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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...

Friday, 24 November 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (November 24-26)

There are two quick rounds of Premier League Football to come in the next few days and I am going to continue splitting them into the Weekend and Midweek Football threads.

It does mean managers have to rotate the squads and make sure players are fresh for the big games ahead and that is something that you should take note of.

You can read my short piece about Manchester United that I wrote seven days ago here.

Then it is on to the picks for the weekend.

West Ham United v Leicester City Pick: Both Leicester City and West Ham United have recently made changes in the manager's office, but while The Foxes made an immediate upturn in results, West Ham United are hoping to David Moyes can have the same impact for them.

Moyes was not an inspiring choice of manager as far as the fans or the media will go and I certainly don't think he 'deserves' a shot back in the Premier League after three really poor performances as manager of Manchester United, Real Sociedad and Sunderland. His experiences at Everton are still giving Moyes something owners look for, but failing at West Ham United could easily be the end of his managerial career.

Having another week to work with the players should mean a better performance against Leicester City than the one produced at Watford, although there were some positive signs. On another day West Ham United would have found the goal at key times to have a chance of a positive result, but defensively they look like a team that are going to concede plenty of goals.

I would expect Leicester City to create chances with the spaces they should be able to operate in away from home. Prior to the loss to Manchester City, Leicester City had scored at least twice in 4 straight games in all competitions including in their last couple of away games at Swansea City and Stoke City.

Like the home team, I do think Leicester City are far from a secure defensive operation and there is every chance this is a game that will feature goals.

Before last week Leicester City might have been a slight underdog here which would have made them a tempting pick this weekend, but they are odds on even when backing them on the 'draw no bet' market. With a strong recent record against West Ham United, I imagine Leicester City will have their supporters, but their own defensive issues puts me off backing them here.

Instead I think backing there being at least three goals could pay off at a slightly better price than backing Leicester City 'draw no bet'. West Ham United still look very insecure defensively, but they should be able to create chances too and 8 of the last 10 between these two clubs have ended with at least three goals shared out.

4 of the last 5 at West Ham United have also featured at least three goals and goals have flowed in recent West Ham United home and Leicester City away games.

Look for goals on the latest edition of Friday Night Football.

Crystal Palace v Stoke City Pick: While there have been some plaudits for the way Crystal Palace have been playing in recent weeks, Roy Hodgson would much rather be criticised and have seen his side earn more points. They have been a little unfortunate to not back up the win over Chelsea with at least one more, but the confidence looks to be returning to the side.

Perhaps just as importantly is the improving health of the squad which means Hodgson has the chance to play all of his main attacking talent this weekend after Christian Benteke returned. With the way Crystal Palace have been playing, you have to think a second win of the season is not too far away although backing them at short odds is not for me.

Crystal Palace have won 3 in a row at home against Stoke City which has to be considered, but any team who has defended as poorly as they have at times can be hard to trust at just over odds against. That is particularly the case when you think Stoke City have also been improving and have begun to create chances at a good rate.

Mark Hughes has seen his side score at least twice in 4 of their last 6 games and the creative players like Xherdan Shaqiri are in strong form. It is hard to imagine Stoke City not being able to create chances here at Selhurst Park and scoring goals against Crystal Palace here, although Stoke City's own defensive flaws are likely to be exposed.

The chance of seeing at least three goals in this one is actually a bigger price than Crystal Palace to win, but I think the latter will need at least two goals to secure a victory. Both teams should be able to score at least once and the 1-1 draw is perhaps the biggest concern to the pick, but goals have been flowing for both clubs in recent weeks.

With the defensive problems both teams have been having I think there will be at least three goals shared out between these clubs. That would have been a winner in the last 3 home Crystal Palace games and has also hit in 5 of the last 6 Stoke City games overall.

Both teams have conceded two goals a number of times, but also scored plenty in recent weeks and backing at least three goals to be shared out looks a big price.

Manchester United v Brighton Pick: This is the kind of fixture that Brighton fans would have been dreaming of when coming so close to getting back into the top flight in recent years. There won't be a big expectation of getting a result from the fans who will simply enjoy making the long journey up to Old Trafford, but the players might feel a little more confident.

Brighton are unbeaten in 5 games in the Premier League and they have won at both West Ham United and Swansea City in that time. Of course this is a far different challenge when heading on their travels to face one of the top six teams and Brighton have already comfortably been dismissed at Arsenal where they were beaten 2-0.

Now they have to face a Manchester United team who have been dominant at Old Trafford where they have scored plenty of goals this season. Coming off the disappointment of the 1-0 loss in Basel should refocus the players ahead of a really busy run of games, while Manchester United have to feel good about the chances created in Switzerland as they look to get back to winning ways.

This is a Manchester United team who have shown they can wear down teams at Old Trafford with only Tottenham Hotspur leaving conceding less than two goals. In 4 of their last 6 at Old Trafford Manchester United have managed to hit four goals and they won't take the foot off the gas in this one with goal difference likely to be a potential factor later in the season.

As strong as Brighton have been in recent games, they will try and shut up shop and frustrate Manchester United, but the home team have shown they can break through against defensively minded teams this time around. Brighton have conceded twice at Leicester City and Arsenal and I think Manchester United are more than capable of surpassing that number.

I was tempted in backing the home team to cover the Asian Handicap, but the full pay out is only received in a three goal win. Recent weeks have seen Manchester United a little more vulnerable at the back than earlier this season so Brighton have a chance to play their part, and you can get a similar price to United on the Asian Handicap as you can if backing them to win a game that features at least three goals.

That looks more tempting than backing a big Manchester United win and I will back the home team to win in a game that has at least three goals shared out.

Newcastle United v Watford Pick: There has to be some distraction at Vicarage Road with the Everton bid to prise away Marco Silva as their new manager, but so far Watford have continued to perform and I don't think that changes this weekend. At the time of writing Marco Silva remains the Watford manager and they look a little under-rated heading to St James' Park for this latest Premier League game.

Newcastle United have lost 3 in a row themselves, but I think too much stock is being placed in the fact they have had stronger results at home. Last time out Newcastle United were beaten 0-1 by Bournemouth, while they have needed a late goal to beat Crystal Palace 1-0 before that.

Defensively Rafa Benitez does set up Newcastle United to be tough, but they have lost Jamaal Lascelles to injury and I think that has had an impact in their recent results. Losing the captain at the heart of the defence is tough to replace and Newcastle United have other defensive injuries.

They are also expected to be much more positive at St James' Park and that could play into the counter attacking ability of Watford. This is a team who have scored twice in every away Premier League game this season and I expect they would have been a lot shorter if holding onto their 1-2 lead at Chelsea and 0-2 lead at Everton in two away games Watford have lost prior to this one.

The fact Watford can score those goals is an obvious appeal as Newcastle United have looked a little unsure of themselves in the final third. They should create chances against a Watford defence that has conceded 9 goals in their last 3 away games, but I think it would be a big ask for Newcastle United to beat Watford if the visitors hit their goals mark here.

Like Bournemouth, Watford will have their own chances here and they have played well enough to think they will take those when they come their way. I was tempted to pick Watford to win here, but those recent away collapses have to be a concern from a mental point of view and whether Watford get nervy down the stretch.

However I like the price on Watford avoiding a loss here and I will back them to do that. They can score goals away from home and the win over West Ham United will have restored some confidence that may have been lost before that, while Newcastle United have lost 3 in a row in the League.

Swansea City v Bournemouth Pick: It feels like Premier League clubs are beginning to panic a little earlier than usual this season and five managers have seen their jobs disappear before we have even hit December. That number may easily become six if Paul Clement is not careful as Swansea City have slipped into the bottom three.

Losing 7 of 8 games in all competitions including the last 4 Premier League games will not make Clement sit any easier, while they have been beaten by both Leicester City and Brighton in their last couple at the Liberty Stadium. Swansea City have been struggling for goals which is not a good look when you can't stop conceding and there is some real pressure on Clement to get things right.

Another defeat on Saturday may see Swansea City become the latest club to make a managerial move and they are running into Bournemouth at a tough time.

Eddie Howe has helped Bournemouth onto a run of 4 wins in 5 games and this is a squad of players who have had their confidence restored with those performances. They have started producing more wins and Bournemouth have kept clean sheets in their last couple of games which has to be encouraging for Eddie Howe.

They can earn another win on Saturday and look a big price to do that considering Bournemouth beat Swansea City at home and away last season. However I think the more prudent way to back the away side is on the Asian Handicap at a little under odds against knowing the draw would return the stake.

It is hard to see Swansea City winning this one on their current form, and their last couple of home losses have come against teams who I don't consider better than Bournemouth. With the goals Bournemouth have begun to produce, I think one would be enough to avoid a loss and could be enough to win this game and I will back Bournemouth on the Asian Handicap.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Brom Pick: Tony Pulis has been under pressure for some time with the style of football never giving him much in the goodwill bank from the fans when the results were not being produced. The Baggies were heading one way under his watch and West Brom had to make the decision to look elsewhere.

That means Gary Megson will take charge of West Brom this weekend and I am not sure the fans are going to be enjoying vastly different football. Megson will look to make sure West Brom are hard to beat and frustrate Tottenham Hotspur, but that is much harder to do when the confidence has taken the blows the West Brom players have been suffering.

Now they face a Tottenham Hotspur team who want to make up for the North London derby defeat to Arsenal and who earned a very good win in Dortmund during the week. Harry Kane was back amongst the goals and Tottenham Hotspur had an all around better performance than the one they produced at the Emirates Stadium.

I expect they can use that momentum going into this weekend and Tottenham Hotspur have been winning more games at Wembley Stadium nowadays. The 'curse' has well and truly been removed, although they have yet to truly convince at home when teams set up to defend deep.

I can't imagine that is a big problem for them this weekend as West Brom may just have a hard time picking themselves up after losing their manager. There is some uncertainty there and Tottenham Hotspur should be hungry to try and get back to winning ways in the Premier League.

In recent years West Brom have been a thorn in the side of Tottenham Hotspur, but they did thump them 4-0 at White Hart Lane last season. While they may not get to that margin of victory again, I think Tottenham Hotspur are able to win by a couple of goals on the night and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap.

Liverpool v Chelsea Pick: The big games in the Premier League are coming thick and fast during the busy November and December fixtures and the game of the weekend comes from Anfield where Liverpool take on Chelsea. Two of the top five meeting will always be an important event and both Liverpool and Chelsea know how much the three points will mean.

Both played away from home in the Champions League this past week, but Antonio Conte was once again upset that his Chelsea side have to play a Saturday afternoon game with a day less rest than their opponent. Conte has to be careful that he doesn't give off that negative vibe to his Chelsea players in what is going to be a tough away game at Anfield.

Chelsea have a very strong recent record at Anfield with 6 visits without a defeat, but the last 3 have all ended 1-1 and Liverpool have been playing much better at home in recent weeks. The goals have been flying in, but defensively Liverpool have looked a mess and Chelsea have to feel they can exploit those issues in what looks to be a good game of football.

At Stamford Bridge the goals have tended to come a little easier than they have at Anfield, but this has all the makings of a fixture that will produce at least three goals. Liverpool have been able to get on the front foot at Anfield, but Chelsea will feel they can win this game if they weather the early storm and it will be interesting to see how Antonio Conte will set his team up.

I imagine the system is in place already with Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata leading the line and Chelsea should have chances on the counter attack throughout this one. However they will have to show some toughness in defence against a rampant Liverpool front four who should all earn a start in this one and picking a winner doesn't look an easy task.

Liverpool have been much stronger at home both in terms of results and defensively, while Chelsea have suffered a couple of poor losses away from home recently. However their record here and style of play should cause Liverpool problems too and I think the recent trend of low scoring games at Anfield may be snapped here.

4 of the last 5 at Anfield have finished under 2.5 goals, but the last 4 have also seen both teams score. I wouldn't put anyone off having a small interest in the 1-1 scoreline which has occurred 3 times in a row between these teams at Anfield, but I do think both are playing very well and we may get another goal from one of the teams in this one.

I will back at least three goals to be shared out here.

Huddersfield Town v Manchester City Pick: The layers are not expecting anything but a fairly comfortable day for Manchester City as they visit Huddersfield Town and it is hard to argue against that.

However anyone steaming into the short odds for a Manchester City win would do well to remember it has only been a few weeks since Huddersfield Town beat Manchester United 2-1 here.

On that day it was a poor performance from Manchester United and a couple of big mistakes that put them in a 2-0 hole, but Manchester City should be well rested and I don't foresee them making those same mistakes. Instead I would imagine they will come out and look to force Huddersfield Town to submit in the same manner others have through Manchester City working the ball around and tiring out their opponents.

It is no surprise that so many of Manchester City's goals have come in the second half with that in mind, but in this one they could get after Huddersfield Town much earlier like Tottenham Hotspur did. Positive starts have been made by Manchester City and I think the likes of Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus will be itching to return having been rested during the week.

The attacking threat Manchester City bring should be too much for Huddersfield Town and I think the home team will only have limited chances to play a part in this one. The possession should be dominated by Manchester City and I think Huddersfield Town may struggle to have an impact with a rested Manchester City likely to be putting them under plenty of pressure throughout.

Anything other than a Manchester City win would be a big surprise, and the angle I am going for is the away side winning with a clean sheet. The possession means it can be tough to get after Manchester City, especially with the limited time Huddersfield Town are going to have in this one, and I think it will be tough for the home team.

Manchester City got one last week and I will look for them to win with a clean sheet this week too at a decent looking price.

MY PICKS: West Ham United-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Stoke City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester United & Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 BoyleSports (2 Units)
Watford + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.77 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bournemouth 0 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester City Win to Nil @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

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