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Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Midweek Football Picks 2017 (January 31-February 1)

There has been some criticism of the kind of teams that some of the Premier League teams put out in the FA Cup Fourth Round which led to a few upsets, but I am not sure what people are moaning about to be absolutely honest. It has been clear for a number of years that the FA Cup does not have the same appeal as it once did on the football calendar and the money in performing in the Premier League is significantly more than you will earn for winning the FA Cup these days.

With the games coming thick and fast at this time of the season, I am not surprised that managers will make changes. I am surprised that so many have been so upset by that though, including Alan Shearer, who can make such judgements without the pressure of being a manager in the position to make the big decisions. On the face of things you would think teams would want to play their best to win the Cup, but how can Walter Mazzarri make that decision with just one day rest between the Cup tie and a League one against Arsenal?

The upsets have been good for the Cup as it will have more headlines being grabbed than perhaps if all the top teams had made it through to the Fifth Round. There are still five of the top six Premier League teams in the FA Cup, who all avoided one another in the draw for the Fifth Round, and so some of the complaints and criticisms I have seen seem to be missing the point.

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week we have a full round of Premier League games, the first of four rounds of games in February. This is a big month coming up as the European competitions resume in the Knock Out Rounds, the FA Cup moves through the Fifth Round and the first domestic silverware of the season is handed out in the English Football League Cup.

February might be the shortest month of the calendar year, but there are going to be plenty of football matches to enjoy throughout the month and hopefully the picks will also be better than they have been.

The last two months have been difficult, but there is still lots of the season to go.

Arsenal v Watford Pick: This is a big week for Arsenal if they have real ambitions to win the Premier League title and of course the bigger match for them is later in the week when they face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Win both League games this week and Chelsea fail to win at Anfield and Arsenal will be right back in things.

It is up to Arsenal to try and concentrate on their own matters and they have been playing well enough in recent games to think they can beat Watford fairly comfortably at The Emirates Stadium. The away side have been struggling in recent weeks to earn positive results and Watford have been conceding too many goals which has to be a concern for a team that still has plenty of work to do to reach the 40 point mark in the Premier League.

Watford have conceded at least twice in 5 of their last 6 away Premier League games and they will have some problems containing an Arsenal team who have scored 18 goals in their last 6 games in all competitions.

Arsenal have scored at least three times in their 3 Premier League games against Watford over the last eighteen months and I think they could have a strong showing in this one too. All of their wins over Watford in the League in that time have come by at least two goals and I will back the home team on the Asian Handicap to just keep the pressure up on the League leaders Chelsea who have a difficult trip this week to Anfield.

Bournemouth v Crystal Palace Pick: There has been some criticism for Sam Allardyce that his Crystal Palace team are being asked to play on the same day as the January transfer window closes as he is still looking for reinforcements to his squad. It has been a tough opening six weeks as manager of The Eagles for Allardyce as he tries to maintain his record of not suffering a relegation from the Premier League.

The expectation is that Crystal Palace had simply been underachieving before Allardyce came in, but they have suffered some really bad results under his guidance. The side have slipped into the bottom three after the last round of Premier League games and they have to start winning soon to avoid being potentially cut off from the safety zone.

That makes this a big game for Crystal Palace when they head to a Bournemouth team who have been strong at home, but also inconsistent. This does feel like a good chance for Crystal Palace to earn a result because Bournemouth have been conceding goals at an alarming rate, although they have had a few days off to try and get things organised at the back.

However the style of play means Bournemouth are always going to give their opponents a chance and I think Crystal Palace have enough in the final third to offer some problems. On the other hand I would expect Bournemouth to create chances as Crystal Palace have yet to really pick up the defensive organisation that Sam Allardyce is known for from his time with the likes of Bolton Wanderers and Sunderland.

It is a difficult game to pick a winner because of the uncertain performances both clubs have been producing of late, but it does feel like a game where there should be chances at both ends. I do think there is enough in the final third to make use of those chances and I am looking for this game to finish with at least three goals shared out on Tuesday.

Burnley v Leicester City Pick: Recent seasons have seen Leicester City regularly visit Turf Moor and leave with the three points, but this one feels like it could be very different. This season Burnley have played very well at Turf Moor and have won their last 6 games here while only conceding 3 goals in that time, while Leicester City have yet to win an away game in the Premier League.

There have been some improvements in the away results which might make Leicester City more of a threat than their record would indicate. However winning here has proved to be a challenge for any team that visits and I think Burnley have the confidence to keep their run going.

I just don't think Burnley should be an underdog in this game when you see how well they have played at Turf Moor. Leicester City have come from behind to earn draws at Stoke City and Derby County over the last few weeks but Burnley might be a little more solid and complete the win.

However I will take the home team on the Asian Handicap which is essentially pricing up Burnley at odds against in what is a 'Draw No Bet' market. Burnley have been very good at home all season and they are in a very good vein of form at Turf Moor and that looks a big price when you consider how well Burnley have played here.

Sunderland v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: David Moyes has to be feeling the pressure of trying to turn around Sunderland's season and the lack of financial backing has frustrated the manager. There have been a couple of big players leaving the club and new faces have yet to arrive in time for this League game and Sunderland have a squad stretched by injury and suspension.

It is going to be very difficult for Sunderland to keep Tottenham Hotspur contained as the big players will be back in the starting line up for Mauricio Pochettino's side. They have scored at least twice in their last 3 away Premier League games and I think Tottenham Hotspur can extend their run of 4 wins from 6 visits to The Stadium of Light.

Sunderland have lost half of their 6 home League games by more than a single goal margin and they have conceded goals at an alarming rate once they start to struggle. This might be a defence that is vulnerable to Tottenham Hotspur who have shown they can be very dangerous in front of goal and I do think they can come out with a fairly routine win on Tuesday.

I will back Tottenham Hotspur on the Asian Handicap on Tuesday.

Liverpool v Chelsea Pick: This is a huge Premier League game for both Liverpool and Chelsea, but you have to think the Anfield crowd are expecting a reaction after three terrible results here. Going out of both Cup competitions has been a blow to their chances of ending the year with silverware and it is going to be hard work to get into the Champions League places if they can't turn around their form very quickly.

Over the years this is the kind of game most big clubs would want to get back to winning ways, but Liverpool have had their confidence dented. Sadio Mane's return might not have come quick enough to play from the start in this one and Liverpool's defence continues to show huge vulnerabilities.

That defence should be exposed by the attacking talent Chelsea posses, but I do think Liverpool will create chances too as most of their top names were held out on Saturday in the defeat to Wolves. As well as Chelsea have played defensively for much of this season, away games at Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have seen them give away plenty of goals and Liverpool have the power in the final third to have success too.

It would be a surprise if Chelsea were not able to create their own chances and score goals too and I did consider backing the League leaders to avoid defeat by backing them on the 'Draw No Bet' market at odds against. However Chelsea's two away League defeats have come at Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur and they should have been beaten at Manchester City too.

Instead I will back there being at least three goals shared out between these teams like there were at Stamford Bridge. That has been priced up at odds against and the score that would worry me the most would be 1-1 like the last couple of games at Anfield have finished between these two teams.

However I think there should be enough opportunities at both ends to see the chances created to find a winner if that is the case and I will back at least three goals to be shared out.

West Ham United v Manchester City Pick: If you are simply judging games on results then it looks clear that Manchester City have been having something of a rough patch and West Ham United might be in a decent form. The Hammers have scored three times in each of their last couple of games which have resulted in six points, while Manchester City were beaten 4-0 in their last away game at Everton.

However a deeper look shows that West Ham United were perhaps a little fortunate in both of their wins. On the other hand, Manchester City might be coming in with 4 wins from 5 games in January if they had held onto their 2-0 lead over Tottenham Hotspur where some key decisions had gone against them in the 2-2 draw.

Manchester City are only a few weeks removed since they beat West Ham United 0-5 here in the FA Cup on a day when they were clearly the better team. They have shown they can dominate games but have to be a little better in the forward areas while the defence remains a work in progress under their new manager.

As much as West Ham United have shown some improvements, they are still not playing as well as last season and this is a team that can lose their way when they do concede goals. They have won 3 of their last 5 here, but around those results have been comfortable losses to Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City.

The 0-3 win for Manchester City at Crystal Palace came even though they rested the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero and I think the away side can back that result up. West Ham United are playing better, but I expect Manchester City to dominate the ball and create enough chances to win this one by more than a one goal margin and I will back them on the Asian Handicap to do that.

Manchester United v Hull City Pick: These two teams might have become a little familiar with one another over the last couple of weeks with this being their third game against one another since January 10th. It is a big task for Hull City to earn a result against Manchester United at Old Trafford, but they have proven they can be tough to beat and this is likely to be a match where the home fans will get a little nervy if Manchester United haven't broken the Hull City resistance going into the second half.

Marco Silva has to be given credit for toughening up a Hull City team that had been struggling before his arrival, but he is looking for some new faces to give them a bit of quality in the final third. Losing Robert Snodgrass feels like a blow to their chances to avoid the drop, but Hull City have made life difficult for Manchester United and Chelsea in away games since Silva arrived as manager.

They have made life difficult but ended up losing both by the same 2-0 scoreline and that feels like the most likely outcome of this one. Manchester United have not kept as many clean sheets in the League as they would have liked, particularly at Old Trafford where they have conceded in 5 of their last 6 Premier League games here.

However, Manchester United did earn that clean sheet against Hull City in the League Cup Semi Final and have had 3 in 4 games at Old Trafford in all competitions. Hull City have scored 1 goal in their last 7 away games in the Premier League and I will back Manchester United to win this game with a clean sheet on Wednesday.

MY PICKS: Arsenal - 1.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bournemouth-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)
Burnley 0 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United Win to Nil @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)

January Update30-42-1, - 24.98 Units (150 Units Staked, - 16.65% 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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