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Thursday, 15 September 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (September 16-18)

My trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas means I am putting up my picks from the weekend football from just the Premier League this week.

I have detailed breakdowns of five of the games, but I will add any other picks in the 'My Picks' section once the rest of the European games have been completed this week.

Chelsea v Liverpool PickFriday Night Football is a new feature of the Premier League and they can't have asked for many better games to open this round of fixtures when Chelsea take on Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. The start made by both teams suggests they are going to be challenging for Champions League spots at the very least this season and the fact this game is on a Friday during a Champions League week highlights why both Chelsea and Liverpool fans will feel this can be a big season for them.

Unlike their top four rivals, Chelsea and Liverpool won't have any European commitments this season and that means having a week to prepare for League games for the most part. They won't be able to take any advantage of that lack of European football this week, but it is something to keep in mind going forward into the busy months before Christmas.

Antonio Conte's run of wins as Chelsea manager did come to an end last week against Swansea City although they were unfortunate to only draw having dominated the first 60 minutes. However I have felt Chelsea have been a little fortunate to have had won three Premier League games and I do believe this is by far the biggest test Conte has faced in his short time in England.

They are facing a confident Liverpool side that would have taken 7 points if offered to them when looking at the four League games they have played. I do think Jurgen Klopp's side will be stronger when they play the better teams who won't sit back and offer no space to Liverpool and so I think this is the kind of game where the German manager will thrive the most.

I've pointed out the success Liverpool have had against teams that finished above them last season with Klopp at the helm. This is a team with enough quality to punish teams that will come onto them and the Liverpool record at Stamford Bridge can't be ignored either with 1 loss from 8 visits in all competitions.

Liverpool have avoided defeat in two visits to the capital already this season at top four clubs Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and I do think they make it three in a row. A Chelsea win last weekend would have had them even shorter than they are, but backing Liverpool to avoid defeat still is a big enough price to tempt me in.

Hull City v Arsenal PickHow impressive have Hull City been in their opening four League games? Far from the club that were supposed to be in disarray and go down with a record low points total, the Hull City players have pulled together and their character and determination has been clear to see.

While most clubs would not have enjoyed the two week international break for the gap in momentum, Hull City might have been happy to give their starting eleven a real rest. Some of those players were representing their country, notably standout performer Robert Snodgrass, but any rest Hull City get will be appreciated as they likely begin the same starting eleven for the fifth League game in a row.

At least Hull City will have had a week to prepare for this game unlike Arsenal who have been in Champions League action in Paris during the week. For a long time Arsenal were given the run around by Paris Saint-Germain and they should really have lost the game with the chances they gave up to the home team in that game.

However The Gunners did avoid defeat and that means the poor start that Arsenal made does seem to be forgotten and beating Southampton last week with a controversial penalty has moved The Gunners into a decent position in the Premier League. This is the kind of game that Hull City wouldn't really want to play with Arsenal capable of creating plenty of chances and scoring plenty of goals, while most of these players will remember the 0-4 home loss in the FA Cup a few months ago.

As hard as Hull City work defensively, Arsenal will pass, pass and pass the ball to tire them out and they have players like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez that can create and score goals. Arsenal have enjoyed recent visits to the KC Stadium and I think they can succeed where Manchester United failed and that is winning this game with at least a two goal margin between themselves and Hull City.

Manchester City v Bournemouth PickThere isn't going to be much of a surprise to any team with the way Manchester City approach games, but stopping them is going to be a tough ask for most. I think that will especially be the case at The Etihad Stadium even if the best results Manchester City have put together in the early season games have come away from home.

The problem I see for Bournemouth in this game is that they like to play their football and that is only going to play into Manchester City's hands. Sergio Aguero being absent is a big blow for any team, but Manchester City will have their spaces in this one and they have plenty of goals in the side through Kevin De Bruyne and Nolito which should make them too strong for Bournemouth.

Aguero only scored 1 of the 9 goals Manchester City scored against Bournemouth in the 2015/16 season so even his absence might not prevent the home team from securing another comfortable win.

There are some defensive vulnerabilities that Bournemouth will look to exploit, but they won't have a big share of possession and I think Manchester City wear them down while putting up another three points on the board. I will be looking for the home team to make it three wins in a row against Bournemouth by at least two goals.

Everton v Middlesbrough PickRomelu Lukaku scored twice on international duty with Belgium and backed that up with all three goals in the Everton 0-3 win at Sunderland on Monday night. This is a player that hits goals in patches and Ronald Koeman will be very happy if his striker is about to go on a goal scoring run for Everton.

That would only aid a team that have made a very positive start to the new season and who have a run of very agreeable fixtures as far it looks on paper. Ronald Koeman has already begun to turn around the fortunes of Everton defensively compared with the Roberto Martinez era and they have enough attacking talent to score goals.

It is a work in progress, but Koeman has to be very happy with what he has seen although it is premature to suggest Everton are a top four candidate. They've made use of the fixtures they have had and Middlesbrough are coming into this fixture having lost their first Premier League game against Crystal Palace at home last weekend.

Aitor Karanka will make Middlesbrough difficult to beat, but a lack of goals might be a concern for them going forward. There has been some investment in the final third which could pay off if Middlesbrough can get those players settled, but this is going to be a difficult ground for any team to visit this season and I think Everton will be strong enough to break them down over ninety minutes.

It will be a battle, but I wouldn't be surprised if Lukaku gets on the scoreboard again and helps Everton earn another three points this weekend.

Crystal Palace v Stoke City PickThere is much at stake for both Alan Pardew and Mark Hughes in this live Sunday football offering when Crystal Palace host Stoke City. Both teams are expected to be in the top half of the table considering the investment they have made this summer in the playing staff, but both have perhaps underachieved at the moment.

At least Crystal Palace have earned a win last weekend and I do think the performances of both teams will see an entertaining game. Usually you might not associate these clubs with entertainment, but both are much improved as attacking forces under their current managers and I think that will show up on Sunday.

Becoming more adventurous going forward has meant there are more spaces for teams to exploit against them and that has seen both Crystal Palace and Stoke City look a little weaker defensively.

There is some real attacking talent in both squads and I can see these teams combining to create chances and score goals. 8 of the last 12 fixtures between these clubs have produced at least three goals and that includes both League games last season.

With Christian Benteke and Wilfried Bony leading the line for both clubs and definitely capable of scoring goals from the service they will get, I will look for Crystal Palace and Stoke City to share out three goals in this one at odds against.

MY PICKS: Liverpool + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.72 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.04 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton @ 1.75 William Hill (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Stoke City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Watford-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

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