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Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Midweek Football Picks 2017 (January 24-26)

This has been a really tough month for the football picks with penalty misses, open goals, and surprise results all conspiring to go against me. Late goals have tended to go the opposite way to the way I would have wanted and it all has resulted in the coming together of the dark forces of a losing month.

During this week we have a few make up games in the Championship and the first domestic Cup Final in England will be set as the English Football League Cup Semi Final Second Legs are played on Wednesday and Thursday. Don't ask me why the Hull City versus Manchester United Second Leg has been asked to be played on a Thursday when you think the FA Cup Fourth Round will be played at the weekend and then another two rounds of Premier League games will be played in the following week.

Surely it would have made most sense to play that game on a Tuesday, but I guess at least Jose Mourinho's side have managed the Thursday-Sunday schedule well enough already this season. Having a 2-0 lead from the First Leg will only help.

The winner of that tie will already know who they will be facing on Sunday 26th February as Liverpool will be looking to overturn their 0-1 deficit to Southampton on Wednesday.

The FA Cup selections for the weekend should be ready to come out on Thursday evening/Friday morning depending on when I schedule the post to go live, while I am still looking to get out my piece about Manchester United later in the week and hopefully that can be attached to the 'Weekend Football Picks' post.

Brighton v Cardiff City Pick: The suspension for Glenn Murray is a big blow for Brighton, but the home form has been very impressive and they are a fairly strong favourite to see off Cardiff City. You can understand that with the way they have been playing at The Amex Stadium, but Cardiff City have only lost 1 of their last 6 visits to this Stadium.

Recent games have seen Cardiff City put some positive results together which will make them dangerous, but I would be surprised if Brighton can't keep their positive run going.

Backing them to win is a little short when you think Murray is unavailable, and instead I will look for Brighton to become the latest team to score twice at home against Cardiff City. That might sound strange without their striker, but Brighton have found goals in recent home games and Murray has been responsible for 3 of the 11 home goals Brighton have scored in their last 5 games here.

Cardiff City have conceded at least twice in 4 of their last 5 away games, even though they haven't lost either of their last 3, and Brighton are close to odds against to hit that number.

Reading v Fulham Pick: There have been plenty of goals in recent Reading fixtures as they have shown they can create chances in front of goal, but defensively have looked very poor. That defence will be tested by Fulham who have scored at least once in their last 6 away games in all competitions and they have scored at least twice in 4 of those games.

Reading have conceded at least twice in 5 of their last 7 games in all competitions but they have scored at least two goals in 4 of their last 5 League games.

Recent fixtures between Reading and Fulham have also produced goals with the last 7 between these teams seeing at least three goals shared out. The wintery conditions in England shouldn't have a big affect on the playing surface in Reading even if the pitch is harder than usual, but both Reading and Fulham have played their attacking football and should have enough in the final third to create opportunities.

It would be a surprise if both teams didn't score in this one, and the 1-1 scoreline might be the one that prevents this pick coming in, but I will back at least three goals to be shared out on Tuesday evening.

Leeds United v Nottingham Forest Pick: There will be plenty of fans who remember the days when Leeds United versus Nottingham Forest would have been a big game in the top flight of English Football, but those days are many years into the past now. At this moment of time Leeds United look more likely to return to the top flight with Garry Monk helping this squad of players overachieve, while Nottingham Forest fight a relegation battle.

Both clubs have fallen as low as the third tier of English Football since they have played in the Premier League and fans of both clubs will be hoping a brighter future is ahead.

For Nottingham Forest that future won't arrive until new owners can be found to take the club forward and I think they will have a difficult time to contain Leeds United away from home. Leeds United have won 5 in a row at Elland Road and they have kept clean sheets in each game which has given them a chance to win games.

Nottingham Forest have failed to score in their last couple of away games and I think Leeds United will be a little too good for them in this one. Leeds United have not won any of their last 3 against Nottingham Forest at home, but can snap that run here and I will back them to win.

Liverpool v Southampton Pick: This is a huge English Football League Cup Semi Final Second Leg as Liverpool look to overturn a 1-0 deficit to Southampton. Many will feel Liverpool can do that having the Second Leg at Anfield and Southampton having struggled away from home which includes League defeats at Everton (3-0) and Burnley (1-0) in recent weeks.

However Liverpool have to be much better defensively than they were in the 2-3 loss to Swansea City on Saturday and much better than in the 1-0 loss at Southampton in the First Leg. The only saving grace for Liverpool fans is that they don't have to overcome a 2-0 or 3-0 deficit with the chances The Saints had created in the First Leg as a flat Liverpool struggled to stay with them.

Night games at Anfield should provide an inspiration for Liverpool who had been unbeaten in 25 games at home in all competitions before the loss to The Swans on Saturday. Joel Matip's return will bolster a defence that has struggled, but they will be dealing with the pace Southampton have in forward positions which makes them dangerous on the counter in this one.

Liverpool have their attacking players back, bar Sadio Mane, and they should cause problems for Southampton too. Jose Fonte has moved on and Virgin Van Dijk is a doubt which means there could be a soft underbelly that Liverpool may be able to expose with the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge likely to start in this game.

I did think there would be a few goals in the First Leg but poor finishing, mainly from Nathan Redmond, prevented that from happening despite the clear chances that were made. This Second Leg should be an open game as Liverpool chase the goal to get back into the tie and Southampton being more than capable of creating things on the counter with their own forward players against a struggling defence.

I do see a situation where Liverpool are winning 1-0 and Southampton continue to defend deep to try and force extra time and hope to nick something. However Liverpool's style will mean they will continue to push forward and there could be some spaces to exploit late in the game as one of these teams potentially chases a way back into the game.

I will back at least three goals to be shared out in this Second Leg.

Hull City v Manchester United Pick: While a 2-0 scoreline is considered a dangerous one, Manchester United have to feel they have more than a foot into the English Football League Cup Final which will be played next month. The late goal in the First Leg has given them breathing room and Manchester United will now expect Hull City to be a lot more open than they were planning to be in the First Leg.

You can't blame Marco Silva for the tactics as he wanted to keep Hull City in the Semi Final ahead of the Second Leg back at home. For a long period it looked like The Tigers might manage to do that but that second goal means they might have to come out on the front foot a lot earlier than they would have done if only 1-0 down.

Jose Mourinho won't be taking the Second Leg for granted and Manchester United have a winnable FA Cup Fourth Round tie on Sunday which should mean he can play a strong team at The KCOM Stadium. I do expect changes with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard needing starts, but these players could enjoy some spaces as Hull City have to be a little more proactive in their own attacking play.

Hull City have played very well at home in recent weeks with only 1 loss in 8 games here in all competitions. The fixtures have not been the most taxing in that time and the one team with real quality they faced came away with a 0-3 win when Manchester City visited over the festive period.

Manchester United have played well away from home and have been creating chances and I think they will be too strong for Hull City and able to pick them off when they do come forward. A late goal could see Manchester United win this by a couple of goals as they comfortably move through to the League Cup Final, while Marco Silva will hope for better when visiting Old Trafford in the Premier League next week.

MY PICKS: Brighton Over 1.5 Team Goals @ 1.95 Coral (2 Units)
Reading-Fulham Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.73 Stan James (2 Units)
Leeds United @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.82 Bet365 (2 Units)

January Update19-33-1, - 28.86 Units (108 Units Staked, - 26.72% Yield)

December Final38-40, - 7.93 Units (153 Units Staked, - 5.18% 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 2016/17180-185-8, + 2.77 Units (708 Units Staked, + 0% 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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