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Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Midweek Football Picks 2017 (November 28-29)

There is a quick turnaround in the Premier League this week with an additional midweek round of games.

Now we have gotten into the 'festive' period, there are plenty of rounds of fixtures to be played from November 18th through to the Third Round of the FA Cup which begins on January 5th.

Look out for the rotation as managers look to keep their players as fresh as possible for the second half of the season, while there is also the factor of having big games ahead that may make managers want to wrap some of their stars in cotton wool. You have to factor everything in when trying to make the right picks from a difficult League.

The Premier League games are split over two days with four played on Tuesday and the remaining six games played on Wednesday. The picks from both days are below.

Brighton v Crystal Palace Pick: There are a good run of games in front of Crystal Palace so you can't underestimate how important the late winner over Stoke City. The performances have not been bad, but the players will have needed the three points to show their hard work is going to pay off and Roy Hodgson has been getting a tune out of his Crystal Palace side.

Now the question is can Hodgson get something similar out of his side when they leave Selhurst Park having yet to win a point on their travels and still searching for a first Premier League away goal.

The performances in the 1-0 loss at Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur perhaps deserved more than Crystal Palace got and I think that will offer Hodgson and his players some encouragement. Of course it won't be easy against a Brighton side who have been in decent form themselves.

The highest praise offered to Brighton came from Jose Mourinho on Saturday after the Manchester United manager proclaimed them giving his side the 'hardest game' of the season. Brighton were unfortunate to lose at Old Trafford considering how they played, but Chris Hughton will be acutely aware that points are worth a lot more than praise.

It has been a little more difficult for Brighton at the Amex Stadium where they have to be more proactive. That has perhaps left Brighton a little vulnerable defensively and Crystal Palace will believe they can create chances here.

Brighton too will feel confident about their chances having scored plenty of goals at home in recent games. However they have not been able to produce the wins with 3 consecutive draws here and this fierce rivalry may produce another close contest.

Crystal Palace have won 3 of their last 4 at Brighton and they have the quality in the final third to really put a decent run together. However I think Brighton have been tough enough at home to earn something here too and the two sets of fans may have to settle for a point which keeps things ticking along for both clubs ahead of this difficult period of games.

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: You have to wonder about the mindset of a manager who has claimed 'only the big two competitions' mean anything for Tottenham Hotspur but also suggesting that the title race is run for his side after a third of the season is completed. Mauricio Pochettino has rightly been praised for the work he has done at Tottenham Hotspur, but silverware has to be won to really underline it and they look some way off that.

It's hard to get too down on Tottenham Hotspur though as they have tended to react in the right way to what have been perceived to be underwhelming performances. That could happen again on Tuesday and I do think Tottenham Hotspur can secure another win at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester City have just lost a bit of momentum in recent games and I do think this is a group of players who have not been able to match the top teams since winning the Premier League. That may have something to do with teams coming here with a little more focus knowing The Foxes were Champions just eighteen months ago and those top teams have generally left feeling happy.

Claude Puel will likely set up Leicester City to frustrate and hit Tottenham Hotspur on the counter attack, but it is hard to ignore the fact that Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City have all won Premier League games here. I do think Leicester City can cause problems when they hit Spurs on the counter, but defensively they are not as sound as they were when winning the League title and Tottenham Hotspur have enjoyed recent visits here.

The Tottenham Hotspur away performances coupled with their ability to pick themselves up from poor results should come into play here. It won't be an easy game for the visitors, but I am going to back Tottenham Hotspur to leave the King Power Stadium with three points.

Watford v Manchester United Pick: This is the live offering on Tuesday evening from the Premier League and it has all the makings of an entertaining game between Watford and Manchester United.

Marco Silva has already guided Hull City to a win and a draw with Manchester United since arriving in England in January 2017 and his Watford team have not made life easy for any team they have played this season. Even in the 0-6 home loss to Manchester City Watford created chances and they have also earned a result with Liverpool and beaten Arsenal at Vicarage Road this season.

The system won't change from Silva who has also seen his Watford team score twice at Stamford Bridge as well as in those home games with Liverpool and Arsenal. At the same time, Watford have been vulnerable at the back where they have conceded at least three times in the matches with Liverpool and Manchester City here as well as the trip to Chelsea.

Goals have not been as free flowing in recent Manchester United games with the defensive side of things being Jose Mourinho's strength but it may be tough for the side to earn the three points without scoring at least twice here. In recent away games Manchester United have been more vulnerable and back to to back 1-0 losses are a concern, although there were chances created at Chelsea and Basel in those losses.

At Watford I imagine Manchester United will be able to create more opportunities and I do think there are going to be goals in this fixture. The last couple at Vicarage Road over the last couple of years have seen at least three shared out each time and I think both teams are going to look to get forward in this one for an important three points.

I do think Manchester United look short considering recent away form and the goals Watford have produced, and backing at least three goals is a more appealing price overall. That has hit in all 4 of Watford's games against teams that finished in the top six last season and I will be expecting both teams to score at least once in this one.

I am leaning towards Manchester United finding the goals to win the game, but I will back the fixture to feature at least three here.

Arsenal v Huddersfield Town Pick: At this time of the season you will begin to see the squad depth of clubs really begin to be tested and that may be the case for Huddersfield Town ahead of another big game for the club. This is when the manager earns the money they are paid as they look to make sure players are ready to compete every few days, but I have to say this looks a very difficult spot for Huddersfield Town.

First off they have been in a really difficult game on Sunday against Manchester City when they spent long periods without the ball. That means so much work being done off the ball and that is going to mean some fatigued bodies on Wednesday.

Now they are likely to be doing a lot of chasing again when they travel to the Emirates Stadium where Arsenal have been very strong in the Premier League going back to last season. The Gunners also had to put in a huge effort to win 0-1 at Burnley in controversial fashion on Sunday, but Arsene Wenger definitely has a few more options at his disposal than David Wagner.

Even with a few changes, Arsenal should be too good for a Huddersfield Town team who have struggled to create chances away from home. They haven't scored away from home in the Premier League since their 0-3 win at Crystal Palace, while Huddersfield Town are not as strong defensively on their travels as they are at the John Smith's Stadium.

There is the distraction of the home fixture with Manchester United for Arsenal to consider, but I think they will dominate this one and keep the momentum in the League going. Arsenal have conceded a single goal in their last 5 home Premier League games and I will look for them to win this with a clean sheet.

Chelsea v Swansea City Pick: Some may already believe the title is over as far as defending Champions Chelsea are concerned, but Antonio Conte is not the kind of character who will give up on things so easily. His Chelsea side have definitely been showing some improved performances in recent weeks and they played well enough to come back from a goal down to earn a 1-1 draw at Anfield on Saturday.

Back to back home games does give Chelsea the chance to put some solid results in the books as they face Swansea City and Newcastle United in the Premier League over the next few days. The Blues will be big favourites to win both of those and I would expect them to that.

The layers think the same with Chelsea being asked to cover a big Asian Handicap when you think they are likely to make some changes to their starting eleven for this fixture. With so many games in a short period of time, Chelsea do have some depth they can lean upon and the players coming in like Cesc Fabregas and Willian are in good form to make an impact.

It is definitely a tough game for the Swansea City players to deal with as they continue to struggle in front of goal in their bid to get themselves out of the bottom three. Paul Clement is under pressure as manager and can't call upon Tammy Abraham in this one which makes it that much harder for Swansea City to find the goals they will need to earn something here.

Swansea City have made life awkward for Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal in a couple of away games this season and they have not conceded a lot of goals on their travels. The draw at Wembley and the narrow 2-1 loss at the Emirates Stadium where Swansea City had the lead shows Swansea City can be dangerous, but I think Chelsea are in good enough form to break them down.

Like many others this week, Chelsea are being asked to cover a big Asian Handicap, but I am simply going to look for them to shut Swansea City out in a comfortable home win.

Everton v West Ham United Pick: Neither Everton or West Ham United came into the 2017/18 season with anything other than some lofty ambitions, but a really poor start has left both clubs battling against relegation. Ronald Koeman and Slaven Bilic have both moved on, but Everton have yet to replace the former as their downward spiral continues.

On Wednesday they will be faced by a ghost of many Christmases past when David Moyes returns to Goodison Park with his new West Ham United club. Moyes has yet to really make the kind of impact he would have wanted with his new club and the strength of the fixtures ahead has to be a worry for West Ham United fans if they are still in the bottom three after this one.

There has been some encouragement as West Ham United have created chances in the two games under Moyes, but they are lacking that little bit of quality in the final third. It won't suddenly arrive here, but what West Ham United will do is make sure they put plenty of balls in the box and test the nerves of the Everton defence who have been conceding goals for fun.

Michael Keane and Leighton Baines have both been the latest to be hit with the injury bug and both are doubtful for this one which only puts more pressure on Everton. David Unsworth has not got them defending very well and the lack of confidence means West Ham United should have every chance to score here and perhaps even win the game.

On the other hand, it has to be said that West Ham United are still making the kind of defensive mistakes that Everton can punish. While the home team have conceded plenty of goals, they have found their way to scoring a fair few under Unsworth and I do think the mistakes these two teams can make defensively will be exploited by their opponents.

There is some big work to do at both clubs to ensure they are not slipping out of the Premier League. Everton look ridiculously short when you think how they have played of late, while West Ham United concede too many to trust. The layers may think the tension of this game means goals are hard to find, but I think the defensive problems will see mistakes made and lead to chances and I will look for at least three to be shared out here.

Manchester City v Southampton Pick: When you can win games when not completely at your best, you have a team capable of winning the Premier League title and Manchester City very much look like one that is going to go all the way. There are plenty of games to come to change things, but the manner of their 1-2 win at Huddersfield Town will have been a real blow to their rivals who may have thought Manchester City were going to drop unexpected points.

It looks unlikely that Manchester City will drop any more in the next seven days when the side host both Southampton and West Ham United before the Manchester derby. That could mean they are going into the first Manchester derby of the season with a huge lead knowing Manchester United have two tough away games in the same time, although Pep Guardiola will be focusing on his own team.

The last couple of games have not been as dominant from Manchester City as we have come to expect, although they have continued to make much of the running and were perhaps unfortunate to be a goal down against Huddersfield Town on Sunday. At home they should have plenty of the play in this one too, although Southampton should be respected with some pace in the final third which can be dangerous on the counter attack.

However Southampton have struggled for consistency in front of goal and they have failed to find the net in 11 of their last 19 League games. They have been beaten without scoring against Manchester United and Liverpool already this season and the fixtures have not been the most taxing outside of those games for Southampton which underlines the struggles.

Last season Southampton snapped a 6 game losing run in this Stadium, but I think the trend may return this time around. They won't have a lot of chances to make an impact in this one and Manchester City should prove too good for them.

3 of the last 5 home Manchester City games have ended with a win to nil for Guardiola's men, and I think coupled with Southampton's issues in front of goal it makes the odds against quotes for that to happen again look very appealing here.

Stoke City v Liverpool Pick: When you make the kind of decisions Jurgen Klopp did with his starting eleven for the fixture with Chelsea on Saturday, you have to expect to be questioned about it and the manager has to accept that. This is a big season for Liverpool who can't afford to drop out of the top four if Klopp's ambitions are to be met here at Anfield, but they have to find some consistency.

Defensively Liverpool remain a real work in progress and they have to be careful at grounds like this one where Stoke City have the quality in the final third to cause some problems. However Liverpool will feel they can pose plenty of questions of their own when they get forward with the problems Stoke City have had in defensive areas recently too and this feels like a fixture that may produce a few goals.

Stoke City have been involved in some high scoring games in recent weeks and Liverpool can say the same. Both Manchester United and Chelsea have visited the Bet365 Stadium this season and both games featured four goals shared out, while there have been at least four goals scored in the last 4 Liverpool away games in all competitions.

The Potters also had back to back 2-2 draws prior to the 2-1 loss at Crystal Palace and this really does feel like a game in which both teams will score and cause problems for the other for much of the day. With Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino back in the starting line up, Liverpool can make up for some of the defensive deficiencies they have, but they don't look a team that will be hard to create chances against either.

With the goals both teams have been scoring and conceding, I will look for four goals shared out of this one.

MY PICKS: Brighton-Crystal Palace Draw @ 3.25 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Watford-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.85 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Arsenal Win to Nil @ 1.95 BoyleSports (2 Units)
Chelsea Win to Nil @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 William Hill (2 Units)
Manchester City Win to Nil @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stoke City-Liverpool Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.55 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

November Update: 25-23-1, + 4.45 Units (92 Units Staked, + 4.84% Yield)

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