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Monday, 15 May 2017

Midweek Football Picks 2017 (May 15-18)

The Premier League and majority of big European Leagues will come to a close at the end of this week and that means a couple of months without a lot of football is ready to come out.

It has been a difficult season for the picks, but that's just the way it goes sometimes and I just have to do some research over the next few months to prepare for the 2017/18 season.

This week we have a number of make-up games in the Premier League as we complete the season on Sunday.

Chelsea v Watford Pick: The emotion of winning the Premier League just a few days ago has to be factored in to the kind of performance Chelsea are going to be able to produce on Monday. The celebrations will mean the players might just lose a touch of intensity, while Antonio Conte may make some big changes to his starting eleven to ensure his key players are ready for the FA Cup Final in two weeks time.

You can certainly see John Terry starting the last couple of League games as he signs off on his Chelsea career and other fringe players may also get their opportunity with the Premier League title secured.

Even with that in mind, Chelsea are home for the final two League games and I don't think there will be a big let down. They are also fortunate in the two opponents they have yet to play and Watford is an ideal fixture for a celebration considering how poorly they have played down the stretch.

The Hornets have not scored in their last 6 away Premier League games and the players may just have stopped playing for the manager now their future has been secured. There could be a managerial change again at Vicarage Road in the summer and I do think it will be tough for Watford to pick up their own play for this fixture.

I considered picking Chelsea to win to nil, but I think they can celebrate the Premier League with a convincing performance at Stamford Bridge on Monday. Conte will inspire his players to keep pushing and I think Chelsea win this by a couple of goals at least against a demotivated Watford.

Arsenal v Sunderland Pick: The top four chances took a huge blow on Sunday for Arsenal as Liverpool's win over West Ham United means The Gunners are hoping for at least one upset in the final week of the season to change things for them. They can at least try and keep the pressure on Liverpool and Manchester City by winning this Premier League game on Tuesday, although they will likely need a performance from already relegated Middlesbrough to have any chance of returning to the Champions League.

Arsene Wenger can't focus on that, but has to make sure Arsenal keep up their recent good run of form and at least have some momentum to take into the FA Cup Final. Winning that competition without a top four finish won't alleviate any pressure on the manager though and a big decision needs to be made at the Emirates Stadium in the next couple of weeks.

The players haven't given up on the manager as shown by their run of recent wins which has given them a chance of breaking back into the top four at the final hurdle. They have been winning games and scoring plenty of goals and I am not sure Sunderland are going to be able to offer enough resistance in this one.

Another poor performance on Saturday upset the locals as Sunderland were beaten by Swansea City at the Stadium of Light and a lack of goals has been an issue all season. They have failed to score in 6 of their last 8 away games in all competitions while Arsenal have kept clean sheets in their last 4 home Premier League games.

Instead of looking for Arsenal to cover a big handicap, I am looking for them to win this game with another clean sheet and I will back that at a decent enough price. The Gunners defence is far from watertight, but Sunderland's struggles in front of goal can't be ignored and I will back the home side to win the game and keep the clean sheet.

Manchester City v West Brom Pick: The West Brom players may have had a day extra to prepare for this fixture, but I think the players also put in an absolutely huge effort in their 0-1 home loss to Chelsea which would have taken away some of the energy in the legs.

That could be a big problem at Manchester City who remain a team who can create a lot of chances at home, but who look vulnerable at the back. I am not sure West Brom are going to have the belief to really have a go at Manchester City and will look to defend in numbers, but they put in so much mentally and physically against Chelsea that perhaps there isn't enough to contain a fast and exciting Manchester City attack.

A lack of clinical finishing does continue to disappoint Pep Guardiola but I think it could be a long evening for West Brom and better decisions in the final third will likely see Manchester City win with some comfort.

West Brom haven't been easy to beat away from home with 4 of their last 6 in the Premier League ending in draws, but around that you have seen heavy losses at Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Watford. With the tiredness in the squad following Friday's efforts, I think they may struggle to avoid another heavy loss to Manchester City and I am going to back the home side to put themselves right on the brink of earning their place in the Champions League Group Stage with a convincing win on Tuesday.

Southampton v Manchester United Pick: There is next to nothing on the line for both Southampton and Manchester United in this make up game in the Premier League on Wednesday. Both Claude Puel and Jose Mourinho will make changes to the starting eleven to keep some freshness in the legs of the players and you can understand why the layers have made it odds on for fewer than three goals to be shared out.

Southampton have just been struggling for goals in recent Premier League games as fatigue and perhaps losing faith in Puel has taken hold.

On the other hand, Manchester United have been looking a little leggy down the stretch while the manager's proclamation of focusing on the Europa League has filtered down into the recent Manchester United performances in the Premier League.

It really might not be a great football game on Wednesday with both teams looking ahead to other issues and not having a full concentration on the fixture at hand. Perhaps that lack of focus means there could be a few lapses of concentration at the back, but both Southampton and Manchester United have shown defensive strength even when the attacking performances have not been up to the standard the fans would hope.

Games at St Mary's between these teams have usually been very entertaining in terms of goals scored. This one might go against the grain at this point of the season and I don't think there will be a lot of goals scored.

The 1-1 is a player, but I will be looking for one, or both, of these teams failing to score on Wednesday in what feels like it could be a real 'end of season feel' to the game.

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: This game does not have as much on the line as when the television networks asked for it to be played on a Thursday so it could be broadcast. Both Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur are ending the season with some positive momentum though and the freedom for the players to express themselves should mean this is an entertaining game.

Leicester City have some defensive problems which should be exploited by the talent that Tottenham Hotspur have in the final third. On the other hand, Leicester City have played very well at home under Craig Shakespeare and have won 5 straight League games here under him while scoring at least twice in each game.

The strong Tottenham Hotspur defence that has been in evidence at White Hart Lane has not been as effective away from home and so I do anticipate Leicester City will have some chances. They have been playing with more effectiveness under Shakespeare and looking more like the Leicester City that won the title last season.

Both teams should be willing to put in a full effort to win the game with nothing to lose and I think there will be three goals shared out in this fixture. I can see both teams scoring and someone should have the quality to get something more from the game and backing at least three goals to be scored looks the way forward.

MY PICKS: Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.73 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal Win to Nil @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Southampton-Manchester United Both Teams to Score- NO @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)

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