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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Midweek Football Picks 2017 (April 18-20)

The final four teams in both the Champions League and Europa League competitions for the 2016/17 season will be decided by the end of this week and the draw for the Semi Finals of both will be made by Friday lunchtime.

Last weekend was a very good one for the Football Picks and I am looking to keep that run going with the eight games that are scheduled for the next three days. I will be adding the Champions League Picks first and then the Europa League Picks and hopefully it can be another positive set of results to take into the weekend fixtures.

Leicester City v Atletico Madrid Pick: You have to think both Leicester City and Atletico Madrid would have accepted a 1-0 win for Atletico Madrid at the end of the First Leg in the Spanish capital last week. For Leicester City it means returning home very much in the Quarter Final, while Atletico Madrid have a lead and a clean sheet and will believe they will see more space in the Second Leg with the onus on their hosts to attack.

That makes this Second Leg very interesting and both managers will believe their side is going to make it through to the Semi Final.

I do have to say I favour Atletico Madrid now they have a lead and with the experience they have gained in the Champions League over the last four years which has seen them reach two Champions League Finals. They know how to do enough to win these ties over two Legs and Atletico Madrid will truly believe they can score at least once at the King Power Stadium which will give them a huge edge in the tie.

Atletico Madrid are unbeaten in 13 away games in all competitions and they have scored in 7 straight games which includes stops at Barcelona and Real Madrid. They won't be intimidated by the atmosphere at Leicester City and I do think The Foxes have had to ride their luck to get through to the Quarter Final.

After last season it is difficult to oppose Leicester City securing a place in the Semi Final, but Sevilla missed two penalties against them in the last Round which suggests there is some fortune attached to this run to the Quarter Final. After defending in numbers and playing deep last week, Leicester City have to show more adventure in this Second Leg and that should be music to the ears of Atletico Madrid.

I can't back Atletico Madrid when you think of their poor away record in Knock Out ties in the Champions League, but they are a team who are capable of winning here. Their last 3 away Champions League Knock Out ties have featured at least three goals though and this could be a Second Leg that sees spaces open up considerably at some point in this one.

It won't surprise me if both teams score at least once in this one and I do think there will be chances at both ends. An Atletico Madrid goal should mean Leicester City have to take a few more risks and so I am anticipating an away win in the Second Leg, but I will take the odds against that there are at least three goals in this one.

Real Madrid v Bayern Munich Pick: The Arturo Vidal missed penalty at the end of the first half of the First Leg in Munich looks to be the key moment of a game that was eventually won 1-2 by Real Madrid. It has put Bayern Munich in an incredibly difficult position in this Quarter Final and I think it would be quite the upset if they are able to turn things around and move through to the Semi Final at the expense of the defending Champions League Winners.

Real Madrid have been very strong at home in the Champions League and put the wins together, while the defensive injuries Bayern Munich are dealing with are coming at the wrong time. Of course you can understand why Carlo Ancelotti is confident his team can score the two goals they need to at least push this to extra time, but defensively they have struggled and Real Madrid are more than capable of taking advantage.

It will be the kind of game that Real Madrid should enjoy with a chance to exploit spaces that Bayern Munich are likely to leave behind, while Bayern Munich's poor away run in the Champions League Knock Out ties can't be ignored.

They won at Arsenal in the last Round, but Bayern Munich had lost half of their previous 8 away Knock Out ties in the Champions League while they have a poor recent record at Real Madrid.

Bayern Munich have lost on their last couple of visits to Madrid at Atletico Madrid and I am anticipating another defeat for them in Real Madrid. Even though the home team have a chance to progress without winning the Second Leg, Real Madrid only play one way and that is to get forward and attack and score goals.

Their visitors have to try and do the same which suggests we will see another tie with at least three goals shared out by these teams and I will back Real Madrid to win such a Second Leg at a big price. I wouldn't be surprised if Real Madrid finish the tie with a counter attacking goal or two in the second half and I will look for the defending Champions to get to just three games from being the first team to defend the European Cup in almost thirty years.

Barcelona v Juventus Pick: The Champions League Second Round comeback made by Barcelona against Paris Saint-Germain has to be the only positive the home team can hold onto after another crushing loss away from home in the First Leg of a Knock Out tie. You can't ignore the part the referee had to play in Barcelona's comeback against Paris though and they will need some more dubious officiating to help them back into this one.

On the other hand, Barcelona were miles better in Turin than they were in Paris and only a stunning save from Gianluigi Buffon when the score was still only 1-0 to Juventus and some last ditch defending prevented Barcelona from scoring. The Catalan club created some really open opportunities in the First Leg which will encourage them to believe they can get back into the tie.

The defensive problems looks to be the bigger issue for Barcelona though and I am finding it hard to see how they will be able to prevent Juventus scoring. The return of Sergio Busquets does offer some protection, but other key defensive minded players like Javier Mascherano could be missing and Juventus will thrive on the counter attacking possibilities they should have.

In years gone by you may think the Italian club would be looking to sit on their 3-0 lead from the First Leg, but Juventus will know how important an away goal could be in this tie. I think that will outweigh their desire to defend deep in numbers especially as Barcelona have shown in the First Leg they can create clear openings against this strong defence.

Goals haven't been a problem for Barcelona who have scored at least four times in each of their home Champions League ties. However Juventus have won all 4 of their away Champions League games this season and will be confident they can score especially as they managed a 2-2 draw in Bayern Munich at this stage of the competition last season before falling down in extra time.

The Second Leg has the makings of a high-scoring game as I do think Juventus will be stronger on the counter attack than Paris Saint-Germain and will look to finish off the tie with away goals. However I do think Barcelona will be confident enough in the final third to create their own opportunities and I can see this Second Leg producing at least one more goal than the First Leg in Turin did last week.

3 of the last 5 Juventus away Champions League games have featured at least four goals shared out including in Bayern Munich and Sevilla, while 6 of the last 7 Barcelona home Champions League games have done the same. I will be looking for Barcelona to keep attacking until the final whistle which should mean chances at both ends and backing at least four goals to be shared out at odds against is the pick from the Second Leg.

Monaco v Borussia Dortmund Pick: UEFA have rightly faced some criticism for 'forcing' the First Leg to be played in Dortmund on Wednesday less than twenty-four hours after an explosion near the Borussia Dortmund team bus had postponed the game that was scheduled to be played on Tuesday.

Most of the criticism has come from the Borussia Dortmund side of things as they have denied being involved in the decision to reschedule the fixture for Wednesday as UEFA had claimed the club had been.

That looks like something that will run and run beyond the end of the conclusion of the season, but Borussia Dortmund have to focus on matters on the pitch as they have a big task in overturning a 2-3 defeat from the First Leg.

Heading to Monaco is going to be far from easy considering they have won 5 of their last 6 Champions League games here and that includes winning their last 3 in a row. To make matters more difficult, Borussia Dortmund have won 2 of their last 5 away European games and they have lost 4 of their last 7 on their travels overall while now trying to find the balance between attack and defence in the Second Leg of this Quarter Final.

The pace Monaco have will see them as a threat on the counter attack throughout this Second Leg but Borussia Dortmund have no option but to get forward. They either need to win this game with a 0-2 scoreline or Borussia Dortmund have to score at least three goals here if they do concede.

Monaco themselves will likely play a very similar brand of football as they have all season and that is to try and get on the front foot and put this tie out of reach of Borussia Dortmund. They won't want to offer their opponents too much encouragement and this looks like a Second Leg that could produce fireworks like we saw in the First Leg.

Backing this Second Leg to feature at least four goals looks to be the right way to go with chances likely to be produced right up until the 90th minute mark. Both teams are better going forward than defensively and I will back at least four goals to be shared out between Monaco and Borussia Dortmund.

I did consider backing Monaco as the home underdog, which seems a strange spot when you think of how Borussia Dortmund have played away from home in recent weeks. However the fact they don't need to win to move through to the Semi Final of the Champions League has just put me off and has me leaning towards backing at least four goals to be shared out.

Besiktas v Lyon PickAnyone who saw the First Leg between Lyon and Besiktas will have recognised that the Turkish Champions were more than a little unfortunate not to see out what would have been a huge win in this Quarter Final. They would have come into the Second Leg as a significant favourite to progress through to the Semi Final, but now the tie is finely balanced.

Whichever team makes the stronger start is going to be able to put themselves in a very good position in the Second Leg and both teams should feel they can earn the edge in the tie. Besiktas have been very good at home and have to feel good about being able to overturn this deficit, although the concern has to be the lack of clean sheets in home European ties.

Lyon have scored in their last 4 away European ties and they have won half of those games while they had been unbeaten in 3 away ties before the 2-1 loss at Roma in the Last 16. However their recent form has to be a concern and most of the players will likely understand the fortune they received in being able to head to Istanbul with a lead.

This really does feel like it is going to be a game decided by fine margins and I can see the fans of both teams really believing they can move through to the Semi Final and arguably become favourites to win the Europa League. Separating them is difficult but home advantage is likely to be the key for Besiktas who have played well here in European ties this season.

I can see the tie needing extra time, and possibly penalties, to decide the winner and that means I am leaning towards Besiktas here. However I am going to back them on the Asian Handicap with the draw returning our stakes as Lyon have to be respected with a team that offers plenty of attacking potential and who could counter Besiktas if the home team are chasing the game.

Backing Besiktas knowing the draw returns the stakes at the prices looks appealing enough though and I will look for the Turkish Champions to just edge out Lyon over 90 minutes.

Genk v Celta Vigo Pick: This Quarter Final is finely balanced after the First Leg and both Genk and Celta Vigo will feel they can do enough to force their way into the Semi Final of the Europa League.

Out of the two teams, Genk have overachieved by reaching the Quarter Final and they have benefited from a fortunate draw in the Knock Out Rounds. They still need to be respected by Celta Vigo though as Genk have beaten Athletic Bilbao here in the Group Stage and the Basque club have been much stronger than Celta Vigo in the Spanish top flight this season.

The onus is on Genk to get forward in this one, but I think they won't mind that while I also think it will suit Celta Vigo to be able to begin this Second Leg with counter attacking options.

Celta Vigo have had some positive away results in the Europa League with wins at PAOK, Shakhtar Donetsk and Krasnodar hard to ignore. Those results have been better than their home ones and Celta Vigo may feel the 3-2 home win in the First Leg has put them in a very strong position in the Quarter Final.

Goals will change the outlook of the Second Leg and each one that goes in will make the scenario feel much different. I do think Celta Vigo's recent away performances in the Europa League and overall have shown a team who have defended better than you may expect.

Celta Vigo have clean sheets in their last 3 away Europa League games and in 3 of their last 4 away games overall. All of those have been backed up by a win as Celta Vigo do offer a threat in the final third and I am going to back the Spanish side to move into the Semi Final with another win in this Second Leg.

As a Manchester United fan it would be nice to see Celta Vigo exit the competition, but I will back them to win in Belgium at a big looking price.

Manchester United v Anderlecht Pick: Jose Mourinho might not have been happy with the lack of clinical finishing in Brussels last week, but the cold light of day might have changed his tune as Manchester United are in a strong position to make it through to the Europa League Quarter Final. The 1-1 draw does give Anderlecht a chance, but Manchester United controlled the First Leg to such an extent that I can't see anything but a relatively comfortable win for the home team at Old Trafford.

The motivation for each team has to be considered with Manchester United sensing this is their best route back into the Champions League compared with Anderlecht who are prioritising winning the Belgian top flight. The home game with Club Brugge could be the focus for Anderlecht this week and I think they will recognise they have probably missed their best chance to progress to the Semi Final in the First Leg.

You have to respect the fact that this scoreline does give Anderlecht a chance though and playing at Old Trafford brings a motivation of its own. However Manchester United will be brimming with confidence having beaten Chelsea 2-0 here in the most convincing League performance of the season and they have been very strong in the Europa League with 5 wins from 5 at Old Trafford.

More than half of those wins have come by a wide margin and I can see the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic coming in to give Manchester United some fresh legs in the forward positions. Both have performed well in the Europa League and they should inspire Manchester United to another strong performance here.

I am looking for Manchester United to make this an easier and less tense night at Old Trafford than when they played Rostov in the Last 16 and I will be looking for them to come through with a comfortable win on the evening. Manchester United have won by at least two goals in 3 of their 5 home Europa League games and Anderlecht's sole away loss in European Football came by a two goal margin at Zenit St Petersburg.

At some point Anderlecht will have to commit men forward and I will look for Manchester United to cover the Asian Handicap as they pick off their visitors in the second half. I am expecting better finishing when the chances are presented this week from Manchester United who could have won by a wide margin in Anderlecht last week.

Schalke v Ajax Pick: 2-0 has to be one of the toughest First Leg deficits to overcome for most teams in these Knock Out ties with the away team in the Second Leg knowing one goal will force their opponents to score at least four to go through. That is what Ajax must be thinking after their strong First Leg win over Schalke and they will be looking for the haymaker away goal that will almost certainly secure their place in the Semi Final.

The Dutch side have not been at their best away from home in recent weeks, but they are very tough to beat and Ajax will believe they can earn an away goal that will put them into a strong position. Schalke have conceded in both Knock Out ties played at home over the last two months and the pressure is on them to find the right balance between attack and defence in this one.

Failing to achieve the right balance will make it almost impossible for Schalke to turn around the loss in Amsterdam, but being at home will give them confidence. When they win here, Schalke tend to score a few goals and they will be holding onto that, although I can't escape the feeling that Ajax will score here.

That will open up the tie as Schalke commit men forward to get back into the Quarter Final and it does have the making of an exciting Second Leg. The oddsmakers have the same feeling as they aren't giving anything away with the over 2.5 goal prices, but I think that is the most likely outcome of the Second Leg and I will look for goals.

MY PICKS: Leicester City-Atletico Madrid Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Real Madrid to Win & Over 2.5 Goals @ 3.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Barcelona-Juventus Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.15 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Monaco-Borussia Dortmund Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Besiktas 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Celta Vigo @ 2.75 (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.75 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Schalke-Ajax Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)

April Update26-18-1, + 15.68 Units (89 Units Staked, + 17.62% Yield)

March Final39-40-3, + 6.64 Units (157 Units Staked, + 4.23% Yield)
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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