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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Midweek Football Picks 2017 (April 25-27)

This midweek is reserved for a number of 'make up' fixtures from the Premier League and the television companies haven't missed a beat by arranging five League games over three days to ensure they have a live game every day this week from either the Premier League or Championship in England.

The top four race was reignited by Liverpool's loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday and that means it is a big week for Arsenal to close the gap as well as for the two Manchester clubs who play in the third Manchester derby of the season on Thursday.

That and the title race provide the main storylines from the midweek Premier League games and the three games picked for television have huge implications for both of those situations.

Chelsea v Southampton Pick: The FA Cup Semi Final win over Tottenham Hotspur should give Antonio Conte and Chelsea the momentum to go on and win the Premier League title despite some recent wobbles which have allowed Tottenham Hotspur back into the title race.

The 4 point lead over Spurs still looks too big considering who Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have left on the fixture list, but points are only earned on the pitch. Chelsea have to show they are ready to kick on in the Premier League after the setback at Old Trafford ten days ago, but returning to Stamford Bridge where they have won 14 of 15 games in all competitions should aid them very well.

They are facing a Southampton team who can produce some big performances as they have shown when beating Liverpool 1-0 in both Legs of their English Football League Cup Semi Final. However they have struggled when facing the top seven teams in the Premier League who have shown they are ahead of the rest of the Premier League with a 13 point gap between 7th and 8th.

Southampton have lost 4 and drawn 1 in the Premier League when visiting teams in the top seven and they have yet to play at Stamford Bridge and Anfield. The Saints have also hosted 5 of the top 7 and won just a single game against them while losing 3 of those games and it is hard to see that change here.

They are well rested which may give Southampton a chance against a Chelsea team who had that emotional and physical win at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. I can see them causing some problems with the pace Southampton do have in the final third, but Chelsea have been able to give Eden Hazard and Diego Costa a little more rest and both should be raring at the bit to go from kick off in this one.

Ultimately I do think Chelsea will reverse the trend of a recent poor record against Southampton at Stamford Bridge and I think the Blues win this one by a couple of goals on the day.

Arsenal v Leicester City Pick: The FA Cup Semi Final win over Manchester City in a new system being employed by Arsene Wenger has to have given Arsenal a boost in their challenge for a top four finish in the Premier League. Later on Sunday Liverpool were beaten by Crystal Palace which means Arsenal can finish above them by winning all of their remaining games and improve their goal difference.

The next two weeks are huge for Arsenal in the race for a Champions League place with little room left for error. They face Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United in that time, but those matches won't have the same importance attached if Arsenal fail to beat Leicester City on Wednesday at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal have remained solid enough at home during a really poor patch of the season for them and they have won 7 of their last 10 at home in all competitions. There are still some vulnerabilities in the side and the tension from the stands is not helping, but Arsenal should be able to create enough chances to beat this Leicester City team.

As well as Craig Shakespeare has Leicester City playing, The Foxes have remained a work in progress away from home where they are conceding too many goals. Leicester City have played 3 away Premier League games under Shakespeare and while they are 1-1-1 in those games, they have conceded at least twice in each at West Ham United, Everton and Crystal Palace.

Arsenal have been strong at home and I think those goals being conceded by Leicester City are going to be tough to protect. While I do think Leicester City could score here, I do think Arsenal will prove too strong and another 2-1 home win could be on the cards with that being the result the last 3 times these teams have met at Arsenal.

I will back Arsenal to win a game where there are at least three goals shared out and that looks a decent price at odds against with the goals both teams are capable of scoring and conceding.

Middlesbrough v Sunderland Pick: Usually the term 'relegation six pointer' would be reserved for fixtures like this one, but it actually feels like both Middlesbrough and Sunderland have already got more than one foot in the Championship. Pride will still be important between these North East rivals who both would have watched on enviously as Newcastle United earned promotion back to the Premier League on Monday evening at Middlesbrough and Sunderland's expense.

Both teams need to win their remaining games to have any chance to survive, but both Middlesbrough and Sunderland have been in a long poor run of form which has seen them effectively relegated with a whimper.

Goals have been a big problem for both Middlesbrough and Sunderland and that looks to be an issue that won't be resolved until next season at the earliest. Neither defence has been in great form, but Middlesbrough might have the slight edge in that department and you can understand their position as the favourite.

I can't pick a winner myself, and the better angle is picking one, or both, of these teams to fail to score. Sunderland have failed to score in 9 of their 15 away games in the Premier League this season, while Middlesbrough have had 3 goalless draws in their last 7 home Premier League games.

I have a feeling Middlesbrough might earn a narrow win because Sunderland have only had a single clean sheet away from home this season, but confidence is low with both clubs which makes them hard to trust. The goalless draw is a real possibility and so backing one or both teams not to score at odds against looks a big price.

Maybe the inevitable relegation for Sunderland and Middlesbrough will allow both teams to play with a freedom they have struggled to find all season. That could see them produce more fireworks in front of goal than these teams have for much of the 2016/17 campaign, but statistically the price on one or both teams failing to score is too big and one I will take.

Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Regardless of what Chelsea do in their fixture against Southampton on Tuesday night, this is going to be a big test for Tottenham Hotspur to prove the FA Cup Semi Final loss is not going to break their season.

It was a disappointing afternoon for Tottenham Hotspur who may feel they were the better team on the day, but it was Chelsea who showed more clinical finishing in front of goal. Seeing their 8 game winning run come to an end will dent some confidence, but Tottenham Hotspur can't allow that to spiral with home games against Arsenal and Manchester United to come in the next three weeks and still some work to do to confirm a top four spot.

Tottenham Hotspur did end the season poorly twelve months ago and they need to show they have learned from that experience as they get set to take on a tough Crystal Palace team. It does have to be said that Tottenham Hotspur have not been as strong away from home as they have been at White Hart Lane, but they have won back to back games on their travels in the Premier League.

On the other hand Crystal Palace have been in fine form of late with just 1 loss from their last 8 games, but that did come when they had to play a midweek game days after winning at Stamford Bridge. This time Sam Allardyce has to prepare a team who had to play a day later than Tottenham Hotspur this weekend and are off another strong effort when winning at Anfield.

I think that is where Tottenham Hotspur may just have the edge in this important Premier League game and I think they can rely on having a little more in the tank in the second half. In the loss at Southampton a few days after beating Chelsea, Crystal Palace became a little tired in the second half and I imagine something similar happens here.

However I do believe Tottenham Hotspur might have a few mental scars to overcome after losing the FA Cup Semi Final and I anticipate Crystal Palace will cause problems too. They are strong at set pieces and have looked defensively strong at Selhurst Park, but I think Tottenham Hotspur possibly wear them down and I will look for this game to feature at least three goals as both teams have their chances.

Manchester City v Manchester United Pick: The two Manchester derbies were expected to be a couple of huge Premier League games prior to the start of the season, but perhaps not for the reason it is come April. These two teams were the favourites to win the Premier League title with Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho coming in to take over as manager of Manchester City and Manchester United, but instead they are fighting for the Champions League places in the League table.

Both have been short of the Premier League leaders, but none of that matters on Thursday as Manchester City get ready to host the third Manchester derby of the season. Instead the focus is on earning what could be a vital three points for one of these teams as both try to find the right blend in the starting line ups and overcome injury issues.

David Silva and Sergio Aguero could both be missing for Manchester City, while Jose Mourinho's injury problems at Old Trafford are well documented.That does make it harder to get a really good read on this fixture, but I am anticipating a good one.

Manchester City might be odds on favourites, but Manchester United have a little more momentum behind them. Being at home does give Manchester City an edge in the fixture, but these are the kind of situations in which Jose Mourinho teams have thrived in the past especially with the pace Manchester United will likely employ in forward areas to attack what is a vulnerable defence.

Marcus Rashford scored the winner here last season and I do think he has the speed and movement to make Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany really worry about how much space they are leaving behind them. However Manchester City are going to play one way and they should create chances, even if both Silva and Aguero are missing, against a Manchester United team who will have some fatigue in the muscles.

With the pace Manchester City have, Manchester United will have to stay focused and teams have had to ride their luck to earn results here. The likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have scored and conceded here and I think the same will happen in this fixture, but it will be important for Manchester United to not allow Manchester City to push forward without the threat of the counter like they employed so effectively at Burnley.

I am anticipating goals on the day in a fixture that has traditionally not produced as many as when these two meet at Old Trafford. However there is enough to like about the attacks both possess to think there will be at least three goals shared out here and I do think Manchester United have a chance of earning the 'upset' if they get their counter attacks right.

It will be entertaining for the neutrals and very nervous for the fans of both supporters in a fixture that could go a long way to deciding which Manchester club finishes in the top four.

MY PICKS: Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal to Win & Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Middlesbrough-Sunderland Both Teams to Score- NO @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.67 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

April Update: 34-26-1, + 14.96 Units (121 Units Staked, + 12.36% 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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