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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Midweek Football Picks 2016 (October 25-26)

It has been a difficult couple of days being a Manchester United fan and reading all the negative stories coming out of Old Trafford. I have no doubt who the player handing out the information to the press is as he has been up to this kind of thing for some time.

Jose Mourinho has already suggested that there will be some players who need to be moved on, including the mole, and I think the manager needs to be given time to get things right. I would love to see Henrikh Mkhitaryan get a run in the team with the pace and creativity he will bring in the final third and I don't want to see the likes of Marcus Rashford running himself into the ground tracking defenders and taking away the energy that needs to be used in a more positive manner.

This is a big moment in the season for Manchester United who don't really want the added pressure of losing to Manchester City again as they get set to do battle in the English Football League Cup during the week. Mourinho has identified the run of games coming up as a time where Manchester United need to pick up some momentum and start putting up the points to get closer to the top teams in the Premier League and now is the time to produce.

Burnley, Swansea City, Arsenal, West Ham United, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Crystal Palace and West Brom are to come for Manchester United in the Premier League before Christmas. I might have big expectations, but I think the squad and the money invested in the squad should see Manchester United pick up 20/24 points available and that should put the side in a good position with games against Middlesbrough and Sunderland to round out the year.

Mourinho has said we've had a tough run over the last week, but he admitted Manchester United need to start winning games and that run gives them a chance to do that.

This midweek has been reserved for the English Football League Cup Fourth Round and so you have to keep an eye out on team news with the big clubs likely to rest players. October has been a difficult month for my picks but things could have been worse and the last few days will hopefully be a lot more productive.

Arsenal v Reading PickThe 0-4 win at Nottingham Forest in the English Football League Cup Third Round with a much changed team shows that Arsenal have the depth to rest players and win this Fourth Round tie at home. Three goals in the last half hour helped Arsenal put Nottingham Forest away, but it might be more difficult against this Reading team who should come in with more confidence.

There are a couple of heavy defeats that Reading have suffered which might be a concern if Arsenal do produce the kind of level they can. However having the second string players out there does give Reading a chance and they have shown they can score goals on their travels.

Jaap Stam does want his Reading team to play with plenty of possession which can help them remain more compact defensively. That style might fit well for Arsenal though and it is no surprise the home team are such big favourites.

I personally think Reading can make this more of a game than the layers and they are getting a fairly healthy start considering it isn't too far fetched to think the Arsenal reserves don't click as well as they did against Nottingham Forest. I have to think Arsene Wenger will rest most of the big names having blamed fatigue for the draw with Middlesbrough and getting an almost two goal start for the away team looks too generous.

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur PickSecond guessing the kind of line ups that managers will pick in the English Football League Cup has been a challenge over the years. I can guarantee that I would not have picked Jurgen Klopp playing the kind of line ups he has so far in the competition and Liverpool have to be one of the favourites to win this competition considering their recent success in the League Cup.

It would be a surprise if Klopp changes his policy now as Liverpool don't play again until Saturday afternoon although there are a couple of changes he is likely to make. I do think it is more difficult to imagine Tottenham Hotspur having their usual starting line up taking part considering the extra football they have played with the Champions League commitments they have.

Over the last couple of seasons Mauricio Pochettino have played strong teams in the English Football League Cup but I do think he will make more changes than Liverpool in this one. There is some depth to this Tottenham Hotspur squad, but the priority has to be to start winning again in the Premier League when they host Leicester City this weekend.

That gives Liverpool the edge in my opinion and I think being at home just puts that lean towards them a little further. Both games between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur with Klopp and Pochettino in charge have been tight games, but I think this one is potentially a little more open.

Ultimately I think Liverpool will come through this Fourth Round tie with a slightly stronger line up in this one helping them past a tough opponent. I will back Liverpool to make it back to back wins at Anfield since the goalless draw with Manchester United.

Southampton v Sunderland PickThe English Football League Cup might be a distraction from the Premier League problems at Sunderland, but David Moyes is so desperate for a result in the League that the Cup might be a hindrance this week. He admitted his players gave their all in the game at West Ham United on Saturday only to be undone by an injury time goal from Winston Reid and Moyes wants to give those players a rest.

There isn't the depth in squad at Sunderland as there are at some of the top clubs in the Premier League and we might have a young line up taking to the field on Wednesday.

I expect Southampton will make some changes to their line up too after a hard fought 1-1 draw at Manchester City on Sunday. Claude Puel's team have had a really good couple of months as the players have bought into his thinking and Southampton have produced a number of very good results in that time.

Puel is balancing three competitions at the moment and that means Southampton have been asked to mix up their starting line ups. He will make changes, but had a relatively strong team out for the home win over Crystal Palace in the last Round and I think they will have the more experienced team taking to the field for this fixture.

With an extra day before Southampton are next due out compared with Sunderland who have the early Saturday game I do think the home team will be too strong. They haven't had too many wins in home games against Sunderland in recent outings including a 1-1 draw earlier this season, but I think Southampton can use their more experienced squad to good effect and I will back them to win by a couple of goals.

West Ham United v Chelsea PickThe layers are expecting goals when these two big London rivals face each other in the English Football League Cup Fourth Round, but I think it could be a tighter Cup contest than that.

Slaven Bilic and Antonio Conte have faced some criticism in recent weeks, but both have gone back to basics by making their teams harder to beat. Chelsea have earned three clean sheets in a row and West Ham United have had back to back clean sheets and I can see both managers making sure they are defensively sound in this one too.

There will be changes made to the starting elevens which might make the defensive shape they have shown look a little out of whack and the Cup situation means an early goal would open up this game. However I think neither team will want to give too much away early on and West Ham United in particularly have seen their attacking side blunted a little bit by the need to be more secure at the back.

Games between them have produced goals when they have met and 4 of the last 5 at Upton Park did end with at least three shared out. This is the first time they play at the London Stadium though and I think we will see a tight Cup tie where neither team wants to give too much away.

Second guessing the managers and what teams they pick is a difficulty but Chelsea look short at odds on to win here, while backing two or fewer goals to be scored in ninety minutes is a big price.

Manchester United v Manchester City PickBoth Manchester United and Manchester City have had to face some criticism in recent weeks but it is Jose Mourinho who comes in with the negative headlines all around him. The 4-0 capitulation at Stamford Bridge was extremely disappointing for Manchester United fans and Mourinho can't really afford a second home defeat in the Manchester derby in the space of seven weeks.

While all the focus has been on Manchester United, Manchester City are perhaps escaping some of the criticism that should really come for a team that have not won any of their last 5 games in all competitions. They remain top of the Premier League which is perhaps an explanation as to why Pep Guardiola hasn't had the same negativity as Jose Mourinho, but this is a big game for Manchester City too.

Picking the starting elevens isn't easy with both teams suffering injuries at the weekend and focusing on the Premier League. The indication is that Manchester United will likely have the more experienced team on the pitch on Wednesday and that can make all the difference.

The one thing I can predict with some confidence is that Guardiola is going to play a team that will want to get forward and score goals. They still look vulnerable at the back though and I think this is the second Manchester derby of the season that might feature at least three goals.

Manchester United have to show more attacking intent being at home, but they have lost key player Eric Bailly who has looked good at centre half. That should give Manchester City a chance to create opportunities in front of goal but I think Manchester United will play their part too.

Deciding on a winner is tough but I am leaning towards Manchester United producing the right response with a little more experience in their line up. However it has the feel of a 2-1 win either way and backing goals at odds against looks the call.

MY PICKS: Reading + 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.97 Bet365 (2 Units)
Liverpool @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Southampton - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.88 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United-Chelsea Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Manchester United-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)

October Update24-34-1, - 16.55 Units (113 Units Staked, - 14.65% Yield)

September Final43-28-1, + 35.17 Units (133 Units Staked, + 26.44% Yield)
August Final31-38-2, - 9 Units (124 Units Staked, - 7.26% Yield)
Season 2016/1773-66-3, + 26.17 Units (257 Units Staked, + 10.18% 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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