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Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Midweek Football Picks 2016 (December 13-14)

The games come thick and fast at this time of the domestic season in England and we have another round of Premier League and Championship fixtures to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday. Over the weekend we have the last round of fixtures from the domestic Leagues in England before Christmas Day and then there are still plenty of football to come in the ten days following Christmas Day.

I have to say it is a little disappointing that there isn't much football to be played between Monday 19th December and Boxing Day, but I am sure the players will appreciate the time off to get ready for another run of games in quick succession from Boxing Day going into the New Year.

The weekend Premier League games produced a whole host of goals on Saturday as better than expected weather conditions have allowed teams to play their football as they have liked. Things have closed up at the bottom of the table as well as in the race for the top four spots, while the Premier League title chase is going to heat up going into the New Year.

It makes all of these festive games very important as managers try and keep players fresh without losing momentum. There are some big fixtures to come in the next few days before the break before Christmas Day including Manchester City v Arsenal and Everton v Liverpool which close the Premier League games until Boxing Day.

The draws for both the Champions League and Europa League Knock Out Round took place this week too and for most of the English clubs there has to be some happiness with who they have got.

Manchester City couldn't have asked for better than Monaco, while Leicester City arguably faced the best they could have hoped for with Sevilla their opponents in the Champions League. Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have not only been given winnable ties against Saint-Etienne and Gent respectively, but neither is being asked to travel too far at a busy time of the season in February and have to be pleased with that.

The team drawing the short straw is Arsenal who were paired with Bayern Munich despite winning their Champions League Group and will be the underdog in that Second Round tie. It might be closer than people imagine unless Bayern Munich vastly improve over the next two months and Arsenal might feel they can get the better of the Bavarian giants over two legs especially with the game at The Emirates Stadium coming in the Second Leg.

It does mean there are some interesting games ahead for fans of those clubs still involved in Europe but that will be put to the back burner as the Premier League and domestic Cup action takes place in the coming weeks first.

After a really poor week for the picks, Saturday and Sunday proved to be much better with a return to form and winners helping reduce the losses from the week leading into the weekend football. Another strong showing this week can hopefully get the picks back into a winning position before the Boxing Day and New Year's Eve games round out the 2016 calendar year and concludes the fifth month of the season.

There are a few picks I've made from the Premier League and Championship matches to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday this week and the next thread will be out later this week for the Weekend Football.

Bournemouth v Leicester City Pick: The win over Manchester City on Saturday is supposed to be a turning point for Leicester City's season but I am not so convinced that we didn't just see the 'perfect storm' for them in that game. Two early goals and a couple of gifts from the Manchester City defending helped Leicester City along the way while the style of play Pep Guardiola likes would have given The Foxes a chance to use their counter attack to devastating effect.

That is clearly something that came out during the game because not many would have tipped Leicester City to win the game before kick off, and I think Bournemouth present a very different test for them. This time the fans will be expecting Leicester City to win the game and that can have an effect on the mindset of the players going onto the field.

Bournemouth will try and play their football and that should mean Leicester City have a chance to counter them, while Jamie Vardy's hat-trick has to give the England international a shot in the arm after struggling for weeks on end. That has to be a worry for Bournemouth who have conceded at least three times in their last 3 Premier League games, but Bournemouth have also scored in 5 straight League games.

That suggests there are going to be goals in this one and I do think both teams will score in the game. Leicester City have conceded at least two goals in their last 3 away games in all competitions and they have conceded at least that many goals in 6 of 7 away Premier League games while still searching for their first clean sheet away from home.

Both teams are likely to give this a go and I do think there will be at least three goals shared out by the teams which will be my pick from this game.

Everton v Arsenal Pick: A few days ago you would have been able to get Arsenal at odds against to win this game at Goodison Park but the results at the weekend saw Everton continue to struggle in the Premier League and now The Gunners are odds on to win here. I can't really argue with that and I do think Arsenal can continue their strong form which has kept them in touch with Chelsea at the top of the Premier League and keep the momentum behind them before the trip to The Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Some may want to back Everton as they are still unbeaten at Goodison Park in the Premier League, but this is a side that has needed 89th minute equalisers against Swansea City and Manchester United to maintain that record. Both Swansea City and Manchester United had their chances to extend the lead before being pulled back, but Arsenal are not likely to be as profligate in front of goal.

Giving up the chances that Everton have in recent games is only going to result in another defeat and this is a side that have struggled defensively. Arsenal have scored at least three times in 6 of their last 8 away games and I actually think they will have enough to earn the three points if they score twice in this one.

Everton will offer some problems, but I think Arsenal are considerably stronger in terms of quality available and confidence in front of goal and I like the away side to win here.

Middlesbrough v Liverpool Pick: Jurgen Klopp went on the attack over the criticism his goalkeeper has been getting in the last couple of weeks and was especially upset with the Neville brothers who have been very vocal in those criticisms. I do wonder if that is going to overshadow this game to be played on Wednesday as Liverpool try to get back to winning ways after back to back disappointing results.

Losing a 1-3 lead to Bournemouth in an eventual 4-3 loss was followed by a 2-2 home draw with West Ham United and all of a sudden Liverpool have won 1 of their last 4 Premier League games. They do look very vulnerable in defensive areas, but this Liverpool team continue to show a huge threat when going forward even without Philippe Coutinho.

The question for Middlesbrough is can they find enough in the final third to challenge Liverpool, especially as scoring goals has been one of the tougher aspects for Middlesbrough in their return to the Premier League. They have won 2 of their last 3 home Premier League games, but Middlesbrough were beaten 0-1 by Chelsea and there is no doubt Liverpool present a big challenge for them.

It does have to be noted that Middlesbrough have defended fairly well in recent weeks and they are not a team that have conceded too many goals in their most recent games. However they will have rarely played a team with the pace of Liverpool in the final third and their 0-1 defeat to Chelsea could have been a lot worse on the day, while Middlesbrough should have chances of their own against this Liverpool defence that simply doesn't do clean sheets regularly.

With that in mind this could be another game that features at least three goals this week.

Sunderland v Chelsea Pick: This has often been a controversial part of the Premier League season with manager's focusing on resting players in a League game in anticipation for another. The biggest fallout came when Mick McCarthy did that to a Wolves team visiting Manchester United with a more 'winnable' game days later, but I am not anticipating David Moyes doing that in a home game.

There might be some temptation to do it because Sunderland host Watford in three days time and just came off a bad loss at Swansea City in difficult conditions which might have sapped some energy. With the injuries in the midfield area it would be a surprise if there weren't some changes, although not the wholesale ones McCarthy was criticised for.

Regardless of the team put out this is going to be tough test for Sunderland after the manner of their 3-0 loss at Swansea City. They have won back to back games here, but not against a team like Chelsea who have plenty of confidence behind them and used their counter attack to devastating effect away from home.

Chelsea have won 4 away games in a row in the Premier League and Antonio Conte is likely to have all his big hitters on the field to try and make it 10 in a row in the League overall. Their 4 away wins have been against a mix of opposition, but importantly they have won 3 of those by a couple of goals.

I expect they will create plenty of opportunities to do the same at The Stadium of Light and I think Chelsea snap a recent poor record in this Stadium. I am not sure Sunderland will offer enough of a threat in front of goal to trouble Chelsea and I think the latter will be able to fashion the chances to win this by a couple of goals with Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in form.

Sunderland have taken a couple of heavy losses at home and there might be some focus on the home game with Watford to come so Moyes may decide to give a couple of key players the night off to prepare for that game. I think it will lead to a comfortable win for Chelsea on the day and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap at The Stadium of Light on Wednesday.

Crystal Palace v Manchester United Pick: The first thing I noted about this game was how short Manchester United are to win the fixture considering they are away from home and playing a team with plenty of threats in their line up. Despite the improved performances on their travels, that looks too short to back Manchester United and instead I think the best angle for this game is going back to the goals market which has been a profitable angle in Crystal Palace games for some time.

The last 7 Crystal Palace Premier League games have all resulted in at least three goals being produced, while their last 3 at Selhurst Park have gone the same way. This is a team that has plenty of attacking threats with the pace in the wide areas and a player like Christian Benteke who will thrive on service and they are facing a Manchester United team that have offered up some chances with their defensive back four having a few questions to answer.

Antonio Valencia is out and Matteo Darmian struggled on Sunday and this Crystal Palace team have the players out wide like Wilfried Zaha who can cause problems.

On the other hand Crystal Palace have struggled defensively and have conceded at least twice in 6 of their last 7 games. The loss of Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a blow for Manchester United as his directness, dribbling skills and pace have been a revelation for this starting eleven, but Manchester United can still create chances with the likes of Juan Mata good enough to fill the Armenian's boots for a couple of games.

Only some poor finishing and some bad luck has prevented Manchester United really taking control of their Premier League games, but the chances they have created should pose a threat to Crystal Palace. Games between these teams haven't always produced goals, but both teams should have chances in this one and it looks like goals is the way to go.

The goals have come a little more freely in Manchester United away Premier League games and this looks an attractive price at bigger than the away win prices. Another Crystal Palace game featuring goals won't be a big surprise.

Manchester City v Watford Pick: This is a really big game for Manchester City who have been struggling of late and need to get back to winning ways to restore some lost confidence. The game at Leicester City was a particular low point for Pep Guardiola as the team came out with little desire or motivation until they were out of the match.

That was a really poor performance compared to the majority they have produced in recent weeks and I am going to mark it down as an exception and perhaps the players never really recovered from being 2-0 down after four minutes. They will miss Sergio Aguero in particular during his suspension, but Manchester City have created plenty of chances when going forward and their 4 game run without a home Premier League win has much to do with poor fortune and finishing.

On another day Manchester City would have crushed Chelsea and there would have been a different feeling about their team. There are problem areas that need to be resolved in the next couple of transfer windows with defensive reinforcements the key for Guardiola to identify, but Manchester City can bounce back against an inconsistent Watford team.

With players like Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure, Nolito, Jesus Navas, David Silva and Kelechi Iheanacho Manchester City have enough quality in the final third to bounce back from the game on Saturday. They will be encouraged by Watford conceding at least three goals in their last 2 away games and I do think the away side might suffer something of a backlash in this fixture.

The problems at the back make it hard to trust Manchester City to cover the Asian Handicap, but I think they can produce a solid result in this one. Goals have been hard to come by at The Etihad Stadium in the Premier League, but Manchester City should have the chances to win this one by a couple of goals and I will back them to do that.

Stoke City v Southampton Pick: Once in a while you will look at the prices for a game of football and be surprised by which of the two teams is being favoured and I think this is one of those. I was convinced Stoke City would be going in as the favourite in this game and I would likely have left it alone, but I am not sure why the layers have set Southampton as the favourite instead and I want to take them on.

The Saints have won 1 of their last 8 away games in all competitions and have lost games at Hull City, Sparta Prague and Crystal Palace in recent weeks. It can be said that Stoke City are in better form than the two Premier League teams mentioned, particularly at home, and I do think they can avoid defeat at the very least in this game.

The loss of Charlie Austin is huge for Southampton with the striker accounting for a huge amount of their goals and this is a team that has only scored more than a single goal in 2 of their 11 away games in all competitions this season. It should be remembered that Stoke City did lose 0-1 to Bournemouth here a couple of games ago, but the have won 3 of their last 4 at The Bet365 Stadium and I don't think Southampton will score enough goals to win here.

Stoke City have also been defending well enough at home and they can be backed with the start on the Asian Handicap which will give some payout if they avoid defeat. It will need a Stoke City win for a full payout, but I think they have every chance of getting that this week and this looks a decent way to back the home side.

Tottenham Hotspur v Hull City Pick: Tottenham Hotspur are back up to full health, but they are still finding the consistency hard to come by in what has been a mixed four months of the season. A 1-0 loss at Old Trafford on Sunday means there are now six teams in the race for the top four and Tottenham Hotspur can't afford to drop more points at White Hart Lane where they host both Hull City and Burnley this week.

The first visitors are Hull City who conceded a late goal in a 3-3 draw with Crystal Palace on Saturday which has left them in the bottom three. There will be some encouragement from their recent performances at The KC Stadium, but Hull City still look a strong favourite for relegation as they try and avoid heading to the bottom of the Premier League on Christmas Day which has proved to be a death knell for many clubs over the last twenty-four seasons.

However it is going to be tough for Hull City to do that with two difficult games in London compared with Sunderland, the one team below them in the League table, who have two games at home. Hull City have been better at home, but have just hit a rough patch when it comes to scoring goals in the last few away games they have played.

The side have not scored in any of their last 3 away Premier League games and now face a Tottenham Hotspur team who have their regular centre half pairing back together. That should be enough for Tottenham Hotspur to keep a clean sheet and I think they have enough in the final third to break down Hull City in this one. At just under odds against, I am going to back Tottenham Hotspur to have back to back home clean sheets in the Premier League in another winning effort over a team that is struggling at the wrong end of the table.

Birmingham City v Ipswich Town Pick: Squads are going to be tested in the top two Divisions of English Football with three games scheduled for the week and this looks a tough game for both Birmingham City and Ipswich Town. Neither team has a lot of momentum behind them with some losses in recent weeks, but home advantage could be all important for The Blues.

Playing at St Andrew's has seen Birmingham City produce a number of positive results and they have scored plenty of goals here. The 0-3 defeat to Barnsley last time here is a concerning result, but Birmingham City can bounce back against an Ipswich Town team that have been a little toothless on their travels.

I do think Ipswich Town can make life difficult by keeping their defensive discipline and I don't think there will be a lot of goals in this one. However I do think Birmingham City have found a way to win games at home more often than not and they look a big enough price to be backed to get back to winning ways here.

However I would keep the stakes to a minimum having seen Birmingham City conceded seven times in their last couple of games even if Ipswich Town have shown less of a threat in front of goal than Barnsley and Newcastle United.

Fulham v Rotherham United Pick: The 1-0 win over Queens Park Rangers might turn out to be one of those rare high points for Rotherham United this season as they look to find a way to escape the drop into League One. There is so much work for Rotherham United to do if they want to get out of the bottom three and the problems are that they cannot keep conceding at least twice in every away game they play.

Doing that is going to make it very difficult to earn the points Rotherham United need to pull back the teams above them and they are going to be in for a real test against a free scoring Fulham.

The 4-4 draw at Wolves was an instant classic and means Fulham have scored nine times in their last couple of games. Fulham have scored at least twice in 3 of their last 4 at Craven Cottage and they have a couple of 5-0 wins in that time over solid teams like Huddersfield Town and Reading.

Fulham hammered Rotherham United twice in the League last season and I think they might prove too strong again. I am going to back The Cottagers to win by at least a couple of goals on Tuesday by taking them on the Asian Handicap in the knowledge that half my stake will be returned if Fulham win by a single goal margin.

Aston Villa v Norwich City Pick: The television cameras will be heading to Carrow Road for this Championship game between two teams who have underachieved to this point of the season. Momentum can be very important in a tough Division and you have to say that Aston Villa have more of that than Norwich City who have been trending in the opposite direction.

Being at home will give Norwich City encouragement with their better results coming here, but confidence has to be knocked after 5 losses in 6 games which includes a couple of defeats at Carrow Road.

Aston Villa have been improving under Steve Bruce, but they are another team that have kept their best performances at home which is one reason I can't back them to win. However I do think Aston Villa are playing well enough to get a result here and they are a decent price to be backed on the Asian Handicap which will pay out a positive return as long as the away side don't lose the game.

This will be a tight game and Norwich City have to be respected at home, but Aston Villa have proved to be hard to beat since Bruce took over. Leeds United did beat Aston Villa in the latter's last away game, but I think they avoid defeat here at least and I will back them with the Asian Handicap start.

Queens Park Rangers v Derby County Pick: The Championship is one of the more unpredictable Divisions you can find but recent form for Queens Park Rangers and Derby County should point to one winner. While Ian Holloway is trying to find his feet with the former, Steve McClaren has the latter playing some good football and that has seen them produce a number of wins in a row.

This has not been a great ground for Derby County to visit in recent seasons which might play on the mind of the players, but they have been in good form over the last few weeks. The Rams don't concede a lot of goals and they have begun to show a little more clinical play in the final third to do enough to win games.

Derby County are still not as fluent in the final third as they were in McClaren's first tenure here, but they have the second best defence in the Championship. That is likely to be key to this game as they should have chances to score against a Queens Park Rangers team that haven't had a clean sheet in any of their last 7 games.

The concern has to be the 1-1 draw, but I do think Derby County have enough of an edge to back them at odds against to win here. Consecutive away wins should give Derby County confidence to do that and I will back them to win here.

Wigan Athletic v Newcastle United Pick: Visiting Wigan Athletic has been a difficult test for Newcastle United in recent years, but they look the far superior team in this match between two clubs that only played Premier League football within the last four seasons. Wigan Athletic have been on a real slide since being relegated from the Premier League and the differing expectations at these clubs suggests The Magpies won't have a better chance to win only their second game here in nine visits.

The problem I have for Wigan Athletic is that I am not sure they have enough goals to stay with a Newcastle United team that can be punishing going forward. Scoring goals isn't a problem for Newcastle United, but they are also very strong defensively which should restrict what Wigan Athletic are able to do in the final third and gives the away team a real edge.

The layers haven't missed that and Newcastle United go into this one as odds on favourites, but I still think they can be backed. They look considerably stronger than Wigan Athletic and I did think they might even have been asked to cover a couple of goals in winning here for a reasonable pay out.

With Wigan Athletic failing to score in their last 4 home games, I do think the prices for a Newcastle United win to nil is very appealing, and I think a small interest on them doing that has to be the play.

MY PICKS: Bournemouth-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 William Hill (2 Units)
Arsenal @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Middlesbrough-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.97 Bet365 (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.71 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stoke City + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur Win to Nil @ 1.95 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Birmingham City @ 2.40 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Fulham - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet365 (2 Units)
Aston Villa + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Derby County @ 2.25 William Hill (2 Units)
Newcastle United Win to Nil @ 2.65 Coral (1 Unit)

December Update15-17, - 4.04 Units (62 Units Staked, - 6.52% Yield)

November Final40-38-3, + 5.76 Units (159 Units Staked, + 3.62% Yield)

October Final29-41-2, - 21.23 Units (139 Units Staked, - 15.27% 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 2016/17142-145-8, + 10.70 Units (555 Units Staked, + 1.93% 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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