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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (February 8-17)

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Friday, 9 February 2018

Weekend Football Picks 2018 (February 10-12)

The Champions League and Europa League Knock Out Rounds begin this week and that means this is the time of the season when you have to begin considering the amount of rotation managers will decide on to keep players fresh for plenty of big games ahead.

At the moment you would think all of the top managers involved in both domestic and European matters are not going to look too far ahead, but it does pose the question as matches come thick and fast with the FA Cup next weekend and plenty of football to cram in before the final international break of the season in around five weeks time.

Keep an eye on press conferences and try and read between the lines about what managers are saying in the lead up to the weekend games, while team news will also be important when making your selections.

I don't have the luxury of waiting for team news for the picks on the thread and this is my selections for the weekend games to be played in the Premier League from Saturday through to Monday evening.

On Monday I should have the Champions League selections ready for the four ties to be played this week and I will add any Europa League Picks on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal Pick: The North London derby opens the Premier League weekend fixtures from Wembley Stadium on Saturday lunchtime.

It is a big game between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal with the battle for the top four places in the Premier League heating up. Both teams earned positive results last weekend against Merseyside opposition as Arsenal hammered Everton at the Emirates Stadium before Tottenham Hotspur earned a solid 2-2 draw at Anfield on Sunday.

That means it is Tottenham Hotspur who are 4 points clear of Arsenal going into the final North London derby of the season. A win for the home team will almost certainly mean Arsenal have to pay full attention to the Europa League if they want to get back into the Champions League, but a win for Arsenal will open a big chance to reclaim their place in the top four of the Premier League having slipped out for the first time in a generation last season.

There is plenty of talent going out onto the field on Saturday and I think it will be a fascinating watch with both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal having a lot of attacking threats to pose against the other.

I do want to give the edge to Tottenham Hotspur in this fixture as they are playing in more familiar surroundings, although Arsenal have experienced a lot of success at Wembley Stadium in recent years to feel comfortable enough too. However I think the Tottenham Hotspur defensive shape is better than Arsenal's which should mean the Tottenham Hotspur attackers find a little more room for success in the final third.

Arsenal's away form has been very poor this season considering the standards the top teams in England have been setting. That is the main reason they are 5 points off the top four, and Arsenal have lost to both Liverpool and Manchester City away from home in the Premier League this season.

They did earn a draw at Chelsea in both the Premier League and League Cup, but Arsenal have been in poor form recently which has seen them lose at Bournemouth and Swansea City. Compare that to Tottenham Hotspur who have won 5 of their last 6 home Premier League games and have beaten Manchester United in their last League game here.

Tottenham Hotspur have also won 2 of their last 3 home League games against Arsenal and they led in the other game which was drawn 2-2. The Tottenham Hotspur players look to be playing with a little confidence in their last couple of games against teams in the top four and I think they can underline their status as the current top team in North London with a win over Arsenal at odds against.

Stoke City v Brighton Pick: Any Premier League game between teams in the bottom half of the table have huge ramifications at the moment with very little separating 12th placed West Ham United and 19th placed Huddersfield Town.

Both Brighton and Stoke City are occupying one of those places between The Hammers and The Terriers and both Chris Hughton and Paul Lambert will recognise the importance of the fixture.

There have been positive signs for both clubs over the last couple of weeks and even the 2-1 loss at Bournemouth last week for Stoke City came in a game where they had the chances to win the points. Now they return home where they have had back to back clean sheets under Lambert and picked up 4 points from a possible 6.

That will give Stoke City confidence to earn the points on offer on Saturday as Brighton have continued to struggle for goals away from the Amex Stadium. On the other hand, Brighton remain strong defensively for the most part and they will look to make life difficult for Stoke City, while recent draws at Newcastle United and Southampton show that Brighton can earn a positive result here.

I don't think there will be much between the teams, but I do think Stoke City have a little more in the final third which could prove critical to the outcome of the fixture. Brighton have to be respected having shown toughness away from home all season and so I will back the home team, but on the Asian Handicap which returns half the stake in the event of a draw.

I just feel Stoke City have gone back to basics defensively which can at least limit what Brighton are able to do, but it will come down to whether the home team have the confidence in the final third to take their own opportunities. Stoke City have been creating chances in their 3 games under Paul Lambert which will offer some encouragement to their fans and I think the home team will secure a narrow victory.

West Ham United v Watford Pick: It looks like the West Ham United injury list is beginning to clear up a little bit at the same time as Watford have to continue playing with limited resources after a deep injury list shows little sign of improving.

However Watford had a huge confidence boosting win over Chelsea on Monday night and that will give the players a shot in the arm after they had shown signs of slipping back into a relegation battle.

Losing Troy Deeney to a suspension would be tough to take, but Watford will feel they can play with a little more freedom at the London Stadium now they have put a little more distance between themselves and the bottom three.

That could make Watford dangerous even though they have struggled mightily on their travels in the last couple of months. Goals have been an issue for them after a fast start away from home, but Watford will feel they can create chances on Saturday against a West Ham United team who have been having some difficulties defensively.

On the other hand West Ham United have also shown they can continue to create chances even without the likes of Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini pulling the strings for their team. The last 8 West Ham United games in the Premier League have seen both teams score and that is something that could easily continue this weekend with the way they have struggled defensively and now facing a Watford team who don't do a lot of clean sheets.

While a point will keep things ticking over for West Ham United, I doubt that is something David Moyes will settle for considering the fixtures still to come for The Hammers. Both teams should be able to produce chances in this fixture and the last couple of games between West Ham United and Watford in East London have produced fireworks.

My concern for Watford is they have not scored in 4 of their last 5 away games in all competitions and potentially have Deeney ruled out on Saturday. However the performance against Chelsea on Monday night should have given them a huge boost and I will look for at least three goals to be shared out by these teams this weekend.

Manchester City v Leicester City Pick: There won't be a lot of love lost between Manchester City and Leicester City on Saturday when they meet in the Premier League. Manchester City have to be frustrated that they were not able to sign Riyad Mahrez, but the Leicester City decision to reject the bid has basically seen Mahrez go on strike.

That means neither team will have his services on Saturday in the Premier League but I imagine the Leicester City players will be highly motivated to show they can compete with Manchester City and show Mahrez what he is missing.

However Leicester City have not played well without one of their key players and have lost at Everton and drawn with Swansea City since Mahrez has walked away from his team-mates. There is still some pace which can cause Manchester City problems and Leicester City will look to counter attack against a team who can show defensive vulnerabilities at times.

Recently Leicester City played really well at Stamford Bridge in a goalless draw and they also led at Anfield before losing 2-1 to Liverpool, but this may be an even bigger test for them. Manchester City have looked very good in recent weeks and 11 straight home wins means they come into this one with plenty of confidence even after drawing 1-1 at Burnley last weekend.

The side dominated that game and it is hard to think Manchester City will be as complacent in front of goal as they were that day. At the Etihad Stadium Manchester City do take their chances and they have scored three or more goals in 6 of their last 7 here in all competitions.

The layers have got the Asian Handicap right on the money for this one and I do respect Leicester City for their performances at the big clubs so far this season. Claude Puel has made Leicester City tough to beat, and I do think they can frustrate Manchester City for some time but eventually the pressure is likely to tell.

Backing Manchester City to win by either two or three goals looks at odds against looks a decent price to me. Only 1 of their last 14 games at home have been won by more than a three goal margin, while 4 of their last 5 home Premier League games have been won by two or three goal margins.

With Leicester City showing some toughness away from home, I would be surprised if they are completely overrun by a Manchester City team missing the likes of Leroy Sane and Gabriel Jesus. However I do think Leicester City will have some difficulties containing the home team and I will look for Manchester City to win by one of those margins at odds against.

Huddersfield Town v Bournemouth Pick: There is a triple header of live games from the Premier League on Sunday and both Huddersfield Town and Bournemouth may have circled this fixture as one they can win.

Out of the two teams, Bournemouth have really picked up their form in recent weeks which has moved them into the top half of the Premier League table. Back to back wins over Chelsea and Stoke City will have given Bournemouth a lot of confidence and they head to a Huddersfield Town team who have lost 5 straight Premier League games as they have slipped into the bottom three.

There have been some problems for Huddersfield Town defensively which have put the team under more pressure, but they have also shown they can be more effective going forward against those teams in and around them. That may not be where Bournemouth stand now, but David Wagner is likely to have a very positive approach to this fixture especially if he really believes Huddersfield Town can survive in the top flight.

Huddersfield Town will feel they can get after a Bournemouth team who have looked vulnerable defensively, but they will also be put under pressure by a team who have shown attacking intent.

Bournemouth have scored at least twice in 6 of their last 7 games in the Premier League, while they have only kept a single clean sheet in their last 13 League games. Recent Huddersfield Town games have also produced goals and 3 of their last 5 at home have featured three or more goals and I think the layers could be caught out with their odds against quotes for at least three goals to be scored on Sunday morning.

You have to think Bournemouth will play the same way they always do under Eddie Howe while I believe Huddersfield Town will take a few more risks in this one with a vital three points on the line. If it is 1-1 late in the game then I wouldn't be surprised if both teams settle for a point, but I think there is enough reason to back at least three goals to be scored at a big, appealing price in this one.

Newcastle United v Manchester United Pick: The second of the live games in the Premier League comes at the end of an emotional week for Manchester United fans around the globe.

The 60th Anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster was remembered on Tuesday, but the players have had plenty of time to recharge the batteries with seven days off between Premier League games.

The fixture at St James' Park is a big one for Manchester United who have been set the goal of finishing 2nd in the League table by manager Jose Mourinho. The top four battle looks like one that could go down to the wire so Manchester United can't afford too many slips with the resumption of the Champions League meaning games will be coming thick and fast in the weeks ahead.

This week is a better one for Manchester United as they won't be back in action until next Saturday in the FA Cup and they have been playing very well away from home which is why they come in as strong favourites. 5 wins from 6 away Premier League games is a very good return, but Manchester United saw that run snapped last time out as they were beaten comfortably at Tottenham Hotspur.

Manchester United will feel they can get back to winning ways when visiting a Newcastle United team who have struggled to turn draws into wins in recent weeks. They have led against Burnley and Crystal Palace but barely held on for draws, while Newcastle United have not won any of 8 home games in the Premier League.

The pressure could be on if two of Stoke City, Swansea City or Huddersfield Town have won home League games played before this one kicks off as that would mean the fans are behind a team inside the relegation zone. It could easily see them turn on Mike Ashley again, while the players have struggled to create a lot of chances in games which is going to be underlined in a fixture like this one.

Rafa Benitez will look to make Newcastle United tough to beat and well organised which could be a problem for Manchester United. However special players like Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial can break down those teams as shown when Manchester United won 0-1 at Burnley and a strong defensive shape of their own should give Manchester United the edge.

Newcastle United have hosted Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester City in the Premier League and lost a couple of those games. They weren't blown away in any of those games with Benitez making sure Newcastle United were tough to beat and I can see another tight defeat here.

Manchester United haven't been scoring a lot of goals in recent weeks so I can't imagine them winning by three or more goals. You can back Manchester United to win by one or two goal margins which come together to give you an odds against quote and I do like Manchester United to do that here.

I considered backing Manchester United to win to nil at a very big price, but Newcastle United can be dangerous going forward from set pieces and so simply looking for Manchester United to record a narrow win at odds against is appealing.

Only 1 away League win has come by more than a two goal margin, so I will dutch one and two goal margins of victory for an odds against quote on the Manchester United win here.

Southampton v Liverpool Pick: The last of the triple header live games from the Premier League comes from St Mary's as both Southampton and Liverpool search for key points at the bottom and top of the Premier League respectively.

It should be a decent game of football with both teams arguably better going forward than they have shown defensively. Southampton have both scored and conceded in their last 7 home Premier League games and they will feel their best chance of upsetting Liverpool is to get after a vulnerable defence that has conceded plenty of goals on their travels.

The key will be finding the balance between attack and defence as Southampton won't want to leave too many spaces for a pacy Liverpool front line to exploit. That has been tough for Southampton at times, but they have drawn with the likes of Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at St Mary's in recent weeks to suggest they can challenge Liverpool.

I also do have to wonder if Liverpool are hitting a poor patch of form like they did twelve months ago around this time of the season. They have had 1 win from their last 4 games in all competitions and looked outclassed by Tottenham Hotspur in a 2-2 draw at Anfield last Sunday.

However they continue to pose some danger going forward and Liverpool are a side who have scored plenty of away goals throughout this season. I think they will still have a little too much for Southampton in this Premier League game with the way the home team have been playing recently although I can see a few goals being shared out too.

8 of the last 9 Liverpool away games have featured at least three goals shared out and they have been on the winning side more often than not. With Southampton both scoring and conceding in a number of League games in a row at St Mary's, I do think backing Liverpool to win a game featuring at least three goals is a big price.

Chelsea v West Brom Pick: The last time Chelsea played West Brom resulted in a comfortable win for Chelsea at The Hawthorns and saw West Brom decide to sack manager Tony Pulis.

With the pressure on Antonio Conte, there is a feeling that a West Brom win on Monday night in the Premier League may see Chelsea decide to sack their own manager and make Conte the third straight manager to win the Premier League title and be sacked before the end of the next season.

Recent Chelsea managers have also seen West Brom accountable for them losing their job at Stamford Bridge, but I would expect to see a reaction from the Chelsea players on Monday. While it feels as though they have given up on their manager like they did to Jose Mourinho, generally they have been tougher at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea should be well rested for this game having been given a few days to rest by the manager.

Chelsea had a long unbeaten record at Stamford Bridge come to an end in the 0-3 defeat to Bournemouth last time out here, but they are facing a West Brom team who have hit a couple of bad results. West Brom are also under immense pressure with a 4 point gap to safety at the start of the weekend and that could easily look a lot worse by the time this game kicks off.

That will mean the away team are also under a scrutiny to perform and that makes this a tougher game to get a read on.

The Asian Handicap looks right on the mark with a case that can be made for both teams, although I did consider taking West Brom with the start knowing the way Alan Pardew will have them lined up.

However the better option may be backing both teams to score- West Brom have shown a little more in the final third in recent games under Pardew and they will believe they can create chances against a Chelsea team who have conceded seven goals in 2 Premier League games.

Chelsea will also have their chances as they are likely to have Olivier Giroud leading the line in a system that suits their players a little more than when Eden Hazard is in a false nine position. As positive as some of the West Brom attacking play has been, this is a team who have conceded plenty of goals under Pardew and backing both teams to score at odds against looks a very appealing price.

MY PICKS: Tottenham Hotspur @ 2.00 Bet365 (2 Units)
Stoke City - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.87 Bet365 (2 Units)
West Ham United-Watford Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City to Win by 2 or 3 Goals @ 2.22 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Huddersfield Town-Bournemouth Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United to Win by 1 or 2 Goals @ 2.02 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool to Win & Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.60 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Chelsea-West Brom Both Teams to Score @ 2.05 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)

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