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Weekend Football Picks 2017 (August 19-21)

The second week of the new Premier League season begins on Saturday lunchtime and will be played through to Monday night. This week is a b...

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (September 10th-12th)

The international break might not be my favourite time of the year with plenty of the World Cup Qualifiers seeing mismatches, but there were enough surprising results that will make the next round of games in October interesting to watch.

The good news is that domestic football is back and you can't ask for a much bigger day with the Glasgow and Manchester derbies opening the weekend football.


Manchester United v Manchester City PickThe international break is over and the Premier League could not have hoped for a better match to open this round of games. The Manchester derby is big enough on its own, but everyone is waiting for the Jose Mourinho vs Pep Guardiola match for the first time in England, while both Manchester United and Manchester City have won every game they have played under their new managers this season.

Something will have to give on Saturday, but the key might be the absence of Sergio Aguero who has been suspended for three domestic games beginning with this one. The question for Guardiola is whether he is going to play a 'false nine' with Nolito perhaps leading the line or whether he will trust youngster Kelechi Iheanacho to pressure from the front.

We have to expect that Guardiola will want his team to continue to play their football which has resulted in plenty of goals in the early weeks under his guidance. However the concern continues to be at the back as Manchester City are yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League, but Guardiola will be hoping debutant Claudio Bravo can make an impact on that.

It is unlikely that Vincent Kompany will be risked off a long lay off, even though Nicolas Otamendi is coming back from Argentina just a few hours before this game is due to kick off. Those issues at the back is where Jose Mourinho will be looking for his Manchester United team to exploit and they have made a much better attacking start to the season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has fit in easily, while the starting eleven will pick itself for this game after Henrikh Mkhitaryan looks set to miss out. Marcus Rashford scored the winner in the last Manchester derby, but his impact is likely to be off the bench despite his hat-trick for the England Under 21 team this past week.

Like Manchester City, Manchester United have created chances but they have looked stronger defensively. It has to be noted that this is by far the biggest test the defence would have faced in the opening weeks of the season, even without Aguero, and I can see a game going back to recent fixtures which have featured plenty of goals rather than the two tight games we saw last season.

Aguero is a big loss for Manchester City, but there is enough attacking talent to create chances and score goals while Manchester United will always be expected to attack at Old Trafford. Before the goalless draw last season, 7 Manchester derby games in a row at Old Trafford had featured at least three goals and I do think both teams will find their way to the back of the net in this one.

I am leaning towards Manchester United finding a winner, but I think Guardiola's team will have plenty of the ball through David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne and will create chances too. It looks like it could be a memorable game between these clubs who have two managers that clearly don't have a lot of time for one another and it has the makings of a 2-1 kind of scoreline and backing goals at odds against looks the call.


Arsenal v Southampton Pick: This is an important time of the season for Arsenal already as they look to put up the three points on a day where their title rivals will drop points, or at least one of them will. Arsene Wenger is under intense pressure to deliver for Arsenal with more rumours that he will be leaving the club at the end of the season.

For now he is looking to help Arsenal go into September with a winning start to the month when the Champions League begins and there are some big games to come for The Gunners. They were far too strong for Watford last time out and I expect Arsenal to be too good for Southampton in this League game.

There are only so many times Southampton will be able to sell the talent they have in the transfer window and think they can replace like for like. I was impressed with some of the football they produced in their loss to Manchester United last month, but a lack of goals has been a concern for the fans.

I expect that is going to be an issue at The Emirates Stadium on Saturday and I think Arsenal will be too strong for them. Alexis Sanchez may not start having played a couple of World Cup Qualifiers but Arsenal should have the likes of Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Mesut Ozil to call upon in attacking areas and I think they win this by more than one goal.


Bournemouth v West Brom PickThe national papers have linked Eddie Howe with the Arsenal manager's job this week and think he could be heading there next summer. Before that Howe is hoping to build his reputation further by keeping Bournemouth in the Premier League for another season.

Signing Jack Wilshire looks a great piece of business for Bournemouth if they can keep the England man fit, which has proved very difficult, and I do expect this team to improve. They've not had a good start to the season, but Howe will point to misfortunes which have afflicted his side in all three games played and I think they can bounce back by winning this game.

It does have to be noted that Bournemouth had the 19th best home record in the League last season having won just 5 games here. They did beat 3 teams that finished in the bottom half and only lost 2 games to teams in the bottom half (surprisingly both to teams that were eventually relegated) and I think Bournemouth might be catching West Brom at the right time.

The rumours suggest Tony Pulis is not very happy at the club and the fans are bored of the football that has been provided for them. There isn't a lot of goals in the side, but West Brom don't concede a lot of goals which makes them dangerous even if they have only scored 29 goals in their last 39 away Premier League games.

However I do think West Brom might be in a really funny position at the moment with the suggestions that Pulis is on the brink of leaving. That can affect the players who might be worrying about what will happen if a new face was to arrive in the dressing room and I think Bournemouth can produce enough going forward to take the three points in this one.

The Baggies did only lose 3 away games at teams that finished in the bottom half last season as Pulis is doubly invested when it comes to taking points from teams around his own. I just can't help feel the last two weeks of rumours about his mindset might play a part in this one.

Any game involving a Pulis side will be tight and competitive, but Bournemouth are due a break and I think they get one in this game and they can win at odds against.


Burnley v Hull City PickBurnley and Hull City were amongst the favourites for relegation before a ball was kicked in the Premier League this season, but both have already put wins on the board which will give them confidence. Sean Dyche will appreciate all the more the importance of winning home games with the record at Turf Moor costing them their Premier League place two seasons ago, and their 2-0 success over Liverpool will have improved the mindset after losing to Swansea City here.

They will be tough to play at Turf Moor and Burnley will have identified the teams they simply have to beat if they are going to avoid relegation for the second time in three seasons. One of those would have been Hull City and I doubt much has changed despite how well Mike Phelan has had his team playing in the opening month.

There have been times Hull City have rode their luck to earn the 6 points they have, but they might have felt some of that went the other way in conceding late to lose to Manchester United. Quality in the squad is still an issue and it is going to be up to a core of 12-15 players who have to stay clear of injury and maintain form if Hull City are going to avoid the drop.

Ryan Mason and Will Keane have come in, but Phelan will know Hull City need to keep working hard for one another if they are going to avoid relegation. Their away form was not great last season and even the win at Swansea City doesn't mean things have definitely turned around.

Hull City haven't played well at Turf Moor in recent seasons and they have lost on 5 of their last 6 visits to this ground including 1-0 losses in back to back seasons. I have little doubt this will be a tight game between two teams that don't have a lot between them, but I think home advantage for Burnley might prove to be the difference maker in the fixture.

I don't imagine a fixture with a lot of chances at both ends, but I do feel the Burnley strikers are arguably the stronger ones in the fixture. Andre Gray does have a FA charge hanging over his head, but he should be available for this one and I think Burnley can work to a narrow win in this one and I will back them at a decent looking price in this one.


Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur PickFor much of last season I would point out that I felt Tottenham Hotspur were an overrated squad who had taken advantage of the poor form of the other clubs in the Premier League. You can't take anything away from them after they reached the Champions League places, but they have definitely missed out on their best chance to win the Premier League.

The fans can't have been happy with the transfer activity this summer either as it looks like the squad hasn't really been improved considering Tottenham Hotspur had Champions League football to offer. I get that some money will be going towards the new Stadium being built, but the £30 million spent on Moussa Sissoko looks a panic buy at best considering it is hard to see where he will fit in.

This is a big test for Tottenham Hotspur this weekend with Harry Kane out of form and a poor start made by the club in terms of performances. There have been times they have looked good, but Tottenham Hotspur have also looked vulnerable at the back and this is going to be looked to be exposed by Stoke City.

The 1-4 loss to Manchester City was extremely harsh on Stoke City and I love the signing of Wilfried Bony who looks ideal for what Mark Hughes wants from his squad. Stoke City have lacked a real front man with Bojan usually leading the line, but Bony is a big improvement and will allow the quality around that position to express themselves even more.

I think Stoke City will be strong going forward, but they have still had an issue at the back. They have yet to keep a clean sheet and the style of play will give Tottenham Hotspur opportunities in this one too which makes me think there is a real possibility both teams will score.

I don't think either team will look to settle for a draw though and backing there being at least three goals at odds against looks big. The last 4 Premier League games between these teams have produced at least three goals and 7 of their 8 games in the League at Stoke City have done the same since the latter were promoted to the Premier League.

I will be looking for Harry Kane to perhaps find some form in this one ahead of the Champions League opener, but Stoke City also to give Tottenham Hotspur plenty of problems in an entertaining Saturday game.


Liverpool v Leicester City PickThe first live game on Saturday is clearly the one that is going to fire up the imagination of the television companies, but this is not a bad dessert for the neutrals. The first game at Anfield with the new stand against the Champions Leicester City is a chance for both teams to lay down a marker in a competitive League.

It should be an entertaining game with both Jurgen Klopp and Claudio Ranieri expecting their teams to get forward and score goals. Liverpool have looked poor at the back and there is a definite gap at left back that the pace of Jamie Vardy will be looking to exploit and bring in dangerous attackers like Riyad Mahrez.

On the other side of the field, Sadio Mane has given Klopp a real attacking threat in the wide areas and Liverpool have been creating plenty of chances. I do think Liverpool are more suited to the 'big' games and Klopp has got them firing at Anfield where they ended last season with 8 wins from 11 games in all competitions.

Liverpool scored at least twice in 6 of their last 8 Premier League games at home, while Leicester City have scored at least once in their last 10 away Premier League games since their 1-0 loss at Anfield. That came during the busy Christmas schedule so I am expecting more energy in the Leicester City squad who have a number of options in forward areas now after the signings made in the summer.

Ranieri just has to keep his team focused with the Champions League just days away from beginning, but Leicester City have done that through the last twelve months. They have signed players to help Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez and it is those attacking players that can help punish a Liverpool defence that has been far from watertight.

The Liverpool defence has not kept a clean sheet in the Premier League in the last 5 games and only have 3 in their last 14 in the League. I expect Liverpool to be very strong going forward too and I think it will be different to last season where we had two low-scoring games.

This time I am expecting both teams to hit the net at least once and I think the manager's philosophies means both Liverpool and Leicester City will be looking to attack and win games. I am looking for at least three goals to be shared out between these teams and I think the odds are just appealing enough to do that.


Brighton v Brentford PickIt was goal difference that cost Brighton a place in the Premier League in May before coming up short in the Play Offs, but that looks to be an area they are trying to improve. The home games show that with two League wins by wide margins and Brentford will head down to the South coast having lost both away games they have played.

This should be an interesting match between two teams that might be expected to challenge for top six places at the very least. As poor as the opening two away League games have been, Brentford have been one of the better away performers in the Championship in the last two seasons.

They will be hard to beat, but Brighton have won plenty of home games in the last couple of years and they look a team that can bounce back from negative results like they had at Newcastle United at the end of August. With the goals they are scoring at home, I will look for Brighton to have a little too much with a late goal perhaps seeing them cover this Asian Handicap.

It does have to be noted that Brentford did lose 6 of their 10 away Championship games by at least two goals and I will look for Brighton to do that as they did last season.


Leeds United v Huddersfield Town PickThere will still be a really big crowd that turns up to Elland Road despite all the upheaval that has surrounded Leeds United through the years. This is a club that should be playing Premier League football, but financial problems and an owner who treats the club like a 'play-thing' means Leeds United have continued to struggle.

It will be the envy of the fans to see a club like Huddersfield Town punching so far above their weight under David Wagner, but Leeds United would love to be the club that bursts the bubble for their Yorkshire rivals.

However they will do well to do that against a confident team that have already played at big grounds like St James' Park and Villa Park this season and avoided defeat. Huddersfield Town have shown they have goals in the side, but more impressive has been the improvement defensively.

The Terriers will need goals to avoid defeat here as Leeds United have scored in their last 9 home Championship games, while goals have been a big feature of this Yorkshire derby. The last 10 fixtures have provided at least three goals, while the last 8 League games at Elland Road have done the same.

I am a bit worried by the lack of goals Leeds United have produced to open the season, but they have scored at least once in their last 4 League games and will be urged to push on at home. Huddersfield Town will continue playing their own attractive brand of football and backing at least three goals to be shared out at odds against looks a decent price.


Queens Park Rangers v Blackburn Rovers PickThis has not been a fixture that Queens Park Rangers have enjoyed in recent seasons, but they look a lot stronger than Blackburn Rovers this time around. While Queens Park Rangers have scored goals, Blackburn Rovers have struggled and I am finding it difficult to see how Owen Coyle's team can earn a result here.

The one concern for Queens Park Rangers has to be the goals they conceded against Barnsley and Preston North End, but they also have two clean sheets in five League games. Earning another here will give them a huge chance of earning the three points, but I also believe they are capable of scoring at least twice which will give Queens Park Rangers a really good chance of winning the match.

I am simply looking to oppose Owen Coyle and Blackburn Rovers at this stage of the season as a club that have not replaced key losses in the last two transfer windows. Queens Park Rangers might be a little short, but they have made a positive start to the season and did win 10 of 19 home games in the League last season and I am looking for them to earn their second of the new League season.


Derby County v Newcastle United PickWhen this game was picked for television, you have to think the hope was that we would be seeing two teams at the very top of the Championship. While Newcastle United have moved up to 4th behind 3 straight League wins, Derby County are still trying to establish what Nigel Pearson wants from his new team and that has seen them make a slow start to the season.

A lack of goals has to be a concern considering Derby County have players like Tom Ince, Darren Bent and Chris Martin to call upon early in the season and it is no surprise some changes have been made. Martin's departure to Fulham for the rest of the season would have surprised the fans considering he has been the top scorer for Derby County the last three years, but Pearson has brought in the likes of James Wilson and Matej Vydra to boost the attacking options.

They need to settle quickly with the fans already showing impatience with the way Derby County have started the season. Playing at home will bring more pressure as Derby County have failed to score in both League games this season which means the fans have not seen a home goal in 368 League minutes.

Now they face a Newcastle United team that have made plenty of positive investment in the transfer window and who have the confidence of 4 wins in a row behind them. Their own slow start has been forgotten although Newcastle United have not played too many away from home just yet.

The Magpies have not had a great recent record in visits to Derby County, but the last of those came seven seasons ago. In the current form of both teams, I think Newcastle United look worth a small investment to earn the three points as they have shown more composure in the final third than their opponents.

You have to think that will change for Derby County, but it has to be a mental hurdle to overcome having been so long since they have scored a League goal here. With new faces settling in, I will look for Newcastle United to secure an important win in this one at a big price.


Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest PickThere will be a bit of history made in this fixture which I believe is going to be the first time two former European Cup Champions will be playing one another outside of the English Premier League. Both Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest are a long way away from the days of ruling Europe and both are desperate to get back into the Premier League.

Out of the two clubs, I do think Aston Villa have the bigger goals and they have made the moves in the transfer market to suggest that. It has been a difficult start to the season for Aston Villa and Roberto Di Matteo who is trying to change the losing culture, while Nottingham Forest come in as the team higher in the table.

However it is Nottingham Forest who have sold a key player in Oliver Burke ahead of the transfer window closing and the lack of investment bringing players in has frustrated the fans. Nottingham Forest have struggled in their two away games in the League and a lack of goals is a worry, especially now Burke has left the club.

Aston Villa are coming in off a heavy loss to Bristol City, but they have played well at home for the most part in the opening two games. They should really have won both League games at Villa Park and I think the signings made will improve this side.

I am not convinced Villa will have enough to earn promotion, but this is the kind of match they should still be winning and I will back Aston Villa to do that in the Sunday live game.


Juventus v Sassuolo PickWhenever a club loses a player of the magnitude of Paul Pogba it is going to be interesting to see how they have reinvested the money. We have seen teams like Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool fail to do that when allowing Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez to move for massive transfer fees, but Juventus have looked to have strengthened their team in a number of areas.

This is definitely a dark horse contender to win the Champions League this season having only been beaten by Bayern Munich in extra time last time around. They still look to be below the Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid tier of elite European teams, but Juventus will feel they can go all the way with a little bit of fortune on their side.

At home it has been much easier for Juventus and they look to be continuing their dominance of Italian football. Their rivals all seem to have issues that Juventus don't and I think they will be too good for Sassuolo on Saturday as both teams get set to begin their European Group Stage adventures.

You have to respect how far Sassuolo have come and they have only failed to score in 8 of their last 39 away Serie A games. However two of those have come in this Stadium and I think Juventus will use the basis of their strong defence to earn a clean sheet and look for another tight win over their visitors.

Juventus don't concede a lot of goals here in Serie A and I think they will be back to basics after conceding once to Fiorentina and that is winning this game with a clean sheet.

MY PICKS: Manchester United-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Coral (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet365 (2 Units)
Bournemouth @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Burnley @ 2.60 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stoke City-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.77 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Brighton - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.06 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leeds United-Huddersfield Town @ 2.05 Coral (2 Units)
Queens Park Rangers @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Newcastle United @ 2.80 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Aston Villa @ 1.83 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Juventus Win to Nil @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)

September Update: 10-7, + 12.18 Units (26 Units Staked, + 46.85% 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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