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Saturday, 4 November 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (November 4-5)

There is one more round of fixtures from the domestic Leagues to be played this weekend before we head into the latest international break of the season.

Thankfully this is the last one until March and clubs can really focus on concentrating on domestic matters.

On Sunday the television companies have every right to attach 'Super' to the title of the show as four of the top five play one another. It is a big weekend for those hoping to chase down Manchester City in the Premier League, although my underlining feeling is that the gap is likely to have increased between them and their nearest challengers.


Stoke City v Leicester City Pick: Player power has been a real problem at some clubs and one of those may be Leicester City who have seen the likes of Claudio Ranieri and Craig Shakespeare seen off amidst rumours the players were not happy. Both times the players have responded to the sackings by producing solid results and Leicester City are up to the same with 3 wins in a row since Shakespeare was removed, including in Claude Puel's first game in charge.

It will be interesting to see how long that lasts with some suggestions that Puel is not the manager the players were hoping for, but for now Leicester City are looking to keep themselves moving away from the bottom three and entering the top half of the table.

They visit Stoke City whose players look to be firmly behind manager Mark Hughes after producing a solid performance to win 0-1 at Watford last weekend. That victory snapped a poor run, but Hughes will be keen for Stoke City to make it back to back wins and have him sitting much more comfortably through the international break.

Stoke City have been inconsistent though and you don't always know what you are going to get out of them. They were recently beaten 1-2 by Bournemouth at the Bet365 Stadium and defensively Stoke City have struggled before the clean sheet at Vicarage Road.

Mental issues could be in play as Stoke City have blown 2-0 leads against Leicester City in their last 2 home games against them, but the home team have to look at the positive side to say they have been in that position in each of the last two seasons. They will feel chances can be created against this Leicester City team, although the counter attack can make The Foxes dangerous too.

The way the teams could gel together could make this the latest fairly decent watch between them. The goals have flowed when these teams have met over the last couple of years and I don't think either Stoke City or Leicester City can rely on their defences so much.

The oddsmakers are not anticipating goals as they are offering at least three to be shared out at odds against. However that hasn't been an issue at this Stadium so far this season and I think backing at least three to be seen in the Saturday lunchtime offering is the way to go here.


Newcastle United v Bournemouth Pick: Home form is going to be critical for Newcastle United if they are going to maintain their spot in the Premier League beyond this season and so far they have made hay here. Off field concerns continue to worry the fans who are hoping new investment can help Newcastle United reach their full potential, but for now Rafa Benitez is working wonders with a poor squad.

Benitez will make sure Newcastle United are hard to beat and then hope they can take advantage of a couple of moments of quality in the final third. Those tactics saw Newcastle United beat Crystal Palace 1-0 in their last game here, but the limitations were also clear to see in the 1-0 defeat at Burnley on Monday night.

This weekend Newcastle United are hosting a Bournemouth team struggling to find the consistency to move out of the bottom three. Every time it feels like Bournemouth are taking a step forward they have been forced to take two steps back, while the away form had been really poor before the win at Stoke City.

Some of that has to be down to the schedule which has seen Bournemouth visit some tough grounds already this season and they have to accept this is another difficult game for them. However I can't have Newcastle United at odds on to win this fixture when you think of their own issues and narrow wins over Stoke City and Crystal Palace makes it hard to trust The Magpies at the odds.

Bournemouth did win here in March 2016 when they last played one another, but my enthusiasm for the away team earning a result is reduced by their own poor form. You can't always tell what you're going to get out of these teams, but a small interest in Bournemouth avoiding defeat could be worth taking as they have shown a little more in recent weeks.

It took a late goal for Newcastle United to beat Crystal Palace in their last game here, but I will look for Bournemouth to be a little stronger down the stretch. The draw is a real player, and I will have a small interest in Bournemouth avoiding the defeat.


Southampton v Burnley Pick: There are bound to be questions for Sean Dyche to answer about the vacant Everton managerial role as long as that remains vacant, but the manager has continued to get the best out of his Burnley team. Another three points were earned on Monday night and Dyche will feel confident Burnley can continue putting the points on the board when they travel to St Mary's on Saturday.

You don't always know what you are going to get out of the Southampton side that are just as capable of giving the top teams a challenge as they are to lose to a team towards the bottom of the table. The inconsistent home form highlights that as Southampton continue to struggle for goals both at home and away and that does make it hard to trust them at short odds.

Southampton look even shorter when you think of how well Burnley have played on their travels this season. Like many teams, Burnley found Manchester City a little too good, but they have won at Chelsea and Everton and taken points from Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

Those are some impressive venues Burnley have played at as they have learned from their experiences last season to become that much more difficult to beat this time around. You know Dyche will have Burnley well organised at the back and they have shown they can frustrate better teams than Southampton which leans me towards Burnley getting something from this one.

The Saints have beaten Burnley 4 times in a row at home which is a mental obstacle for the away team to overcome. However they have shown they are a much tougher outfit on their travels this time around and they are getting a healthy start on the Asian Handicap where half the stake would be returned if Burnley are narrowly beaten.

I actually think they have played well enough to think they can earn a result here and that would return a full payment as I back Burnley with the start on the Asian Handicap in this one.


West Ham United v Liverpool Pick: With the injuries in the West Ham United defensive positions and Liverpool's poor defensive record away from home in the Premier League it sounds like attack will be the best form of defence for these two teams on Saturday.

That might be music to the ears of the neutral tuning into the live Saturday afternoon game from the London Stadium.

Neither West Ham United or Liverpool have looked secure defensively and you have to imagine that the attacking players will find the spaces and time to make the chances to punish their opponents. Even though Liverpool are missing Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, they still have the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah to cause problems for a West Ham United team that are potentially missing three centre backs and both full backs through injury and suspension.

On the other hand West Ham United will feel they can get enough balls into the box to cause problems for a Liverpool defence that has conceded at least twice in 4 of 5 away Premier League games. The Hammers have scored 5 goals in their last couple of games at Tottenham Hotspur and Crystal Palace so they will feel they can cause problems in the final third and that should mean two attacking teams take to the field on Saturday.

Goals haven't been an issue when Liverpool and West Ham United meet as shown by their Premier League games last season which both featured four goals. 5 of the last 8 played at West Ham United have finished with at least four goals shared out and that has been a feature of recent West Ham United games as well as Liverpool away games in the Premier League.

I will look for at least four goals to be produced in this Saturday afternoon live fixture.


Tottenham Hotspur v Crystal Palace Pick: The early start in the Premier League can see players sleepwalk through games at times, but the Tottenham Hotspur players have to be walking with a spring in their step after the hammering they dished out to Real Madrid during the week. However a result like that can be quickly forgotten if Tottenham Hotspur can't back that up on Sunday.

Successes for a team can only really be determined by silverware especially when there are statements being made like the one Mauricio Pochettino made after the win over Real Madrid. If Tottenham Hotspur really feel like they are amongst the best teams in Europe, they have to win something to prove it and that is the challenge for this team in the months ahead.

Trying to close to the gap to Manchester City is the first task for them with the Champions League Last 16 spot secured. That means Tottenham Hotspur can't afford to drop points against a Crystal Palace team who will be well organised, but who are perhaps lacking something in the final third.

Wilfried Zaha has proven to be a real threat for Crystal Palace, but this Tottenham Hotspur defence have shown they can contain some of the bigger threats they face. Zaha is not supported as much as he would like so you do have to feel Tottenham Hotspur can secure a fifth clean sheet in a row at home against Crystal Palace.

With the talent Tottenham Hotspur have going forward, I do think they will break down a Crystal Palace team who have conceded 12 away goals in 5 away games. Even a single goal could be enough for Tottenham Hotspur to earn the three points here and I do think they are able to do that here.

Tottenham Hotspur are coming in off a high which can sap a team physically and emotionally, but I think Pochettino will have them ready to go on Sunday with an extra day of rest than they would have anticipated. They have got the better of Crystal Palace in recent meetings and I will back Tottenham Hotspur to win this game with a clean sheet.


Manchester City v Arsenal Pick: There is so much to admire about how well Manchester City are playing at the moment and it is going to take some effort from Arsenal to slow them down. Much of that is because Arsene Wenger is principled in wanting to play attacking football himself, and I think that plays into the hands of this Manchester City side.

Much like when Pep Guadiola used to manage Barcelona in Champions League games against Arsenal, Manchester City will appreciate the space they are likely to be left by The Gunners. Defensively there is no doubt that Arsenal are still vulnerable and the pace of Manchester City in the final third coupled with the creativity of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne really makes the home team a bigger favourite than the layers believe they are in my opinion.

You have to credit for Wenger for making Arsenal a lot more organised when they worked their way to a 0-0 draw at Chelsea following a 4-0 loss at Liverpool earlier in the season. If they can frustrate Manchester City they do have the quality of their own to hurt their hosts, but I don't think Arsenal can go toe to toe with this Manchester City side.

Ultimately that is what Wenger will want to do and I think Arsenal could be punished if they fall a goal behind. You don't really want to be chasing the game against Manchester City with the likes of Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling quickly getting into supporting positions of Gabriel Jesus and I do think the home team will prove to be too good.

In recent years Arsenal have caused problems for Manchester City, but I think they may struggle to stay with them in this one. I will look for Manchester City to record yet another fairly routine win at the Etihad Stadium and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap.


Chelsea v Manchester United Pick: There have been some comparisons with Chelsea this season and the team that saw off Jose Mourinho just months after he won the title two years ago. This time it is Antonio Conte who is under pressure just a few months after helping Chelsea win the Premier League title and the Italian manager has to be desperate for a positive result on Sunday.

The 3-0 loss at Roma during the week has only increased the need for Chelsea to respond for their manager going into the international break and facing Jose Mourinho's Manchester United may be the perfect team for them to oppose.

Seeing Mourinho in the opposition dugout should see the Chelsea fans produce a big atmosphere for the home team and one in which the players can thrive. The return of N'Golo Kante would be a huge bonus for Chelsea as they have lacked the protection in front of the back three that they would have liked.

If Kante was missing, seeing Nemanja Matic in the midfield but in red, not blue, would only irritate the fans a little more. Matic was a big loss as far as Antonio Conte was concerned, and he has proven to be a big addition to the Manchester United midfield this season in the absence of Paul Pogba.

This is the kind of game that will really get the blood pumping for Jose Mourinho too and he would love to put another nail in the Antonio Conte managerial coffin at Stamford Bridge. However I am not buying the suggestion Manchester United will look to go for Chelsea and expose their vulnerabilities as that is simply not the style Mourinho will go for.

Instead I think Mourinho will try and set Manchester United up to be very difficult to beat as they have been at Anfield recently and then he will be hoping for better on the counter attack. I would not be surprised if Manchester United play three at the back to match the system used by Chelsea and try and set up to be the dominant side in midfield while perhaps doing another man marking job on Eden Hazard which was a huge part of the 2-0 win over Chelsea at Old Trafford.

Chelsea have been better at Stamford Bridge when facing Manchester United though and they have won 3 of the last 4 League games against them here. They also beat Manchester United twice at Stamford Bridge last season, although factors were in play that Jose Mourinho will be hoping to avoid this season (goal conceded after less than a minute played in the League game, Ander Herrera sent off at 0-0 in the FA Cup game).

I am anticipating another tight game with both teams looking to show strength defensively and try to capitalise on mistakes by the other. The return of Kante strengthens Chelsea significantly in the middle of the park, while Mourinho's record in games at the top six at Manchester United shows how tight he likes to keep things.

I don't blame him for that and I think it would be a surprise if Manchester United open this game up until later in the game as they try to counter Chelsea. Mourinho will look to keep Chelsea at arm's distance for the first seventy minutes and hope to take advantage of set pieces or the speed of Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku on the break.

I was close to picking Manchester United with the start on the Asian Handicap, but the poor recent record at Stamford Bridge is a concern. Add that to the poor record in general against the top six with the lack of goals being scored and I think backing at least one of these teams failing to score may be the way forward.

That would have been a winner in all 3 games between Chelsea and Manchester United last season. Chelsea have also hosted both Arsenal and Manchester City this season and at least one team failed to score in those games, while Manchester United have prevented Liverpool (twice) and Manchester City scoring in away games over the last twelve months.

Mourinho is proud of how tight Manchester United have kept things and I will look for one of the teams to fail to score in this one.


Everton v Watford Pick: This might be the only Premier League fixture on Sunday that is not being televised, but the game between Everton and Watford has all of the makings of an entertaining one.

The poor form of Everton shows little sign of ending and David Unsworth is unlikely to be given the permanent manager job off the back of 3 straight losses. The manner of those losses would have hurt even more and he almost has nothing to lose in this one which could see the former Everton defender pick a very attacking line up.

It certainly makes the Everton price look incredibly poor when you think of the form they have been displaying. Add in how well Watford have performed on their travels and the away side look a very big price to win this game as far as I am concerned.

However the better pick in this game might be backing at least three goals to be shared out between two teams who can expose some of the vulnerabilities in the other. Watford have scored at least twice in every away game they have played in the Premier League this season, but they have also conceded 7 goals in their last 3 on their travels which can't be ignored.

Everton themselves have scored at least twice in 4 of their last 6 home games in all competitions, but they have conceded at least twice in their last 5 games overall. They have also conceded that many in 3 of their last 4 at Goodison Park and this feels like a game in which both teams will score and we will see both teams looking to find a winner.

At odds against I will look for at least three goals to be found in this one too with my lean towards Watford doing enough to potentially take away all three points.

MY PICKS: Stoke City-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bournemouth + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.98 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Burnley + 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United-Liverpool Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.62 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur Win to Nil @ 2.37 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.97 Bet365 (2 Units)
Chelsea-Manchester United Both Teams to Score- NO @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Everton-Watford Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)

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