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Friday, 27 January 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (January 27-29)

I have already said earlier this week that it has been a tough month for the Football Picks which haven't really had much fortune behind them, but also been guilty of reading matches completely wrong.

It puts the pressure on me to make sure the next four months don't have the same disappointing results if I am going to produce a winning season, but hopefully I can knuckle down and do that.

I am going to put the next two threads, which will cover the FA Cup Fourth Round weekend and then the next round of Premier League games to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday next week, in the January totals and try and at least finish this month with some kind of positive momentum behind me.

The FA Cup Fourth Round will be played from Friday evening through to Sunday afternoon, while there are also five games in the Championship that will be played.


Derby County v Leicester City Pick: The match that will open up the FA Cup Fourth Round weekend comes from The iPro Stadium and an East Midlands derby that will be important to the fans of both Derby County and Leicester City. It looks like a Cup game that might actually mean more to Claudio Ranieri and The Foxes who have really not been able to reach anything close to the levels that took them to the Premier League title in 2016.

The Italian has made it clear that he feels the Cup could give his side the confidence to take into their Premier League games and Leicester City have the benefit of playing on Friday night before their next League game on Tuesday. It should mean Ranieri is able to pick a strong team for this game with the returning Riyad Mahrez back in the squad too.

It is far from an easy game for Leicester City who have lost back to back games by the same 3-0 scoreline at home against Chelsea and then at Southampton. They did come from behind to win at Everton in the Third Round, but Leicester City might need to weather the storm on a cold night in Derby with the home team already owning a victory over Premier League club West Brom in the Third Round.

Derby County have been playing very well at home under Steve McClaren and they will want to get on the front foot, although that could open up some counter attacking possibilities for Leicester City. It should mean this is a good Fourth Round tie as both clubs look to avoid an unnecessary Replay and I do think the layers might have underestimated the chance to see at least three goals shared out on the evening.

The home side have already been beaten heavily by Liverpool in the League Cup here this season and Derby County were beaten 1-3 by Manchester United in the FA Cup in this Round last season. This team looks more confident, but Derby County might not be as secure defensively as they have been for much of the Championship season and instead could rely on attack being the best form of defence against a vulnerable Leicester City team.


Liverpool v Wolves Pick: Jurgen Klopp might have tried to pull the wool over some of Liverpool's fans eyes when suggesting they were almost unlucky to be beaten by Southampton in the English Football League Cup Semi Final Second Leg. Anyone who watched that game would have seen the amount of chances Southampton had before finally putting Liverpool out of their misery in injury time and there has to be some concern that this season is not panning out as it looked like it might a couple of months ago.

Injuries have stretched a small squad and Liverpool will be heading into the weekend having seen their 25 game unbeaten run at Anfield ended last week against Swansea City. So imagine the surprise that Liverpool have lost back to back games at home and I do wonder how strong a team Klopp will pick with this Fourth Round tie coming between the Southampton game in the League Cup and three days before Liverpool host Chelsea.

Make not mistake in thinking that Klopp won't be focusing on the Chelsea game already and it is reasonable to think Liverpool's starting eleven may be more in line with the one that started the Third Round against Plymouth Argyle. Klopp thought that team was good enough to beat a League Two side, so there might be a couple more senior players in this one, but they will likely have the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Roberto Firmino on the bench.

All of that adds up to giving this Wolves team an opportunity and they did win against a full strength Stoke City side at The Bet365 Stadium in the Third Round. Wolves have lost comfortably at Newcastle United and Norwich City in the Championship, but the latter loss came when reduced to ten men and I think Paul Lambert's side can make life difficult for Liverpool in this early kick off.

I will back Wolves with the head start on the Asian Handicap to keep this match close and potentially force a Replay like Plymouth Argyle did in the last Round.


Blackburn Rovers v Blackpool Pick: Blackpool have already taken one Championship scalp by beating Barnsley in a Third Round Replay, and they may feel they can earn another upset when they visit Blackburn Rovers in the Fourth Round. The League Two side come into this weekend with a 6 game unbeaten run away from home behind them, and they have only conceded twice in that time.

That should mean Blackpool come in with some confidence behind them, but Owen Coyle is likely to pick a strong team like he did in the Third Round and this is a club that is still many places higher in the English Football League than their visitors.

Blackburn Rovers do have a League game here on Wednesday with the priority being to try and get out of the bottom three in the Championship, but it would be some change in philosophy if they decide to play a much changed team in this one. They have been scoring plenty of goals at home in recent games, but the problems for Blackburn Rovers remain in defensive areas.

There is no doubt that Blackpool could cause problems here like they did for Barnsley, but they did have to ride their luck to secure the win and even that was earned in the last minute of extra time. I will look for Blackburn Rovers to be a little more clinical in front of goal when the chances do come their way and I will back them to win this match.


Crystal Palace v Manchester City Pick: The FA Cup Fourth Round is being played just days before another round of Premier League games and I expect that will have an impact in the kind of team that Sam Allardyce is going to pick. Crystal Palace have fallen into the bottom three in the Premier League table and the former England manager is yet to show the Midas touch that has saved so many teams from relegation over the years.

Allardyce might have nothing against the FA Cup, but he has shown through his time as a manager in the Premier League that he will make a host of changes to his starting line ups in the competition when threatened with the drop in the League. There is no doubt that Crystal Palace are in some trouble and they have a big game on Tuesday night which might mean key players are left out.

The focus may also be in bringing in new faces and this gives Manchester City a significant edge in this Fourth Round tie. The FA Cup might not be Pep Guardiola's priority either, but he played a strong team in the Third Round and Manchester City have an extra day before they play again in the Premier League on Wednesday.

A strong team crushed West Ham United in London in the Third Round and I think Manchester City will be too good for a Crystal Palace team making changes. Allardyce teams have sometimes exited the FA Cup with a heavy and embarrassing loss, and I think Manchester City win by a couple of goals at least on Saturday.


Lincoln City v Brighton Pick: After beating Ipswich Town in the Third Round Replay in a game where Lincoln City impressed, this is another step up in class for the Conference leaders as they meet Brighton, a team chasing a place in the Premier League. Chris Hughton has made it clear that the FA Cup is a long second place to the Championship in terms of priority and that could give Lincoln City a chance for the upset.

A 3-0 loss at Barrow during the week might have been Lincoln City looking ahead to this big FA Cup Fourth Round tie and they have been much better at home. Lincoln City have won 7 in a row at home in all competitions which includes the win over Ipswich Town, and they do have enough in the squad to cause problems for a second string Brighton team.

That second string team did earn a comfortable win over the MK Dons in the Third Round, but Brighton were at home for that game and this is a different test for them. They also did win 2-4 at Oxford United in the League Cup which shows Brighton are capable of winning at Sincil Bank, while they don't play again until Thursday next week which does suggest they can invest enough energy in this one.

At odds on, Brighton don't really appeal, but I am not sure Lincoln City can spring another surprise. I do think there could be chances at both ends in this Fourth Round tie and it could be an exciting contest and so I do like the chance of seeing at least three goals in this one with perhaps both sides getting on the scoreboard during the contest.


Middlesbrough v Accrington Stanley Pick: Rumours of Aitor Karanka's impending departure has to have filtered down into the dressing room and it will be interesting to see how the players respond over the next few days. Wins over Accrington Stanley and West Brom will put those rumours to bed, but defeats in both might mean the Spaniard is given his papers and Middlesbrough look for a new direction.

This should be a game that Middlesbrough are winning as they face an Accrington Stanley side at the wrong end of League Two. With home advantage Middlesbrough hold all the aces and Karanka played a strong team in the Third Round and has stated he will play another strong line up on Saturday.

Karanka has already pointed out how difficult Accrington Stanley made things for West Ham United in the League Cup when the Premier League club needed an injury time winner to see them off. I imagine Accrington Stanley will look to defend deep and try and make Middlesbrough nervous on the field and in the stands which may open the door for an upset.

However Accrington Stanley aren't playing with a lot of confidence having lost 3 of 4 away games and were beaten easily at Cheltenham Town in their last away game. The League Two side have had a few heavier losses away from home and I think Karanka will use the FA Cup to try and give his side some confidence by winning this game with some comfort and taking that into the Premier League game against West Brom on Tuesday.

Middlesbrough beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 in the Third Round here and I will back them to win by at least a couple of goals in this one too.


Oxford United v Newcastle United Pick: It is not a surprise that Newcastle United are odds on favourites to win this Fourth Round tie at Oxford United when you consider these clubs were playing in the Premier League and League Two Divisions just last season. Even now Newcastle United look set to return to the Premier League and that quality will make it tough for Oxford United to stick with them.

However Oxford United have played well at home this season and they will have been given a boost in confidence by the 4-1 win over Scunthorpe United who are amongst the leading contenders for promotion from League One. They can score goals and will give Newcastle United some problems, although the latter will point to Brighton winning 2-4 here in the League Cup already.

There have been some defensive problems for Newcastle United in recent games which will give Oxford United a chance to spring an upset, but The Magpies score plenty too and this could be a high-scoring Fourth Round tie.

The over 2.5 goals option is a bigger price than the away win and I do think a 2-1 scoreline either way has every chance of hitting so I will look for goals from this one.


Rochdale v Huddersfield Town Pick: Both Rochdale and Huddersfield Town might not really think they can go all the way in the FA Cup, but both teams will be hoping they will be playing at Wembley Stadium at some point this season. That is because both are potential Play Off teams in their respective Divisions and will be hoping they will be good enough to come through for a place in those Play Off Finals at Wembley rather than through a long Cup run.

In saying that, both may look at this fixture as a chance to get into the Fifth Round of the FA Cup and perhaps draw a really big name from the Premier League which can be a reward for the fans, as well as financially. Rochdale have been playing really well and they will have their backers looking for the upset on Saturday, but back to back losses in the League will have dented some confidence and that includes a 0-4 hammering in their last home game against Oxford United.

They are facing a very good Huddersfield Town team who have gotten over a blip in form in November to go on a run of 1 loss in 10 games in all competitions and they have won 7 of those games. They were beaten in their last away game at Sheffield Wednesday, but Huddersfield Town crushed Port Vale from League One in the Third Round and will be confident when they visit the Crown Oil Arena.

I think Rochdale can play their part in this one as they have been able to score plenty of goals at home, but they are also one that concedes too many which makes this a very promising match for the fans. It should be one with plenty of attacking football and one I imagine Huddersfield Town can just edge even after both teams get amongst the goals.

Huddersfield Town have already lost 2-1 at a League One ground in the English Football League Cup when going down to Shrewsbury Town, but they can get on the right side of that scoreline in this one. However, I am not picking the Championship side to win, but to be a part of a game that finishes with at least three goals shared out at almost odds against at a ground where goals have been flowing.


Southampton v Arsenal Pick: The FA Cup might have lost some of its appeal in recent years as clubs up and down the country perhaps use the competition to rest players rather than actually try and win it. That is the case in the early Rounds, but both Southampton and Arsenal should have familiar line ups for this big Fourth Round clash.

Southampton have already reached one major domestic Final, but they might have to make changes to the first eleven when facing an Arsenal team that have had a week to prepare for the game. The FA Cup has proven to be something of a saviour for Arsene Wenger in recent seasons with the two successes in the competition perhaps being a key reason he is still managing Arsenal.

It should mean both clubs give this a go and the only result that neither would enjoy is a Replay during a busy month upcoming.

I am anticipating a decent game for the television cameras as both Southampton and Arsenal have shown they can be a threat going forward. The Saints do have 3 clean sheets in a row at home, but Arsenal have scored in their last 15 games on their travels in all competitions.

On the other hand Arsenal had not had a clean sheet in their previous 9 away games before the win at Swansea City and this is a team that have struggled on the south coast. No wins in 5 previous visits to Southampton shows that, and Arsenal will be in for a test if The Saints can show some composure in front of goal when the chances come their way.

I also think Arsenal will play a part and this could be a very good Fourth Round tie with both teams playing some attacking football that produces at least three goals.


Millwall v Watford Pick: This is not quite a London derby, but that won't mean the intensity is any less at The New Den with a Fourth Round spot up for grabs. Millwall have already seen off one Premier League club in the FA Cup this season and they will be confident they can beat a Watford team who have been struggling to find wins in recent weeks.

Being at home should give Millwall every chance of earning the upset and they will take heart from Gillingham having beaten Watford in the League Cup already. Millwall have scored at least twice in 4 consecutive games at home and that includes beating Bournemouth 3-0 so they will believe that they can get the better of a Watford team who had lost 5 in a row away from home before the 2-2 draw at The Vitality Stadium last week.

The goals scored by Watford at Bournemouth will give them confidence, although I expect the away side to make some changes with a League game to come just two days later.

That will also help Millwall have a chance to cause an upset, but Watford should be able to pose some problems of their own and there could be goals in store. At odds against, that has to be chanced with either team capable of winning this early game 2-1.


Sutton United v Leeds United Pick: There were some disappointed faces at Sutton United that their team had not been picked for a televised game in the Third Round, but that won't be the case in the Fourth Round. Sutton United will receive a huge financial boost from hosting Leeds United in front of the television cameras and there will be some looking for an upset.

That is a big ask for Sutton United who are the lowest team left in the FA Cup and especially in the form Leeds United have been in. They came from a goal down to beat Cambridge United in the Third Round and the one equaliser in this tie might be the artificial surface.

It did cause Wimbledon from League One some problems and Sutton United have lost 1 of their last 15 games here in all competitions which should give them the confidence to take it to their illustrious guests. Leeds United have had some problems defensively in recent games and that has to be an area that Sutton United try to expose, although this is a Leeds United team scoring plenty of goals too.

Those have come at a higher level than playing against Sutton United will be and I think Leeds United will wear them down over the course of the ninety minutes. Much like the Third Round, Leeds United might have to weather an early storm and then come back for the win and so they look a little short at the prices being offered for an away win. Instead I will back there being three goals in yet another FA Cup tie this weekend and back that to b the outcome of the second of three live Sunday Cup offerings.


Manchester United v Wigan Athletic Pick: One trip to Wembley Stadium has already been booked by Manchester United in the League Cup, but they won't want to lose their grip on the FA Cup they won last season yet either. A home tie with Wigan Athletic means Warren Joyce returns to Old Trafford having left at the end of 2016 to take over as The Latics manager, but it is a big ask for him to help his struggling squad earn the upset.

Wigan Athletic are fighting for their lives in the Championship, but they have won 3 in a row heading into this weekend and that has seen them pull themselves out of the bottom three in that Division. Recent seasons have seen Wigan Athletic produce some of their best football in the FA Cup having won the competition in 2013 and reached the Semi Final in 2014, but they had previously been beaten in their first FA Cup tie the last two seasons.

Now they will have to raise their game significantly against a Manchester United team that will make changes, but who will still have a solid base in place as they look to move into the Fifth Round. The 2-1 loss at Hull City on Thursday was a disappointment, but in the grand scheme of things it is a loss they can overcome.

The likes of Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial will all be hoping to play a part in this one and Manchester United have been very strong at home in the Cup competitions this season. I picked them to win with a clean sheet in the last Round which means Manchester United have won all 7 home Cup games played this season and 5 of those have come with a clean sheet.

I expect that to be the outcome of this match too as Wigan Athletic have failed to score at Aston Villa and Derby County in recent away games, teams who are expected to challenge for promotion from the Championship to the Premier League. Manchester United have won all 8 previous games at Old Trafford against Wigan Athletic and 7 of those have come with a clean sheet and that feels the most likely outcome from this Fourth Round tie.


Norwich City v Birmingham City PickBoth Norwich City and Birmingham City will look at this fixture as a chance to get a little closer to the Play Off positions in the Championship and perhaps give them some momentum to take into the remaining months of the season. Both came into the season with the belief that they could earn promotion to the Premier League, but both are falling short of their goals.

Birmingham City's owners will take their share of the blame for their current position having replaced a popular and successful manager in Gary Rowett with Gianfranco Zola. The fact they have not won a game since that decision has seen Birmingham City slip down the League table.

On the other hand some Norwich City fans might be hoping their club does decide to dispense of their own manager as Alex Neil has seen his side fall short of their lofty ambitions. However Norwich City have been just good enough at home to stay in touch with the top six places and that is keeping Neil in his current role.

I do think this game being played at Carrow Road gives Norwich City an edge and will see them have enough to win the game. They have been like Jekyll and Hyde depending on where they have been playing, but Norwich City have remained strong at home where they have won 4 of their last 5 League games.

It does have to be said that Birmingham City have earned positive results at Barnsley and Blackburn Rovers in recent away games, but they had to come from 2-0 down to do that at the former while the latter have been struggling at the wrong end of the table. I will look for Norwich City to have a little too much in the final third in this one and I expect them to win this game.


Preston North End v Ipswich Town Pick: These two clubs look to be trending in opposite directions through the next three months and I would be surprised if Mick McCarthy is able to turn things around at Ipswich Town with limited funds available. They have previously come close to earning a promotion to the Premier League, but Ipswich Town look as far away as ever this season with McCarthy feeling some of the pressure.

That isn't the case for Simon Grayson at Preston North End where it feels he is overachieving for a second season in a row since earning promotion from League One. They are not that far off the top six places in the League, but Preston North End don't look like a team that will have the consistency to stay with the teams above them over the coming months.

However I do think Preston North End can earn the win this weekend after impressive performances against Sheffield Wednesday, Arsenal and Brighton at Deepdale in recent weeks. All three of those clubs are above Preston North End in the League standings, but the home team could easily have won all three of those games.

Only a late Sheffield Wednesday equaliser saw The Owls come away with a point here while Brighton were seen off and that should mean Preston North End have the confidence levels to win this game. Preston North End came from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw at Aston Villa last weekend too and they look in a better place than Ipswich Town who have lost 5 of their last 6 away from home and failed to score in their last 2.

At just under odds against, I will back the home team to earn the three points.


Queens Park Rangers v Burton Albion Pick: This is an important game for both Queens Park Rangers and Burton Albion who will consider one another relegation rivals as they battle for a big three points on Saturday.

It is a big ask of Burton Albion to avoid finishing in the bottom three and while they have to be respected for the fight shown, it also should be noted they have lost 8 of 9 in all competitions. They have really begun to struggle away from home and now face a Queens Park Rangers team who have produced 10 points from a possible 12 in the League to move away from trouble.

Things aren't completely better for Queens Park Rangers, but it does look like Ian Holloway is getting the best out of a squad of players that have struggled following relegation from the Premier League a couple of seasons ago. You would say Queens Park Rangers are underachieving, but recent wins will have given them a boost in confidence to take into this fixture.

Burton Albion have just had a few more issues at both ends of the field in the last couple of months and I think it will be difficult for them to contain Queens Park Rangers. However this should be a close game because the home team are not exactly watertight at the back having not kept a clean sheet at Loftus Road in their last 7 League games.

That suggests this will be a tight match but I do think Queens Park Rangers are just playing a little better than Burton Albion at the moment and that can make a difference in the match. A tense atmosphere is likely to keep the players on their toes, but Queens Park Rangers can earn a narrow win at odds against.


Reading v Cardiff City Pick: This has all the makings of a tight game on Saturday with Cardiff City likely to come to Reading to make life as difficult for the home team as possible. They had some success doing that to frustrate Brighton on Tuesday, but it was poor finishing from the Championship leaders that prevented them running away with the win.

On the same evening Reading were beating Fulham 1-0 in a big game with Play Off implications and now The Royals are looking to close the gap on the two teams above them. Both Newcastle United and Brighton look very strong, but Reading will hope pressurising them by putting a run of wins together may seen one, or both, teams struggle down the stretch.

Jaap Stam will be focused on his own team which snapped a 3 game losing run in all competitions with the win over Fulham. They were fortunate as Fulham missed a penalty in that game in the 90th minute, but that also means Reading have won 6 of their last 7 at home.

That should give them an edge against a tough Cardiff City side, but one that does concede goals on their travels. As much as Neil Warnock will look to provide a defensive foundation to build upon, Cardiff City have not been at their best at the back and have been conceding too many goals, especially away from home.

Cardiff City do have a very positive record here in recent seasons, but Reading can snap that this weekend at odds against to win another home game.

MY PICKS: Derby County-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Wolves + 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Blackburn Rovers @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Lincoln City-Brighton Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Middlesbrough - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.98 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Oxford United-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Rochdale-Huddersfield Town Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Southampton-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Millwall-Watford Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Sutton United-Leeds United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester United Win to Nil @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Norwich City @ 1.73 Coral (2 Units)
Preston North End @ 1.95 William Hill (2 Units)
Queens Park Rangers @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Reading @ 2.20 Bet365 (2 Units)


January Update: 20-37-1, - 35.26 Units (118 Units Staked, - 29.88% 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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