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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, 30 December 2017

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (December 30-31)

At this time of the year it is all about family and that means I am simply getting the picks out for the weekend games.

With the quick turnaround in the Premier League, games are coming very quickly so expect a short post for the New Year's Day games which I will hopefully have posted by around Sunday afternoon.

Chelsea v Stoke City PickA difficult first half was quickly replaced by a serene second half for Chelsea as they brushed aside Brighton at Stamford Bridge and they are big favourites to produce another three points on Saturday.

It is hard to go against Chelsea, who have won 8 of their last 9 at Stamford Bridge in all competitions, while they are also facing a Stoke City team who have not played as well on their travels as they have at home.

Mark Hughes is not being helped by the defensive problems Stoke City are dealing with including Kurt Zouma being unable to play against his parent club. The last couple of performances have been better, but Stoke City are facing one of the better teams in the Premier League and have generally found themselves really short against those.

They have been hammered at Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, while Liverpool and Chelsea have won by three or more goals at the Bet365 Stadium.

Chelsea have not been as fluent as they would have liked, but they are still producing the wins and they are creating chances. I expect them to be the dominant team in this one and I think Chelsea will be able to score a few goals, although Stoke City may play a part having scored at the Etihad Stadium and Wembley Stadium.

The best way to back Chelsea looks to be to back them to win a game which features at least three goals as they look to keep the momentum going before the visit to the Emirates Stadium to take on Arsenal early in the New Year.

Liverpool v Leicester City Pick: It is going to be difficult for Leicester City to contain Liverpool on current form, especially considering the chances that they are allowing opponents to create in recent games. Manchester United could have punished The Foxes, while Watford were able to beat them last time out and Liverpool are a team in very good form at the moment.

I am not always convinced by Liverpool because they can lay a dud as they have against the likes of Everton and West Brom recently, while their overall home record in the Premier League features too many draws.

However, when Liverpool win they tend to win well and they have already won at the King Power Stadium this season. They also hammered Leicester City 4-1 at Anfield last season and I think the home team are going to be too good on the day.

With the attacking options available, I think Liverpool are going to win this game by a couple of goals and will back them to cover the Asian Handicap.

Watford v Swansea City Pick: A new manager coming in has worked wonders for the likes of Crystal Palace and West Ham United already this season, but even those appointments took a little time to make a mark. The same has to be in play for Carlos Carvalhal at Swansea City after taking over as manager earlier in the week.

Carvalhal's appointment has not exactly put a fire in the belly of the Swansea City supporters considering it has only been a few days since Sheffield Wednesday sacked the manager for failing to achieve what was expected. That makes it more of a surprise to think Swansea City have seen enough to give them confidence that Carvalhal can help turn things around for them.

This is a tough opening game for Swansea City under the manager after being blown away by Liverpool a few days ago. The players looked really short of confidence that day and now face a Watford team who have to be feeling better after coming from behind to beat Leicester City on Boxing Day.

Watford's injuries are a concern as is the recent poor form, but that win will have given the players a shot in the arm at a crucial time. The goalscoring threat is still there from Marco Silva's team and that can be a difference maker too and I do think Watford can beat Swansea City for a third straight time at Vicarage Road.

I will look for the home team to cover the Asian Handicap in a home win.

Manchester United v Southampton Pick: The 2-2 draw with Burnley was a really disappointing result for Manchester United, but the top four has to be the ambition for the club and they can bounce back on Saturday. The second half fightback will have encouraged Jose Mourinho who believes more investment is needed in his squad, but Manchester United have to get back to winning ways with what they have.

Failing to finish in the top four would be a devastating blow to the club and the 4 points dropped over the last seven days have been more Manchester United's own doing than what Leicester City and Burnley have brought to the table.

That has frustrated Mourinho as much as anything, but this looks a good time to face a Southampton team who are having bigger problems than United. Defensively Southampton have looked very messy, while their lack of goals is always going to be a problem.

Charlie Austin is out for this game, which doesn't help Southampton, and the 5-2 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur would have really dented the confidence. In recent years Southampton have been a tough test for Manchester United but it is the latter who have won 3 of the last 4 between these teams.

Manchester United have to make a better start than they did in the 2-2 draw with Burnley, but they can do that and that should help them win this fixture. There has been some bad luck going against Manchester United in the last couple of games which has resulted in some disappointing results, but that has to change sooner rather than later and I will back the home team to win and cover the Asian Handicap.

Crystal Palace v Manchester City Pick: The first of the two live television games from the Premier League on the final day of 2017 comes from Selhurst Park as Crystal Palace host Manchester City.

Unsurprisingly the layers are taking no chances with Manchester City considering the run of wins they have put together and they are a short price to win here too. It is the most likely of results, but I am expecting Crystal Palace to show a little more desire and belief than Newcastle United did during the week and that can at least see them play a part in this fixture.

Goals have not been a problem for Crystal Palace at home and I don't think the layers are giving them enough respect to score here. They have scored twice in each of their last 7 home games in the Premier League and Manchester City are a side that will offer up chances if teams are willing to attack them.

The pace Crystal Palace have on the counter attack as well as the threat from set pieces makes them a dangerous opponent for any team and I do think they will have chances in this one.

On current form it is hard to see a team fail to stop Manchester City in scoring and Crystal Palace have not looked watertight in recent weeks so keeping a clean sheet would be a big surprise. However I do think Crystal Palace can score in this one too and backing both teams to score looks an underrated price in my opinion.

West Brom v Arsenal Pick: The final Premier League game to be played in the 2017 calendar year comes from The Hawthorns as Arsenal visit West Brom and it is a game which has a big impact at both ends of the League table.

The three points on offer will mean a lot for both teams and it could be an entertaining fixture to end this round of fixtures.

West Brom have struggled for goals and really had problems dealing with teams currently in the top six, especially at home. Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United have all won in the League here, but all of those games were also on the high-scoring side with at least three goals shared out in each.

The Baggies played a part in 2 out of 3 of those games, and Arsenal have shown they are far from watertight at the back when winning 2-3 at Crystal Palace on Thursday. The lack of time to recover compared with West Brom has to be a concern for The Gunners as is their poor record over the last couple of years when visiting The Hawthorns.

However Arsenal do have some real attacking talent at their disposal and I do think they can pose problems for West Brom who have conceded at least twice in all of their home games against the top six clubs in the Premier League. Goals have been a feature of the last couple of games between these teams in the West Midlands and I will back at least three to be shared out in this one.

MY PICKS: Chelsea to Win & Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.30 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.87 Bet365 (2 Units)
Watford - 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Manchester City Both Teams to Score @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
West Brom-Arsenal Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

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