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College Football Week 4 Picks 2017 (September 23rd)

The entire 2017 calendar year has seemed to have moved in something of a blur for me, but even with that in mind I can't believe that we...

Friday, 12 May 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (May 12-14)

Follow, follow, follow, cos United are going to Stockholm...

Suffice to say it was a nervy night at the very end of the Europa League Semi Final and for all the world it looked like Manchester United would have to put their passports away until the summer when Celta Vigo squared the ball.

Fortunately ex-Manchester City striker John Guidetti completely mistimed his effort on an open goal and Manchester United made it through to their first European Final since 2011.

I've had everything booked to go to Stockholm so that would have been a real punch in the gut if Manchester United had been beaten in the final seconds of the Semi Final but now a Final between two European giants await.

Ajax may not be the team of old, but they have a refreshing attitude to their football and will make life difficult for Manchester United as their youngsters showcase their talents for the bigger European clubs. Thinking about that Final is for another day, this week is about the penultimate weekend of the big European domestic Leagues.

There are a number of games that need to be made up by clubs in the Premier League which will be played from Monday through to Thursday next week so I will separate those into a separate thread from the Weekend Picks here.

This has been a tough season for the Football Picks compared with years past, but I am hoping to end with something like a flourish before the two month break that most clubs will have. Then we will go again in August.


Everton v Watford Pick: Last weekend both Everton and Watford can be accused of not 'wanting it' as much as their opponents which resulted in both teams losing at Swansea City and Leicester City respectively.

The Everton performance was very much in line with many of their away performances this season and that inconsistency is something that Ronald Koeman will want to work on in the summer. However they have been much better at home and Everton get a chance to sign off at Goodison Park for the season which should motivate them.

The 0-3 defeat to Chelsea was harsh on Everton who had some chances in that game, while they had won 8 in a row at home in the Premier League prior to that. This is a team who can score plenty of goals in front of their own fans and I think they are facing the right opponent in Watford who have been very poor away from home for much of the season.

Watford have really looked like a team who are looking forward to the summer break and that has shown up in their end of season performances. They have lost 4 of their last 5 Premier League games and Watford have lost 5 in a row away from home without scoring a goal.

They have played Everton tough over the last two seasons, but I think the home team will have too much guile and motivation for them and I can only see one winner. The 8 Premier League wins in a row at Goodison Park prior to the loss against Chelsea had all been won by Everton by at least a two goal margin and I will back them to win this one and cover the Asian Handicap.


West Brom v Chelsea Pick: Most will fully expect Chelsea will be crowned Champions of England as soon as Friday evening and it will take a performance from West Brom which has been missing for large parts from them over the last six weeks. They did beat Arsenal here 3-1 which may encourage some fans, but 4 losses from their last 5 home Premier League games is not the kind of form you want to take into a game with Chelsea at the moment.

The Blues have been scoring a lot of goals since their 2-0 defeat at Manchester United and they had an easy enough evening on Monday when beating Middlesbrough 3-0. That should prevent tiredness being a factor especially as the likes of Eden Hazard and David Luiz were substituted during the game, while no player is going to be admitting fatigue with a chance to win the title.

There is plenty of focus being shown by Chelsea and the goals they've scored is a real worry for West Brom and I am only anticipating a fairly comfortable win for them on the day.

I will respect the fact that Chelsea have had some real struggles at the The Hawthorns in recent seasons with 3 losses in 4 visits, but they snapped that with a 2-3 win here last season. They also look to be meeting West Brom at the right time with the home team looking like they turned off the switch as soon as they were considered safe from the drop.

The likes of Southampton, Liverpool and Leicester City have all won here since West Brom beat Arsenal and I think Chelsea will be too good on the day. There is a chance West Brom can play their part if they can make use of the set pieces they will surely create, but ultimately I am looking for Chelsea to win by a margin that is good enough to cover the Asian Handicap and which will leave Stamford Bridge in party atmosphere for their last two games of the Premier League season.


Manchester City v Leicester City Pick: You can understand some of the criticism that has been sent towards Pep Guardiola in what has been a disappointing season for Manchester City, but there are signs that he will get things right at the club. The signings he makes in the summer are going to be very important for Guardiola, but Manchester City have some really quality players at their disposal and can run rampant when they are in top form.

They will offer plenty of attacking threat in this early Saturday kick off at the Etihad Stadium, but Manchester City have to be aware of the counter attack that Leicester City will rely upon.

Jamie Vardy has finished the season in decent form and he will feel he can run the Manchester City defence ragged with his pace when Leicester City do turn the ball over. However there have been a couple of signs that the players have perhaps begun to turn their attention to the end of the season and it might give Manchester City enough encouragement to earn revenge for the 4-2 embarrassing defeat at the King Power Stadium earlier this season.

The attacking potential Manchester City have is likely to see them create chances throughout in this one and Guardiola is not a manager who eases off on opponents when his team have them down. He will urge Manchester City to keep scoring goals and put more pressure on Liverpool in 3rd place by surpassing their goal difference and I can only see one winner on Saturday.

There will be moments Leicester City get in behind Manchester City, but the majority of chances should fall for the home team and I will back them to win this by a couple of goals as I did last weekend when they hosted Crystal Palace.


Bournemouth v Burnley Pick: There are a few funny results flying around at this stage of the season as teams begin to lose motivation with the summer holidays fast approaching for many of the players involved. Both Bournemouth and Burnley have nothing to lose now they are firmly clear of the relegation zone and having had successful seasons in the top flight.

Home advantage means Bournemouth should have extra motivation as they try to give the fans something to smile about to end the campaign. The Vitality Stadium has been a decent venue for Bournemouth who can score plenty of goals here and I think that is going to give Burnley problems especially if both Michael Keane and Ben Mee are missing for them.

There have been some solid performances from Burnley away from home in their recent games and they finally broke their run looking for a first away win in the League a couple of weeks ago. This is a team that is underrated going forward as they can cause problems for teams with their direct style and using the pace and power they have in forward spots.

Being tough to beat gives Burnley a chance to get something from this game but I do think Bournemouth have shown they have the ability to break down the teams in the bottom half when hosting them. Injuries are a concern for Bournemouth too and their own defence is far from watertight, but I think they may just have a little too much for Burnley and can get a measure of revenge for the loss at Turf Moor earlier this season.


Middlesbrough v Southampton Pick: The oddsmakers have placed Southampton as a pretty short favourite to win this weekend, but I am unsure they should be when you consider recent form and the potential fatigue that continues to be talked about. They are in the midst of a tough run of fixtures though and this is the weakest team they would have faced for some time, but Middlesbrough can play with some freedom.

Middlesbrough have played well at the Riverside Stadium in recent games with a positive result against Sunderland and Manchester City decent ones on paper. The defence is not playing as well as they were earlier in the season because of the change in mentality from the management staff, but Middlesbrough can at least give their fans something to hold onto over the summer before the return to the Championship.

There are question marks about both teams, but I am not sure Southampton should be a short favourite to win here. Relegation can affect players in two ways and there is a chance that Middlesbrough have lost their motivation for the remainder of the season.

However Sunderland showed some teams can play with freedom once their relegation has been confirmed and backing Middlesbrough to avoid defeat has every chance of landing.

The lack of goals being produced by Southampton makes it hard to believe in them and I will look for Middlesbrough to come out with a point at least.


Sunderland v Swansea City Pick: If ever you want to know how silly some of the prices can be for the football fixtures in May, I honestly think this fixture may be the perfect example. In what world should Swansea City be odds on to win at the Stadium of Light when the likes of West Ham United and Bournemouth were considerably higher prices to win here.

It is all about 'need' and the idea that Swansea City 'need' to win this to survive in the Premier League means their price has shortened. They might win, but I couldn't back that at the price on offer especially not when you think Sunderland have just won at Hull City last weekend and clearly still playing for some pride.

Sunderland and Swansea City have seen 3 of the last 4 at the Stadium of Light end in draws between them and I don't think it will be easy for Swansea City.

Regardless, I can't pick them at such a joke of a price and instead I think this could be a fixture that will likely not feature a lot of goals.

Both teams have had some issues scoring goals at home/away respectively and I think there is so much on the line for Swansea City that they could struggle under the pressure they are dealing with. A draw would not likely be the worst result for Swansea City as it would mean they are a further point clear of Hull City and will ensure Crystal Palace have something to play for when they host The Tigers on Sunday.

I don't think Paul Clement will look to take too many risks, but Swansea City will likely produce something from a set piece that can open up Sunderland. I don't think they will score more than once though and Sunderland themselves have not been scoring goals consistently so it does feel like this game might have two or fewer goals shared out on Saturday.

8 of the last 9 between Sunderland and Swansea City at the Stadium of Light have seen less than three goals shared out and I am going to back that being the outcome of this one.


Stoke City v Arsenal Pick: There have been a number of times in recent seasons when it has looked like Arsenal may miss out on the top four places in the Premier League when they have put together a run of wins at just the right time to break into the Champions League spots. This season they had looked dead and buried after the 2-0 loss at Tottenham Hotspur at the end of April, but both Manchester City and Liverpool have dropped points in that time which has left the door open.

Now it looks like Arsenal are ready to slip through the gap as they have won back to back League games this week to move to within 3 points of the top four. A win on Saturday will move them to a point behind Liverpool and then the pressure will be on the latter to respond at West Ham United on Sunday.

A win here is far from an easy result for Arsenal having struggled at Stoke City regularly down the years. Stoke City have had an inconsistent season and 4 of their 5 League defeats at the Bet365 Stadium have come against teams currently in the top four.

However it took a late goal from Chelsea to win here and Liverpool came from a goal behind, while Manchester United did have to settle for a 1-1 draw. With Arsenal's poor record at Stoke City, I think it takes a brave man to back them at 1.73 to win here this weekend.

I was wrong on Wednesday when I thought Southampton could earn a result against Arsenal, but much of that was down to the fact that The Saints were poor. Stoke City are well rested and have plenty of motivation being provided by the fans to produce a top performance against Arsenal and I am expecting more from The Potters than Southampton provided.

They have been a tough out at home over the years and Stoke City won't allow Arsenal to come here and win here without a real battle. I will back the home side on the Asian Handicap which will only lose half the stake if Arsenal are to win by one goal and I am looking for Stoke City to put the final dent in The Gunners Champions League push.


Crystal Palace v Hull City Pick: I wouldn't have wanted to be on the Crystal Palace training ground this weekend after the really poor effort produced in the 5-0 loss at Manchester City last Saturday. Sam Allardyce didn't blame anything but the players for the way the side started and then crumbled in the second half.

He will be expecting a response as Crystal Palace try and confirm their place in the Premier League this weekend in a fixture where a point will be enough for them. They have lost back to back home games, but Crystal Palace can produce one more big effort and I think Hull City could be in a really bad position by the time this game ends.

As well as Marco Silva has done in the last five months with the club, Hull City's 0-2 loss to Sunderland will have felt like a dagger through the heart. If Swansea City beat the same Sunderland team on Saturday, Hull City will need to win here to have a real chance of survival.

However they have not played as well away from home as they have at the KCOM Stadium under Silva and Hull City have conceded too many goals in those games. They should have a chance against an injury hit Crystal Palace defence, but I am anticipating the home team will create chances of their own.

This is a game in which Allardyce will have really got the players going for over the last week in training and I expect a positive reaction. At some point Hull City may have to push forward for a result and I think Crystal Palace can find a way to win this game and I will back them to do so at odds against.


West Ham United v Liverpool Pick: There is the importance of Liverpool needing to win their final two games to help them finish in the top four and I think that is factoring into the prices for them to win at West Ham United this weekend. They look very short despite winning 3 away games in a row, especially when you think of the form West Ham United have been in over the last month.

The Hammers have changed their system to have three at the back and that has seen them keep 4 clean sheets in 5 League games and that has to be respected. This is a Liverpool team missing the influence of Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho has been a little short of fitness so there is every chance West Ham United can make it difficult for Liverpool to break them down.

I am not anticipating a lot of goals for Liverpool and that should mean West Ham United have every chance to earn some sort of result. They haven't been consistent at the London Stadium, but they are unbeaten in 3 games here and both Everton and Tottenham Hotspur have failed to score here.

The pressure could be on Liverpool if Arsenal have beaten Stoke City on Saturday and Manchester City have done the same against Leicester City and that should also be factored in. Even if Arsenal haven't won, Liverpool will be under pressure to get a result and a 'freer' West Ham United team can get a result here.

I will look to back West Ham United on the Asian Handicap where even a narrow loss will return half the stake.


Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United PickJose Mourinho has said it 'isn't a gamble' focusing all of the energy on the Europa League, but it took a huge mis-kick from John Guidetti to help Manchester United through to the Final of that competition on Thursday. It was a tense evening at Old Trafford and the players would have put in a lot of physical and mental effort to move past Celta Vigo.

The side have now played twice since Tottenham Hotspur last took to the field and I am expecting a positive reaction from the home team following their 1-0 defeat at West Ham United. The final home game at White Hart Lane is going to bring a party atmosphere to the Stadium and I am not sure Manchester United will be able to match the desire that Tottenham Hotspur will bring to the field.

The top four is gone for Manchester United to all extents and purposes and I can see Jose Mourinho picking a side similar to the one that started at Arsenal. It wasn't a bad team, but it was one that was looking to contain a poor Arsenal team and now will have to try and do the same against a Tottenham Hotspur team who have been rampant at home for much of the season.

Players like Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane will feel confident they can find a way to break down a defensively organised Manchester United team who have struggled against the top sides in the Premier League.

Manchester United have earned 12 points from a possible 33 points against the top seven teams in the Premier League this season and only 3 points from a possible 15 away from home. Failing to score goals has become common practice too with the sole strike at Everton the only one in those away games and I think it will be tough for the Manchester United players to match the energy that Tottenham Hotspur should have.

The one concern for Tottenham Hotspur is they did stumble badly once their Premier League title challenge was run last season and they have lost at West Ham United last time out. However the atmosphere in the game should carry them forward and Tottenham Hotspur have been very strong at home all season.

They have already beaten Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal and Everton here and only Liverpool escaped with a 1-1 draw very early in the season. Everton scored a late goal to come away with a narrow 3-2 loss, but the other three teams have all lost 2-0 at White Hart Lane and that leads me to my pick.

I respect the fact that Manchester United have defended well for the most part, but they are going to have to defend deep and concentrate for large portions of this one off the back of a really tough and emotional Semi Final. In the same time Tottenham Hotspur have been fully concentrated on this fixture and have broken down the top teams when hosting them.

Manchester United have earned tough draws at Liverpool and Manchester City, but they have also been beaten by a couple of goals at least at Arsenal and Chelsea. Tottenham Hotspur could do the same here.

I hate picking against my team and would love to see Manchester United win here and spoil the party. However the club are concentrating on the Europa League Semi Final as much as I am and that should give Tottenham Hotspur the impetus to win this by a couple of goals.

Tottenham Hotspur have beaten three of the four teams above Manchester United by that margin and that looks a big price this weekend.

MY PICKS: Everton - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.11 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Bournemouth @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Middlesbrough + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sunderland-Swansea City Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Stoke City + 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
West Ham United + 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 2.04 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1 English Handicap @ 2.88 Bet Fred (2 Units)

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