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Weekend Football Picks 2017 (August 19-21)

The second week of the new Premier League season begins on Saturday lunchtime and will be played through to Monday night. This week is a b...

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (April 22-23)

The Champions League and Europa League Semi Finals were drawn on Friday after a very entertaining week with the Second Legs of the Quarter Finals completed.

For the fourth season in a row, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid meet in the premier European competition, while the other Semi Final is between Monaco and Juventus as youth, speed and excitement get a chance to take on a veteran Juventus defensive unit with all the knowledge they have obtained over the last few seasons and fresh off preventing Barcelona score in either Quarter Final Leg.

Both Semi Finals should be really intriguing, but my initial thought is we may get to see Atletico Madrid and Juventus compete for the Champions League trophy in Cardiff in early June.


The Europa League draw was also made on Friday after a difficult Thursday night for Manchester United fans who saw the team miss a host of chances to win the tie in regulation time and also saw Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffer what looks like two long-term injuries.

Numbers are running out for Manchester United who continue to fight in the Premier League and Europa League and I am not of the same belief as a large amount of Manchester United fans who believe the draw against Celta Vigo is a very good one. At this stage none of the three potential opponents would have been 'easy' but Celta Vigo are perhaps being underestimated with a real attacking potential in the squad and with a full focus on trying to win the Europa League.

The other Semi Final is between Ajax and Lyon and the French side will be the favourites. At this time it would be a Lyon vs Manchester United Final that is favoured for Stockholm, but both Semi Finals look very much like one in which the underdog will come in with plenty of confidence of their own.


This weekend we have a few Premier League games as well as the two FA Cup Semi Final ties over Saturday and Sunday. During the week we will have a few make up games in the Premier League including a huge Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium and then there is another big round of Premier League fixtures next weekend which will begin to start deciding a few of the big issues.

Hopefully this can be a strong weekend for the picks after some difficulties during the midweek games and get this month moving back in a positive direction.


Bournemouth v Middlesbrough Pick: Every game at this stage of the season has some meaning attached to it and there is plenty on the line for both Bournemouth and Middlesbrough in the Premier League on Saturday. For Bournemouth a win would put them on the brink of confirming their place in the Premier League for another season, while a win for Middlesbrough will give them a small chance of finding their way out of the bottom three in the table.

The problem for Middlesbrough remains the same issue that has bothered them all season and that is finding the balance between attack and defence. They have struggled for goals and any furthering of their attacking intent has seen the Middlesbrough defence, which has played well, look more vulnerable.

Steve Agnew played an attacking side at Hull City in the Premier League recently and Middlesbrough even took the lead in that game, but that left the backdoor open and they were battered 4-2 in what was a pivotal game for them.

Bournemouth don't have too many issues in front of goal, although their own defensive problems can't be ignored. Eddie Howe will want to rectify things in the summer by improving the defensive personnel, but much depends on Bournemouth securing another season in the Premier League and I think they will take a big step to doing that this weekend.

The goals Bournemouth score should give them a chance to make it 3 wins from 4 home League games having beaten Swansea City and West Ham United at the Vitality Stadium in recent weeks. Middlesbrough did earn a draw at Swansea City recently, but they have lost at the likes of Crystal Palace and Hull City around that result and I am going to back Bournemouth to win this game with the goals they have in the side being too much for Middlesbrough to match.


Hull City v Watford Pick: There has been something of a 'Jekyll and Hyde' scenario when describing Hull City performances under Marco Silva as they have been very good at home, but equally as poor when they head out on their travels. The home form is going to be the key to whether Hull City are still in the Premier League next season or not, but they are playing with confidence here and I think they can put another big three points on the board on Saturday.

The fixture list offers Hull City the chance to host a Watford team who have not played well away from home for much of the season and who have achieved their goal of avoiding relegation. Recent form has suggested Watford are still very focused on finishing as well as they can, but those positive results have mainly come at Vicarage Road.

On their travels Watford have lost 3 away Premier League games in a row since beating Arsenal 1-2 at the Emirates Stadium and the side have not scored in any of those losses. Defeats at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are forgivable, but Watford have also lost at Crystal Palace in that time, while they have played 6 of the bottom seven and only won 1 of those games.

Defeats at Crystal Palace and Sunderland will give Hull City confidence they can win this one too and the latter have won 5 of their 6 home Premier League games under Silva. It should be noted that 5 of those 6 games have been played against teams who are 13th or lower in the League table, but Watford are not much superior to those in a tight bottom half of the table.

Silva has got his Hull City playing with real confidence and belief at home and they have scored plenty of goals in his time with the club. Only Burnley have prevented Hull City scoring at least twice in their last 6 home Premier League games and Watford's lack of goals of late could be a problem.

Odds on quotes are not the most appealing, but Hull City are the more likely winner and I think they are just tempting enough to do that and put the pressure on Swansea City to get a result on Saturday too.


Swansea City v Stoke City Pick: I hate when you get down to the stage of 'must win' games for teams because the oddsmakers love to shrink those prices. That looks to be the case with this fixture when you compare the Swansea City price with the one Burnley went off at against Stoke City earlier this month, especially as Paul Clement's side have not exactly been in great form themselves.

Being back at home is important for The Swans even if they have failed to win their last 2 Premier League games here. The draw with Middlesbrough was a really poor result, but Swansea City had their chances to win that one, while they were leading against Tottenham Hotspur right up until the end of the match when capitulating for a 1-3 defeat.

Prior to those results Swansea City had won 3 in a row at home and they were much better in a loss at Watford last week than the weekend before when they were beaten at West Ham United. With Fernando Llorente back to lead the line, Swansea City should have their chances to win this one too and at odds against they might just be appealing enough to back.

They are playing a Stoke City side who hadn't been showing a lot of form prior to the 3-1 win over Hull City last weekend, and one who have not been as effective away from home. In fact Stoke City have not scored in their last 5 away Premier League games and they have lost 4 of those including at West Brom, Leicester City and Burnley.

Now I will say that Swansea City have not been playing that well recently, but Burnley had not been in great form when beating Stoke City at home. Paul Clement's team have shown they can score goals here and are back at full health with only Jack Cork missing this weekend.

It is going to be a tight and tense atmosphere for Swansea City to try and excel in, but I do think this is the kind of fixture they will believe they can win. They have played well enough at home and created enough chances to do that, especially against a Stoke City team who have not convinced on their travels in recent weeks.

Stoke City are respected as they have won at Hull City and Sunderland this season, while drawing in Middlesbrough, but I will look for Swansea City to just have enough to take the three points against a team that haven't been scoring goals away from home.


West Ham United v Everton Pick: The four points West Ham United have earned in the last couple of weeks look like being enough to keep them clear of the bottom three in the Premier League, but there are still some questions for the owners this summer. The big decision is whether they stick with Slaven Bilic as manager or make a change, but the West Ham United players can make that decision easier with a strong end to the season.

This has been a year of underachievement for West Ham United after the successes of the 2015/16 campaign. Problems on and off the field have not helped their cause, but maintaining their Premier League status was important for them.

Playing in a new home has been difficult for West Ham United too, but games at the London Stadium have tended to be entertaining affairs. That should be helped by an Everton team who are trying to push for a late top four position and who have been scoring and conceding goals for fun in the last month.

It has been more difficult for Everton away from home compared with their form at Goodison Park, and that makes it tough to trust them as the favourite to win here. No wins in 6 away Premier League games will do that, although Everton have created chances in those away games and have been able to score goals.

The problem has been defensively for the most part and keeping clean sheets and Everton have just 4 clean sheets away from home in the League this season. West Ham United might be missing Andy Carroll, but they have shown they can score goals and fixtures between Everton and West Ham United have tended to be higher-scoring games.

7 of the last 10 at Upton Park ended with at least three goals shared out, while 6 in a row at the London Stadium had ended with that number prior to West Ham United's win over Swansea City. Both teams do play with attacking intentions and neither has been secure defensively which suggests there could be a few goals shared out on Saturday too.

Looking for at least three goals to be shared out is the pick from this Premier League game this weekend.


Burnley v Manchester United Pick: As long as there are two separate ways back into the Champions League, Jose Mourinho has stated he will play his strongest side in both the Europa League and Premier League despite this hectic April Manchester United are involved in. That decision by Mourinho will be tested to the fullest on Sunday in a game at Turf Moor just days after Manchester United were forced to play extra time against Anderlecht and days before the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.

I am anticipating changes to the starting eleven, but Manchester United should still have a strong team on the field as they potentially move to within a point of the top four. That can only happen with a win at Turf Moor, but this has been a tough ground for many to visit this season.

Recent form has not been the best for Burnley, but they have tended to be hard to beat and have had a week to prepare for this fixture. However Burnley were beaten by Tottenham Hotspur here earlier this month and that does mean they have lost to the teams who are currently in 2nd, 4th and 6th place in the Premier League table.

Burnley did beat Liverpool and drew with Chelsea here this season too, but the defeats to the top teams has to be a concern. Couple that with Manchester United's much more impressive away form in the Premier League and I can see why the away team are favoured to win here.

Manchester United have won at Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Swansea City, Hull City, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace already this season and 4 of those wins have come by at least a couple of goals. Of course the players will be feeling some of the extra time period in their legs come Sunday afternoon, but Manchester United are used to the quick turnaround in games and can produce a solid result here.

Anything less than a win ends their top four hopes, and Burnley will feel the defensive injuries gives them a chance to hurt Manchester United when going forward. While this is a difficult place to play, I think the Manchester United pace in the final third could be a key here and they can match the Tottenham Hotspur win at Turf Moor by covering the Asian Handicap.

It won't be easy for Manchester United, but they can continue their successes against those teams in the bottom half when playing them as visitors. It will increase the importance of the Manchester derby on Thursday and I will look for Manchester United to produce the win.


Liverpool v Crystal Palace Pick: This is a big 'Super Sunday' fixture with big implications at the top and bottom of the Premier League and I think it could be one that produces a few goals on Sunday. For Crystal Palace there is a chance to record another big win over one of the top six sides having recently beaten Chelsea and Arsenal, while Liverpool know another three points will put them on the brink of securing a Champions League spot for next season.

On the other hand a loss for Crystal Palace could be devastating, especially if Bournemouth, Hull City and Swansea City all win home games on Saturday. All of a sudden they will be back within touching distance of the bottom three and the absence of Mamadou Sakho is a big blow with him being an integral part of the defensive improvements made by Crystal Palace.

A defeat for Liverpool would also potentially open the door for the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal to close in on a top four spot. However Liverpool will only play one way and that is to get forward, while Sam Allardyce will look for his Crystal Palace team to expose the vulnerabilities Liverpool have defensively by using the speed in the final third on the counter attack and also making sure set pieces are taken advantage of.

The manner of recent Crystal Palace performances suggest they can come to Anfield and cause problems and I fully anticipate both teams will score in this one. That has happened in 6 of the last 7 games Liverpool have played at Anfield including in their last 4, while Crystal Palace have scored in 4 of their last 5 away games and also have conceded in 3 of their last 4.

Without Sakho and Scott Dann, Crystal Palace might find it hard to contain a Liverpool team that have been scoring plenty of goals at home in recent weeks.

The last 9 between Crystal Palace and Liverpool have featured at least three goals shared out and both teams have scored in all of those games. Backing at least three goals to be scored in this fixture is slightly smaller in price than backing both teams to score, but it covers the option of Liverpool scoring the goals to cover the number themselves and I am not sure I am expecting a 1-1 scoreline with the way both teams are playing of late.

I would love to see Allardyce mastermind a Crystal Palace win here, but I think Liverpool are the more likely winners. However I am going to simply back at least three goals to be shared out between them in the last game on Sunday afternoon and that looks a decent price when you think of how they have played in recent weeks and the history of games between them in recent seasons.


Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Both of the FA Cup Semi Final matches to be played this weekend look very good games on paper, but there is potentially more on the line in the first of those than simply which of the teams will be making it through to the FA Cup Final next month.

After the 2-0 loss at Manchester United last Sunday, there are only 4 points between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League title race and the winner of this one will earn a huge mental blow on the other. Chelsea still have a strong lead and the better fixtures remaining, but a 3rd loss in 5 games will dent confidence and put some real pressure on their players to get over the line.

However a Chelsea win this weekend will end a strong run for Tottenham Hotspur and might make it hard for the players to pick themselves up for the games against Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Manchester United to come.

It feels like it is all about momentum for Tottenham Hotspur at the moment and they are winning games with the strong confidence in themselves. The 1-3 win at Swansea City highlighted their belief having trailed 1-0 until the 89th minute of that game and Tottenham Hotspur won't fear Chelsea having beaten them 2-0 in the Premier League this season already.

The performances at Wembley Stadium in the European competitions could be a concern for Tottenham Hotspur fans though and the players have to show there is now lingering mental obstacles to overcome. If they can do that, Tottenham Hotspur certainly have the momentum to kick on and win this Semi Final although I am expecting a reaction from Chelsea to the defeat at Old Trafford.

They followed a recent home loss to Crystal Palace by beating Manchester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge so these players are capable and I think this could be a decent FA Cup Semi Final to view for the neutrals. Both teams have shown some real attacking intent and I think both will believe they can create chances even though they are faced with statistically strong defences.

Tottenham Hotspur didn't keep a clean sheet in any of 4 games at Wembley Stadium, while Chelsea have conceded at least once in 6 of their last 7 away from Stamford Bridge. 8 of the last 11 between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have ended with at least three goals shared out and recent FA Cup Semi Final matches have seen 8 of the last 12 finish with at least three goals shared out too.

I am anticipating this one ending 2-1 either way and I will back at least three goals to be shared out at odds against.


Arsenal v Manchester City Pick: Everyone has an opinion on what has gone wrong for Arsenal this season and even the 1-2 win at Middlesbrough on Monday night was far from convincing. That has meant the oddsmakers have seen the price on Manchester City shorten throughout the week and they are now strong odds on favourites to win this FA Cup Semi Final.

In all honesty I had tabbed Manchester City as the more likely winner since the draw was made and also fancied them to beat Arsenal in the League at the Emirates Stadium. Better finishing may have resulted in the three points for Manchester City and they will be confident they can create the chances to win the Cup Semi Final on the wide open Wembley Stadium playing surface.

The problem with Manchester City is that Arsenal are more than capable of exposing their own vulnerabilities and that should mean we get an exciting Semi Final where both teams are better going forward and playing against weak defences. Even the return of Vincent Kompany is not enough to think Arsenal won't create chances, but the question remains as to how much belief these Arsenal players have in themselves and in their manager.

If they do let their heads drop, Manchester City have more than enough about them to not only win this Semi Final, but win with some comfort on the day. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero are full of goals and this Arsenal team will allow those players to express themselves.

While I expect Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to spark chances for The Gunners too, I think it will be difficult for them to stay with Manchester City who should really have won at the Emirates Stadium. On that day I backed at least four goals to be shared out and was rewarded, but that price has been shortened by the oddsmakers who recognise how poor both Arsenal and Manchester City can be defensively.

This time I still anticipate goals, but I want to back Manchester City to record the win and make it through to the Semi Final. You can back Manchester City to win a high-scoring Semi Final at a very attractive price and I think that is the best way to back Pep Guardiola's men if you do think they can win this game in normal time.

It is a Cup game so there are always the chance of spaces opening up later in the game and Manchester City have shown they can be ruthless when those spaces open up. I expect just a little more from Manchester City on the day and I will look for them to make sure they are taking part in the FA Cup Final next month.

MY PICKS: Bournemouth @ 1.86 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Hull City @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Swansea City @ 2.20 William Hill (2 Units)
West Ham United-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Manchester United - 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.67 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester City & Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)


April Update28-24-1, + 7.58 Units (105 Units Staked, + 7.22% 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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