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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Tennis Picks 2018 (February 28th)

It has been a difficult start to the week for the Tennis Picks after two very strong weeks which have produced over 40 units of profits to move the 2018 season into a positive position.

Tuesday was a little frustrating with Nicolas Kicker missing his cover by a single game which can be attributed to his failure to serve out the first set at 6-5. Joao Sousa also lost his match despite having four break points at 4-4 in the decider and holding three match points in the final set tie-breaker.

Two other picks were simply poor picks and never really had much of a chance of success, but it could have been a much better day all around.

At the time I am writing this, the Acapulco Picks have yet to be played with the two from Tuesday both taking place in the early hours of Wednesday morning in London. I won't be up watching, but instead will be trying to stay warm with the 'Beast from the East' settling in for the remainder of the week before we get some more appealing temperatures, although wet weather will arrive instead of the snow.

EDIT: Dominic Thiem became the second player to reach match point in time for a cover as he led 6-3, 5-4 but just lost his concentration which resulted in a much tighter match than needed. Thiem and Joao Sousa could have turned the entire day around, but instead it was a tough Tuesday.

Borna Coric - 2.5 games v Benoit Paire: There isn't a lot of places between these two players in the World Rankings, but it is the lower Ranked Borna Coric who comes in as the favourite to beat Benoit Paire.

He has performed well in Dubai in the past and Coric had an impressive win over Richard Gasquet in the First Round which has to give him some confidence.

So far 2018 has not been a great start for Coric, but there is definitely better to come from the youngster. His serve has not been as effective as it can be, but Coric dominated behind that shot in the First Round win over Gasquet.

Coric has definitely been a little stronger when it comes to the return of serve compared with the last twelve months and that could be important in this match. He is facing Benoit Paire whose numbers on the hard courts have been pretty steady and that has continued in 2018 where his serve has been decent enough on this surface but the return has not been as strong as the Frenchman would have liked.

There is a slight concern that Coric is not able to produce his best tennis for the second day in succession, but the previous successes in Dubai coupled with an opponent whose numbers can make him vulnerable on the hard courts leads me to believing the favourite wins this one. It will be tight at times and Paire is very capable of producing a big match with some solid performances behind him in 2018, but I think Coric is able to get past him with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 kind of win.

Yuichi Sugita v Jan-Lennard Struff: Both of these players got through their First Round matches in Dubai very comfortably and the layers are finding it tough to separate Yuichi Sugita and Jan-Lennard Struff.

It is going to be a close match, but I think the Sugita performances on the hard courts are at a slightly higher level than what Struff produces, particularly they get onto the outdoor hard courts.

At times Struff can be very solid with a strong serve backed up by decent enough groundstrokes to put the pressure on his opponents. However those are times on the hard courts and too many times Struff finds it difficult to sustain those levels and the return of serve can be a real problem for the German.

The Sugita serve has been better than it may look because of the way this player has been able to play off the ground to make sure he wins enough points to keep his nose in front. However he has been the superior returner of the two players in this Second Round match and I think he can get the better of Struff in this pick 'em contest.

Three sets may be needed, but I will back Sugita to come through for a place in the Quarter Final in Dubai on Thursday.

Karen Khachanov v Lucas Pouille: This is a repeat of the of the Final played in Marseille a few days ago and I am going to back Karen Khachanov to frank his win over Lucas Pouille when they meet in Dubai.

Both players had to dig deep to come through their First Round matches on Tuesday, but the confidence of beating this opponent just a few days ago has to work in Khachanov's favour.

I am a big fan of the talented Russian and I think he is showing a lot more potential than Pouille who I don't rate as high as his World Ranking may suggest.

One of the biggest criticisms I have of Pouille remains the return of serve and winning enough points on that side of the court. He is going to have show something to do enough to trouble Khachanov who continues to serve at a high level, while the youngster has also shown some improvement when it comes to his own return of serve which is going to set him up for a big move up the World Rankings.

The target for Khachanov has to be a top 20 World Ranking by the end of this season and he is well on the way to that. Being able to back up title winning weeks like he had in Marseille with another strong showing in Dubai would underline that and I do think he can win a pick 'em match with his superior return numbers helping him past the Frenchman in conditions that should be far from alien to Khachanov who spends a lot of time in Dubai.

Federico Delbonis - 2.5 games v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: The South American Golden Swing has similar looking fields from week to week and it is no surprise when you get to see a couple of rematches at this time of the season.

We have another in the Second Round when Federico Delbonis and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez meet in Sao Paulo and I like the Argentine to make it back to back wins over the Spaniard.

It can be difficult to beat the same player in a short space of time simply because they have gotten a feel as to what to expect and can make a few adjustments to change things around. That is what Garcia-Lopez will be looking to do, but Delbonis has been serving well enough to keep him under some pressure, especially with the Garcia-Lopez serve having some vulnerabilities.

Garcia-Lopez has not been serving as well as he would have hoped in the last couple of weeks and that has highlighted a poorer than expected return of serve. It won't be easy to improve those numbers against Delbonis whose serve is still making sure he is able to hold enough times on this surface to then allow his return of serve game to flourish.

I expect this will be as tight as when they met in Buenos Aires which ended in a straight sets win for Delbonis, but one in which he only won eight more points than Garcia-Lopez. This one should be a little closer on the scoreboard, but I think the Delbonis serve and return has been more effective than Garcia-Lopez' and I expect that will eventually lead to a win for the Argentinian and with a cover of this number games.

Kevin Anderson - 3.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: It has been a strong season in terms of results for Kevin Anderson who has reached the Final in Pune and won the inaugural title in New York earlier this month. However, Anderson will be the first to look for areas of improvement and there are a couple of places where he can become even stronger.

While the return points won are of a similar level to the last twelve months on this surface, Anderson is not breaking at the same kind of rate and that is where he will want to be a little more productive.

He should have chances to do that against Adrian Mannarino who has been dominant against players lower down the World Rankings, but whose numbers shrink the higher up the opponent is Ranked. That isn't a huge surprise, but there is a significant difference in the way the Frenchman is able to return against the top players and someone like Anderson is unlikely to offer up much of a reprieve with the way he has been playing.

The Mannarino serve can be a decent weapon with the lefty stance giving him an edge and meaning he can steer away from the more dangerous Anderson forehand. However he has struggled against the weight of the Anderson shot in the past and I think that could be a factor again against a confident opponent.

With a little bit more improvement in the return expected, I like Anderson to win and cover this number of games in the Second Round in Acapulco.

Alexander Zverev - 3.5 games v Peter Gojowczyk: These two players met at the Australian Open back in January and it resulted in a fairly comfortable win for Alexander Zverev. I expect him to get the better of compatriot Peter Gojowczyk in the Second Round in Acapulco too with the superior serve and return game giving him the edge.

However he will have to respect Gojowczyk who reached the Final in Delray Beach a few days ago and who has played well in 2018.

Gojowczyk has been producing enough quality behind his serve to keep the pressure on opponents, but that is going to be tested by the returning of Zverev who will believe he can get into enough rallies to beat his fellow German.

Ultimately it may come down to scoreboard pressure with Zverev capable of serving very well and making sure opponents do not get a lot of chances to break serve. It was the serve that really set the tone for his win over Gojowczyk at the Australian Open, while Zverev should be able to convert one or two chances to move ahead in sets.

The long week in Delray Beach could also play a part in this one and I will back Zverev to win and cover with a 7-6, 6-3 kind of victory in the Second Round.

Juan Martin Del Potro - 3.5 games v David Ferrer: The head to head between Juan Martin Del Potro and David Ferrer may be led by the latter, but it is Del Potro who has gotten the better of recent matches and I think he can do that again in Acapulco.

David Ferrer had a very good win over Andrey Rublev in the First Round, but there is no hiding from the fact that his numbers have seriously declined. He will try and expose the Del Potro backhand, but I think Del Potro will get a good enough read on enough returns to put the pressure on his Spanish opponent from the off in some points.

Del Potro's serve has been a big weapon for him so far in 2018 in his run back into the top ten of the World Rankings, and I think he can use that to put pressure on Ferrer in this match.

The numbers have been very good for Del Potro and I think finding those levels will be enough to beat Ferrer again having already done that in Auckland this season. Del Potro has been returning well enough to think he will have a few chances to break the Ferrer serve and his own serve should restrict Ferrer's successes even if the latter is still a decent enough returner.

At the end of this one I would expect Del Potro to earn a break more in each set of a straight sets win and I will back him to cover these games.

MY PICKS: Borna Coric - 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Yuichi Sugita @ 2.00 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Karen Khachanov @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Federico Delbonis - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Kevin Anderson - 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Coral (2 Units)

Juan Martin Del Potro - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-7, - 8.90 Units (20 Units Staked, - 44.50% Yield)

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Tennis Picks 2018 (February 27th)

Monday has proved to be a busy day which means I am simply going to be place by Tennis Picks from the matches scheduled below.

I will add those from Acapulco and Sao Paulo on Tuesday morning as the new week of matches really get going on Tuesday with a lot of matches scheduled through the day.

MY PICKS: Joao Sousa @ 2.30 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Ilya Ivashka + 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Denis Istomin + 3.5 Games @ 1.83 William Hill (2 Units)
Grigor Dimitrov - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Nicolas Kicker - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Hyeon Chung - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Dominic Thiem - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-2, - 2 Units (6 Units Staked, - 33.33% Yield)

Monday, 26 February 2018

Tennis Picks 2018 (February 26th)

The last two weeks have produced plenty of winners when it comes to the Tennis Picks and that has also turned the 2018 season right around and into a positive position.

It has been a good period in a long season and I am hoping the tournaments to be played in Acapulco, Dubai and Sao Paulo can keep the momentum going.

Only one of those tournaments are featuring the WTA players, but it is an important week ahead of the first major event outside of the Grand Slam tournaments when the Indian Wells Masters begins in around ten days from now.

Any Picks from Acapulco will be added to this thread on Monday, but I am going to begin with a couple of Tennis Picks from the other two events being played.

Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 games v Victor Troicki: The Dubai field used to be one of the better ones outside of the Masters and Grand Slam events on the ATP Tour, but the last couple of editions have perhaps looked underwhelming.

The same can be said this year and the First Round matches on Monday are tough to get a real feel for, although this is the one match that does stand out for me.

I like Marcos Baghdatis to beat Victor Troicki in this match between two veterans who are clearly not as good as they once were. However I think Baghdatis is perhaps still playing at a higher level than Troicki while the latter has had some disappointing performances in recent weeks.

Troicki has won the last couple of matches against Baghdatis but he was beaten in Dubai when they last played here.

I will look for Baghdatis to get past Troicki in this one with his superior returning perhaps paying dividends in this match. It could go the distance, but I will take Baghdatis to open this new week on the Tour.

Leonardo Mayer - 2.5 games v Gastao Elias: The only pick I will take from the Sao Paulo Monday First Round matches will be backing Leonardo Mayer to beat Gastao Elias on the clay courts.

There may not be as much between Mayer and Elias as the layers think, but I do think the Argentine player can get the better of this one.

Leonardo Mayer and Gastao Elias have both been serving decently, but the edge has to be given to Mayer who is able to make use of his second serve a little better than Elias. The latter has also had some issues when moving up and competing at the full ATP level and I expect that to show up at some point.

Neither player can really be considered a top returner and that is what makes this a closer match than some may think, but again Mayer may have the slight advantage.

Overall it feels like it can help him win this match and earn a cover of this number of games and I am going to back Leonardo Mayer to get it done on his way through to the Second Round.

Andrey Rublev - 1.5 games v David Ferrer: This is a match between an improving young player and a declining veteran and I am looking for Andrey Rublev to get the better of David Ferrer for the second time in 2018 on a hard court.

There is no doubt that Rublev is improving on a weekly basis, although he is far from unbeatable when he faces the top names. However there is a clear improvement on the way he has been returning and that has led to more break points being taken and I think he is going to keep Ferrer under some pressure in this one.

Ferrer's serve has always been a vulnerable part of his game, but I think the declining number have come from a slight loss of movement around the court which is making it much harder to find the depth off the ground that took him into the top five of the World Rankings. That has shown up with the percentage of points won behind serve being on the decline and Rublev should have an edge on the serve.

The Spaniard is still a dangerous returner though and that will likely mean a few chances of his own in this one and there is a potential for a third set decider to be needed. However I think Rublev might just have a little more confidence in his overall game at the moment and he can win this First Round match in Acapulco on Monday.

It could be close with a number of break points for both players, but I will look for Rublev to continue to show his improvement on the way past a veteran.

MY PICKS: Marcos Baghdatis - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Leonardo Mayer - 2.5 Games @ 1.72 Coral (2 Units)
Andrey Rublev - 1.5 Games @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Season 2018: + 20.20 Units (290 Units Staked, + 6.97% Yield)

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Boxing Picks 2018- Callum Smith vs Nieky Holzken (February 24th)

The World Boxing Super Series has been a revelation in the sport and the announcement for at least two more weight classes beginning their own eight man tournament is going to made in the weeks after the two Finals of the Super-Middleweight and Cruiserweight brackets have been completed.

The tournament has captured the imagination of the fans where the Super Six World Boxing Classic didn't although I think the injuries throughout the latter tournament really didn't help matters.

So far the World Boxing Super Series has avoided the big injuries, but that has not been the case in the last few days. George Groves suffered a dislocated shoulder in his win over Chris Eubank Jr which has put his participation in the scheduled June 2nd Final in doubt, while Juergen Braehmer had to remove himself from his Semi Final against Callum Smith with an illness.

It makes me wonder if Braehmar is perhaps considering the possibility of replacing Groves in the Final if the latter is injured and so didn't want to take any chances this week, but that has a hint of conspiracy around it and instead I have to take things at face value.

It's a difficult spot for Smith who travelled to Germany for this Semi Final and now takes on a substitute who only came in earlier this week. Difficult, but a fight I would still expect Smith to win.

Also on Saturday there is another Frank Warren bill being headlined by the likes of Anthony Yarde and Daniel Dubois as they continue their pro education. Both are expected to remain active in 2018 and win dominantly as they have so far in their careers.

Last weekend was a big night of boxing in Manchester and the headline bout between George Groves and Chris Eubank Jr did capture the imagination of the British fight fans.

In hindsight it is an even bigger surprise to me that Eubank Jr went in as the favourite than it was prior to the bout, although his performance earned my respect. Some of the boxing was pretty poor, but Eubank Jr showed incredible toughness and didn't give up which has to be respected no matter what you think of the man.

Like many others, I do think Eubank Jr is not fulfilling his potential by failing to use the tried and tested method of having a real trainer guiding him. Whether he changes or not is a question to be answered, but I struggle to see him beating the really big names either at Middleweight or Super-Middleweight barring some big changes.

Heart can get you so far as he has shown... But the next step needs to be more carefully laid out and Eubank Jr has some big decisions to make.

And no, I would not consider him for the Final if Groves is unable to go.

Over in the States there was more controversial scoring in Texas which saw Victor Ortiz somehow earn a draw with Devon Alexander (and prevented me going 4-0 with my picks last weekend). On another card Danny Garcia also returned with a punishing KO of faded Brandon Rios which has put Garcia in line to have another crack against Keith Thurman, although any rematch won't be scheduled until much later this year if not early 2019.

Anthony Yarde vs Tony Averlant
After the excitement of the Manchester Arena last weekend, this weekend is something of the calm before the storm ahead of a huge night of Boxing next weekend when Kell Brook, Jermall Charlo, Josh Taylor and Andre Dirrell's rematch with Jose Uzcategui all take place before the Deontay Wilder Heavyweight Defence against Luis Ortiz.

Some of the next generation of British talent do get a chance to showcase their talent this week and I am expecting comfortable nights for Daniel Dubois and Anthony Yarde.

This does feel like a keep busy kind of fight for Yarde and I am looking forward to the time when Frank Warren perhaps decides to step things up for him. There is a decent British domestic scene in which he can get involved although whether the British Title route is one Warren is plotting is not very clear.

Instead there has been talk of lining up something like a World Title eliminator or an actual Title shot later in the year, but this is a deep and stacked Division at the World level. Yarde will see more of that next week in New York City where two of the very best are involved in a couple of World Title fights, but for now it is just about getting things done, learning and staying active.

Tony Averlant doesn't provide too much of a threat for Yarde, but he may last a little longer than he did against Juergen Braehmer when stopped in the Second Round back in 2013.

The Frenchman has been durable enough to give Yarde some Rounds having only been stopped twice in nine defeats, but I do think the Yarde power will end up telling and eventually Averlant will be punished sufficiently for the referee to perhaps step in.

While I can see Averlant lasting a little longer than he did with Braehmer, I can't see him going longer than Nikola Sjekola who had never before been stopped before Yarde got him out of there in the Fourth Round. Sjekola had gone the distance with the likes of Callum Smith, Tyron Zeuge and Robert Stieglitz prior to that and I think it does highlight the kind of power Yarde has.

Having a small interest in this one to finish in either the Third or Fourth Round, which are the Rounds in which three of the last four Yarde fights have been concluded, is where I will go with this one.

Callum Smith vs Nieky Holzken
Having an opponent pull out just days before you are due to fight them has to be very, very difficult for Callum Smith to deal with, but the focus on reaching the Super-Middleweight World Boxing Super Series Final set to go at the O2 Arena in London has to offer plenty of motivation for the Liverpudlian.

The problem is that Smith has obviously been preparing for a completely different fighter in Juergen Braehmer who is vastly more experienced than the substitute Nieky Holzen and also fights in a southpaw stance.

There isn't a lot that Smith knows about Holzen and even the wider boxing fan will know there is a significant step up for the Dutchman. He is clearly tough having had success in other combat fields in his career, but this really is a sink or swim situation for Holzen having been thrown into the deep end of this Semi Final.

I like Callum Smith.

He is someone I have believed is capable of going all the way to World Title honours where some of his brothers have just failed to get to. However Callum has long been considered the best of the Smith fighting brothers from Liverpool and many have tipped him up to win this Super-Middleweight tournament.

Smith had a tough night against Erik Skoglund in the Quarter Final, but he was a handy winner and I think the Swede was just a legitimately tough fighter. Even then Smith put him down and the power should see him take out Holzen in this one too.

It may take a little bit of time as Smith perhaps waits to see what kind of fighter is in front of him. He may decide to fight behind the jab being the considerably bigger man in the ring and I think Smith will need to weather an early storm from Holzen who perhaps comes out swinging in a bid to surprise his opponent.

I'd expect Smith to have taken full control of this fight by the middle Rounds though and that is when the I think he will be able to put some of his punches together and find a stoppage. Weathering the early storm and start to time his punches should see the first Four Rounds enter the books, but backing Smith to get this done sometime from the Fifth Round to the Eighth Round looks a good place to be.

MY PICKS: Anthony Yarde Round 3-4 @ 4.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Callum Smith Round 5-8 @ 2.87 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)

Boxing Picks 2018: 7-3, + 12.28 Units (18 Units Staked, + 68.22% Yield)

Tennis Picks 2018 (February 24th)

The last two weeks have been very, very good for the Tennis Picks and that run continued on Friday with four winners from the five completed matches.

Not to sound greedy, but it could easily have been a clean sweep after Garbine Muguruza twice led in the second set by a break, served for the match and missed match points in the tie-breaker before going down in three sets to Daria Kasatkina.

All three picks made from Delray Beach came back as winners though to keep the winners coming and it definitely feels good knowing that I wasn't going mad with the research for the Tennis Picks earlier this season.

It is a long season though with twists and turns and I just have to look for the positives to last longer than the negatives to ensure a winning season can be put into the books.

Elina Svitolina - 4.5 games v Daria Kasatkina: I might have had a very strong week, but a couple of my losing picks have been opposing Daria Kasatkina, although I am a sucker for punishment and will her oppose her in the Dubai Final too.

To be fair to me, Kasatkina was a set and a break down against Johanna Konta before turning that match around and then saved multiple match points in the second set of her eventual three set win over Garbine Muguruza in the Semi Final.

Now she will have to dig deep again to beat someone like Elina Svitolina who has been producing a higher level of tennis so far this week. Svitolina hasn't really had a lot of ups and downs either with her return being very effective in her three wins, while she has been good enough behind serve.

There is perhaps more to come from the serve, but it does feel like Svitolina will be able to create plenty of break point opportunities against the Kasatkina serve. The latter has had difficulty protecting that side of things and has been very much reliant on a strong return of her own, but she is not playing as well as Svitolina on the raw numbers.

Kasatkina is still dangerous as she will be playing with the confidence of recovering difficult positions already this week. However I think Svitolina's stronger serve and better return numbers will pay off and she can win the Dubai Final with a 6-3, 6-4 scoreline to retain the title she won last year.

MY PICKS: Elina Svitolina - 4.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 22-7, + 25.28 Units (58 Units Staked, + 43.59% Yield)

Friday, 23 February 2018

Weekend Football Picks 2018 (February 24-25)

The Premier League is back after a two week 'break' for those teams who were not involved in European action or the FA Cup Fifth Round last weekend.

For the top teams it remains a busy time, but for others it has been a chance to perhaps get some things straightened to make sure all of the goals for the 2017/18 season can be achieved.

The European Champions League Last 16 First Leg ties were all completed during the week and you can begin to see the Quarter Final of that competition develop.

It would be a massive surprise if Manchester City, Liverpool and Bayern Munich don't make it through with four and five goal leads from their First Leg ties. Then you would say Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona have a slight advantage thanks to away scoring draws, and Manchester United have an even narrower advantage over Sevilla.

Both the Shakhtar-Roma and PSG-Real Madrid ties look finely balanced with the two home teams in the Second Leg behind, but with one away goal under their belt.

Things are certainly heating up nicely in the Champions League with the Quarter Final draw just three weeks away.

It is another big round of fixtures in the Premier League this weekend with huge implications in the race for the top four spots and also the relegation battle. Points rather than performances are most important at this time of the season, although it is also when you can begin to take note of those teams who are picking up some momentum and close to a positive run of form compared with others who begin to feel sorry for themselves in whatever situation they find themselves.

The first domestic silverware of the season is also up for grabs on Sunday in another big weekend of Football.

Leicester City v Stoke City Pick: The opening game in the Premier League comes from the King Power Stadium this weekend and the television cameras will bring the game to a wider audience. It is a big game for Stoke City who are trying to desperately stay in touch with the teams above them and give themselves a chance to escape relegation to the Championship.

The last set of Premier League games could not have gone much worse for Stoke City- they missed a last minute penalty to record a win over Brighton and then saw relegation rivals Newcastle United, Huddersfield Town and Swansea City all record big home wins.

There is still only 2 points between Stoke City in 19th place and and Crystal Palace in 15th, but games like this one have to be circled by Paul Lambert as ones where Stoke City have to win. The next two weekends are huge for Stoke City with a trip to Southampton up next, but there may be some confidence coming in with some improved performances under Paul Lambert.

I am sure Stoke City would have preferred this visit to Leicester City later in the season when the home team may have lost a bit of focus with other things on their mind. However this is a tough time to visit a team who have played well at home in recent weeks with 4 wins from 5 games at the King Power Stadium and a Leicester City team who are still very much focused on a top seven finish in the Premier League.

Visits to Leicester City have been tough for Stoke City with back to back losses here without scoring a goal. I do think Stoke City have shown a little more attacking intent under Lambert's guidance, but defensively they have remained a work in progress and Leicester City should feel they can take advantage of that.

Games between these teams in the last couple of years have been high-scoring, although mainly at the Bet365 Stadium. I think there will be chances for both teams in this one with the edge going to Leicester City, although they look plenty short to win this fixture having drawn 1-1 with Swansea City in their last League game here.

Stoke City have conceded at least twice in 7 of their last 9 away games in all competitions, but they have also scored in 8 of their last 11 on their travels. This has the makings of a game that could feature at least three goals in the live early Saturday afternoon slot and I think both teams can score at least once in this one.

The 1-1 is a concern, but Stoke City will look for a win here and Leicester City have been playing well enough at home to expect to win too. That should mean the teams are not looking to settle for a point and I will back three or more goals to be shared out on Saturday.

Bournemouth v Newcastle United Pick: These two teams had contrasting results when they last played a competitive game thirteen days ago with Bournemouth being crushed at Huddersfield Town and Newcastle United stunning Manchester United at St James' Park.

Eddie Howe will be expecting to see a big reaction from his Bournemouth players who had been in fine form in the Premier League prior to that loss at the John Smith's Stadium. The Cherries had won 3 of 4 Premier League games prior to that defeat and this is a team who have won their last 3 League games at the Vitality Stadium so you can understand why they go into this fixture as the favourite.

However you have to respect a Newcastle United team who have been in decent shape away from home in recent weeks. They have lost 3 of their last 7 away Premier League games, but all of those came at one of the teams in the top six.

In that same run of 7 games, Newcastle United have earned draws at West Brom and Crystal Palace while winning at West Ham United and Stoke City so they clearly can thrive when playing the lesser lights in the Premier League.

Keeping clean sheets has been a problem for Newcastle United though, which is a surprise considering Rafa Benitez is in charge, and Bournemouth have scored at least twice in their last 4 home games in the League. On the other side of the field, Newcastle United have scored in 7 of their last 8 away League games and face a Bournemouth team who have conceded in 7 straight home League games.

The 1-1 is a distinct possibility in this fixture, but I think the teams can combine for another goal, at least, and that looks a big price with the layers pricing up three or more goals at odds against. Games between Bournemouth and Newcastle United have been tight in the last three years including a 0-1 win for The Cherries earlier this season, but recent performances from both teams suggest this will buck that trend.

7 of the last 8 Bournemouth home League games have seen three or more goals shared out, while 5 of the last 8 Newcastle United away games have done the same. With both teams desperate for the three points I can see an attacking game develop on Saturday, although I do have a slight concern they could settle for a 1-1 if that score is on the board with 10 minutes remaining.

Even then, I think the odds against quote for three or more goals is too big to ignore and I will back goals in this Premier League game.

Brighton v Swansea City Pick: The FA Cup Quarter Final draw has paired Brighton with Manchester United and that will have raised some memories of the 1983 FA Cup Final that Brighton competed in against Manchester United. That came in the same season that Brighton were relegated from the top flight of English Football and Chris Hughton has made it clear the Cup run comes secondary to Premier League survival.

Winning a third home game in all competitions would give Brighton a huge shot in avoiding relegation to the Premier League and there is no doubting the importance of this fixture for both clubs involved.

Brighton have shown decent form at home, but will want to turn a few of the draws into wins. However they have been difficult to beat here with their 3 League losses coming against sides in the top four of the Premier League table and now face a Swansea City team who have toughened up in recent weeks.

The majority of the big Swansea City results have come at the Liberty Stadium though and they have drawn 5 away games in a row. 3 of those have come against lower League opposition so Brighton have to feel they have started producing the goals at home which can help them win this fixture.

It does feel like this will be a close game and a single goal could easily be enough to earn the three points. Both teams have had some confidence boosting results of late, but I think home advantage could be key for Brighton and they can narrowly get past their visitors.

Of course you have to respect the results Swansea City have earned in recent weeks as they have grown full of belief under Carlos Carvalhal. They are also unbeaten in 10 games in all competitions, but Swansea City don't score a lot of away goals and I think that is a reason Brighton can do enough to win this one with decent defensive performances at the Amex Stadium.

I will back Brighton on the Asian Handicap which at least returns half the stake in the event of a draw, which is a possibility in a fixture between two teams with little between them. However I do think Brighton have been creating enough chances in recent weeks to earn the victory and I will back them on the Asian Handicap to do that.

Liverpool v West Ham United Pick: A stunning Champions League performance in Portugal has put Liverpool almost certainly through to the Quarter Final of that competition, but Jurgen Klopp's aim is to make sure they are playing in it again next season. The most favourable way of doing that is by finishing in the top four of the Premier League and this is a big game for Liverpool.

Most will be expecting them to be far too strong for West Ham United and that will be a big result for Liverpool on the same weekend that two of the other three contenders for the top four positions play each other at Old Trafford.

Either Manchester United or Chelsea are going to be dropping points so it is imperative for Liverpool to win this game and earn an advantage for the top four positions behind Manchester City.

The home team should be too good for West Ham United, although too many draws at Anfield has been a concern for Liverpool this season. All but one of those draws has come against teams in the top half of the table though so the expectation will be that Liverpool can beat a West Ham United team who haven't been in the best form of late.

David Moyes will have been pleased with the 2-0 win over Watford though and he is also going to have a couple of key players return to the squad which is very important at this critical stage of the season. You know he will have been working on West Ham United to be well disciplined in this one and try and make life as difficult for Liverpool as possible and Moyes has overseen some solid results for West Ham United.

His side were narrowly beaten at Manchester City and earned a draw at Wembley Stadium against Tottenham Hotspur and I do think they are getting a generous start on the Asian Handicap in this one. A two goal loss would return the stake and anything better than that would be a winner for West Ham United who will close space and try and hurt Liverpool on the counter attack.

Liverpool are a team who can blow opponents away, which makes it dangerous to oppose them, but West Ham United have a decent recent record at Anfield. Coupled with those tough performances at the Etihad Stadium and Wembley Stadium and having had two weeks to work on a defensive shape, I am going to take West Ham United with the start on the Asian Handicap in this one.

Recent results have not been very good for David Moyes' men, but they have a couple of key performers back and I think they are worth taking with the start.

West Brom v Huddersfield Town Pick: Taxi-gate should be behind West Brom now, but Alan Pardew will only believe that is the case if his players can turn some of their recent performances in positive results in the Premier League.

With the other clubs around the relegation zone all finding some big wins in recent weeks, West Brom have been on a poor run of defeats which has left them looking like they have been cut off at the bottom of the table. The next few weeks are key for West Brom as they face a number of their relegation rivals beginning with this game at The Hawthorns on Saturday when they host Huddersfield Town.

Anything less than a win would likely be curtains for West Brom as far as being a Premier League club goes, but this is the kind of fixture I think they can win.

As well as Huddersfield Town have played this season, they have struggled for goals away from home and they are not the same team away from the John Smith's Stadium. In recent weeks they have lost at Leicester City and Stoke City, although David Wagner will believe his side are full of confidence after hammering Bournemouth 4-1 at home in their last League game.

Unfortunately for Wagner, he will need to see a much better defensive performance than Huddersfield Town have produced in recent weeks if they are going to earn a result here. They should give West Brom chances and the home team have had plenty of opportunities in recent games which have been squandered.

The poor finishing is a concern for Alan Pardew and the fans as West Brom have created the chances to earn better results than they have in recent weeks. The home form has been poor which is also a negative against them, but I think West Brom have been close to earning a big result and I like their chances to earn that this weekend.

It will likely be a close and tough fought battle, but I am going to back West Brom to earn the three points. The Huddersfield Town struggles in the final third have seen them score 7 of their 8 away Premier League goals in 2 of their 13 away League games and I think West Brom can do enough at both ends of the field to win this one against a team that have struggled for clean sheets of late.

Watford v Everton Pick: The second live televised game from the Premier League comes from Vicarage Road this weekend and both Watford and Everton should be able to play with relative freedom for the neutrals tuning in.

Both Javi Gracia and Sam Allardyce are perhaps known for their defensive organisation more than their attacking intent, but both have good players in the final third who will feel they can get the better of their opposition.

Scoring goals has been something of a problem for Watford, but the majority of those issues have come away from home. At Vicarage Road they have scored at least twice in 4 of their last 5 games in all competitions, while Watford have not had a clean sheet in 7 home games in the Premier League.

That should mean there are some chances at both ends especially with Everton having a few problems defensively that Sam Allardyce has yet to resolve. It is something of a surprise that Everton have not had a clean sheet in any of their last 8 games in all competitions, but they have managed to score in 3 of their last 4 away games.

It feels like both teams will be able to get on the scoreboard in this one, which has happened in 4 of the 5 games between Watford and Everton since The Hornets returned to the top flight. 3 of those 5 games have featured three or more goals and I think the performances of both of these teams in recent weeks suggests this could be another game that goes in that direction.

There has been two weeks to work on defensive organisation for both teams, but I still anticipate there will be enough chances for both teams to help combine for three or more goals here. The odds against quotes certainly look too big for that to happen and I will take on the layers in this market.

Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: This game has been moved forward by a day because of Tottenham Hotspur's need for a FA Cup Fifth Round Replay to try and see off Rochdale from League One.

The attention will be completely on an important Premier League game as Tottenham Hotspur look to maintain their push for a top four finish on the same day Chelsea and Manchester United meet at Old Trafford. Taking advantage of one of their top four rivals dropping points is very important, but Tottenham Hotspur have not been able to find wins away from home in recent weeks.

They have drawn their last 5 away games including at Newport County and Rochdale and that has to encourage Crystal Palace even though Roy Hodgson is dealing with a long injury list.

Crystal Palace have been strong at home, but missing the likes of Wilfried Zaha is a huge blow for Hodgson as his team are still trying to produce a gap between themselves and the bottom three. Depending on results on Saturday, Crystal Palace could even find themselves in the bottom three by the time this game kicks off and they will need to show their toughness at Selhurst Park in this one.

The Eagles have created chances at this ground and I expect they can pose a few problems for a Tottenham Hotspur team who have not had too many clean sheets on their travels in recent weeks. However this Tottenham Hotspur team are playing with the confidence to think they can hurt Crystal Palace when going forward and both teams will feel they can play a part in this one.

The layers are full of belief that there will be goals in this fixture, but they have underestimated the chances of both teams to be involved in the scoring. The last 5 Tottenham Hotspur away games have seen both teams score and Crystal Palace have scored in 10 of their last 11 home games with only a missed penalty against Manchester City providing the exception.

Even without Zaha I think Crystal Palace can have joy going forward, but 2 clean sheets in 10 home games suggests Tottenham Hotspur will also have success. Backing both teams to score at just under odds against looks the play this weekend.

Manchester United v Chelsea Pick: The television cameras will be fully focused on the sideline and hoping to see something between Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte who are meeting for the first time since a very personal spat played out in the media in January.

While there is clearly going to be some lingering tension from some of the words spoken by both men, both Mourinho and Conte will recognise the importance of getting their tactics right in this huge Premier League game with top four implications.

Tactically both managers were almost perfect in Champions League action during the week although Conte was unfortunate to see his Chelsea team fail to beat Barcelona at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United were less keen to get on the front foot in their draw in Sevilla but will be more satisfied with the draw that gives them the slight advantage when it comes to the Second Leg next month.

I fully expect this Premier League game to be a bit of a chess game between two managers who are very good at setting up their teams to be difficult to beat. It is no surprise that games between Manchester United and Chelsea over the last eighteen months with Mourinho and Conte at the helm have been mainly tight affairs.

There is the 4-0 win for Chelsea to consider, but the next three games between these clubs have provided four goals in total and I am not sure there will be a lot in this one either.

Manchester United have played low-scoring home games against Tottenham Hotspur (twice), Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea in the Premier League since Mourinho took over. Only once have Manchester United scored more than one goal in those home games, while they only scored once each time in their two home games against Manchester City in that time too.

Chelsea did have high-scoring games at Arsenal twice this season in the Premier League and League Cup and they also combined for three goals at Wembley Stadium against Tottenham Hotspur. However those games against Mourinho and Manchester United stand out as the exception with Conte looking to match him tactically and I can see both teams trying to contain the other before trying to work their own attacks into the equation.

I imagine Mourinho will look to stop Eden Hazard from having a big impact in the game like he did in the Manchester United home win over Chelsea last season. On the other side I think Conte will play a false nine as he did against Barcelona and try and use the speed of three attacking forwards in Willian, Hazard and Pedro to hit Manchester United on the counter attack.

An early goal could change the entire approach of the game as it did when Chelsea beat Manchester United 4-0 at Stamford Bridge last season. However the more likely situation is both teams looking to avoid making a mistake and making life as difficult for their opponents in this match and so the under 2.5 goals looks the obvious play.

The layers recognise that with that market very short in the prices, but they may be taking a chance by offering odds against that one, or both, of these teams fails to score. All four games between Chelsea and Manchester United in the last eighteen months have seen one of the teams fail to score, while a deeper look shows 9 of the last 12 between these clubs have seen that market hit.

I hope to see better from Manchester United as an attacking threat in this one, but I won't be surprised if one or both of these teams fails to score in a tactical game. One goal may be enough for someone to secure a vital three points and I will take the odds against quotes for one of the teams to fail to score here.

Arsenal v Manchester City Pick: Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola will familiarise themselves with one another over the next few days as Arsenal get set to take on Manchester City in the League Cup Final and then the Premier League at the Emirates Stadium.

First up is the League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium where Arsenal have a strong recent record in Cup competitions including beating Manchester City 2-1 after extra time in the FA Cup Semi Final last season.

This looks a different Manchester City team though and it is going to take a huge effort and perhaps a sprinkling of luck for Arsenal to prevent the first piece of silverware heading back to the North West on Sunday evening.

Manchester City should be eager to come out and make up for the 1-0 loss at Wigan Athletic on Monday night in the FA Cup which has ended all hopes of the Quadruple. A treble of trophies is still on for Guardiola, but the pressure is on Manchester City to add something to the Premier League title they have had in their grasp for weeks.

Guardiola will urge his players not to panic though and Manchester City will believe imposing their style of football on this fixture will likely result in a victory for them. They will look to dominate the ball and try and work around an Arsenal defence that never seems too far away from a collapse, even if they have produced some big performances at times this season.

Generally Arsenal have struggled at the back, particularly away from the Emirates Stadium, and Manchester City certainly have the team to punish them. With an almost full squad to choose from and plenty of rest in the legs, Manchester City will be expected to break down Arsenal, but I am not anticipating a one sided game in this Final.

There is still some genuine quality that Arsenal can call upon in the attacking third and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has to believe he can use his speed to terrify the Manchester City backline. Mistakes are being made by Manchester City, and they are being punished every time they do make one, while Arsenal will look to be very direct on the counter attack with some classy passers who can open things up for shots on goal.

I don't think it should surprise anyone that Arsenal have scored in 11 games in a row against Manchester City and they have scored twice inside 90 minutes in 7 of those games. Wenger is not likely to want his side to sit back and try and soak up pressure, but will demand they break with pace and try and get after the Manchester City back line and I think that could pay off for them with one or two goals.

Defensively it is hard to see Arsenal keep Manchester City out and I think the latter will have a positive reaction to losing at the DW Stadium on Monday night. There is plenty of attacking talent on show and I am not surprised that half of the 4 games played between these teams since Guardiola has taken over have resulted in at least four goals shared out.

I am anticipating another high-scoring game here with both teams likely to score and the possibility for spaces to open up in the last half an hour. With the way both managers tend to approach their football, I wouldn't think either team is going to want to sit back and wait for things to happen and a positive League Cup Final could see four goals hit between these teams.

The edge has to be given to Manchester City on their season's work, but Arsenal won't roll over here and there are some questions for Manchester City to answer after surprisingly exiting the FA Cup. Arsenal's recent record at Wembley Stadium makes them dangerous to oppose here too, so I will simply look for four or more goals to be scored in the Final.

MY PICKS: Leicester City-Stoke City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Bournemouth v Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Brighton - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.81 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United + 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Brom @ 2.05 William Hill (2 Units)
Watford-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Tottenham Hotspur Both Teams to Score @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester United-Chelsea Both Teams NOT to Score @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal-Manchester City Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.15 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Tennis Picks 2018 (February 23rd)

Thursday proved to be another very strong day with just one pick left to be played at the time of writing.

The other five picks all returned as winners to keep a strong week trending in a very positive direction and it also means back to back very good weeks to turn the 2018 season back around in a positive position.

In a long season this is certainly feeling like a strong portion with the last two weeks providing plenty of winners, but I am hoping the research continues to pay off as well as it has, although I do also recognise that I will have some tough moments when the luck is a little more negative than it has been.

Player are making use of their strong performances and turning those into wins for me and I looking for that to continue to round off another good week.

Garbine Muguruza - 3.5 games v Daria Kasatkina: Both Garbine Muguruza and Daria Kasatkina have been in very good form to reach the Dubai Semi Finals and both have deserved their place in the last four here.

Strong performances will give the players confidence in this Semi Final, although I am leaning towards Muguruza who reached the Final in Doha last week too and has opened up 2018 in fine form.

One of the key differences between the players which should make the difference is the ability behind serve that the two players have. Where Muguruza can be very dangerous when she is getting her first serves in, Kasatkina has had to work hard to protect her serve and that is going to be challenged by her opponent in this Semi Final.

There is a slight edge towards Kasatkina when it comes to the quality of return, but Muguruza is also very good on that side of the court. She should have a little more time to attack the Kasatkina serve too so I am liking the Spaniard to find moments where she can serve herself out of trouble while keeping the young Russian under immense pressure for much of the match.

They did play a really close match in Brisbane at the start of the 2017 season, but I like Muguruza to come through with a break more in the first two sets for a straight sets victory.

Karen Khachanov - 1.5 games v Julien Benneteau: I backed Karen Khachanov in the Second Round and he didn't disappoint when crushing Mischa Zverev for the loss of just three games.

That is yet another strong performance in 2018 from the young Russian and I think he can beat veteran Julien Benneteau in front of his home fans in Marseille in this Quarter Final.

Benneteau has a couple of strong wins under his belt already this week and also upset Roberto Bautista Agut in the Second Round. However there is little doubt he was very fortunate in that match and a similar level is not going to be good enough to win a match like this one.

His numbers in 2018 have begun slightly down on 2017 on the hard courts and Benneteau is going to be challenged by Khachanov who has dominated those players further down the World Rankings. The win over Zverev in the Second Round means Khachanov is 4-0 against players Ranked outside the top 50 this season.

As I mentioned yesterday, Khachanov has opened 2018 in much stronger form on the hard courts than he produce in 2017. Those numbers are even more impressive when playing those outside the top 50 in the World Rankings and I really like the way Khachanov has returned in those matches.

This will be tough facing a Frenchman in France, but I am going to back Khachanov to win and cover this number of games too.

Tomas Berdych - 3.5 games v Damir Dzumhur: There have been some signs that Tomas Berdych has lost some of his edge on the tennis court, but he has been in good form to open 2018 and I think he can continue that in this Quarter Final.

Berdych had a very difficult time in the Second Round win in Marseille, but he did eventually win and the numbers have looked good for him in 2018. The serve is performing slightly better than it did on the hard courts in 2018, but importantly for Berdych he has been producing a much superior return which is helping him make a strong start to the season.

It won't be easy for Berdych to dominate completely against Damir Dzumhur who has played well enough to open the new season himself. This is the second Quarter Final he has reached on the hard courts and Dzumhur has a solid enough return that he will believe he can force Berdych into tough positions when facing the big serve from the Czech player.

The concern for Dzumhur will always be a serve that can be attacked and I think Berdych will get enough joy from that side of the court to get into a position to win this match in straight sets.

Dzumhur has not quite been able to cut it against the top 20 players over the last few years and his return is not quite as effective in those matches. That underlines the vulnerability of his own serve and I would expect Berdych to find a couple more breaks of serve than his opponent which should lead to a cover of this number of games.

Steve Johnson - 2.5 games v Evgeny Donskoy: 2018 has not started as well as Steve Johnson would have liked, but he has played well in his two matches in Delray Beach and I think he can continue his progress through one more Round at least.

He will need to play at the kind of level he has shown already this week to see off Evgeny Donskoy, even if the latter has perhaps been a little fortunate to get past Donald Young.

Donskoy beat Roger Federer last year in Dubai so has shown what kind of talent he possesses, but it has been tough to replicate that and the majority of his successes have come against players lower down the Rankings. The numbers are severely impacted when Donskoy plays top 100 Ranked players, especially on the return of serve, and I am not convinced he will be able to get through as many difficult moments as he did in the win over Young earlier this week.

It has to be remembered that Johnson's return game is far from the best, but he has been seeing the ball big enough this week and the numbers have been much better than what you may usually expect from him. That momentum should be enough to at least put pressure on his opponents serve and I would expect the American to make it through to the Semi Final.

The number of games is one less than I was expecting from this match and I will back Johnson to come through with a cover of them.

Peter Gojowczyk - 2.5 games v Reilly Opelka: There are plenty of comparisons between Reilly Opelka and John Isner with the two tall Americans in possession of a monster serve, but perhaps not the best once you get them into a deep rally or on the return of serve.

In 2018 Opelka has shown some improvement in his return game, at least in the first couple of months of the year, and that potentially will see a huge jump in the World Rankings with a serve capable of taking the racquet out of anyone's hands.

However Peter Gojowczyk has been playing well at a higher level than Opelka and the experience of playing John Isner this week will have done him a lot of favours. He also beat Opelka twice in 2017 and the German has a serve that can make sure he is not giving his opponent too many opportunities to get in front of this one.

Gojowczyk did struggle with his return of serve in the win over Isner but he didn't offer too many chances up to break serve and I think knowing that kind of pace and how to deal with it will stand him in good stead in this one. Those wins over Opelka also came with a number of breaks of serve so I do think Gojowczyk will be able to make enough balls to at least force his opponent to play some solid tennis to win points.

Eventually that may see Opelka just break down and I think Gojowczyk can find the breaks of serve to make sure he can cover this number of games. It won't be easy with the German sometimes liable to throw in a terrible service game, but I am expecting him to look after that side of his game and come through a difficult assignment with a 7-6, 6-4 kind of win.

Denis Shapovalov - 1.5 games v Taylor Fritz: An all North American battle between two young players who are hoping to make a big impact in the years ahead looks to be a fascinating one.

I like the way both Denis Shapovalov and Taylor Fritz approach their tennis with big time winners the way forward. Both possess solid serves which can set them up to put pressure on the opponents and I expect to see some fine tennis in this Quarter Final.

However I am surprised the layers have not placed too much between them considering Shapovalov's seemingly complete transition onto the main ATP Tour. While there is room for improvement from Shapovalov, he has been playing well at a higher level than Fritz who had some injury concerns over the last eighteen months which has curtailed his own progress.

Shapovalov has also been showing an improvement when it comes to the return of serve and that could see him make the next step in his progress to the top of men's tennis. While I am not underestimating how well Fritz has played in his two wins this week and the confidence he will have earned from a winning habit in 2018, I think his serve is the slightly more vulnerable and in a close match I am favouring the Canadian to come through.

Personally I had Shapovalov down as a bigger favourite than he is for this match and I will back him to win and cover against the young American Fritz in what should be a good looking match.

MY PICKS: Garbine Muguruza - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)
Karen Khachanov - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Coral (2 Units)
Steve Johnson - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Peter Gojowczyk - 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Denis Shapovalov - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 18-6, + 19.44 Units (48 Units Staked, + 40.50% Yield)