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Friday, 11 August 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (August 11-13)

After what has felt like an age, the Premier League season is finally back.

I hate these years without a major international tournament as my football fix just cannot be fed, but next summer we have the World Cup Finals and we have all survived through the bleak last three months.

Excitement and optimism is in the air around the country and hopefully this is going to be another excellent season.


I have also written about the new season at Manchester United and the excitement most fans are feeling about the new campaign here.


With the start of a new Premier League season, this is considered the time for predictions for the season. While things can change quickly, this is my prediction for the upcoming Premier League season followed by picks from the opening weekend of the season.

Champions: Manchester City- this is a team with the best squad in the Premier League. Pep Guardiola has had a season to understand the Premier League and the differences between managing a top club in this Division compared with La Liga and the Bundesliga and the signings made make Manchester City more well rounded and a younger squad than the one Guardiola was working with last season.

Keeping Vincent Kompany fit may be the key, but the attacking talent is mouthwatering and Manchester City should be more clinical in front of goal which leads to a first title since 2014.


Champions League Places: Manchester United- I think Manchester United will finish behind Manchester City but will push them all the way. Jose Mourinho's side weren't far away from a much better season in the League last season and Romelu Lukaku can join up with Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba to provide more goals going forward and turning draws into wins.

Defensively United have options and Nemanja Matic is a huge boost to the squad. If United can purchase a left sided attacking player, they may even have enough to win the title for the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

You can read more about my Manchester United thoughts here.

Tottenham Hotspur- this is all about keeping the first eleven fit, which is a tough ask for Tottenham Hotspur. Playing at Wembley instead of White Hart Lane should see them slip back from last season, but they have enough in the first eleven to finish in the Champions League spots again.

Injuries could be a big problem barring some big investment in the remaining days of this transfer window.

Liverpool- everything depends on keeping Philippe Coutinho. Keep him and Liverpool should mount a title challenge but a lack of squad depth will likely mean a top four finish. Mohammed Salah is a good signing and if Sadio Mane remains fit they should be there or thereabouts as long as their Brazilian playmaker stays at the club.


Europa League Places: Chelsea- I thought Chelsea were overrated last season thanks to a record breaking run in the middle of the season. While finishing as Champions, Chelsea need more players with the Champions League to play as well as the Premier League this season.

Alvaro Morata has to adjust to the Premier League quickly, and Eden Hazard can't return quick enough. Chelsea's system should be more familiar to teams this season and I think they rode their luck last season which may desert the current squad and fall out of the top four is possible.

Arsenal- keeping Alexis Sanchez would be a huge achievement for Arsenal and potentially moves them back into the top four, but I am not sure he will stay even now. If Sanchez does move on, I can't see Arsenal finishing higher than 6th place barring a complete collapse from a team above them.


Relegation: Newcastle United- Rafa Benitez is upset and I would not be surprised if he walks away from this job. This is still a Championship looking squad and a lack of investment has bothered the manager.

If Benitez stays, Newcastle United stay up, but his departure may lead to another relegation for a North East side from the Premier League.

Burnley- this is harsh on Burnley who played so well last season, but they were heavily reliant on overachieving massively at Turf Moor. I can't see them matching that and Burnley look weaker without Michael Keane and Andre Gray.

They will work hard, but a step back in the home form may lead to relegation this time around.

Huddersfield Town- all credit has to be given to David Wagner, but The Terriers look far short of the quality needed to survive in the Premier League.

I expect Huddersfield Town to be decent enough in the first three months, but the high press could see players lack the energy in the second half of the season as confidence drops with a loss of form.


League Cup: Manchester City- the strong squad may be able to negotiate the early Rounds and Pep Guardiola may follow the likes of other big name managers in England whose first silverware came in this competition.


FA Cup: Tottenham Hotspur- Mauricio Pochettino has been given plenty of credit for the way he has improved Tottenham Hotspur in his time at the club, but a lack of silverware still sticks out like a sore thumb.

As they improve at Wembley during the course of the season, Tottenham Hotspur should feel right at home when it comes to the FA Cup Semi Final and Final and I can see them finally winning a trophy again.


Now I imagine plenty of these predictions go very wrong with the top six tightly bunched up. But it's just a bit of fun to see how it goes and look back in ten months time and realise how wrong I was back in August.


On Friday the Premier League is back and I have picks from the entire weekend from the top flight, English Championship and Scottish Premiership which can be read below.


Arsenal v Leicester City Pick: After what has felt like an eternity, the Premier League is back in action this weekend with the start of the opening weekend coming on Friday night from North London. For most clubs that might feel like a positive, but there are still some real question marks about this Arsenal team and a section of their support might be itching to make their feelings clear to Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium on Friday evening.

This is actually the sixth season in a row that Arsenal will be opening up the Premier League at home, but they have unbelievably only won 1 of those previous 5 games. In fact Arsenal have lost 3 of their last 4 including opening weekend losses to West Ham United and Liverpool in the last couple of years.

It actually means Arsenal have won 1 of their last 7 opening Premier League games at the Emirates Stadium and that is not going to be music to the ears of Arsene Wenger. Another poor showing is going to bring the boo birds out again and it is not the kind of way any team wants to begin a new campaign which usually comes with plenty of optimism.

You can’t really judge a team on the way they have played last season, but Leicester City did struggle away from home against the top clubs. The Foxes lost 8 of 9 away games against the top nine in the Premier League last season and 5 of those losses did come by at least two goals.

However they do look a more settled side under Craig Shakespeare and the 3 away games at the top 9 clubs under his guidance saw Leicester City lose narrowly twice.

The squad also hasn’t had the upheaval of losing someone of the importance of N’Golo Kante (at least not at the time of writing) and Leicester City have added a couple of quality additions in Harry Maguire and Vicente Iborra.

With Arsenal potentially missing the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, I can see why the layers are not giving much away with Leicester City on the handicaps. Add in Arsenal’s opening weekend woes in recent years and this feels like it could be another tight match between two clubs who have had touch encounters in recent years.

The Gunners have managed to get the better of Leicester City with some fortune in those games and I feel they may just earn the narrow edge again. This is a fixture where you want to keep stakes to a minimum, but backing Arsenal to win by a single goal margin might be the best way to approach it.

Leicester City may be a little better all around than last season, but recent years have seen them have their difficulties away from home at the top clubs. They’ve lost 3 times in a row at the Emirates Stadium by a single goal margin, while Arsenal had a 13-1-1 record at home against teams who finished below them last season.

Only 5 of Arsenal’s 14 home Premier League wins came by a single goal margin in the 2016/17 season, but add in their issues on the opening weekend and the absence of Alexis Sanchez and that feels as good as it gets for the most likely winners on the day.


Watford v Liverpool Pick: Jurgen Klopp may be very happy to be focusing on competitive football again as he continues to face questions about Philippe Coutinho and whether he will be staying at Liverpool. The distraction of Coutinho as well as the Champions League Qualifiers which begin next week may leave Liverpool a little vulnerable for this trip to Vicarage Road.

There will be excitement around the ground for the early Saturday kick off as Watford play their first game under the guidance of Marco Silva. Despite failing to avoid relegation with Hull City, Silva’s reputation actually improved in English Football as he gave The Tigers every chance to avoid the drop.

Watford fans will be hoping he can help their side kick on in the Premier League with the hope of more positive football than the Walter Mazzarri era produced. However the key remains to avoid the drop into the Championship and Watford have signed players like Will Hughes, Tom Cleverley and Nathanial Chalobah to give them extra bite in the middle of the park.

Silva will also be looking for the shield to protect a Watford defence that finished with the 4th worst record in the Premier League last season. Facing the 4th best attack in the League from last season is going to be a real challenge for Watford this weekend, especially with Sadio Mane back for Liverpool.

The Coutinho situation makes it tough to know whether he will be starting this weekend and that does take away some of the threat of Liverpool. His passing is key for the side, but Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino do offer a real threat for Liverpool going forward.

Liverpool did win 6 of their 10 away games at the teams in the bottom half last season, but one of the failures came at Hull City under Marco Silva. Goals also tended to flow as 7 of those 10 away games finished with at least three goals shared out.

The Silva arrival does change things for Watford who have lost 19 of 20 games against teams that finished in the top five over the last two seasons. This is a team who lost 10 of 12 home games against the top six finishers, and 3 of the 6 games at Vicarage Road against the top six last season ended in Watford losses of two or more goals.

In 5 of their 6 home games against the top six, there were three or more goals featured and I am looking for at least three to be shared out in this one. Liverpool conceded in 13 of 19 away games last season, but have the attacking threat to make up for it, while Watford saw goals flow when they faced the best teams.

Opening weekend games can be tough to read, but I am looking for at least three goals to be shared out by these teams on Saturday.


Chelsea v Burnley Pick: You can’t ignore the similarities between the attitudes of Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte just months after winning the Premier League title as Chelsea manager. Mourinho was remarkably unhappy going into the 2015/16 season and lasted a few months before being relieved as manager, while Conte looks increasingly upset at what he perceives is a lack of support in transfer dealings the Champions have made.

There are even suggestions Conte will walk away from Stamford Bridge despite signing a new contract in the summer. A lot will depend on how much business is conducted by Chelsea between now and the end of August, but the poor body language has to be a big concern for Chelsea fans.

No one will dispute that Chelsea look short of numbers, but Conte seems to have escaped the criticisms Mourinho was receiving for not bringing through the youth. Nathan Ake, Nathanial Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Christian Atsu, Dominic Solanke and Bertrand Traore are just some of the young names that have been allowed to move on.

That’s a lot of players that some would consider as capable squad players that have been let go, but Conte won’t care about that and instead is focusing on the lack of players being signed. It does lead to a negative atmosphere and this opening weekend game is an important one to change the feeling ahead of the big clash with Tottenham Hotspur eight days later.

It does feel like Chelsea are playing the right opponent in a Burnley side who have lost Michael Keane this summer. The majority of the squad has been kept together with some solid signings in Jack Cork and Jonathan Walters, but Burnley struggled mightily away from home last season.

12 of the top 13 clubs beat them in front of their own fans and goals were a problem. For all the anger that Conte has been displaying, Chelsea still look solid enough at the back to be able to keep Burnley from having an impact on the scoreboard.

Asking Chelsea to cover a big Asian Handicap might be too much considering Eden Hazard is absent and with the negativity I have spoken about. It feels like a fixture Chelsea would just love to pick up the three points and then move on to getting ready to face Tottenham Hotspur.

Burnley might have struggled for goals, but they did manage to hit the net at 6 of the top 8 last season. However they didn’t do that at Stamford Bridge and I think Chelsea will be looking to be as tight as possible in this one so backing them to win with a clean sheet is the pick.


Crystal Palace v Huddersfield Town Pick: The opening weekend of the Premier League season can be a very difficult one to call and so I would advise a minimum unit on this pick. That has a lot to do with how poorly Crystal Palace have played at Selhurst Park over the last three seasons with just 18 wins from their last 57 Premier League games here.

They now have a new manager who plays the brand of football that may be pleasing on the eye, but also could lead to Crystal Palace being more open at the back. That is certainly an area where David Wagner’s Huddersfield Town will look to earn mistakes from their high press which could see The Terriers earn an important win to open the new campaign.

However it is hard to see how Huddersfield Town will have a lot of success away from home at the higher level. The high press is all well and good, but Huddersfield Town will be trying to do that against teams far superior than they played in the Championship last season.

Even then, Huddersfield Town may have finished with the 5th best away record in the Championship, and beat Newcastle United, but the side lost to all the other clubs that finished in the top six. Now at a higher level, Huddersfield Town’s foundation for survival will have to be laid at home.

Opening weekend does produce surprise results though and Crystal Palace look a little short for me. In saying that, half of their home wins over the last two seasons have come against teams that have finished below them in the Premier League table and I would fancy Crystal Palace are going to finish above Huddersfield Town.

Goals could be produced by two teams who will likely try to play some attacking football, but I think the superior Crystal Palace squad can earn the three points on Saturday. It won’t be easy and I think it is hard to fully believe in a side that have such a poor record at home, but I will have a minimum unit pick on Crystal Palace to win.


Everton v Stoke City Pick: There is plenty of excitement going into the new season for Everton, but things could take a real shift if their club are unable to beat Stoke City and also go out of the Europa League before the Group Stage. The fixture compilers have not been kind to Everton so any slow start could see all positive vibes leave the stands before the end of September.

After this Premier League opener against Stoke City, Everton face Manchester City (A), Chelsea (A), Tottenham Hotspur (H) and Manchester United (A)… Suffice to say it is important for Everton to get off to a good start this weekend.

The new arrivals at the club have shown intent from Everton, but I feel they may have improved the squad rather than the starting eleven if that makes sense. While they can rotate the squad a little more, the absence of Romelu Lukaku and, to a lesser extent, Ross Barkley does take away pace and quality from the Everton starting line up.

You can understand why Ronald Koeman has not finished his transfer business with that in mind, but it does mean Everton look incredibly short to win this match. I do think they will get the better of Stoke City, who also look weaker than last season at this point, but I won’t be risking too many units on them being able to do that.

Mark Hughes is under a different pressure than Koeman with the expectation at Stoke City not matching that at Everton. However the manager won’t want another start like last season when Stoke City failed to win any of their first 7 Premier League games and lost 4 in a row after an opening day draw with Middlesbrough.

This is a team that continues to struggle to compete with the best teams in the Premier League, especially away from home.

Everton were another who beat Stoke City at home last season, but the back to back home losses to this club prior to that does worry me. I think Everton will also find it tougher to break down these kinds of teams without more investment, but I think they have better momentum and more positive feelings than Stoke City and can show that this weekend.

The side have won 9 of their last 10 at home in all competitions and I will have a minimum unit on Everton winning this weekend.


Brighton v Manchester City Pick: The television cameras will head to the Amex Stadium for the first time for a Premier League game and there will be excitement in the air for both Brighton and Manchester City. The fans in the Stadium will be looking for Brighton to kick on from last season, but Chris Hughton will get an idea of how much work there is to do to keep Brighton in the Premier League when facing a team of this quality on opening weekend.

Finishing 17th will do for Brighton this season you would imagine, but anything less than 1st, or at least a sustained title challenge until May, will probably be seen as a failure for Manchester City. The investment made in the transfer window makes Manchester City the favourites for the title in my opinion, although they do need to keep the likes of Vincent Kompany and Kevin De Bruyne fit for much of the season.

Ederson, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Bernardo Silva being added to the talent already in the squad gives Pep Guardiola the options he would want. They have kept Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero together and this is a team with plenty of goals in the side.

I also think Manchester City will continue to be a very dangerous away team having won 12 of 19 away Premier League games last season. With the extra space they will tend to find on their travels, Manchester City have the pace and the quality to exploit the spaces they will tend to find.

Manchester City didn’t beat any of their fellow top five teams away from home, but they were very strong against the rest of the teams. They were beaten at Leicester City, but Manchester City won 11 of 13 games at the bottom 13 last season.

9 of their 12 wins came by two or more goals as Manchester City were very good at exploiting spaces and I expect that to be the case on Saturday. While Brighton will be cautious under Chris Hughton, trying to play preventative football at home can be difficult with the fans urging a team on. Brighton will also have players looking to prove themselves and I think it will be a tough ask for them to stay with this Manchester City team who will put up some big scores away from home this season.

Manchester City were particularly dominant when they faced the teams who finished inside the bottom 7 places and that is where Brighton are most likely to end up. Opening day can see a surprise result or two, but I will be looking for Manchester City to earn a win by at least a couple of goals on Saturday afternoon.


Newcastle United v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: With a new Stadium being built and Tottenham Hotspur finishing in the Champions League places in consecutive seasons for the first time, fans of the club must have been excited about the chances of winning the Premier League title this season.

However the majority of the teams that finished below them have strengthened, as well as Champions Chelsea, while Tottenham Hotspur have only sold Kyle Walker in this transfer window. Standing still is not really the pathway to success, especially not with the additional factor of playing home games away from White Hart Lane.

Therefore a top four finish would be a big achievement for Tottenham Hotspur whose squad is going to be stretched by Champions League and Premier League Football. An injury to the likes of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli or Harry Kane would be too difficult to overcome too and I think this could be a difficult season for Spurs.

An injury free season and Tottenham Hotspur will challenge for a top four finish but that is asking for a lot of luck. Tottenham Hotspur had the 5th best away record in the Premier League last season and now essentially have to play 38 away League games.

Tottenham Hotspur were at their best away from home when playing the bottom 9 clubs, winning 8 of those games and drawing the other. That will give them confidence when facing a Newcastle United team who have not strengthened as they would have liked.

However you can’t ignore that Newcastle United finished with the 10th best home record in the Premier League two seasons ago despite relegation. The year prior it was the 13th best home record and Newcastle United will be well organised under Rafa Benitez, who gives them the best shot of the promoted clubs to avoid the drop back into the Championship.

A lack of new investment has bothered Benitez, but Newcastle United will give Tottenham Hotspur a test. At home Newcastle United are expected to get forward so I do think they can pose problems for Tottenham Hotspur, although the same will be said for Tottenham Hotspur when they get forward.

A new season does mean some players could tire, but the temperatures don’t look too bad for August so I expect to see a good game between these two clubs. Goals have flowed when Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur have met at St James’ Park and I think the home team can contribute in an entertaining affair on Sunday.

Tottenham Hotspur look short to win here considering some of the negative headlines about their transfer policy, but any win will have to come in a game featuring at least three goals in my opinion.


Manchester United v West Ham United Pick: Both Manchester United and West Ham United underachieved in the Premier League last season, but both clubs come into the new season with more positive feelings than negative ones. There is a real expectation that both clubs will improve on their 6th and 11th place finishes respectively from last season.

Jose Mourinho’s successes in his second season with previous clubs are being used for further positives for Manchester United who won the Europa Cup to end last season. With the new investment being made on the playing side, there does feel like a title winning squad is being put together, although perhaps still a season away from actually going on to win it.

Romelu Lukaku’s arrival is for games like this one where he can turn draws into wins. Too many clubs came to Old Trafford to earn a draw last season, and notably from further down the League table, but Lukaku showed at Everton he does score in these kind of games.

With the likes of Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan having a season under their belts, Manchester United do look a more settled eleven. They may still be able to do with another left sided attacker and that looks to be an area that will be strengthened before the transfer window shuts, but overall the squad looks better than last season.

It won’t be easy against a West Ham United team even though the Hammers lost 7 of 10 away games against teams that finished above them in the Premier League. One of their positive results came at Old Trafford and West Ham United do look a more settled team this time around compared with twelve months ago.

The arrival of the likes of Marko Arnautovic and Javier Hernandez look like solid bits of business for a team looking for a top half finish. However injuries could be a factor on the opening weekend of the season and West Ham United could be needing their hosts to be as poor in front of goal as they were for much of last season.

Chances will be created as Manchester United showed against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup. There has to be some concern that Manchester United missed some top opportunities in that game too, but I think they open this season with a positive vibe and can record what will be a comfortable home League win to set the tone for the season.

You can read my views about Manchester United's upcoming season here.


Partick Thistle v Celtic Pick: At this stage of the season you would have to think that Celtic are going to be very much focused on the Champions League Play Off Round tie against Astana. The First Leg is played on Wednesday, but Celtic have been given the benefit of a Friday night Scottish Premiership time which should be ample time to prepare for the Champions League tie at Celtic Park.

Partick Thistle will be hoping to build on their 6th place finish in the Scottish Premiership from last season, but it can be tough to know exactly how to approach this League fixture. While they impressed with their highest League finish in almost thirty years, it was clear that Partick Thistle didn't really belong with the elite clubs in the Scottish Premiership.

The squad may be considered stronger this season, but I don't think you can ignore the fact Partick Thistle lost 9 of 10 home games against the teams who finished above them in the Scottish Premiership. There is also no doubt that Celtic look head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in the Division and they did record 2 big wins at Firhill Stadium last season (1-4 in December and 0-5 in May).

The home team have to hope Celtic are distracted, but Brendan Rodgers has his team playing very well early in the last campaign with the hope of keeping positive momentum behind them going into the Champions League Qualifiers. With a couple of big wins already this week, Celtic look very dangerous here.

Celtic have won 14 in a row at Partick Thistle and 9 of those have come by at least a couple of goals. That includes 5 of the last 6 including both last season and Partick Thistle were beaten by a couple of goals in 3 of 4 matches against Celtic and Aberdeen last season.

Backing Celtic to win here by at least a couple of goals looks to be too big a price and I will look for the Scottish Champions to have some real momentum behind them when they face Astana next week.


Brentford v Nottingham Forest PickThe opening weeks of a new season can be difficult to get a read on with teams sometimes undercooked at the start and then rapidly making improvements with the quick succession of matches in August. There are 4 games for the teams in the Championship to negotiate by the middle of the month and this is the third of those for Brentford and Nottingham Forest.

Mark Warburton should receive a positive welcome from the Brentford fans having guided them to a Play Off spot before harshly being let go by the owner. Brentford have not been able to match that finish since Warburton left, but the manager is now concerned with Nottingham Forest.

He was not happy with the performance in the 1-0 win over Millwall, while Brentford perhaps deserved more than a defeat at Sheffield United last week. Being at home for the first time may give Brentford the chance to move back level on points with their visitors who had an awful away record last season.

Brentford were inconsistent at home for the second season in a row and that has to be a concern. However they do have goals in the squad and would have been encouraged by the chances Millwall created against Nottingham Forest, while Brentford have beaten Nottingham Forest twice in a row at Griffin Park.

That is enough to have a minimum unit interest on Brentford winning their first home game of the season.


Leeds United v Preston North End Pick: There was a disappointment in the Leeds United fanbase that they could not keep Garry Monk as manager and it was clear how much the supporters are still thankful to their former manager last weekend. However the Thomas Christiansen era has gotten off to a positive start with back to back wins and now the manager looks for a first League win at Elland Road.

7 goals scored in a couple of games will encourage the fans that an exciting season is forthcoming, but Christiansen is likely going to want Leeds United to show better defensive shape.

Elland Road is also going to be an important venue for Leeds United if they want to improve on their 7th place finish from last season. They played well here last season, but still have room for improvement having finished with fewer wins than seven other teams in the Championship.

Leeds United look to be facing the right opponent in Preston North End despite Alex Neil's men getting off to a positive start with a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday last weekend. However they were then beaten 3-2 at Accrington Stanley in the League Cup and Preston North End have not won any of 12 away games in all competitions and lost 5 in a row.

They were also beaten by 6 of the top 7 in the League away from home last season and Preston North End have lost twice in a row at Elland Road since being promoted back into the Championship. I think Leeds United can continue their 100% record in the new season here and are worth a back to win this one.


Sheffield Wednesday v Queens Park Rangers Pick: This is still very early in the new League season but earning the first points will still be the only way for players to truly settle into the campaign.

Sheffield Wednesday and Queens Park Rangers both moved into the League Cup Second Round during the week with wins over lower League opposition, but only Queens Park Rangers won on the opening weekend.

Playing at home should give Sheffield Wednesday every chance to win their first League game especially as they look a stronger squad than Queens Park Rangers. The latter did lose at 3 of the top 5 from last season, although they have proved to be a tough nut to crack at times.

Losing 6 of their last 7, including the last 5 in a row, away from home will put Queens Park Rangers in a tough spot and over the last couple of seasons Sheffield Wednesday have generally been able to beat those teams who finished below them at Hillsborough.

It won't be easy to keep the stake to a minimum, but I will look for Sheffield Wednesday to find a way to get the better of Queens Park Rangers here.


Middlesbrough v Sheffield United Pick: Twelve months ago there would have been two Divisions between these teams, but on Saturday Middlesbrough and Sheffield United will be playing in a League game at the Riverside Stadium.

While the thinking may be that Middlesbrough are feeling down after relegation and Sheffield United are on the up following promotion, it is Middlesbrough who are considered favourites in the Championship. This is a squad that has the majority of players from the team that won promotion two years ago, while Garry Monk has been able to add some real firepower.

That didn't look the case in the 1-0 loss at Wolves last weekend, but you have to think Middlesbrough will have goals in the squad and will be there or thereabouts when it comes to promotion places in May.

Sheffield United will be confident having won 1-0 last weekend in their first game at this level in seven years, but they were put under pressure by Brentford and that game was played at Bramall Lane. Playing away from home will be a much tougher test for a newly promoted side and I think it is important to note they lost at both Bolton Wanderers and Millwall who came up with them.

In fact The Blades failed to beat any of the 5 teams immediately below them away from home and this is a big step up in competition for them. I do think Middlesbrough will challenge for promotion and Garry Monk's Leeds United were very strong at home last season.

I expect Middlesbrough to get their first win of the season this weekend.

MY PICKS: Arsenal to Win by One Goal @ 3.80 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Watford-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea to Win to Nil @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace @ 1.83 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Everton @ 1.70 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet365 (2 Units)
Newcastle United-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.98 Bet365 (2 Units)
Celtic - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.77 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Brentford @ 1.86 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Leeds United @ 2.05 Coral (1 Unit)
Sheffield Wednesday @ 1.85 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Middlesbrough @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

August Update: 2-3-1, - 0.85 Units (6 Units Staked, - 14.17% Yield)

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