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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...

Monday, 25 December 2017

Boxing Day Football Picks 2017 (December 26-28)

There are a host of football matches to be played on Boxing Day in the traditionally busy time of the season in England.

While the players and managers might not be so happy at this time of the year, for football fans it would be strange to have a Winter Break and not have the football to enjoy while also spending some time with families over the Christmas period.

It is another busy round of games and I have the picks from the Premier League below.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and an enjoyable last few days in 2017 as another calendar year is about to be in the books.

Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Pick: The opening game in the Premier League on Boxing Day comes from Wembley Stadium as Tottenham Hotspur look to back up a solid 0-3 win at Burnley with another three points. They have the chance to put some pressure on the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool by putting up the points before both rivals play and that could see Tottenham Hotspur also move back into the top four.

The win over Burnley will have given the Tottenham Hotspur players a real shot in the arm and they now face a Southampton team who can be tough to break down, but who are not playing with a lot of confidence of their own.

Goals continue to be a problem for Southampton who had to settle for a 1-1 draw against Huddersfield Town on Saturday and the problems in front of goal have been really evidenced away from home.

They do have pace in the forward areas that could pose a threat with Tottenham Hotspur likely to be vulnerable to the counter attack. That pace was seen in the narrow loss at Manchester City, but the concern for Southampton has to be the manner of the losses at Liverpool and Chelsea.

It was a comfortable afternoon for Liverpool and should have been a comfortable win for Chelsea too, except the latter did not show the composure in front of goal to secure a win by more than a single goal margin. After Harry Kane banged in a hat-trick against Burnley I do think Tottenham Hotspur will have a little more clinical finishing than Chelsea did and I fancy the home team to win this one by a couple of goals at least.

Tottenham Hotspur have played well at Wembley Stadium in recent games and they can put together a solid win on the day.

Chelsea v Brighton Pick: It is hard to put a real mark on Chelsea and know where they stand- sometimes I watch a team who look capable of beating anyone on their day, but other times they seem to struggle and look like they are missing something. The draw at Everton was a disappointing result, but Chelsea didn't play badly and I think a return to Stamford Bridge against Brighton gives them every chance to put three points on the board.

The return of Alvaro Morata is important as the Spaniard does offer Chelsea a real focal point to their play and he has fitted in well with his new club. Morata is perhaps not as clinical in front of goal as Chelsea would like, but he pulls the team together and has worked very well with Eden Hazard.

That combination should be too hot for a Brighton team who are off a huge win over Watford, but who have not been as strong away from home. They aren't a team that are likely to be blown away as they have shown toughness in losses at Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, but a lack of goals is an issue.

The layers understand that with Chelsea a short price to win with a clean sheet, but I do think that is the most likely outcome of this one. The Brighton toughness may mean Chelsea have to settle for a pretty narrow win themselves, but I do think Chelsea will have enough to do that.

Backing them to win a game which features three or fewer goals is a tempting price here even if Chelsea might feel someone they face are going to get a hiding sooner rather than later. It might have to wait a few days for that though and I will back a Chelsea win coupled with under 3.5 goals to be scored in the match at a decent looking price.

Manchester United v Burnley Pick: 'Childish mistakes' was the way Jose Mourinho described the Manchester United performance in front of goal and in defence as they missed some glorious chances before the Leicester City equaliser deep into injury time. The manager was not impressed at dropping two points considering how much Manchester United dominated the ninety minutes, but now he has to pick up the players for consecutive games at Old Trafford.

Manchester United have been strong at the Theatre of Dreams in the 2017/18 season and I think they can bounce back from a poor result. They certainly look to be getting to Burnley at a good time with their visitors missing key defensive performers in what has been the foundation for their successes so far this season.

Stephen Ward and James Tarkowski missed the game on Saturday against Tottenham Hotspur and Burnley really did not look right defensively. The 0-3 loss could have come by a wider margin, although Burnley may be able to set up even more defensively away from home than they perhaps would like to at Turf Moor.

That could see Burnley make life difficult for a Manchester United team that potentially are feeling sorry for themselves, but I do think the home side will create chances in this one. Playing at Old Trafford has been a pleasant experience for the players this season and Manchester United will feel a similar level to the one they produced at the King Power Stadium will be enough to win this game.

I respect the fact that Burnley could make this difficult as they have for other top six clubs away from home this season.

But this might be a good time for Manchester United to face them and I will back Mourinho to find the right formula to see United win this one and cover the Asian Handicap.

Watford v Leicester City Pick: You have to think that Marco Silva will help Watford turn around their form sooner rather than later, but the fans may have to be patient. With injuries and suspensions decimating the squad, Watford are struggling and I think they are going to have a difficult time dealing with Leicester City.

The run of 4 straight losses has to come to an end soon, but Leicester City have found a formula for playing away from home and I think that shows up here.

Leicester City have scored at least three goals in wins at Newcastle United and Southampton and they have a little more confidence than Watford which could make the difference in this fixture.

It certainly doesn't look right to have Leicester City as the underdog in this fixture and backing them with a start on the Asian Handicap returns a winner as long as they don't lose this game. On current form I would expect Leicester City to at least earn a draw against a Watford team who conceded four times in a 1-4 loss to Huddersfield Town last time out at Vicarage Road.

Defensively it has been a struggle for Watford for much of the season and I expect Leicester City to expose those vulnerabilities as they force a result.

West Brom v Everton Pick: This is a set of prices that jumped off the screen when I was looking through the Premier League games for the Boxing Day fixtures. I am not sure what West Brom have done to be given the tag of favourites in this one against an improving Everton team and that makes the underdog worth backing on the Asian Handicap.

Sam Allardyce has made Everton much tougher to beat and defensively they have improved considerably already. With the problems West Brom are having in front of goal, it is hard to see how The Baggies can cause Everton enough problems to win the game, especially as there have been one or two issues defensively in recent games.

That should give Everton a chance to at least score one goal which should be enough to avoid defeat and potentially enough to win the game. Everton have a very good recent record at The Hawthorns which makes them a more appealing prospect to back on Boxing Day, and getting a start seems generous.

It will need an Everton win for a full pay out, but returns a winner as long as Everton earn any kind of result here. They certainly look good enough to do that considering the recent form of the two teams and this is the kind of game where Allardyce will look to make sure his Everton team don't lose and keep pulling away from the bottom three.

Wayne Rooney should be back to give Everton a bit more of a threat going forward and I like them here.

Liverpool v Swansea City Pick: Jurgen Klopp has cut something of a frustrated figure in recent games as Liverpool have perhaps not finished games as well as he would have liked. This is a team who have dropped a number of points from winning positions against Everton and Arsenal which has irritated the manager who has then been testy with the media.

Klopp's Liverpool are still in the top four though and they have a couple of important games at Anfield to come in the days ahead. They certainly look good enough to get back to winning ways in the League at home having drawn 3 in a row at Anfield, but Liverpool have to stop giving away as many goals as they have been.

Mistakes have been hard to erase, but Liverpool have been better defensively when they have played at home. That should show up against a Swansea City team who needed something special to unlock Crystal Palace last time out and who have been goal-shy all season.

It is a big reason Swansea City are at the bottom of the Premier League table and they do look like they are missing something in the final third. The upcoming transfer window will be important for Swansea City to resolve that, but I expect that to be an issue for them on Boxing Day.

With the attacking talent Liverpool have, I think it is hard to see them failing to score in this one and ultimately that should be enough to secure the three points. The Handicaps look wide enough to ignore when you do think of the recent Liverpool failures to win games, but I do believe they get back to winning ways on Boxing Day.

Backing Liverpool to win with a clean sheet looks the way to go here and can be found at decent enough prices.

Newcastle United v Manchester City Pick: You have to think that Manchester City are going to eventually hit a poor run of form, but at the moment they look some way away from that happening. Perhaps the late wins over Huddersfield Town and Southampton a few weeks ago are as bad as it will get for Manchester City in the Premier League as they have continued to wear down opponents with their passing and movement too much for teams to handle.

This is a tougher test than the layers may think though as Newcastle United earned a confidence boosting win over West Ham United on Saturday. In saying that, Newcastle United have lost 4 straight games at home and so the layers are not giving anything away on the Manchester City price to win here.

I do anticipate Manchester City will find a way to put another three points on the board with the way they are performing. With the way the schedule has worked out, Pep Guardiola doesn't have to make wide rotation changes and Manchester City look to have the talent to prove to be the difference makers in this one.

However Manchester City haven't had it all their own way in recent away games and that is the angle I am going to play in this one. While they have been winning games, I think Manchester City are facing a Newcastle United team who will be happy to defend in numbers and so it could be a difficult time breaking them down.

I like Manchester City to win a game where there are fewer than four goals scored and that would have been a winner in 3 consecutive Manchester City away Premier League games before their 0-4 win at Swansea City. Newcastle United have conceded three times in 2 of their last 4 at home which is a concern, but they have failed to score in 3 of their last 4 at St James' Park.

Manchester City look a short price to win with a clean sheet, but the bigger price of them winning a game in which less than four goals are scored is more appealing. There is every chance Manchester City blow away Newcastle United as they have done so many, but they've not been completely dominant in recent away games and they could settle for another narrow win to keep the points churning out.

Only 1 Newcastle United home game has seen more than three goals shared out this season and so backing Manchester City to win a 'low scoring' game is the call at odds against.

Crystal Palace v Arsenal Pick: This is another live offering from the Premier League this week in a busy festive period and I have to say that I am surprised Arsenal are as short a price to win as they are. As much quality as Arsenal clearly have in the squad, this is a team who have not played as well away from home as they have at the Emirates Stadium and that does not seem to be factored into the price.

In recent weeks Arsenal have needed a controversial penalty to win at Burnley, another late goal to earn a draw at Southampton and also drawn at West Ham United. That is not a great set of results and now they have to face a Crystal Palace team who have been playing very well of late.

You do have to put that into perspective though as Crystal Palace have not faced the best teams in the Premier League in recent weeks. They have beaten Chelsea at home though and Crystal Palace are a side who create chances and score goals at Selhurst Park with at least two goals scored in each of their last 6 home Premier League games.

Defensively you can get at Crystal Palace here though and the layers aren't offering great prices on there being at least three goals in this one.

However my lean was already towards backing Crystal Palace with the start on the Asian Handicap considering their recent form at home. The win over Chelsea shows they are capable of beating a top team here, while Arsenal have not played as well away from home and needed some luck to earn positive results.

A lack of goals on their travels has to be a concern for Arsenal and I think it is tough to expect them to win this game if Crystal Palace score twice at home again.

And with the start being given to Crystal Palace, only a defeat by two or more goals will mean a full loss, while a defeat by one goal will at least return half the stake. I actually think Crystal Palace can get a result in this one and they are a big price with the start on the Asian Handicap as far as I am concerned.

Arsenal on their day can be near unplayable, but the prices here look short considering they have won just 2 of 9 away Premier League games. The Gunners have lost at Stoke City and drawn at both Southampton and West Ham United and I think Crystal Palace are playing better than those sides to think they can at least do the same.

MY PICKS: Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea to Win & Under 3.5 Goals @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool Win to Nil @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Manchester City to Win & Under 3.5 Goals @ 2.30 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Crystal Palace + 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)

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