be'er Sheva and Southampton made winning starts to their Europa League Group and you have to say that a draw would likely suit both on Match Day 2. However I don't think either will settle for a point knowing that Inter Milan look an improved line up under Frank de Boer and so the three points on offer in this one could give the winner a real chance of progressing through to the Last 32.

There are likely to be some changes to the Southampton line up, but they can't take Hapoel Be'er Sheva for granted after the Israeli Champions won in Milan and also came close to beating Celtic in the Champions League Play Off Round.

Hapoel Be'er Sheva have scored at least twice in their last 4 home games in all competitions, although they will have to penetrate a Southampton team that have kept 4 clean sheets in a row. Most of those games have come at St Mary's though and I think Hapoel Be'er Sheva will cause problems for their visitors, although Charlie Austin is in the kind of form to punish any mistakes the home team may make.

It should be a fun game to watch and I think Hapoel Be'er Sheva will drag Southampton into an intense match. They have shown they can create chances against any team they face at home and I think the home team have every chance of winning this game. The recent Southampton form means I think they play a part in this one too and I will back at least three goals to be shared out by them this week.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Sporting Braga PickBoth Shakhtar Donetsk and Sporting Braga look to be the strongest teams in this Europa League Group, but only the former proved that in the first round of games in the Group. That means the pressure is on Sporting Braga to earn some sort of result in their visit to the Ukraine, but that might be a tough ask for a team that were beaten 6-1 on aggregate against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Quarter Final of the Europa League a few months ago.

Shakhtar Donetsk are looking to show they are the best team in Ukraine and have made a very strong start to their domestic League. They might not be as strong as recent teams that Shakhtar Donetsk have been able to put out, but they look more than capable at this level rather than the Champions League and have won plenty of games in the Ukraine.

Compare that to Sporting Braga's relatively poor away record in recent European games and I have to favour the home team to beat them for the third time in the space of a few months.

I can't imagine Shakhtar Donetsk are able to rip through Sporting Braga as they did in the 4-0 home win in the Quarter Final, but I do expect them to win with some comfort. I will back the home team to cover the Asian Handicap and win by a couple of goals at least.

Sparta Prague v Inter Milan PickBoth Sparta Prague and Inter Milan were beaten on Match Day 1 and that means neither team can afford another loss at this moment if they are going to challenge for one of the top two positions in the Group.

That pressure might suggest we are going to see a tight game where the teams are almost more afraid to lose than to risk winning the game, but I actually believe it might develop into a fixture that produces at least three goals at a big price.

Inter Milan have scored twice in their last couple of away games and Sparta Prague have been conceding goals at home at an alarming rate. In fact 4 of the last 5 Sparta Prague home games has seen them conceded at least twice, but they had also scored two or more in 4 straight games before the 0-2 defeat to Slavia Prague.

Goals have flowed in the last couple of home Sparta Prague games in the Europa League too and I am anticipating both teams trying to earn what could be a vital three points in this one with some attacking football being used. It feels like this could be a 2-1 scoreline either way for me and so backing goals at the prices looks the call.

Genk v Sassuolo PickThis might be one of the more entertaining games in the Europa League on Thursday on Match Day 2 as both Genk and Sassuolo are likely to take an attacking approach to their game against one another. Sassuolo already have an important three points on the board thanks to an impressive win over Athletic Bilbao, but they can't expect it to get easier against Genk who were unfortunate to lose two weeks ago.

They have been very tough to play at home and Genk will give Sassuolo some issues when they get forward. Recent form is not the best and Genk have looked poor defensively, but Sassuolo have conceded in 4 of their 5 away games in all competitions themselves.

I do think both teams can score in this one with the opportunities they are likely to create and the 1-1 scoreline is perhaps the most dangerous one for my pick.

However I do think both Genk and Sassuolo will know the importance of winning this game and what it could mean for them and so I am not anticipating either settles for that score. I do see a situation where one of these teams will score a second goal and a 2-1 win either way is likely to be the outcome of this one so backing at least three goals to be shared out at odds against.

MY PICKS: CSKA Moscow-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Copenhagen @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Leicester City-Porto Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Monaco @ 3.00 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.73 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Celtic-Manchester City BTTS @ 1.80 Coral (2 Units)
Rostov + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Fiorentina to Win by One Goal @ 3.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)

Hapoel Be'er Sheva-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Coral (2 Units)
Shakhtar Donetsk - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.06 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sparta Prague-Inter Milan Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 William Hill (2 Units)
Genk-Sassuolo Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)

September Update36-23-1, + 30.98 Units (111 Units Staked, + 27.91% 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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