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NFL PlayOffs Divisional Round Weekend Picks 2020 (January 11-12)

The first weekend of the NFL PlayOffs did not let anyone down even though expectations had been raised by some of the performances of teams ...

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (January 21-22)

I've had a busy week, busier than anticipated, and so I am just going to crack on with the weekend picks this week.

Next week I am planning a look into Jose Mourinho after six months at Old Trafford with a small post about how I feel things have been going for the new man in charge of getting things turned around for Manchester United.

It is another big weekend of domestic football in England with the League games being played, but next week we will be back into the FA Cup as the Fourth Round begins.

Liverpool v Swansea City Pick: There has just been a few games where Liverpool have struggled to put teams away as they have missed the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane in attacking areas, but Coutinho should be fit to start to this one. Being back at Anfield is a positive for Liverpool while facing Swansea City might be another benefit for Jurgen Klopp's team.

You would have to think Liverpool are going to be too good for Swansea City who have continued to struggled despite the arrival of Paul Clement as manager. He seems to have the British name pundits like Paul Merson think is key to any appointment, but Clement has a big job on his hands and not a lot of time to get things right.

A 0-4 home loss to Arsenal means 4 of the last 5 League games have ended in losses for Swansea City by at least three goals per game. They are facing Liverpool at the right time with Coutinho only just back and Mane away with Senegal, but I can't see how Swansea City will be able to contain a home team that gets on the front foot very quickly at Anfield.

The Swans won at Crystal Palace last time out on their travels, but they were beaten heavily at Tottenham Hotspur and Middlesbrough and I can't see anything but a home win here. Liverpool should be able to produce more going forward than they have in recent games and I think they win by at least a couple of goals, but I will look for them to go a step further and cover the Asian Handicap.

Bournemouth v Watford Pick: This is a tougher game to predict than I originally imagined because it is hard to erase the fact that Bournemouth are conceding goals at an alarming rate at the moment and will be missing Simon Francis for another game. Eddie Howe has downplayed the defensive issues by claiming Bournemouth haven't done a lot wrong at the back, but any team that has conceded three times in 5 of their last 6 games in all competitions has to be worried.

It isn't as if a return home will solve all the problems as Bournemouth have conceded three times in 3 of their last 4 League games at The Vitality Stadium too. However it should be noted those games came against Liverpool, Southampton and Arsenal who are all considerably stronger than visitors Watford.

Watford have had some real problems in front of goal which has led to 1 win in 7 games in all competitions and they have only scored twice in their last 6 away games in the Premier League. That includes playing at Sunderland and Swansea City and I think that lack of goals is going to give the home team a chance to secure a vital three points.

For all the misgivings about Bournemouth's defensive performances, this is a team that has also been scoring plenty of goals in recent weeks. They managed four against Liverpool, three against Arsenal and three at Swansea City so Bournemouth may easily have a little too much in the final third for Watford this weekend.

Bournemouth do have a poor home record against Watford in recent seasons, but they should have beaten them here last season and I will back the home team to secure the win this time around.

Crystal Palace v Everton Pick: Both Crystal Palace and Everton have to look at the other and think this is a big opportunity to secure vital points for their individual goals. I have been disappointed by the lack of reaction Crystal Palace have had under Sam Allardyce, but they could use the come from behind win over Bolton Wanderers as a way to spark the team, especially Christian Benteke.

It was Benteke's two goals that turned that match in favour of Crystal Palace, but this is a much bigger challenge for his team in general. Everton have to be flying after their crushing win over Manchester City last weekend, but they have definitely been more hit and miss on their travels than at Goodison Park.

They do score goals though and Crystal Palace have yet to show the defensive strength that Sam Allardyce teams tend to display. It is difficult to see that happening this weekend against an Everton team who have scored twice in their last 3 away games in the Premier League, although defensive problems of their own mean Everton have only won 1 of those games.

Recent history has shown games between these clubs at Goodison Park tend to be high-scoring, while games at Selhurst Park have not. However I think there will be chances for both teams in this one and I will take the odds against quotes for at least three goals to be shared out in this one.

Middlesbrough v West Ham United Pick: Goals have been a problem for Middlesbrough, but less so for West Ham United and it is an interesting game that has serious ramifications at the bottom of the Premier League. There is every chance of a 1-1 scoreline in this one, but the stats from Middlesbrough games suggest the option of one of, or both, teams failing to score in this one look under-rated.

Middlesbrough neither score or concede a lot of goals and West Ham United are missing a big playmaker in Dimitri Payet which may make it that much more difficult to breach an organised home defence. There have also been some solid defensive performances from West Ham United which suggests a Middlesbrough team without Gaston Ramirez will have some problems of their own.

This does have the feel of a tight game without too many opportunities at either end and the layers have responded by offering a short price on there being two or fewer goals shared out. That at least saves the 1-1 scoreline from being a loser for the pick, but you can't ignore that both teams have failed to score in the last 8 Middlesbrough home games.

Back to back goalless draws show what Middlesbrough are all about and I think they can make life a grind for West Ham United in this one. An early goal changes the feel of the match, but I think it might be tight throughout and I will look for one, or both, teams not to score.

I was tempted by the 'no goalscorer' market, but three 0-0 draws in a row looks a long shot so will stick to the market I mentioned.

Stoke City v Manchester United Pick: Visiting Stoke City has been a really tough assignment for Manchester United in the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and they have won none of their last 3 League visits here. They have lost two of those games so there is a mental obstacle to overcome, although this current Manchester United look to have more self-belief than the ones that have made the short trip to The Bet365 Stadium in the last couple of years.

They won't be underestimating the difficult test Stoke City are likely to offer this weekend and the home team are vastly improved since the start of the season when they were hammered by both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in this Stadium. Recently Stoke City have been beaten comfortably at Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea too, but at home they should feel they can offer more.

The goals conceded to the top teams has to be a concern for Mark Hughes especially when considering Manchester United have scored twice in their last 4 away games in all competitions. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in form and will relish the battle with the tough Stoke City centre halves, while Manchester United have shown more creativity behind the strikers to make chances.

I very much expect Manchester United to be able to do the same here, but Stoke City are playing well enough to offer an attacking threat of their own. Veteran Peter Crouch has been in decent nick himself and Stoke City can be a threat in a number of ways with some very good players behind Crouch.

It does feel like a game in which both teams may score and I can see enough chances at either end to see three goals shared out. Stoke City have been involved in some high-scoring games when coming up against the top six clubs, and Manchester United have been scoring goals away from home. Combined I think Manchester United narrowly win here, but I will back at least three goals to be shared out before that is decided.

West Brom v Sunderland Pick: I don't think West Brom would have been as short a favourite in the Premier League as they are this weekend and it says something that they are a stronger favourite than when they played Derby County of the Championship in the FA Cup two weeks ago. That price was factoring in Tony Pulis' disregard for the Cup in previous seasons, but I also think it says a lot about where Sunderland find themselves going into the second half of the season.

Sunderland are far from out of reach at the bottom of the table, but David Moyes' comments and the rash of injuries in the squad makes it hard to know where they can pick up their next result. They have been particularly poor away from home and now face a West Brom team who have been very good at The Hawthorns.

Take away the loss to Derby County and West Brom have won 4 of their last 5 League games here, while they have scored at least three times in each of those wins. With Sunderland conceding at least twice in their last 5 away games in all competitions and you can understand why West Brom are considered a strong favourite to win this weekend.

The Baggies have also dominated Sunderland with 6 wins from their last 7 at home against them and I can only see one winner here. Football does have a habit of throwing out a surprise result so you can't be too confident, but West Brom should be too good for Sunderland and I think they win this game.

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: A big game on Saturday afternoon could have top four implications in May as Manchester City try and bounce back from a 4-0 humiliation at Everton last Sunday. It won't be easy against an in form Tottenham Hotspur, although the latter have lost Jan Vertonghen who has been a huge part of their strong defensive showings.

It might mean an attacking game is in the offing as Tottenham Hotspur look to beat Manchester City for the fourth time in a row having won here 1-2 last season. With Dele Alli and Harry Kane scoring goals, Tottenham Hotspur will believe they can expose a Manchester City defence that have struggled to prevent goals all season.

On the other hand Manchester City have plenty of attacking players that will look to make use of Vertonghen's absence and so this has the feel of a high-scoring game.

9 of the last 11 games between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur have featured at least three goals and I will look for that to be the outcome of this game.

Arsenal v Burnley Pick: The Super Sunday offering in the Premier League doesn't look very competitive if I am being brutally honest and I think both home teams will beat their visitors from the lower half of the table.

First up is Arsenal who face a Burnley side that have been very good at home, but one that has struggled on their travels. Goals have been a problem for Burnley once they have left Turf Moor and I think that will be a factor in this one too.

They did score at Tottenham Hotspur and at Manchester City, but Burnley needed the second of those teams to be reduced to ten men before they could do that. It does have to be said that Arsenal are not as good defensively as Tottenham Hotspur, but they have had a couple of clean sheets in a row at home and I think they can earn another here.

You have to think Arsenal will find a way to break down the Burnley defences with the quality they have in the starting line up, and I think The Gunners can be backed to win this game with a clean sheet.

Chelsea v Hull City Pick: It looks like Antonio Conte and Diego Costa have made peace and that means a return for the striker this weekend after he was dropped last weekend. It should mean the Chelsea players are feeling a little more comfortable with the squad harmony relatively back to normal and I think they are going to be too strong for Hull City.

There is a lot of work for Hull City to do if they are going to avoid the drop, but it won't be at grounds like Stamford Bridge where they can build the foundation for success. The squad is still a little stretched at the moment and a lack of investment is a problem for The Tigers who had to sell Jake Livermore this week.

The play should be dominated by the home team and I would expect Hull City to defend in numbers and hope for a set piece from Robert Snodgrass to nick something from the game. Snodgrass has some quality from dead ball situations which makes this a dangerous pick, but I do think Chelsea will be tight at the back and can keep a clean sheet.

With Costa back leading the line, Chelsea should also find a way to break down a team that will sit back in numbers and look to stay in the game for as long as possible. I will back them to become the second London team to win with a clean sheet on Super Sunday.

Queens Park Rangers v Fulham PickThere are two live television offerings from the Championship on Saturday and both are derby games which should increase the importance of the points available this weekend. The first of those comes from West London where Queens Park Rangers take on Fulham and both teams will be desperate for the three points that are available.

It could be a good match as both Queens Park Rangers and Fulham have both been  displaying some positive form with the home team having won their last 3 League games and Fulham winning 2 in a row on their travels in all competitions.

Goals haven't been a problem in the games that these two clubs have been involved in in recent weeks and this is a fixture that has produced at least three goals in the last 5 West London derby games.

I can see both Queens Park Rangers and Fulham scoring in this one and the importance of the three points means neither should be settling for a point. With the intensity of a derby, I can see one of them doing just enough to turn the screw and ending this with a 2-1 win either way.

Derby County v Reading Pick: This is a big match this weekend between two clubs who are both chasing a place in the cash rich Premier League having recently been a part of the elite of English football. Both Derby County and Reading are pleased with their current standings in the Championship, but the three points on offer at The iPro Stadium are of some importance that there could be some nerves in play.

Games at this Stadium have tended to be tight anyway with Derby County not a free scoring team but also one that tends to keep clean sheets. Those defensive performances should be leading to plenty of wins and they have been doing that at home in recent weeks, but no goals in 3 League games is a concern.

Reading will have plenty of possession and have proven they can take their form on the road although the defeat last week to Queens Park Rangers was a big disappointment. They have won their last 2 away games in the Championship with the goals flowing and so Reading will be a dangerous side here.

You also can't ignore the fact that Reading have lost just 1 of their last 7 at Derby County and have won 5 of those games. I was a little tempted to back The Royals to win here this weekend, but Derby County have been strong at home and I will simply look for Reading to find a way to avoid a loss at odds against.

Huddersfield Town v Ipswich Town Pick: For a long time it looked like Mick McCarthy had Ipswich Town on the edge of making it back to the Premier League, but there is no doubt a lack of funds has meant little investment to take the next step forward. Instead Ipswich Town have taken a step backwards and it does feel like McCarthy's time as manager is coming to an end.

He was almost daring the board to sack him after the debacle in losing at Lincoln City in the FA Cup Third Round Replay and the pressure will be mounting if Ipswich Town cannot earn a result this weekend.

Earning that result is going to be very, very difficult against a Huddersfield Town who have scored plenty of goals at home and have turned around their recent form. The 2-0 loss at Sheffield Wednesday was a blow, but Huddersfield Town can return home to right that wrong.

They have scored at least twice in 3 of their last 4 home games while Ipswich Town have conceded at least twice in their last 4 away games in the Championship. That has to be a concern for The Tractor Boys and I think Huddersfield Town have a little too much on the day and can win this one.

Newcastle United v Rotherham United Pick: There should be a few players returning from injury for Newcastle United ahead of this game and there really isn't a lot to say about this one. On most occasions Newcastle United are going to beat Rotherham United at home with the squads that both managers can call upon and it is just a matter of making sure the concentration is right to do so.

That is what Rafa Benitez has to make sure his players are able to do and anything less could see a potential upset.

Even then it would be a big surprise considering the amount of goals Rotherham United have been conceding away from home all season. Newcastle United score plenty themselves and it is hard to imagine them failing to score two or three goals in this one.

Both Derby County and Leeds United have beaten Rotherham United 3-0 at home this season and that is the kind of margin I would expect Newcastle United to show on Saturday afternoon. I will look for the home team to cover the Asian Handicap and win this one by at least two goals.

Barnsley v Leeds United Pick: The second live game on Saturday in the Championship comes from Oakwell as Barnsley host Leeds United in a Yorkshire derby that means plenty to both teams.

In recent years Barnsley had dominated this fixture with some high-scoring, entertaining wins over Leeds United, but it was the away side who earned the points when they last met here. This current Leeds United team is arguably the best one to visit Barnsley since their clash in the Premiership during the 1997/98 season and I think this could be a fun game to watch.

Leeds United are the team in form and they will have plenty of backers at odds against to continue their fine run. However they are facing a Barnsley team who have scored plenty of home goals and play an old fashioned system designed to get width and cause problems with plenty of crosses in the box.

Cambridge United gave Leeds United some problems with a similar tactic in the FA Cup Third Round before the higher quality told, but there isn't as big a gap between Barnsley and Leeds United. I think Barnsley have a chance of springing a surprise, but the overriding feeling is that there will be goals in the game.

Barnsley have scored plenty here in recent weeks, but they have also conceded plenty which is just the way they go about things. Leeds United have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 7 away games in all competitions, but they too score goals and the 1-1 is the one concern of a result that I have.

However there should be enough chances for both teams to find the goals to win this game and I am going to back there being at least three shared out at a ground where goals have not been that difficult to find.

MY PICKS: Liverpool - 2 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bournemouth @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Middlesbrough-West Ham United Both Teams NOT To Score @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stoke City-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Brom @ 1.70 William Hill (2 Units)
Manchester City-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal Win to Nil @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea Win to Nil @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Queens Park Rangers-Fulham Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Reading + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.97 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Huddersfield Town @ 1.75 William Hill (2 Units)
Newcastle United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.76 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Barnsley-Leeds United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

January Update13-25-1, - 22.26 Units (80 Units Staked, - 27.83% 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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