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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Midweek Football Picks 2017 (April 4-5)

The 2016/17 season is running down, but there are plenty of fixtures that need to be completed over the next two months and that means an additional round of domestic games this Tuesday and Wednesday.

Last weekend has just made the top and bottom of the Premier League feel a little more exciting and a similar set of results could potentially see the title race opened up as well as the battle to avoid relegation.

I wrote a small piece about Manchester United prior to the West Brom game which can be read here.

And then onto the picks from the latest round of fixtures.

Burnley v Stoke City Pick: It is unlikely that Stoke City will be dragged back into a relegation scrap, but Mark Hughes will still want his team to show more heart and desire than they did when wilting at Leicester City on Saturday. A top half finish has become something The Potters have been accustomed to doing in recent seasons, but they are in a battle to finish 9th for a fourth consecutive season.

While Hughes will be looking for a reaction from his players, Sean Dyche will be looking to reignite his Burnley team who have lost 5 of their last 7 Premier League games. They have also been beaten in back to back games at Turf Moor by Lincoln City and Tottenham Hotspur and all of a sudden the 32 points earned by Burnley need to be added to.

They have seen teams below them improve their own form and that has dropped Burnley to 15th in the Premier League table and just 5 points clear of Hull City in the bottom three. This is almost a must win game for them as Burnley's away form has been so poor that they could be under immense pressure next weekend when they head to Middlesbrough if losing a second League game in a row at Turf Moor.

Burnley do look like they are fortunate in facing an opponent who have not been at their best in recent weeks and who have failed to score in their last 4 away games in the Premier League. However the home team have not hit the net in their last 2 overall and Burnley have not scored in their last 2 games here.

There will be tension in the ground as Burnley's home fans understand the importance of the game and recent meetings between these sides at Turf Moor have been very close and competitive affairs. I am expecting the same on Tuesday night, and I will be looking for issues in the final third to be prevalent for another game.

Recent games have shown enough reason to think one, or both, of these teams will fail to score here and I will back that at a little under odds against.

Leicester City v Sunderland Pick: The last thing Sunderland needed in their precarious position in the Premier League is a distraction like the one David Moyes is currently providing. The manager has apologised for suggesting he would 'slap' a female journalist, but the FA have called him in for a meeting and I am not sure how preparation can be ideal for this trip to The King Power Stadium on Tuesday.

They are also running into a Leicester City side who have markedly improved since their decision to sack Claudio Ranieri and replace him with Craig Shakespeare for the rest of the season. The Foxes have won 5 in a row since that decision and they have scored at least twice in all of those games and won each game by at least a two goal margin.

Scoring goals has been a huge problem for Sunderland and there is a chance that Jermain Defoe will miss this game which will only add to the problems. Since the 0-4 win at Crystal Palace, Sunderland have not scored in their last 5 games in the Premier League and this is a team that doesn't keep too many clean sheets.

Those two factors combined suggests Sunderland are on their way down to the Championship and I can't see anything but a Leicester City win on Tuesday. The home team are in form and trying to put some distance between themselves and the bottom three before the Champions League Quarter Final against Atletico Madrid is played next week.

The motivation is high and Leicester City have won 4 in row at home while scoring at least twice in each game. Sunderland have been beaten by at least two goals in 7 of their last 9 away games in all competitions and I am going to back Leicester City to win this one while covering the Asian Handicap.

Manchester United v Everton Pick: Jose Mourinho was not very happy after another draw at Old Trafford in the Premier League against a team Manchester United were heavily favoured to beat. That has really damaged the chances of Manchester United to finish in the top four of the Premier League, although Mourinho hasn't quite put all of his eggs into the Europa League basket when it comes to Champions League Qualification.

The key for Manchester United is to beat Everton and Sunderland in their next couple of League games and see if that has strengthened their chances of a top four finish. In that regards Mourinho has admitted he will play his strongest team in both games despite the injuries that are restricting his chances to rotate anyway.

The return from suspension for Ander Herrera and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is very important for Manchester United and there will be a hope that the latter in particular can produce the final touches the side need.

It does look a good time to face an Everton team who have not been as strong on their travels and who have an injury list to rival the one that Manchester United can produce. They were clearly second best when losing at Liverpool on Saturday and Everton were beaten much more convincingly at Tottenham Hotspur than the 3-2 scoreline might have suggested on that day.

The likes of Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku can pose problems for Manchester United but there looks to be more options for Jose Mourinho in this one. Ibrahimovic in particularly is a huge boost for Manchester United and should be fresh having been given an enforced break, and I do think the home team are creating enough chances to win games.

It can be hard to back Manchester United when you think of the way games have gone for them at Old Trafford and have drawn 4 of their last 5 League games here. However I think they are playing better than Everton and they will have the chances to win this game.

Manchester United can't keep missing the chances they have created and Everton won't be as negative as West Brom as they look for a vital three points to achieve their own goals this season. Everton have conceded three times at White Hart Lane and Anfield and I think Manchester United have been solid enough defensively to take advantage and win this one by a couple of goals on Tuesday.

Arsenal v West Ham United Pick: There is a growing feeling that Arsene Wenger is going to announce that he is staying with Arsenal as manager even if the side were to miss out on a top four spot. Some even suggested a couple of wins this week will see Wenger make the announcement before the fixture to be played on Easter Weekend and Arsenal should be too good for West Ham United.

Defensively Arsenal have not played that well in recent weeks, but they are facing a West Ham United team who have lost 4 in a row and just haven't been playing well at all of late.

Defeats at Bournemouth and Hull City will not really help the confidence and West Ham United are sliding in a wrong direction in the Premier League table. The Hammers have conceded at least twice in their last 4 League games, all defeats, and they have conceded at least three times in half of those games.

The recent weeks haven't seen Arsenal produce too many wins, but Wenger has said that he felt his side have turned a corner by fighting back twice in the 2-2 draw with Manchester City on Sunday. One thing Arsenal have done is score goals and I think it will be difficult for West Ham United to stay with them considering the amount the latter are conceding.

Arsenal were beaten here last season by West Ham United, but prior to that they had beaten them four times in a row at The Emirates Stadium. The atmosphere inside the Stadium is far from harmonious at the moment, but this could be one of the better days for Arsenal and I do think they can beat a West Ham United team who have lost 4 Premier League games in a row and conceded plenty during that time.

Southampton v Crystal Palace Pick: There are always going to be surprise results over the course of a season but the Crystal Palace win at Stamford Bridge really was a result that not many would have expected. It is the result that has made it 4 wins in a row for Crystal Palace in the Premier League, while they have won 3 of their last 4 away games to move clear of the bottom three.

However they are far from certain to avoid the drop as the likes of Swansea City and Hull City have been winning games recently and that makes this a big game for Crystal Palace.

The Eagles will be looking to keep the momentum going and make sure they maintain the buffer between themselves and the bottom three. After winning at Chelsea and scoring twice in 3 of their last 4 away games, Crystal Palace will certainly head to the south coast with a lot of confidence behind them.

Southampton are a hard team to read because of their inconsistencies in front of goal without the likes of Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin to call upon. They showed against Bournemouth they can create some clear cut chances in games, but finding the right finish is tougher without Gabbiadini and Austin and makes it difficult to know what to expect from the home team.

They don't concede a lot of goals so you can understand why Southampton are favourites to win this game, but I am not convinced they should be odds on to win this one. They are facing a Crystal Palace team who have conceded 1 goal in their last 4 games, while they also have clean sheets in half of their last 4 away League games.

Sam Allardyce will look to make sure Crystal Palace don't give Southampton too many encouraging moments in the final third, while his own side have shown they can find their way to goal. That makes the away side look a big price to win here and one that almost tempted me in, but you can get Crystal Palace at odds against to simply avoid defeat and that is a good enough angle for me.

The first goal on the evening could be critical to determining the winner, but I am looking for an in-form Crystal Palace to do enough to avoid a loss here and keep the points churning as they look to avoid relegation.

Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: After winning at a tough ground like Turf Moor I don't think it is a big surprise that Tottenham Hotspur are strong favourites to win at Swansea City on Wednesday night too. However I still can't ignore the fact that Tottenham Hotspur have not been as strong away from home as they have been at White Hart Lane and Swansea City will likely cause some problems of their own.

They may have only drawn with Middlesbrough, but Swansea City got into some good positions and missed the services of Fernando Llorente. There is no guarantee the Spaniard is back for this one, but Swansea City have played well at home under Paul Clement and will look to get forward and score goals.

The chances they created against Middlesbrough will be a worry for Tottenham Hotspur, especially as Middlesbrough have shown they can defend well at this level for much of the season. Swansea City should have chances to score goals even in the absence of Llorente in this one, but Tottenham Hotspur have shown they may be able to keep moving forward even without Harry Kane.

Tottenham Hotspur have scored 10 goals in 3 games without Kane and they may just have enough with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen to make sure they earn the three points in this one. It won't be easy because Swansea City are unbeaten in 4 home games in the Premier League, and so it is hard to back Tottenham Hotspur with a lot of confidence.

It is the fact I do think Swansea City can make life difficult at times which makes me wary of backing Tottenham Hotspur. The fixture has regularly produced goals in recent years and this feels another that has the makings of a 2-1 result, most likely for Tottenham Hotspur.

7 of the last 8 games between these teams and the last 4 at The Liberty Stadium have all ended with at least three goals shared out and I will back that to be the outcome of this one.

Chelsea v Manchester City Pick: This fixture has suddenly taken on new meaning after Chelsea were beaten by Crystal Palace on Saturday and most neutrals and the television companies may just be hoping Manchester City can do the same on Wednesday. A Manchester City win coupled with Tottenham Hotspur winning their next two League games would mean a 1 point gap at the top of the table by the time Chelsea next kick off.

That would be an amazing turnaround in a League where it looked like Chelsea might coast towards the title as their rivals failed to find the consistency to keep up. Manchester City's inconsistencies might have cost them a real title challenge, but they are playing with plenty of attacking verve which is going to make life difficult for the home team.

Since the 4-0 loss at Everton, Manchester City have won 3 and drawn 1 of their 4 away League games and scored at least twice in each. Defensively they had been better, but the top teams will expose what is a vulnerable back line and Chelsea shouldn't be any different, although their own defence will be tested to the full.

When these teams met at The Etihad Stadium, Manchester City created so many chances but did not punish Chelsea and that ultimately helped them lose their way in a 1-3 defeat. Those chances created will give Manchester City confidence to earn revenge as they try and hold off Manchester United and Arsenal for a top four place, but Chelsea have enough attacking talent of their own to expose the Manchester City vulnerabilities.

It certainly looks like a fixture that is going to produce some very strong attacking football and goals have flowed at Stamford Bridge for the most part. 15 of 18 games at Stamford Bridge this season have ended with at least three goals shared out, while the last 4 overall between Manchester City and Chelsea have ended the same way.

Pep Guardiola is not going to allow his Manchester City team to do anything but try and get forward and score goals and that should give Antonio Conte the chance to use counter attacking tactics. Chelsea and Manchester City should combine for an entertaining game for the fans tuning in and I will back at least three goals to be shared out between them.

Liverpool v Bournemouth Pick: The loss of Sadio Mane is a blow for Liverpool, especially if he is out for the majority of the remainder of this season, but the top four chances have certainly improved last weekend. Now Liverpool are expected to back up the win over Everton and make it 5 wins in a row at Anfield in the Premier League and I do think they are likely to be able to do that.

Mane is absent along with key players like Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana, while Liverpool's defence continues to be one that will give teams a chance to score against them. However Bournemouth will have to be a lot better than they were on Saturday if they are to take advantage of that.

Rash finishing was the reason Bournemouth didn't find the net against Southampton and they also missed a penalty, but it is the way they performed defensively which will be a real concern. For the second away game in a row, Bournemouth rode their luck in the first half as both Manchester United and Southampton have been able to create a lot of clear opportunities against them.

Both teams were poor in front of goal, but Liverpool are a side that score plenty of goals here. Losing Mane does take away some of that power, but Divock Origi can come in and produce as he showed by scoring the third goal against Everton and Bournemouth have to know how often Liverpool have scored early goals in blowing away opponents.

I was leaning towards Liverpool winning this game and covering the Asian Handicap or perhaps even leading at half time and full time, the latter at odds against looking a decent price.

However the game against Burnley at Anfield shows that Liverpool can still have some issues against the 'lesser' teams in the Premier League. They are missing some key players too and instead there might be something in taking on the 'first goal line' which has been set up to the 23rd minute in this one.

The first goal in the last 6 games at Anfield has come in the 24th minute or earlier and in 5 of those games it came inside the first 16 minutes. Bournemouth did play out a goalless draw on Saturday at Southampton, but prior to that the first goal in their previous 5 away games had come in the 25th, 3rd, 1st, 5th and 23rd minute.

The manner in which both Bournemouth and Liverpool play should lead to attacking football from the opening of this one and I am going to be looking for an early goal, for either team, to be the outcome.

MY PICKS: Burnley-Stoke City Both Teams to Score- NO @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Leicester City - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet365 (2 Units)
Crystal Palace + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.12 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Swansea City-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool-Bournemouth First Goal Up to and Including 23rd Minute @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)

April Update: 3-6, - 5.60 Units (18 Units Staked, - 31.11% 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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