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Friday, 28 April 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (April 29-May 1)

Every round of domestic football fixtures in April and May are going to have some major implications at the top and bottom of any Division and that is no different in the Premier League this weekend.

The race for the top four and the Premier League title could have a big couple of days, while there is beginning to be some issues determined with teams potentially being relegated this weekend depending on the results we see.

That means pressurised situations which can see players respond both positively and negatively and that itself can see some strange results produced. It is a really fun part of the season as the determination of whether this is going to be seen as a season of success or failure is going to be produced by the results over the next month.

Southampton v Hull City Pick: The games are beginning to run out and Hull City remain just outside the bottom three- make no mistake about it, Marco Silva would bite your hand off if you offered him a 17th place finish and would have done as soon as he took charge of The Tigers.

At some point Hull City will have to produce a big performance away from home to ease their worries, but they have handle the pressure at the KCOM Stadium to remain outside of the bottom three.

This week may not be the week for a positive away result for Hull City as they have continued to defend poorly on their travels and conceding at least two goals in 9 of 10 away games in all competitions is not very good. Facing a Southampton team with pace in the final third and a proven goalscorer in Manolo Gabbiadini is not really where Hull City would want to be.

Southampton will look to get forward at home and they do create chances, while they have beaten Hull City 4 times in a row at home. As well as Marco Silva has performed as manager of Hull City, he has yet to find the right balance away from home and I think this is a game that Southampton can win.

I imagine Hull City will cause some problems too for a Southampton defence that has struggled, but they concede too many and I am going to take The Saints on the Asian Handicap to move past them by at least a couple of goals.

Stoke City v West Ham United Pick: At this time of any League season, there will be games that are beginning to lose a lot of meaning outside of the financial success a club can achieve. The players aren't always that concerned about the difference between finishing 11th and 12th though and that can see some unmotivated performances being produced.

However both Mark Hughes and Slaven Bilic will believe a strong end to the season over their last four or five League games could see Stoke City and West Ham United challenge to finish in the top half. That is an achievement that can't be ignored and might release any pressure that the two managers could be feeling in their job.

For Hughes it looks less critical, but Bilic is trying to show the West Ham United board he is the man to take them forward. However the players haven't always responded to his tactics and that has been a big reason West Ham United have been so inconsistent this season.

They have had some real up and down performances on their travels and Stoke City have remained solid enough at the Bet365 Stadium to think they can edge this match. It won't be easy but Stoke City have the players in the final third to expose West Ham United's defensive issues, while the absence of Andy Carroll takes away a big goal threat from the visitors.

I imagine this will be a tight match at times with chances at both ends, but being able to back Stoke City at odds against looks a big price and one worth taking.

Sunderland v Bournemouth Pick: I really don't know what kind of atmosphere the Sunderland players can expect at the Stadium of Light on Saturday with relegation almost certainly confirmed after a 1-0 loss at Middlesbrough on Wednesday. Losing to their local rivals to be put on the brink of relegation is one thing, but the lack of real fight offered by the players will have hurt the fans.

Realistically I can see this fixture being played in front of a sparse crowd and that won't really help Sunderland who need to win their remaining five Premier League games and hope for help if they are going to create a miracle escape. Unlike previous seasons, the current manager David Moyes hasn't exactly inspired with his leadership and this is a much more difficult home game than it may initially seem.

Usually you would circle this kind of fixture as a 'must win' for a team in dire straits as Sunderland, but Bournemouth are going to challenge them fully with their ability to play strong football on the ground. This is a team who have shown they can score goals at tough grounds in recent weeks and Bournemouth have two strikers in Benik Afobe and Josh King who are helping create chances and finish them off.

I would be surprised if Bournemouth don't score here and the problems Sunderland have had in front of goal makes it easy to see why the away side are the favourite. They are a pretty big price because Bournemouth have not had a lot of success away from home in the Premier League this season but I did back West Ham United to win here recently and was only undone by a late Sunderland equaliser.

That's the only game in the last 10 in which Sunderland have scored and while Bournemouth will give you chances, I am not sure the home team have enough in the final third to really trust.

At the prices Bournemouth are a tempting price here and I am going to back them to come away with the three points after winning for the first time in Sunderland against a home team who may be feeling a little sorry for themselves.

Crystal Palace v Burnley Pick: There were some criticisms for the fixture organisers from Sam Allardyce this past week, but his Crystal Palace side have played twice in the time since Burnley last took to the field and I wonder if that is going to play a part in this one.

Allardyce and Sean Dyche have both got a few injury issues to deal with ahead of this fixture and this could be a decent game between Crystal Palace and Burnley as both try to earn the three points that can keep them in the Premier League for another season.

I still think both will ultimately be safe, but Crystal Palace have a bit more momentum behind them and can make home advantage tell in this fixture.

Most will know all about the poor Burnley away record in the Premier League and losing the likes of Ben Mee and Stephen Ward would be a blow for them. They also have just hit a poor patch of form in recent weeks with 1 win from their last 12 in all competitions and I am not sure Burnley can do enough to prevent Crystal Palace taking advantage of them as they did against Hull City, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.

Crystal Palace have shown more quality in the final third and Allardyce should set his team up to avoid giving too much away from set pieces. They will look to take advantage of any issues Burnley have without the influential Mee at the heart of the defence and I think the home team can win this by a narrow margin.

It will be tough for both teams and at times the quality might not be there, but eventually I am looking for Crystal Palace to do enough to win the game.

Manchester United v Swansea City Pick: Jose Mourinho has stated for a number of weeks that he will continue to play his strongest team in both the Premier League and Europa League to make sure Manchester United have two shots to make the Champions League next season. Improved results in the Premier League coupled with slips from teams above them has meant Manchester United are having to keep fighting on two fronts and they have a chance to end Sunday in the top four.

All of that depends on whether Manchester United can find a way to turn draws into wins at Old Trafford and they will have to expect that Swansea City will come to defend in numbers and make life difficult for the home team.

Every point Swansea City earn at this point of the season could be vital for their chances to avoid relegation, but you can't ignore their 6 game losing run away from home in the Premier League. This is a team that doesn't do clean sheets which should give Manchester United opportunities to score goals, although it all depends on how clinical Manchester United feel on the day.

The likes of Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw can come into freshen the starting eleven ahead of the Europa League Semi Final with Celta Vigo, while Paul Pogba will need to pass a fitness test. Marouane Fellaini's suspension shouldn't be a big issue here as it will see Manchester United play an attacking line up at Old Trafford and I do think they will be too good for Swansea City on the day.

Defensively Manchester United have been strong and they do create chances at home with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford more than capable of providing a goalscoring threat. Wayne Rooney will likely be used in some capacity too and I think Manchester United will win this game and I will look for them to cover the Asian Handicap.

When Manchester United have won their home games, they have tended to come by a comfortable margin so I will look for them to secure a three points that will move them into 3rd for at least a couple of hours and into 4th for at least twenty-four hours.

Everton v Chelsea Pick: This is the second live Premier League game on Sunday and this might be the last chance for Chelsea to really slip up in the Premier League title race and give the television networks something to promote.

They might have the best away record in the Premier League this season with 11 wins behind them, but Chelsea have won just 4 of their last 8 on their travels in the League. In that time they have lost at Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United while failing to win at Liverpool and Burnley and now they face an Everton team who have played with a lot of confidence when they have been at home.

Everton have won 8 in a row at Goodison Park in the Premier League and have scored at least twice in each of those wins. They are up against a Chelsea defence that has been conceding more goals than they did in the middle of the season and who haven't had a clean sheet in the Premier League since the end of January, a run of 11 League games in a row.

Romelu Lukaku is going to want to show off his goalscoring record against his former club and potential future employer and Ronald Koeman's Southampton had a decent record against Chelsea. With the goals Everton can score, I expect they will pose problems, although one word of caution has to be their 8 game home winning run in the League has seen them face only one team from above them in the League table.

Everton have beaten Arsenal and Manchester City here and drawn with Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, while Liverpool needed an injury time goal to win here. That will give them confidence against a Chelsea team that have a 1-1-3 record away from home against the teams directly below them.

I do think Chelsea will score goals here though and they have scored in 13 of 16 away games this season even if those exceptions have come at top six teams. Everton have conceded in their last couple of games here and have some defensive issues which should be exploited by Chelsea, and 3 of the last 4 League games here between these teams have ended with at least three goals shared out.

The home team have nothing to lose and Chelsea will be looking for a big three points which should mean an entertaining Sunday afternoon game and I think backing at least three goals to be shared out is the call.

Middlesbrough v Manchester City Pick: This Premier League fixture was pushed back twenty-four hours after the Manchester derby was rescheduled for Thursday night and it is a big one for both Middlesbrough and Manchester City.

Middlesbrough gave themselves a chance of surviving with a 1-0 win over Sunderland on Wednesday, although it was a tense game where neither team played with a lot of confidence. They are going to need to be a lot better to challenge Manchester City who have been able to play much more effectively away from home where they can expose more spaces that the home teams have to leave behind.

That could be an issue for Middlesbrough this weekend with a point not really doing a lot for them, and they have begun to look weaker defensively as they have tried to be more proactive going forward. Against a team like Manchester City, ineffective balance could be a real problem and I am expecting a similar result and performance from both teams that was seen in the FA Cup Quarter Final.

That game was won 0-2 by Manchester City who scored at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second half to take control of the match. Manchester City have scored at least twice in 5 of their last 6 away Premier League games and I do think Middlesbrough have just had a few issues against the top teams in the Division.

Only Everton from the top seven have failed to win here and all the others except Chelsea have scored more than once. I would expect Manchester City to have Gabriel Jesus playing more minutes here and they have the attacking players who can be very good away from home where their hosts have to play with a little more attacking intent.

With Middlesbrough chasing the three points that are so important to their survival bid, I am expecting Manchester City to pick them off and come away with a win by at least two goals. 8 of their 11 away Premier League wins this season have come by a least two goals including each of the last 5 away League wins Manchester City have secured and I am going to back them to do that here this weekend.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal Pick: The North London derby has some major implications for both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal with one chasing the Premier League title and the other a top four place where they look like they are going to fall short.

For the majority of the Arsene Wenger years at Arsenal, they would have been the one in the title race while Tottenham Hotspur would be chasing the top four, but things have changed this season.

The three points are so important for both at the time I am writing this, but they could be even more important depending how results have gone earlier in the day when the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all play. Both North London clubs will be hoping those three teams have dropped points in their earlier League games, but regardless there is going to be plenty on the line in the North London derby.

I have to give the edge to Tottenham Hotspur in the fixture with their 15 straight wins at White Hart Lane in all competitions and 8 straight Premier League wins overall behind them. Even though Arsenal won at Middlesbrough last time out, they were not that impressive and had lost 4 straight away League games at Chelsea, Liverpool, West Brom and Crystal Palace while conceding three times in each game.

Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur both laboured to wins on Wednesday, but the home advantage is likely to be vital in this one. Tottenham Hotspur have won 3 of the last 5 League games between these North London rivals at White Hart Lane and goals generally flow when these teams meet.

Tottenham Hotspur have scored plenty of goals at home and Arsenal have been conceding goals for fun on their travels and their recent away games have tended to feature goals. There is every chance there are three or more goals in this one and the feeling is Tottenham Hotspur will earn the win.

Putting those options together produces a big price and I am going to back that to be the outcome from this Premier League live game on Sunday afternoon.

Watford v Liverpool Pick: The result last Sunday has just helped the Liverpool rivals for a top four spot and has heaped some real pressure on Jurgen Klopp and his players on Monday night. The defeat to Crystal Palace coupled with a win for Manchester United has closed the gap between those rivals to just 3 points, but Manchester United will have played twice by the time this one kicks off.

That could mean Liverpool are kicking off outside of the top four and mentally that could be a huge blow for a club who are desperate to return to the Champions League.

This does look a fixture from which they can bounce back from the surprise defeat to Crystal Palace, but underestimating Watford at Vicarage Road would be a big mistake. The Hornets have won 3 Premier League games in a row here and have performed better on their home patch for the majority of the season while also trying to earn revenge for an embarrassing 6-1 loss at Anfield.

Watford may have lost to Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur here, but they have beaten Manchester United and Everton so they will believe they can pose problems for Liverpool. Their visitors have also been a little inconsistent when facing those teams in the bottom half of the table and have lost at Bournemouth, Leicester City and Hull City this season while failing to win at Sunderland.

That makes picking a winner tougher, but backing at least three goals could be the way to go. All of Watford's home games against the top seven this season have ended with at least three goals shared out, while Liverpool have visited 9 of the teams currently in the bottom half of the Premier League table and 7 of those finished with at least three goals.

Both teams have every chance of scoring in this one and I think there will be plenty of chances created which should see goals in this Monday night football encounter. The more likely winner is clearly Liverpool, but I hope Watford can cause a surprise or two themselves although the overriding feeling is that this game will produce at least three goals and I will back that to occur.

MY PICKS: Southampton - 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet365 (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 2.15 William Hill (2 Units)
Bournemouth @ 2.40 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Crystal Palace @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.01 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur to Win & Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.45 Coral (2 Units)
Watford-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)

April Update36-29-1, + 13.20 Units (131 Units Staked, + 10.08% 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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