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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (September 9-11)

I've been away for the last few days enjoying a break in New York City which means I am simply putting up the Football Picks from the Premier League this weekend.

I will add Sunday and Monday Picks on Saturday.

Manchester City v Liverpool Pick: The Premier League returns with a bang off the international break with two of the top four teams from last season meeting on Saturday.

Both Manchester City and Liverpool had some decent performances in August to open the new season and it would be a huge surprise if this is not an attacking game of football. The two teams are clearly better going forward than they are defensively, while the loss of Vincent Kompany is a big blow for Manchester City.

The styles the two managers employ should mesh really well with Manchester City likely to leave spaces for the pacy Liverpool front three, but also being able to have enough of the ball to challenge a team that has struggled defensively.

Jurgen Klopp's tactics have been very effective against the top teams in the Premier League and so it makes it hard to back Manchester City at odds on to win. However I would want a bigger price to back Liverpool to avoid a defeat and the Asian Handicap looks at about the right line.

With the attacking players on display, it is much harder to imagine a low scoring game. Both fixtures didn't produce the goals expected last season, but anyone who saw the game at the Etihad Stadium will know the huge chances that were missed by players with better composure than they showed on that day.

Chances should not be hard to find for either team in this one and I am looking for goals from a fixture that has produced them at a high rate in recent years. Prior to the game here last season, 3 of 4 between Manchester City and Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium had ended with at least four goals shared out.

The missed opportunities last season could have easily seen that trend continue, but this time I will look for the two clubs to get back to plenty of goals being shared out.

Arsenal v Bournemouth Pick: This feels like a really important match for Arsenal and their manager as they try and get back on track after what was a miserable August. Back to back Premier League defeats at Stoke City and then the embarrassing debacle at Anfield have put the pressure on Arsene Wenger and he will be looking for a big response from his players.

One of those is Alexis Sanchez who saw his dream move to Manchester City blocked by Wenger ahead of the transfer window closing. Sanchez certainly played half-heartedly in the loss at Liverpool and it will be interesting to see how he responds to being forced to stay at Arsenal when it was clear he wanted to move on.

Wenger and Sanchez are not on the same page just yet with the former suggesting Sanchez is not ready for the weekend and the player himself suggesting he is.

Instead it may take the rest of the players to really produce after a slow start to the season, but facing Bournemouth does give them every chance of doing that. This is a Bournemouth team whose style does make it 'easier' for the top teams to face them and there may be a slight lack of confidence that comes with 3 losses from 3 League games.

They will feel they can challenge the Arsenal back line, but Bournemouth are still trying to figure out the best way to employ their new signings. Arsenal will create chances against them and I do think The Gunners will have a little too much firepower in the forward areas which helps them win this fixture.

I wouldn't be surprised if Arsenal got as many as three goals for the third time in a row against Bournemouth and I will look for them to win this one by a couple of goals on the day.

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Neither Everton nor Tottenham Hotspur have made the ideal start to the new season and that means there is some importance on the line in this fixture. It may only be September but there needs to be some feel good factor for the two managers and that should mean a tense fixture on Saturday.

Both teams are defensively sound and games between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur have been very close in recent years. That is especially the case at Goodison Park and I don't think there will be much between them on the day again.

3 of the last 4 games here between these two clubs have ended in draws and I do think that is a real player again. I expect Everton to be tough to beat for any of the top clubs with the organisation Ronald Koeman puts together for his squad of players, but I am not sure Everton are completely settled as to how they want to play going forward.

Tottenham Hotspur are still a solid defensively organised team and I don't think they will be giving a lot away in this one either. Harry Kane will be glad to see the back of August as his early month struggles continued, but he was back amongst the goals when playing for England and Tottenham Hotspur will be hoping he can be a little more clinical in front of goal for them in this one.

They do look the stronger of the two teams going forward so I can understand why Tottenham Hotspur are favoured to win this fixture. However I do think another tight match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur will come out on Saturday and so backing fewer than three goals to be shared out looks an appealing price.

Leicester City v Chelsea Pick: It is hard to back Chelsea at odds on to win here because I think Leicester City are one of the better home teams in the Premier League, especially under Craig Shakespeare. Leicester City should be able to cause some problems for a Chelsea side that have not looked completely secure at the back, although the last couple of performances from Chelsea have been very good.

They now add Eden Hazard to the attacking options and Chelsea will have some insight into the Leicester City dressing room through new signing Danny Drinkwater. That may give Chelsea the edge, but it is hard to ask them to do that at odds on in a tough venue.

Leicester City have shown they can create chances through the first three games, but defensively there are still question marks that need to be answered. I do expect the latter to be exposed by Chelsea, but the Champions have not looked completely at ease at the back themselves.

5 of the last 6 between Leicester City and Chelsea have ended with at least three goals shared out, while the last 9 played in Leicester have done the same. With the way both teams had been playing in August, I can see there being enough chances at both ends to see this game also finish with at least three goals shared out.

I would not be surprised in the slightest if both teams score and I will look for at least both to push for a winner which should see chances created for at least three goals on the day.

Stoke City v Manchester United Pick: The first two months of the season felt important for Manchester United with a fixture list that sees them avoid any of the sides that finished above them in the Premier League last season. October and early November will be a different story for Jose Mourinho's team so these early games are a chance to build some momentum and confidence.

The squad do look much happier having won two trophies last season and the new signings have improved the starting eleven. Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku have fitted in seamlessly early in their careers at Old Trafford and Manchester United have really thrived with 3 wins from 3.

This is a tougher game than they may have faced so far in the season as Stoke City have played well enough over their last three games to think they will be a threat. However Stoke City needed some luck to see off Arsenal here and now have Ryan Shawcross likely sitting out while also playing a better team than the one Arsenal took to the Bet365 Stadium.

In recent years this has been something of a bogey team for Manchester United having needed a late Wayne Rooney goal to prevent losing here for the third time in 4 visits. There has been some misfortune for Manchester United in that time too, but I think this current squad are much more confident in their abilities to earn results at venues like this.

I was hoping Stoke City's win over Arsenal may have produced a bigger price on the Manchester United win, but the performances of United have got the layers scampering a little bit. The weather has been causing some concern for the Manchester United players, but the pitch should be playing really well at kick off and I will look for Manchester United to win this one by a couple of goals on the day.

Burnley v Crystal Palace PickThere are certain demands that Frank de Boer has of any team he manages, but at this moment in time he needs results as the pressure builds in charge of Crystal Palace. He refuses to change his principles as to how football should be played, but he won't get a lot more time to implement those principles if Crystal Palace can't get a win or two soon.

The next two weeks could be vital for de Boer and Crystal Palace after losing their opening 3 Premier League games. A trip to Burnley followed by a home game against Southampton look much more winnable than the three games which will follow against the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea.

That does increase the pressure on Crystal Palace to get a result on Sunday, but they are facing a tough Burnley team who have exceeded expectations in August. Exceeding expectations has become a feature of the Sean Dyche era at Turf Moor and Burnley will be hoping they can get into the same run they produced at home in the Premier League last season.

You would worry about the fact that Burnley have won 1 of their last 8 games here in all competitions and lost 5 of their last 7. That makes it hard to trust them against a Crystal Palace team who have struggled but have plenty of quality of their own.

However I do think Burnley can earn their first home League win of the season on Sunday behind a well organised defence. While Crystal Palace are still trying to score their first goal of the season in the Premier League, Burnley will feel they can earn at least a couple of big opportunities against a defence that has conceded 6 goals in 3 League games.

The arrival of Mamadou Sakho gives Crystal Palace a real boost on the defensive side of their game, but I am not sure the de Boer tactics will take hold unless he does change his approach. The problem is the Dutchman does not sound like he is going to do that and there is every chance he lasts even less time at Selhurst Park as manager than he did with Inter Milan.

Burnley are surely going to get better at home than they have been in recent months, but the lack of form means I will have a small interest in the home team earning the three points.

Swansea City v Newcastle United Pick: The second of the two live games on Sunday in the Premier League looks to be a fixture that could be a pretty entertaining affair. Swansea City have always played pleasing football, but Newcastle United have some of their better quality back with Jonjo Shelvey returning from a suspension which may give them a boost in confidence.

Out of the two teams Swansea City have to be feeling much better and not only because they have a point more in the bank. The signings of Renato Sanches and Wilfried Bony means Swansea City have brought in some real quality and the fans will certainly get behind their team.

The 0-4 home defeat to Manchester United was a blow, but Swansea City have won 6 of 10 games at the Liberty Stadium under Paul Clement and that has to be respected. Even in the defeat to Manchester United, Swansea City showed what they can be going forward and the four goals conceded look a little harsh as Manchester United punished them with three late goals.

In their two other League games, Swansea City have kept a couple of clean sheets and this is a Newcastle United team that looks likely to struggle for goals. Potentially missing Rafa Benitez in the dugout is another loss for Newcastle United and I do think they are going to struggle to contain a Swansea City team that have played well here under Clement.

I do think Newcastle United could potentially struggle away from home for much of the season and another defeat to a team they may consider a relegation rival could underline that point. This is clearly not a squad that Benitez has a lot of faith in, whereas Clement has really improved the confidence of his own team and I will look for that to show up here.

It could be tight, but I will look for the new Swansea City signings to make the difference and I will back the home team to win this one.

MY PICKS: Manchester City-Liverpool Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.40 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.03 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton-Tottenham Hotspur Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Leicester City-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Burnley @ 2.38 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Swansea City @ 2.40 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

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