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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Friday, 14 October 2016

Weekend Football Picks 2016 (October 15-17)

The October international break is over and there is one more to come in November before the domestic action can have four months of uninterrupted action. I am not a massive fan of the international break and it does seem like more and more people are beginning to lose interest in those games judging by the reaction the breaks tend to get.

The Premier League is back this weekend though and this round of games ends with the huge Liverpool v Manchester United fixture which opens up a really tough run of fixtures for Manchester United. They face Liverpool, Fenerbahce, Chelsea and Manchester City in the space of ten days which could really determine the kind of season United fans are expecting.

Pick up four points in the League and win both Cup games and everything is rosy... Pick up one or fewer League points and lose both Cup games and the world will be falling in over Old Trafford for the second time this season.

It is a big week for Jose Mourinho coming up, but there are plenty of other big games to enjoy before we get to the main event on Monday, a game that can't come quick enough for me (I can't be the only one that has felt this two week break has lasted longer than the three months we have to wait between May and August).

The picks had a huge September, but a poor start in October has yet to be fully recovered through the international break. There is work to do to make it back to back winning months, but I won't change the style of the picks and instead will look for what worked in September to keep working through this month and hopefully the rest of the season.

Bouncing back from a terrible October 1st-2nd weekend has been the task throughout this month and hopefully this will be a winning round of picks from the Premier League before we head into Champions League and Europa League action during the next week.

Chelsea v Leicester City Pick: The Premier League weekend opens with an interesting looking live game between Chelsea and defending Champions Leicester City. Both teams have arguably underachieved to open the Premier League season and their ambitions to finish inside the top four might already be questioned by some.

I have said for a while that I felt Chelsea had been overrated thanks to people seeing the results rather than the performances from the opening games of the season. They were fortunate to beat West Ham United and Watford and I have not been surprised by the drop off in results over the last month.

Some of the performances have to be really concerning for Antonio Conte who is rumoured to be a little disappointed by his relationship with notoriously fickle owner Roman Abramovich. The Italian changed the system for the last game to make Chelsea a little more solid, but the return of John Terry might be more important for them having conceded seven times in games against Swansea City, Liverpool and Arsenal.

While Chelsea have been questioned, Leicester City's expected drop from the standards of last season have continued with some poor results over the last month. They have been hammered in both away games and the style of play is no longer a surprise to opponents who have worked out how best to force mistakes from a side that overachieved hugely last season.

The goals being conceded by Leicester City, particularly away from home, has to be a big concern for Claudio Ranieri and set pieces could be a big worry for them this weekend against Chelsea. I do think Leicester City can be dangerous going the other way for a Chelsea team that have relied on Gary Cahill and David Luiz at centre half without John Terry. Whoever partners the former England captain looks to be a mistake in the making and Leicester City have the pace to trouble this older backline.

Their game in the English Football League Cup produced four goals last month and I think we are going to see at least three here. Both teams have shown they can score goals, but also look vulnerable at the back, and I think we will see both teams score.

Chelsea do look the more likely winners, but rather you than me picking them at the short odds they are at and I think backing goals at a slightly higher price is more appealing. Coming out of an international break does raise different questions as to the conditioning of players who will have been away all over the world over the last two weeks, but I think there is enough reason to believe both teams cause the other problems to expect goals.

Arsenal v Swansea City PickThis has been a fixture that has troubled Arsenal in recent seasons and it might be coming at an awkward time for them off the back of the World Cup Qualifiers. It does look like they have avoided any injuries and could have some big names back including Aaron Ramsey, but Alexis Sanchez has been playing in South America and could be potentially rested.

That was the case after the last set of World Cup Qualifiers as Sanchez was employed off the bench, but you would still expect this Arsenal team to have enough quality to see off Swansea City.

I would have said the same in the last four seasons though but Arsenal have not won any of their last 4 home Premier League games against Swansea City and surprisingly lost 3 of those games. However they might be catching Swansea City at the right time too as Bob Bradley comes in for his first match in charge and the away side have been in poor form heading into the last international break.

They have troubled teams at times with their quality, but Swansea City have lost some big names in the summer and I think Bradley will need some time to get his ideas across. That is especially the case in this short week when players will be returning from their Qualifiers and the American might not have as much time to work with the squad as he would have liked.

Arsenal went into the international break in very strong form and they have been scoring plenty of goals at home with at least two in every game here this season. With Swansea City perhaps still working out what the new manager will want, I will back Arsenal to break the recent poor trend against this bogey team and beat Swansea City by a couple of goals to keep pace with the Premier League leaders.

Crystal Palace v West Ham United PickThis London derby is going to be played in front of the television cameras on Saturday and I think the neutrals could enjoy the match. Both Crystal Palace and West Ham United have enough quality in the final third to cause the other plenty of problems and neither team has been that impressive defensively.

The Hammers come in with the worst defensive record in the Premier League so far and there hasn't been a lot of signs of things improving on that front. Injuries haven't helped and that means Slaven Bilic will look for his quality players in the final third to make up for those deficiencies.

On the other hand Crystal Palace have yet to keep a clean sheet in the Premier League this season but they have scored 11 times in their last 5 League games. Players like Andros Townsend, Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke have been in fine form and have to be looking forward to taking on this West Ham United defence which has conceded at least twice in 4 of their 5 away games in all competitions.

They have scored in each of those games, but it is no surprise West Ham United have been struggling when you think of the goals being conceded and Bilic is still trying to find the right formula defensively.

Goals have been a feature of this fixture in the last two seasons with at least four scored in all four League games played. I think both Crystal Palace and West Ham United can play their part in this one too and I am backing at least three goals to be shared out in this one with Crystal Palace the more likely winner on the day.

Middlesbrough v Watford PickThere have been a couple of ways I considered going with this game and that was backing Watford with the start on the Asian Handicap or backing at least three goals to be shared out.

However I have ultimately settled on Watford getting something out of this game as I believe I am surprised they have been set as the underdog in this match. Actually more importantly is how big an underdog they have been set as considering they went to Burnley as a pretty solid favourite and I would suggest Burnley have shown they have more of a home field advantage than Middlesbrough at the moment.

Middlesbrough have not won any of their last 5 home games going back to last season and have been beaten in their last couple of League games here. The Watford defeat to Burnley stands out, but this is a team that has respectable results at Southampton and West Ham United and have also had good recent results at The Riverside Stadium with 3 visits unbeaten.

There is no doubting that Watford can be hard to get a read on when you think of their performances so far this season, but those inconsistencies make them dangerous. With Middlesbrough yet to really get to grips with life in the Premier League and not a team that is going to score a lot of goals, I think Watford to avoid defeat should be shorter than it is.

Watford only lost 1 of their 7 away games at the teams that finished below them last season in the Premier League and so I am going to suggest the defeat to Burnley is an outlier for them. They won plenty of those away games, 4 out of 7, so some might want to take Watford straight up at a big price.

Personally I think they can be backed at the price to avoid defeat and that is the way I am will lean on Sunday.

Southampton v Burnley PickThis is the second of the Sunday live Premier League games and I have to say that I think Southampton can prove too strong for Burnley and cover the Asian Handicap in the win.

One of the big problems Burnley are going to have is scoring enough goals at this level and missing Andre Gray is a blow to their team. Facing a Southampton team that haven't conceded many goals in recent games without Gray is going to be even more difficult for Burnley and the question then becomes whether they can keep out the home team.

After a slow start, Southampton have begun to score goals at home though and so it is hard to imagine Burnley keeping them at bay having been outplayed at Chelsea and Leicester City already this season. Both of those clubs beat Burnley comfortably at home and Southampton will feel they can match the comfort level by scoring at least twice and making sure they are tight at the back.

You can't always tell how a team will react to a two week international break and how that affects momentum, but Southampton have been in stronger form than Burnley of late. I expect they can make it 4 wins in a row against them at St Mary's and I will back Southampton to cover the Asian Handicap with a two goal win on Sunday.

Liverpool v Manchester United PickThe last international break was followed by the Manchester derby and this one is going to be followed by an even bigger fixture as Liverpool host Manchester United in the premier, pardon the pun, game in the top flight.

There is some real excitement at Anfield around the Jurgen Klopp revolution and that should make for a cracking atmosphere on Monday Night Football. Both clubs have the additional preparation time which means players returning from South American World Cup Qualifier duty should have enough time to be fully ready and healthy for this game.

Both squads look to have their full complement of players available and this has all the makings of yet another classic under the lights between these old rivals.

Jose Mourinho has to know that he needs to play two midfielders alongside Paul Pogba in this one against a speedy counter attacking team like Liverpool and I would be surprised if we see any other system deployed. I can see him using players like Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford in wider positions to employ their pace on the counter attack with Zlatan Ibrahimovic leading the line after two weeks of rest.

The decision he makes is going to be critical in this game as Manchester United have to contain Liverpool in much better fashion than they did Manchester City last month in the opening half hour of this game. Playing those three midfielders should at least offer the side some protection against this Liverpool team which is more settled and easier to pick the starting eleven.

I do think the key to the whole game is how Manchester United can do in the first half hour in an intense atmosphere against a side that loves to start fast. Liverpool have been 2-0 up in their opening two games at Anfield within 31 minutes so this time is going to be very important for Manchester United who will know they will create chances against this vulnerable backline.

They can't afford to sit back as they did against Manchester City and allow Liverpool to dictate the play and come onto them. That cost Manchester United in the opening thirty-five minutes of the Manchester derby and I think it could be an incredibly long evening for the Red Army if United were to concede in that time period to this Liverpool team.

Liverpool's false nine position has worked very well this season and this is a team that I have picked to be very good when playing in the big games. They have started beating the poorer ones too which makes them a genuine title challenger and they will feel confident they can beat Manchester United.

I do find it hard to see how Manchester United keep a clean sheet here, but I also think Manchester United will create chances on the counter and can score. Liverpool are understandably the favourites considering their form going into the international break and strength of their wins over top quality opponents, but I think Manchester United have every chance of winning if they are level or ahead after thirty-five minutes.

This does feel like a match that will produce a winner and I think that might come after both teams have scored at least one goal each. Backing at least three goals to be shared out looks the call, but I will be the first to admit I would bite your hand off if offered a 0-1 Manchester United win right now.

Newcastle United v Brentford PickYou might have to get used to seeing Newcastle United at very short prices to win their home games in the Championship, but I actually think the price this week is a little disrespectful to Brentford. The Bees might have lost the majority of their away games in the League, but they have been competitive in those.

Brentford have already earned a point at Villa Park in the League and so they won't be intimidated by visiting St James' Park, while they have scored in 8 of their last 10 away games in the Championship. They are facing a Newcastle United team that have gotten plenty of clean sheets at this level, but Brentford will use Huddersfield Town as a standard of how to play here.

I do think Newcastle United will win this game, but I do feel Brentford are going to play their part too. I think both teams will likely score, but I am going to back at least three goals to be shared out by the teams.

Newcastle United could potentially cover this on their own if they are firing on all cylinders like they have been a couple of times this season, but the feeling that Brentford will score too makes it an easy choice for me to back goals in this one.

Norwich City v Rotherham United PickOn the face of things it looks like Norwich City and Rotherham United are moving in opposite directions in the Championship and I have to say I like the home team this weekend to win this game. They have been scoring plenty of goals in recent games at Carrow Road and now face a Rotherham United defence which has conceded goals for fun away from home.

I really can't see any other result than a Norwich City win, although the one concern has to be the fact they have struggled to beat Rotherham United at home in recent years with 4 draws in their last 5 at Carrow Road.

It would be a big surprise if Rotherham United can do that here and I think Norwich City will have too much and eventually wear down their visitors. That should lead to Norwich City winning this game by at least a couple of goals and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap while moving to the top of the Championship for at least Saturday evening.

MY PICKS: Chelsea-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.70 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Watford + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.01 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Southampton - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet365 (2 Units)
Liverpool-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Stan James (2 Units)
Newcastle United-Brentford Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Norwich City - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)

October Update9-15, - 6.35 Units (44 Units Staked, - 14.43% 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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