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Friday, 3 March 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (March 4-6)

The last two months of the football picks has been two of the most brutal months I have had in the last five seasons.

Simple as that.

Missed penalties, late goals and poor decisions from the officials have conspired to go against me so many times in those two months that it really has felt incredible.

The missed penalties have been stunning to be honest- I didn't realise that so many are missed so often, but invariably it would be in games where I had picked goals or backed a team to win by a couple of goals.

Sevilla were at it last week against Leicester City in a game they could have won by five or six, but ultimately produced a unit loss because they 'only' won by one goal. That was added to by a Sheffield Wednesday missed penalty in the 52nd minute of their game at Leeds United which would have made it 1-1 as I looked for three goals, and can be added to a number of teams who have done the same.

Huddersfield Town also missed an early penalty in their win over Reading in another game where I was expecting goals and those three games are just from the last week!

It has actually got me in the mindset that I am expecting players to miss their penalties more than I am expecting them to score and that can't be a common occurrence going forward.

I also have had Fiorentina become the latest team to NOT win a game they were leading 2-0 to join the likes of Derby County and others over the last month.

It's been frustrating to say the least and I am striving to make sure the next three months are much better than the last three have been. The luck has to change, but I won't be changing my plan and just hope it is producing the results that are expected going forward.

It hasn't all been bad though- Manchester United did win the Cup last week.

Manchester United v Bournemouth Pick: The week off since winning the English Football League Cup has to have been music to the Manchester United players' ears as they have had a really busy February behind them. Successes in the Cup competitions has meant Manchester United are basically playing twice a week and the coming three months are going to be very busy if Manchester United keep winning their games.

Jose Mourinho won't want the momentum to end as Manchester United chase top four spots in the Premier League as well as more silverware and Bournemouth are the next challenge in front of them. Manchester United might not have been scoring lots of goals in the Premier League, but they might be facing the right opponent this weekend to create chances and score goals.

Bournemouth have been really struggling defensively and they continue to concede goals at an alarming rate which has left them dropping towards the bottom three. Eddie Howe won't sacrifice his principles, but that means Bournemouth continue to allow opponents to play their football and someone has been due a heavy defeat at Old Trafford in the Premier League.

Manchester United have scored three times in their last couple of matches against Bournemouth and I think they match that number here. With the team defending fairly well and a returning Phil Jones to give Mourinho more options in the back, I think Manchester United will have too much for their visitors.

I will back the home team to win this game by a couple of goals and set them up for a big March as Manchester United then set the Premier League aside for two weeks while they concentrate on FA Cup and Europa League commitments.

Leicester City v Hull City PickThere are going to be plenty of fans upset at the desire the Leicester City players showed in their 3-1 win over Liverpool with reports that the players effectively stabbed Claudio Ranieri in the back. That issue is not going to go away quietly, but Leicester City were well backed by the home support on Monday night and have to feel they will be backed again in this big 'relegation six pointer'.

No one should doubt that this is a huge game when it comes to determining the teams that will be relegated to the Championship. Both Leicester City and Hull City are firmly in a relegation battle, but the winner can take a huge confidence boost this weekend.

Being at home should give Leicester City the edge, especially in light of the win over Liverpool, but they are facing a Hull City team who have shown improved performances. You can't read too much into the defeats on their travels under Marco Silva as those have come against the best teams in the Premier League, but the lack of goals has to be a concern.

They have found a way around that at home, but it has been much more difficult on their travels and it is hard to ignore the single goal in 5 away games under Silva. Again that has to be set along with the fact they have played some top teams in that time and I do think Hull City can play a part against a Leicester City defence that has struggled.

The home team have had 1 clean sheet in their last 9 home games in the Premier League and that includes facing struggling teams like Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough in that time. However I do think Leicester City might have turned a corner now they have gone back to basics and they might just have enough to sneak the three points.

I can't really back Leicester City at odds on to win this match after one good performance, but I can see both teams having their chances in this one. Backing at least three goals to be shared out at odds against could pay out in this one as both teams look for a morale boosting win.

Stoke City v Middlesbrough Pick: A 1-0 defeat at Selhurst Park was a huge blow for Middlesbrough last weekend and being back out on their travels is going to be difficult for a team that has struggled for goals all season. Recent weeks have seen them suffer more losses than they were earlier in the campaign and it is going to be a big ask for Middlesbrough to perform against a Stoke City team who are looking to bounce back from a poor result of their own.

Last weekend a well rested Stoke City team were blitzed by Tottenham Hotspur in the first half and you have to think Mark Hughes has been punishing his players in training all week. The side have only lost back to back League games once since September and Stoke City will feel they can bounce back in this one.

There is some quality in the Stoke City team that can create chances in the final third and they will feel they can break down a Middlesbrough team who have kept 1 clean sheet in their last 8 away Premier League games.

Stoke City have had 4 clean sheets in their last 7 home games in the Premier League and another one here should be enough to secure the three points. I think the home team will definitely have a better reaction than Middlesbrough because Stoke City have had more positive results of late which they can fall back upon.

On the other hand, Middlesbrough have slipped down the Premier League table as they have struggled to find results and backing The Potters at odds against looks a decent enough price this weekend.

Swansea City v Burnley Pick: This certainly feels like a more important game for Swansea City than it does for Burnley when you think of their positions in the Premier League table, but Sean Dyche won't be letting anyone in the Burnley squad begin to coast.

Burnley have to be feeling confident after earning an important point at Hull City last weekend and another here will keep them ticking along nicely. A win is obviously going to send Burnley very close to the 40 point mark with 11 games left to play and they will almost certainly be safe from the drop, but this Swansea City team are much improved under Paul Clement.

The Swans have begun to score goals regularly and they have won their last 2 games at The Liberty Stadium while scoring twice against both Southampton and Leicester City. That is why they have been set as the favourite, but Burnley have also begun to find goals away from home without being able to do enough to earn their first win on their travels in the Premier League this season.

It does feel like both teams will score in this one with the way they have been attacking and defending respectively and I don't think Swansea City are going to be settling for a point.

That should keep a few chances coming and I think they can go a goal further than the Hull City versus Burnley game produced last week. Unlike Hull City, Swansea City have been winning plenty of games to feel they can push forward and win the three points on offer and that should produce a more open game than last weekend.

At odds against I will look for this game to produce at least three goals.

Watford v Southampton Pick: Both Watford and Southampton are in mid-table coming into this round of Premier League fixtures and neither looks in danger of being dragged into a relegation scrap which is developing behind them. However the winner may feel they have the momentum to end the season with a high and finish in the top half of the table which has to be the goal for both clubs.

Watford have been in decent form of late, but they were very fortunate to come away with a draw when hosting West Ham United last weekend. In the second half they were under the cosh for long periods and only some fortune enabled them to leave with another point.

They are facing a Southampton team who showed some real impressive character and quality in their 3-2 loss to Manchester United in the English Football League Cup Final. Coming back from 2-0 down showed the character and plenty would have seen The Saints as the better team on the day even if they were undone late on by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Recovering mentally from losing the Cup Final won't be easy, but Southampton looked to have found a striker in Manolo Gabbiadini who can help them overcome some of their problems in front of goal. Gabbiadini has already scored 5 goals for Southampton since arriving in the January transfer window, and he can put an end product to the good football they have been playing.

The mental aspect is what is going to be key and prevents me getting that excited about The Saints as a pretty short favourite considering their overall form this season. A team that has won just 3 of 13 away Premier League games at just over odds against is not the most appealing, although Southampton look like they have the attacking threat to score here.

However Watford have only failed to score in 2 of their last 17 home Premier League games going back to last season and should pose a threat of their own. The 1-1 scoreline is a real player in this one, but the layers might be surprised by at least three goals being shared out by two teams who have nothing to lose.

3 of the last 6 Watford home games and 6 of the last 9 Southampton away games in the Premier League have produced at least three goals shared out. If both can play to a similar level as last weekend, they can contribute to a surprisingly high-scoring game this weekend too.

West Brom v Crystal Palace Pick: The win over Middlesbrough last week will have given Crystal Palace a huge boost in confidence, but they are going to have a tough time backing that up at The Hawthorns.

This is a ground where West Brom have played really well all season and they have been scoring goals and feeling the confidence that they can turn around any setback as they did against Bournemouth last week. The potential return of Matt Phillips will give West Brom another boost in the final third and this is a team who are rightly favoured to win this match.

The Baggies still look a big price when you think they have won their last 4 at home in the Premier League and Crystal Palace have not been at their best on their travels in recent weeks. There is still enough quality in the Crystal Palace team to make them a dangerous opponent, but the fallout between Andros Townsend and Christian Benteke means the players might not all be on the same page.

There is another factor that makes me believe West Brom can win this game.

Tony Pulis.

Pulis has a really strong record against his two former clubs in the Premier League with 8 wins from 10 games against them. That includes winning 3 of 4 games against Crystal Palace since taking over at West Brom and I will back the home team to earn another three points this weekend.

Liverpool v Arsenal Pick: If Manchester United beat Bournemouth earlier in the day, Liverpool and Arsenal will be kicking off this tea time live television encounter outside of the top four of the Premier League. However the winner will be able to move back above Manchester United into the Champions League positions and there is no doubting the importance of the game.

Both teams have a lot to prove as Liverpool are heading into this weekend off a really disappointing 3-1 loss at Leicester City, while the Arsenal win at Sutton United won't have erased the painful memories of the defeat at Bayern Munich. There has been two weeks since Arsenal last played which could play a part, but suffice to say both squads have something to prove.

The absence of Jordan Henderson is a big blow for the home team as the underrated central midfielder is very difficult to replace. Liverpool have a tremendously poor record without Henderson starting too which was added to in the defeat at The King Power Stadium last time out, but I do expect a reaction at Anfield.

There were similar questions being asked of Liverpool prior to the 2-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur in their last game at Anfield and it also should be noted that they have tended to play well against the top six teams. In those games Liverpool have won 4 and drawn 4 so far this season and they have beaten Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City here while drawing with Chelsea and Manchester United.

Big games have tended to be big disappointments for Arsenal in recent seasons as they have underperformed in these games with some of their top players being accused of going missing. The Gunners have lost at Manchester City, Chelsea and Bayern Munich away from home while conceding at least twice in each of those games and Arsenal were more than a little fortunate to earn a 1-1 draw at Manchester United earlier in the season.

Arsenal do have a surprisingly good record at Anfield with a single defeat in their last 8 visits to this famous old Stadium, but the performances have not always matched the results. It is hard to know how the rest has affected the Arsenal players as we have seen teams come out cold in some cases, and really hot in others which makes that tough to read.

You know Jurgen Klopp is going to look for the high press and hope his front three players are better than they were at Leicester City. On the other hand Liverpool remain vulnerable defensively and goals have definitely followed these games whether they are played at Anfield or The Emirates Stadium.

6 of the last 7 overall have ended with three goals shared out, while 7 of the last 9 at Anfield have ended the same way. I can't see anything other than goals this weekend too and I will back at least three to be shared out by these teams chasing the Champions League spots.

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton Pick: After the performance from Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, I can't say I am surprised that they are short odds to win this home game against Everton. That feels a little disrespectful when you think Everton are unbeaten in 10 Premier League games in a row, including their last 5 away from home, even if only one of those games has come against a team from the top half.

Everton have also drawn at Manchester City in the Premier League, but the only other game against a team from the top six ended up in a 5-0 embarrassment at the hands of Chelsea. They have been improving over the course of the season under Ronald Koeman, but Everton are still short of the quality that the top six teams can send out onto the field.

However they do have a goalscorer in Romelu Lukaku and the injuries to Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld has to be music to his ears. Stoke City didn't create a lot last weekend, but they did have one or two big moments and Everton look like a side that can take those.

The more likely scenario is that Tottenham Hotspur are too strong for their visitors but backing them at the prices are not that appealing. However you can't easily ignore the fact that Tottenham Hotspur have conceded just a single goal in their last 7 at home in the Premier League and they have scored at least two goals in all but one of their last 8 games here in the League.

I do think Everton are playing with some confidence of late which should make them dangerous. However Tottenham Hotspur can match their hot striker by pointing to Harry Kane's form and I think the home team may end up having a little too much for Everton at White Hart Lane where they have been flying.

It does feel if Tottenham Hotspur are going to win this game, they will do it by a couple of goals and I will back the home team to cover the Asian Handicap.

Sunderland v Manchester City Pick: At the end of the 2013/14 season, Manchester City must have wondered what they had to do to earn a break at The Stadium of Light having lost for the fourth time in a row at this ground by the same 1-0 scoreline. So many of those games had seen Sunderland hit Manchester City for a sucker punch, but the players have figured it out more recently with 3 straight wins here.

There has been a similarity to a couple of those wins which have come for Manchester City by a 1-4 scoreline, and this current group of players are certainly in the kind of form to match those results. Manchester City have scored five times in wins over Monaco and Huddersfield Town in their last couple of games, while they have found something of a groove away from home too.

Manchester City have won 5 of their last 8 away games in all competitions and all of those wins have come by at least two goals each time. They have also kept 4 clean sheets away from home since the 4-0 loss at Everton and there is a freedom to their play of late which makes Manchester City look very dangerous.

That won't really improve the mood of the Sunderland fans heading to The Stadium of Light on Sunday as their team remains rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table. They might also find themselves more than a win away from the safety positions by the time this game kicks off, while the fans have also experienced a 1-3 loss to Stoke City and a 0-4 defeat to Southampton in 2 of Sunderland's last 3 games here.

David Moyes has some defensive reinforcements back for this game, but Sunderland have simply not looked like a team that will be able to prevent Manchester City creating chances and scoring goals here. No one can deny Manchester City are not as stellar defensively as they are in attack, but they have kept 4 clean sheets on their travels and Sunderland have failed to score in their last 2 here.

Manchester City have won 2 of their last 3 games here by at least two goals each time and I am going to back them to cover the Asian Handicap here behind another strong attacking display.

West Ham United v Chelsea Pick: This is a big London derby which could potentially reignite the Premier League title race if Chelsea are unable to earn the full points at The London Stadium. West Ham United would like nothing more than to put a dent in the Chelsea title push and there is a fierce rivalry off the field which the players will be well aware of.

Recent weeks have seen the Chelsea strong defensive shape just take a knock or two and they are not keeping the clean sheets at the rate they were during the middle portion of the season. With West Ham United showing improvement in their own performances, The Hammers will feel they can test the Chelsea backline here especially if the pressure has been put on by Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City both winning their League games on Sunday.

The one concern for West Ham United has to be the poor form they have shown when hosting the top teams in the Premier League. Arsenal and Manchester City (twice) have hit at least four goals in their three wins in this Stadium this season while Manchester United also won 0-2 here.

However Chelsea have not been as free-scoring as both Arsenal and Manchester City have shown and so I can't really back Chelsea to win by more than a single goal margin here. Even them winning this game looks a short price considering how well West Ham United did against them in the English Football League Cup and they have shown some solid attacking potential in the final third.

Losing Michail Antonio to suspension is a blow to West Ham United, but I do think Slaven Bilic will send out an attacking team to challenge Chelsea. I do think they can play their part in what could be an entertaining live game on Monday night and I can see both teams scoring in this one.

The home fans will make sure West Ham United keep pushing for a win, while Chelsea will look for the counter attack which exploited the home team in their losses to Arsenal and Manchester City. I will look for this game to produce at least three goals on Monday in what looks like a 2-1 kind of game, even if picking the winner is more difficult

Bristol City v Burton Albion Pick: This is such a big game for both Bristol City and Burton Albion that there is a chance that the tension is going to make both sets of players just freeze a little thanks to the pressures of the game. Those tensions can lead to tight games, but both Bristol City and Burton Albion have been scoring goals of late, while not exactly producing top defensive efforts, which suggests this might surprise the layers.

The oddsmakers have set the line of at least three goals being scored at odds against, but I really do think both Bristol City and Burton Albion can score in this one. Lee Johnson has to send his Bristol City team out to attack and win the game, but they have been left exposed defensively which is where Burton Albion can make hay.

Burton Albion have scored in 6 of their last 8 away games in the Championship so will feel confident they can do the same here as Bristol City have had 1 clean sheet in their last 7 League games at Ashton Gate. On the other hand, Burton Albion's clean sheet at Derby County was the first they have achieved in 11 away games in the League and Bristol City have found their way to goals of late.

It just feels like the oddsmakers are hoping for the teams to cancel each other out with nerves, but I think the style of play could produce a game that does create chances and backing at least three goals to be shared out looks a big, and appealing, price.

Derby County v Barnsley Pick: These two clubs might only be separated by one place in the Championship standings, but Barnsley have to be feeling a lot more positive about their season than Derby County. The winner of this game may also feel they still have a chance of making the Play Offs at the end of the season, while the losing team is likely going to be consigned to another season at this level.

For Derby County that would be a huge disappointment, but for Barnsley this has been a season of overachievement. Recent form makes it hard to see how Derby County are pretty short odds on to win this fixture, especially when you consider Barnsley's recent away games on their own.

Barnsley do score goals and Derby County had been conceding them at an alarming rate at The iPro Stadium in recent games and it makes the away side appealing with the start.

They have lost their last 2 visits to Derby County, but the last of those was three seasons ago and The Rams can not be playing with a lot of confidence. I will take Barnsley with the start on the Asian Handicap and look for them to keep up a strong away record in recent League outings.

Ipswich Town v Brentford Pick: This is a really simple pick for me- both Ipswich Town and Brentford have been scoring and conceding goals for fun in recent weeks and I would be surprised if they can't get together to produce a decent game of football on Saturday.

Neither team has much to lose from the fixture so can play with some freedom and that has resulted in both Ipswich Town and Brentford producing decent stuff of late.

It is Brentford who have been involved in some really high-scoring games of late and I expect they can make the running here. With Ipswich Town being at home, Mick McCarthy will be expected to send out a team with attacking intent too and they should combine to produce some fireworks.

There were four goals here when they met in the League last season, but I will hope for at least three to be shared out at odds against.

Nottingham Forest v Brighton Pick: There is every chance both Nottingham Forest and Brighton could score in this game, but I like the chances of the away side bouncing back and earning a victory at The City Ground.

Both teams are desperate for the three points for differing reasons, but I have more confidence in Brighton who are much higher in the League table for a reason. I don't want to underestimate a Nottingham Forest team who have a strong home record, but Brighton have found ways to win games on their travels at this level and I think they can do that again.

Brighton have a decent recent record at Nottingham Forest with 2 wins from 3 visits to The City Ground and they have scored 5 goals in their last 2 away games in the League. Add in the fact that Sheffield Wednesday managed to come away with a 1-2 win from this ground in the last couple of weeks and I think Brighton can be backed at odds against to secure the three points to take them back to the top of the Championship for a couple of hours.

It will be tight and tense for both teams, but Brighton's goal scoring threat looks a bit more consistent than Nottingham Forest's and I will back the away side here.

Huddersfield Town v Newcastle United Pick: This could have been an absolutely mammoth fixture for the television cameras if Newcastle United had lost at Brighton when trailing going into the last ten minutes a few days ago. Instead it is a very important fixture and one that Huddersfield Town will be desperate to win if they have realistic ambitions of closing down the top two teams in the Championship.

There will be plenty of confidence that Huddersfield Town can win the game having beaten the likes of Brighton, Reading and Leeds United here in recent weeks. Those three teams are all in the top five of the Championship and Huddersfield Town have certainly enjoyed playing at home.

Of course the quality that Newcastle United have in their own squad can turn around any game in the Division as they showed in the win at Brighton. The Magpies have a really strong away record, the best in the Championship, and they too should be flying around the pitch after beating Brighton during the week.

Both teams have shown they are very confident going forward, and I think the attacking options will get the better of their defensive counterparts on the day. Huddersfield Town create plenty of chances at home and the starters are well rested with David Wagner shuffling his pack for the FA Cup Replay at Manchester City on Wednesday.

With Newcastle United having to put in a lot emotionally and physically, Wagner will hope fresh legs gives his team the edge in this game. However you have to think Newcastle United will score here as both Leeds United and Brighton have done in their defeats and I can see both teams trying to win the game rather than settling for a point if it is 1-1 during the course of ninety minutes.

Either way the oddsmakers are taking a real chance with the big quotes for at least three goals to be shared out and I am backing goals in this one. 5 of the last 8 Huddersfield Town home League games have ended with at least three goals shared out and 3 of the last 4 Newcastle United away League games have done the same.

The price just doesn't look correct to me and I will back at least three goals to be shared out in this huge game in the Championship on Saturday afternoon.

MY PICKS: Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.77 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City-Hull City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Swansea City-Burnley Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Watford-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Brom @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Liverpool-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.12 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Bristol City-Burton Albion Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Coral (2 Units)
Barnsley + 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Ipswich Town-Brentford Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Brighton @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Huddersfield Town-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.38 William Hill (2 Units)

February Final31-50, - 29.34 Units (157 Units Staked, - 18.69% Yield)
January Final32-47-1, - 30.88 Units (164 Units Staked, - 18.83% 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 2016/17243-272-9, - 57.45 Units (1029 Units Staked, - 5.58% 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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