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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, 31 March 2018

Boxing Picks 2018- Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker (March 31st)

I wasn't in the United Kingdom for the Dillian Whyte versus Lucas Browne fight, but managed to catch the highlight of a showreel Knock Out produced by the British fighter who is now in line to be named the Number 1 contender for the WBC Heavyweight Title held by Deontay Wilder.

The performance as a whole sounded very impressive from Whyte, even if Browne was criticised for his own performance, and there is no doubt that Whyte has rebuilt his name to the point he would be considered a viable option for a rematch against Anthony Joshua if the Wilder fight does not materialise.

Forget all the gum-flapping, I have little doubt that Eddie Hearn is not at all interested in setting up the huge Unification between Wilder and Joshua that so many have called for. Ultimately Hearn would much rather see Wilder face Whyte and the undercurrent of talk about Jarrell Miller or a mandatory defence against Alexander Povetkin has to be considered a much more viable route for Joshua to take unless of course he is upset by Joseph Parker on Saturday.

I've considered for some time that any Wilder versus Joshua clash would not happen before 2019 and the fact that Hearn is pushing for Whyte to be named the mandatory to Wilder for his WBC crown is the clearest indication of where Matchroom want this Division to go, at least for the immediate future.

Hearn might have been shocked, but I was less surprised Wilder has refused to come over to the UK when it was made clear he would not be allowed to get into the ring to face off against Joshua if the latter won on Saturday. Like Wilder, I am of firm belief that the photo opportunity with Whyte would have been pushed forward instead and the American is not willing to play those games even if I think he would dismiss the challenge of Whyte.

If the likes of David Price and David Haye can win big fights in the next month, Joshua will have Whyte, Price and Haye ready for big defences and talk of 'freezing out' Wilder is more than a sound-byte for me. I actually think Joshua would make a defence against Price or Haye if they win their fights and then perhaps head to America to face someone like Miller in 2018 (you can switch those fights the other way around too).

Eddie Hearn would love to potentially have Whyte versus Wilder in the meantime to keep the American occupied too and I actually believe any Joshua versus Wilder fight is still some way away.

I would love to be wrong about that, but I think there has been enough talk about other fights for Joshua to take to think the Wilder deal is not something Hearn is pushing for as much as he likes to tell the media he is.

Joseph Parker would love to spoil all of the talk with an upset on Saturday, but I simply can't see that happening. I like Parker, but he has to produce something special to upset the apple-cart and I am not convinced he has that in the locker.

Parker will be able to come again, and I hope he does surprise me, but a solid looking card from Cardiff should still be a fun night for the fans in the Stadium as well as those watching around the world.

One last thing- I heard what Deontay Wilder said about having a 'body on his record'... I am a Wilder fan, but that was crossing the line and a terrible look in the sport. I don't think he wanted it to come across as it did, but it was a comment in poor taste and I hope Wilder learns from that going forward.

There are much better ways to make the point of being a different person in the ring than out of the ring, which is what Wilder was trying to say, but that specific comment wasn't a good look.

Josh Kelly vs Carlos Molina
There is no doubt this is a step up in class for Josh Kelly, but 'Pretty Boy' looks to be someone who is destined for the very top of the sport.

His opponent Carlos Molina has been in with some big names in his career, but at 34 years old his best days are some way behind him. Some of those fights came at the right time for him, but Molina has not been in with top fighters since 2014 and he was beaten by rising star Carlos Adames and also Ahmed El Mousaoui in his last couple of fights.

Molina has never been stopped so the challenge for Kelly is to try and make it five straight stoppages in his young career and I do think he is capable of doing that.

It is a 10 Round fight, but Kelly hits tremendously hard and Molina is definitely on the way out of the sport. Any Mexican fighter is unlikely to go down without a fight, but I am looking for Kelly to make a statement by becoming the first man to stop Molina and I think he can use his power to wear down Molina and either force the referee to call a halt to proceedings or for the corner to pull their man out.

Molina is someone who has tasted the canvas in his career with the likes of Adames and Cornelius Bundrage putting him down and I am high on 'Pretty Boy' and what he is capable of achieving in the sport.

It might take a bit of time to really deliver the big punches to take the fight out of the older Molina and I will have a small interest on a second half stoppage from Kelly.

Anthony Crolla vs Edson Ramirez
Anthony Crolla has been used to headlining Arena shows, but he will be happy to be on the undercard for a huge Stadium fight as he continues on his road back from consecutive losses to Jorge Linares.

A crossroads fight victory over Ricky Burns means Crolla is likely to be positioned for a World Title opportunity at some point either later in 2018 or early 2019, but he can't afford to overlook Edson Ramirez who will come to upset the show.

Ramirez is another tough Mexican who has never been stopped nor put down in his career and so there is going to be some confidence in his camp. However you can't dispute the fact this is a considerable step up in class for Ramirez and I do wonder if he will be able to handle the atmosphere and the superior fighter in Crolla.

The layers are looking for a Decision win for Crolla who has not been known for his ability to stop opponents, although that ignores the fact that four of his last six wins have come by a stoppage. Being unable to do that against Ricky Burns is no surprise considering how tough the Scot is, but I am not sure if we know enough about Ramirez' ability to take some of the quality shots Crolla can produce over the whole 10 Round distance.

It does feel like this could be a comfortable win on the cards from Crolla, but I think the step up for Ramirez may see the Manchester man just put together enough combinations to get the referee or corner to step in during the second half of the fight.

Any Mexican can be a tough out and they like going out on their shield, but I will look for Crolla to perhaps earn the stoppage in between Round 6 and 10 in this one.

Ryan Burnett vs Yonfrez Parejo
There have been rumours swirling that the next World Boxing Super Series tournament will involve the Bantamweight Division with Ryan Burnett already being spoken to about the possibility of joining in.

Burnett would be a big draw for the tournament as the WBA and IBF Bantamweight World Champion and so there is plenty on the line for the British fighter when he defends those belts against Yonfrez Parejo.

All of the belts could be on the line in the World Boxing Super Series so the winner of this one is going to be in a position to really raise their stock considering the success of that tournament in both the Super-Middleweight and Cruiserweight Division.

I don't think it is much of a surprise that Burnett is the favourite as the unbeaten Unified Champion, but Parejo has fought at World level and won't be an easy out.

Parejo lost a Split Decision to Zhanat Zhakiyanov for the interim WBA World Title and Zhakiyanov was last seen being beaten in a Unanimous Decision by Burnett.

In Boxing there isn't much weight to be put into Boxer A beat Boxer B, Boxer C then beat Boxer A so should also beat Boxer B. However Burnett has looked like a proper World Champion and I expect the Belfast man to display all of his skill and work through Parejo.

Stopping Parejo won't be easy barring the corner deciding their man has had enough when down by a wide margin on the card, but I do think the most likely outcome is Burnett dominating with a comfortable points win. That will put Burnett in a strong position to join the World Boxing Super Series potential Bantamweight tournament where he would likely be the Number 1 Seed with his two belts, and I think he will come through with a Unanimous Decision on the cards in this one.

Alexander Povetkin vs David Price
The main support fight for the big event in Cardiff is also in the Heavyweight Division and the winner of this one could potentially be in line to be the next challenger to Anthony Joshua assuming the latter wins later in the evening.

For Alexander Povetkin there is more on the line as he is currently the Number 1 contender for two of the three belts that will be up for grabs later in the evening.

However he will feel this is a risk worth taking to announce himself to the United Kingdom audience if the fight with Joshua does materialise later in 2018. Only Wladimir Klitschko has beaten Povetkin and the Russian managed to last the distance against the dominant Champion of his time.

Personally I am not a fan of someone who has failed the number of drug tests that Povetkin has and I do like David Price so my heart would love to see the Liverpudlian find a way to win this fight.

Unfortunately I don't think that is going to happen.

Price punches hard enough to be respected, but stamina issues remain a problem at the highest level while Price's own punch resistance is not up to the level needed.

I think this fight is going to play out in the same manner with two potential outcomes- I think Price is going to come out and try and win this fight with a stoppage very early and I believe he will throw the kitchen sink at Povetkin in the first three Rounds to try and earn the victory.

I don't think Price will believe he can win this over a longer distance and Povetkin may just look to weather the early storm before turning the screw against someone who has shown how quick things can fall apart for him once the gas tank is emptied.

So the two outcomes are either Price winning this one very early with the storm he brings or Povetkin will be able to weather that storm and then take control before stopping Price himself.

My feeling is the latter will happen as the Russian begins to find plenty of success against a fatigued fighter who has shown he can be stopped throughout his career once his initial attack is repelled. Price is a big puncher, but Klitschko couldn't stop Povetkin and I don't think Price will be able to do that even if he does come out to get after Povetkin very early.

You never know in Heavyweight boxing, but I expect Povetkin will eventually turn things in his favour and land some big shots as Price tires which leads to a mid-fight stoppage.

I would love to see Price land the monster shot to win this one, but I think he will perhaps have almost nothing left before the halfway mark and Povetkin can step on the gas to force the stoppage. I'll look for Povetkin to perhaps need to weather an early storm before producing a big stoppage that will set him up for the potential clash with Anthony Joshua later in the year.

Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker
The main event in Cardiff sees three of the Heavyweight Titles on the line and one of the biggest stars in boxing continues to help fill out huge Stadiums in the United Kingdom.

Anthony Joshua won't be looking past Joseph Parker, but there are some huge fights in front of him if he can win this fight. He has said all the right things, looks in great shape and anything other than a Joshua win would be a huge surprise.

I have time for Parker too, but I think it is almost impossible to ignore that he hasn't progressed through the gears as the competition has ramped up for him.

Maybe Team Parker are being genuine when they say Joshua is made for their man much better than the horribly awkward Hughie Fury, but I don't think it is harsh to say that Parker has not impressed in his most recent fights compared with earlier in his career.

He has come in close to a career lowest weight, but most of the attributes lean towards Joshua.

The biggest question is the durability of Parker which has been described as a big advantage for the New Zealander. However I would guess he hasn't fought someone who can hit as hard as Joshua and I do worry about the way Parker can lean forward when putting his shots together, something that is ripe for the signature Joshua uppercut to deliver a 21st win and stoppage.

I just don't know whether Parker believes in his ability as much as he says and I don't want to be caught up in the hype of the fight.

Ultimately I think Joshua is performing at a level above Parker and I am not convinced the latter will be able to bridge that gap. I will give Parker some credit in thinking he will give this a big effort and he will take some early shots from Joshua and show some durability, and perhaps even stun Joshua early in the fight.

However it is Joshua who has the reach, the size and the power and I liked the weight with the Gold Medalist likely to be able to match Parker's movement and speed.

Parker has never been dropped, as we have been reminded repeatedly, but this is the biggest puncher he has faced and I think Joshua wears him down in a firefight. Perhaps the referee jumps in and saves Parker from himself, or the corner look for their man to come back and fight another day, but I think Joshua will win this fight in the mid-Rounds of this Title fight.

It should be a fun night while it lasts, but it should be Joshua who makes sure he sends his fans home happy.

MY PICKS: Josh Kelly to Win Between 6-10 @ 3.00 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Anthony Crolla to Win Between 6-10 @ 3.60 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Ryan Burnett to Win by Decision/Technical Decision @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Alexander Povetkin to Win Between 5-8 @ 4.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Anthony Joshua to Win Between 5-8 @ 3.10 Paddy Power (1 Unit)

Boxing 2018 Update: 10-10, + 17.28 Units (33 Units Staked, + 52.36% Yield)

Friday, 30 March 2018

Weekend Football Picks 2018 (March 31-April 1)

Two weeks in Japan were absolutely amazing.

What a country!!!

Anyone who has ever considered a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun should take the plunge, I promise you won't regret it. The culture is unique and very special and the food can't be beaten.

Yes, I had a very good time.

But now it is back home and there are two big months ahead in the European Football calendar before the World Cup begins in Russia.

This post will concentrate on the Weekend Premier League Football to be played on Saturday and Sunday, but you will also see a post with my latest Boxing Picks focusing on the Heavyweight Unification between Anthony Joshua and Joseph Parker.

That should either be posted on Friday evening or, more likely, Saturday morning with plenty of time before the card is to begin in Cardiff.

Next week I will resume the Tennis Picks which move onto the clay court portion of the season as well as Davis Cup Quarter Final matches to come later this week. And we are almost ready for the NBA Play Offs which begin in the middle of April so this should be a fun time after the two week break.

I am also looking to produce a short piece about Manchester United with the aim of having that out before the FA Cup Semi Final against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday 21st April.

For now I will place the Football Picks from this weekend below.

Crystal Palace v Liverpool Pick: The Premier League is back after a two week break this weekend and the round of fixtures begins with a live showing from Selhurst Park where Crystal Palace will host Liverpool.

Roy Hodgson and Jurgen Klopp will be hoping their players can return in good health from the international break and build on the momentum earned from a win in their last Premier League games two weeks ago.

Liverpool will certainly be confident with a strong attacking team that will be going up against a Crystal Palace team who have some defensive issues which can be exposed.

However Crystal Palace have also showed they are capable of testing the best teams when they host them in their loud Selhurst Park atmosphere. Both Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United had to work very hard for wins here recently and Crystal Palace look healthier in attacking areas which will make them feel they can challenge Liverpool as much as their visitors are able to get after their own defence.

It certainly feels like a fixture that could produce a few goals and recent history suggests it could happen. 3 of the last 4 at Selhurst Park in the Premier League have ended with four or more goals shared out, and goals tend to flow when these teams face one another.

The Liverpool away games have featured plenty of goals this season too and I think the layers could have gotten it wrong with the decent price for four or more goals this weekend. The international break can be a problem for teams to negotiate, while the knock for Wilfried Zaha is an issue for Crystal Palace, but I think both teams will believe they can earn the three points here and that could make it an exciting fixture.

Early kick offs can be slow burners, especially out of an international break, but I think both Crystal Palace and Liverpool will feel better going forward than defending and that may see a number of chances created and I will look for goals.

Brighton v Leicester City Pick: We are almost at the time of the season when you have to question the motivation of teams but I have to believe both Brighton and Leicester City still have big aims to complete.

That should mean a decent game of football between the teams when they play on Saturday as Brighton look to take another step away from the relegation zone and Leicester City chase a European berth to underline Claude Puel's work here.

Both teams have to bounce back from FA Cup Quarter Final exits two weeks ago and the recent form of both teams suggests this could be a good game.

I am not surprised the layers are finding it hard to separate them with reasons to believe in both, although I am leaning towards a Brighton team who have won 4 in a row at home in all competitions. Goals have begun to flow for Brighton at the Amex Stadium and they will believe they can have some joy attacking a Leicester City defence that has not looked completely secure, especially away from home.

However Leicester City also have some real attacking threats of their own and Brighton have not kept a clean sheet in their last 7 home games in all competitions. The Foxes have only failed to scored in 1 of their last 11 away Premier League games and I think the layers are offering a big price for three or more goals to be scored in this fixture.

The last 7 Brighton fixtures at the Amex Stadium have featured at least three goals and 7 of the last 8 Leicester City away fixtures have done the same. At odds against that looks a big price to happen between these teams on Saturday and I will back three or more goals to be shared out.

Manchester United v Swansea City Pick: It sounds like another big summer is coming up for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United as they continue to mould the squad to be able to close the gap on local rivals Manchester City.

For now Mourinho has to try and end this season with a flourish for Manchester United who will see a top four finish and a FA Cup win as progress on their trophies won last season.

Manchester United have played well enough at home in recent weeks to think they can beat Swansea City even if they were beaten by Sevilla here. Outside of that Manchester United have won 6 of their last 7 at Old Trafford and they are facing a team who looked out of sorts in their 0-3 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup Quarter Final two weeks ago.

Recently Swansea City were beaten 4-1 at Brighton in the Premier League too and Carlos Carvalhal will need to see a lot more convincing defending if Swansea City are going to frustrate Manchester United. They have been harder to beat under the Spanish manager, but Swansea City have just shown some mental vulnerability when they have fallen behind in recent games and Old Trafford has been a tough ground to visit this season for the most part.

Much of the play will come from Manchester United and I do think they will be too good for Swansea City on Saturday. Recent seasons have shown this is a tough fixture for Manchester United with 2 wins in 5 against Swansea City at Old Trafford, but they have a couple of convincing wins over them this season and I think Manchester United will work to a relatively straight-forward win.

The Asian Handicap can be a tough one to cover if Manchester United come out flat, but I don't think that will be the case.

I would expect Manchester United to control the play and I think they can win this one by a couple of goals on the day.

Watford v Bournemouth Pick: Both teams look to have done enough to escape any relegation dogfight, but the winner on Saturday will almost certainly confirm their spot as a Premier League side for next season.

There is some freedom in which both Watford and Bournemouth can play and I think both have defended erratically which could help produce an exciting game.

No one can doubt that the teams should both create chances too and I think there will be every chance that we can see a few goals between Watford and Bournemouth on Saturday.

The weather in England is not the best, but the rain shouldn't make it too difficult for the players to perform at this level. With the players both have in forward areas, I do think they can do enough to find a way to score goals against each other and backing at least three goals in this one is the decision.

West Brom v Burnley Pick: This has been a season of real disappointment for West Brom and the stories emerging about the financial problems at the club suggest it will be some time before they return to the Premier League. While none of the players or management will speak about relegation, West Brom are looking for a miracle to get out of the bottom three after a run of 8 consecutive losses in all competitions.

Earlier this month this would have looked a big fixture for West Brom with Burnley out of form, but the latter have won back to back games in the Premier League to restore some lost confidence.

They certainly come into this one in better mental shape than West Brom who have blown leads in back to back games to lose touch with those teams above them in the Premier League table. Having those leads against Leicester City and Bournemouth and then capitulating in the manner they have is not a good look for West Brom and they are likely to have a tense crowd to play in front of.

The layers are not expecting too many goals when these teams meet, but that is where I think they could be surprised.

West Brom have scored and conceded goals for fun in recent games and especially at The Hawthorns, while Burnley are playing with freedom which makes them very dangerous. Sean Dyche will risk playing two up front to challenge West Brom and I do think Burnley will cause problems for West Brom from set pieces too, but the home team have to come forward and that could see them produce some chances of their own.

Burnley games have been on the low-scoring side, but the last 4 at The Hawthorns have all featured three or more goals even though West Brom have faced teams like Southampton and Huddersfield Town in that time. The last 6 between these teams on this ground have also featured three or more goals and I think the big price for that happening again has to be chanced.

West Ham United v Southampton Pick: This is a huge Premier League fixture from the London Stadium on Saturday as 17th placed West Ham United host 18th placed Southampton in a real 'relegation six pointer'.

Southampton have a new manager at the helm since their last League game as Mark Hughes has already overseen a 0-2 win at Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup Quarter Final two weeks ago. The side have not been in terrible form, and there is some quality in the squad which Hughes will look to take advantage of, while Southampton will try and make the London Stadium a more difficult place for West Ham United to play.

It is already going to be a tense atmosphere as West Ham United play for the first time since the terrible scenes that were seen in their 0-3 home loss to Burnley. The players heading away for training in Miami and posting pictures of that in the aftermath of the loss to Burnley will not have pleased the fans and you have to think they will be right on the edge to turn the Stadium into another negative environment in this one.

With Southampton playing some decent football away from home around the defeat to Newcastle United there is every chance they can find a way to turn the atmosphere poisonous for the home team again.

The goals being conceded by West Ham United have been truly alarming and I think Southampton can do enough to earn a big three points here which can take them out of the bottom three. That won't be easy for Southampton, but they have some momentum behind them having beaten Wigan Athletic two weeks ago and they have won 3 of their last 5 away games in all competitions.

Southampton have found goals away from home and I think they may just see the West Ham United fans turn on the home players during the course of this one which may make it tough for the West Ham United team to perform.

West Ham United have won 1 of their last 4 home League games and they have conceded the first goal in 4 of their last 5 at the London Stadium. If that happens here I think Southampton can win this one, but at worst I can't imagine them losing from that position and I will back The Saints on the Asian Handicap which will return the stake in the event of a draw.

The Saints have scored two or more goals in 4 of their last 6 away from home in all competitions and I will back them on the Asian Handicap here.

Everton v Manchester City Pick: Two short trips to Liverpool over the coming days could see Manchester City pick up some real momentum to take into the remainder of the season as they look to win some big trophies.

In all honesty this game at Everton is not going to determine whether or not Manchester City win the Premier League as it is a matter of time now barring the most infamous of collapses.

However Manchester City head to Goodison Park knowing a win on Saturday would put them in a position to win the title against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium next weekend. You cannot underestimate how important that is to the players, fans and board of Manchester City and I expect the level of performance to indicate that.

Of course Manchester City will also be preparing for the huge Champions League Quarter Final against Liverpool which is played over the next ten days. That may mean some changes, but I expect Manchester City are far too good for Everton.

Sam Allardyce's men have been inconsistent in recent weeks and that has put some pressure on the manager. I think Allardyce will look to set Everton up to be tough to beat and then hope to get something on the counter, but I believe sitting back will play into Manchester City's hands as they will control the ball and work Everton over.

Everton are not as strong defensively as they would like to be and I would expect Manchester City to find a way to break them down. They have lost 4 times at home in the Premier League and Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have all won by comfortable margins here.

Manchester City have been in fine form, they are well rested and have an almost fully fit squad to choose from. Pep Guardiola won't have forgotten losing 4-0 at Goodison Park last season and I think Manchester City will win on a ground where they have had some difficulties in recent years.

I will look for Manchester City to win by a couple of goals on the day and I will back them on the Asian Handicap to do that.

Arsenal v Stoke City Pick: This game is comfortably more important for Stoke City than Arsenal in terms of the Premier League this season, but Paul Lambert has to feel his side have dropped too many points in recent weeks even when looking strong.

Charlie Adam has been a real disappointment for the manager having missed a penalty to beat Brighton and then being sent off early in the home loss to Everton last time out.

Lambert needs more focus from the players, but snapping a 15 game losing run at Arsenal is not going to be easy with the home team still looking for a strong end to the season.

The focus may be on the Europa League, but Arsenal will want to keep some momentum behind them before they host CSKA Moscow in the Europa League Quarter Final First Leg. Arsenal have won their last couple of games at the Emirates Stadium while scoring three goals in each of those and I think they are going to be a little too good for Stoke City here.

Stoke City are in danger of losing touch with the teams above them having dropped some silly points, and those came against teams who aren't as strong as Arsenal can be. At home Arsenal do tend to produce their best football and I do think Arsene Wenger will pick a strong team to try and get this game won and see whether they can get closer to the top four.

The Gunners have been too good for Stoke City when facing them at home and I think they will be too good again. I will back them to win by a couple of goals on the day and cover the Asian Handicap.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The race for the top four could either be reignited or it could be virtually over depending on the way the Chelsea versus Tottenham Hotspur game goes on Sunday.

The final game from the Premier League weekend is the stand out one of this round of fixtures and both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have to believe they have the quality to get the desired result they would want.

Chelsea have not played as poorly as their results as far as I am concerned and I think they have the players who can cause Tottenham Hotspur some real problems. The Blues have beaten Spurs in 3 of the last 4 meetings at Stamford Bridge and a healthy squad from an attacking point of view gives Chelsea every chance of securing the win they need.

There are some issues in defensive areas which could be an issue for Antonio Conte's men especially if the likes of Thibaut Courtois and Andreas Christensen are missing. However that could be balanced out by the expected absence of Harry Kane for Tottenham Hotspur, although Mauricio Pochettino will believe Tottenham Hotspur still have the desired quality to create chances and score goals in this one too.

I think it could be an exciting game even if the weather in London is not the best this weekend.

Both teams will be looking to impose themselves on the other and neither have looked that secure defensively to think they can contain the kind of attacking talent that will be on the field.

That should lead to enough chances for the teams to combine for three or more goals in this one and that is what I will back.

4 of the last 5 games between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have featured at least three goals and I think both teams can play a part in this one on the way to three or more goals shared out.

MY PICKS: Crystal Palace-Liverpool Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.50 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Brighton-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.84 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Watford-Bournemouth Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Brom-Burnley Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.62 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Southampton 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.86 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Weekend Football Picks 2018 (March 17-18)

I've got to get ready for some night time football this weekend as I am heading across to the Far East for a break at the same time the international break in European Football and that is the main reason this post is out a couple of days earlier than usual.

There is quite a bit of football to be played on Saturday and Sunday before the two week break and I won't be updating this page until I am back.

You will be able to see my Europa League Picks from the featured post, and then I will be back a few days before the next round of Premier League games at the end of the month with potential Tennis Picks from the end of the Miami Masters, as well as my next Boxing Picks from the Anthony Joshua versus Joseph Parker Heavyweight Unification Fight.

Bournemouth v West Brom Pick: A couple of weeks ago you would have been able to back Bournemouth at odds against to win this fixture, but the recent West Brom performances means the home side are now odds on.

That comes despite Bournemouth blowing a 1-0 lead in a 1-4 home loss to Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday. However that result came a day after West Brom had done the exact same thing in their defeat to Leicester City on Saturday which looks to be the kind of result that a side destined for relegation would be dealing with at this time of the season.

Nothing is cemented for West Brom just yet, but they are going to find it very hard to bridge the 8 points to safety in their final 8 Premier League games. The Baggies have lost 7 straight games in all competitions and the fixture list sees them face some of the better teams in the remaining weeks of the season.

This is almost a 'must win' game for West Brom as anything less would make it hard to believe they can go into those tougher fixtures with any kind of confidence to earn the results they need.

Getting a result at the Vitality Stadium won't be easy as Bournemouth have been scoring plenty of goals here in recent weeks and had been unbeaten in 6 in all competitions before Tottenham Hotspur came to town. There is a defensive vulnerability about Bournemouth which may encourage West Brom, even though they haven't scored in their last 3 away Premier League games, as Alan Pardew's team have created chances.

However their own defensive issues are likely to be exploited by Bournemouth and they are the more likely winners.

This could be an entertaining game with both teams likely to have some chances and both managers will want their teams to get forward and try to earn an important three points. Bournemouth are likely to have the edge with home advantage and better recent form behind them, but West Brom can play a part this weekend and I will look for these teams to combine for three or more goals.

Huddersfield Town v Crystal Palace Pick: This is a fascinating game at the bottom of the Premier League table between two of the bottom six and the implications of the fixture won't be lost on either David Wagner or Roy Hodgson. With the likes of Southampton, West Ham United and Newcastle United out of action this weekend, both Huddersfield Town and Crystal Palace will be very keen on earning the morale boosting three points on offer.

Picking a winner is not easy with Huddersfield Town showing battling qualities of late but now facing a Crystal Palace team who have some key performers back.

The biggest name is Wilfried Zaha and you could see the entire team lifted by his presence when he came on in the second half of the 2-1 loss at Chelsea last weekend. That is part of a 4 game losing run for Crystal Palace, but those have come against Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and Chelsea.

The recent away record has not been very good for Crystal Palace either, but again you would have to point out the Stadiums in which they have been playing.

Huddersfield Town are unlikely to dominate Crystal Palace in the same way even if they have picked up some solid results of late. They created plenty last week in their goalless draw with Swansea City and Huddersfield Town will feel they can hurt a Crystal Palace team who have conceded too many goals of late, but the same can be said for The Eagles with some key attacking players back from injury.

The layers are not expecting too much goalmouth action in this fixture, but I think it could surprise. Both teams have shown some quality going forward, but have not convinced defensively and I don't think either manager will be happy with a point in this one. That should mean both Huddersfield Town and Crystal Palace are pushing for a win and I can see both teams scoring in a game where the two teams combine for at least three goals.

Stoke City v Everton Pick: Just because a game is a 'must win' one for a team it doesn't automatically mean that team will respond to what is a pressurised situation.

However I do think Stoke City can earn what will be a big result at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday when they face an Everton team who have not been the same on their travels as they have at home.

It is a 'must win' game for Stoke City because they have underperformed this season and there is no guarantee they can produce now the pressure is on. Paul Lambert does have them playing with more defensive shape though and Stoke City have been close to earning more wins than they have managed under Lambert's guidance.

No one should be too concerned about the defeat to Manchester City, but prior to that Stoke City had been unbeaten in 6 League games under Lambert's guidance and had taken the lead in 4 of those. Some poor composure in the final third has prevented more than 1 of those games turning into wins, but Stoke City will feel they can produce the three points against an Everton team who have lost 6 away games in a row.

Those defeats have come at teams much higher up the League table than Stoke City, but Everton have not travelled well in the Premier League for some time. Everton have won 1 of their last 23 away games in the League and it would be a surprise if they improved that record this weekend.

I have to respect the fact that 4 of the last 6 games between these teams on this ground have ended in draws but I think Paul Lambert can help Stoke City get the better of this one.

I won't back them in the win-draw-win market because of the history of the fixture and Stoke City's recent form just seeing them come up short from earning the wins. Instead I will back Stoke City on the Asian Handicap to win this fixture knowing half of the stake will be returned in the event of another draw between these teams.

Liverpool v Watford Pick: Going by the current form guide it is hard to imagine anything other than a comfortable Liverpool win when they host Watford in the live Premier League offering on Saturday afternoon.

While Liverpool have won 5 of their last 6 home Premier League games, Watford have lost 7 of their last 8 away League games and have scored just a couple of goals in that time.

In saying that, I thought Watford were a touch unfortunate to lose 3-0 at Arsenal last Sunday with some of the chances they created that day. A Troy Deeney missed penalty at 2-0 saw Watford lose any belief that they could earn a result at the Emirates Stadium, but they will feel they can put some pressure on a Liverpool defence that still has some vulnerabilities.

The bigger question is whether Javi Gracia can set up Watford to be a little stronger defensively and try and contain a ferocious Liverpool attack. That hasn't looked the case in recent weeks with Watford conceding at least twice in their last couple of away games at West Ham United and Arsenal and now facing a much more confident team who are looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss at Old Trafford.

Liverpool have scored at least twice in their last 6 home Premier League games and I think they are going to run out comfortable winners here. They have beaten Watford 4 times in a row at Anfield and I expect they are going to have too much for their visitors this weekend too.

I think you can back Liverpool to cover a big Asian Handicap where a two goal win would return the stake. Watford have visited half of the top six teams in the Premier League this season and have lost by at least two goals each time but they have trailed by three goals at both Manchester City and Arsenal.

A goal for Watford could make it hard for Liverpool to cover, but I think the home team have a big reaction to the defeat to Manchester United. Watford have shown they can cause problems for Liverpool though and I will look for both teams to score in this one with only a penalty miss preventing Watford from scoring at all three top six clubs they have visited in the League.

Anything other than a Liverpool win would be a big surprise though and so backing the home team to win a match in which both teams score has to be worth an interest. Watford may have struggled for goals away from home of late, but they have scored in 7 of their 8 games against the top six including in losses at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium and I think that could be the outcome of this one too.

Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The first FA Cup Semi Finalist will be determined in the early game at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday lunchtime and I think it is a much closer Quarter Final than the layers do who have Tottenham Hotspur as a clear favourite to win at the Liberty Stadium.

Losing Harry Kane to injury and potentially missing Dele Alli is a tough prospect for Tottenham Hotspur to deal with in this Quarter Final, while Swansea City have been in fine form under Carlos Carvalhal.

The Swans have lost just 1 of their last 14 games in all competitions and they have won 7 in a row at the Liberty Stadium including beating Liverpool and Arsenal. They have been defensively well organised under Carvalhal and I think the Spaniard may choose to pick a much stronger team than he has in previous Rounds knowing there is a two week break coming after this fixture.

Jordan Ayew is a loss for Swansea City but they are a team that can make life difficult for Tottenham Hotspur. They have also found a way to score goals in recent weeks having struggled earlier in the season, while Tottenham Hotspur have not been the best on their travels in recent weeks.

Tottenham Hotspur have shown they are tough to beat in their recent away run, but they were close to having 6 consecutive away draws before scoring late at Crystal Palace in a 0-1 win. Last weekend they were impressive in seeing off Bournemouth, but I don't think Swansea City will be as open as The Cherries were, and Tottenham Hotspur have recently failed to win at Newport County and Rochdale in away FA Cup ties.

They did win 0-2 at the Liberty Stadium in early January but I do think Swansea City are improved since then. I expect they can make it very difficult for Tottenham Hotspur and backing the home team with the start on the Asian Handicap and looking for them to at least force extra time is my pick here.

You can't deny Tottenham Hotspur have a very impressive recent record at the Liberty Stadium with 5 wins in their last 6 visits to this ground. However I think Swansea City will look to make life very difficult for their visitors who have not been winning a lot of away games of late and Carlos Carvalhal can set his team up to keep this one competitive.

There is a danger with this pick that Swansea City could be chasing the game and potentially picked off on the counter attack, but they have been playing well enough at home to back with the start on the Asian Handicap in this one. I am second guessing the manager and expecting a strong Swansea City team to start this one too, but I don't see why Carlos Carvalhal wouldn't pick his best team and that team have proven tough to beat at home of late.

Manchester United v Brighton Pick: Tuesday night turned into a nightmare at the Theatre of Dreams for Manchester United as they were shockingly dumped out of the Champions League by Sevilla.

Make no mistake about it, that was a tremendously poor result and two terrible performances from Manchester United in both Legs of a very winnable tie.

Now it is up to Jose Mourinho to pick up the players after the disappointment they would have felt as Manchester United look to stay alive in the one competition they could potentially win this season. Mourinho deserves the criticism that is coming his way for employing such a tepid style against Sevilla in both games against them but it is up to the players to also step up and show they belong in the red of Manchester United in the seasons ahead.

I do think Manchester United will make some changes to the starting eleven to freshen things up, but a strong team should be picked to make their way past an improved Brighton team. Anything less than a win would be a huge blow to Mourinho and may see the fans turn on the manager, but Manchester United should have enough for a goal-shy Brighton when playing away from the Amex Stadium.

Chris Hughton will look to make Brighton hard to beat but they have struggled when visiting the top teams in the Premier League. Brighton have really had issues in front of goal away from home and they have lost at all six clubs they have visited in the top nine of the Premier League table.

The Seagulls have lost all but one of those games by a couple of goals and failed to score in each of those so I think Manchester United can be backed to either win to nil or cover the Asian Handicap and win by two or more goals.

The exception for Brighton in that run was a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford, but the nature of the FA Cup will mean they will likely take more chances if chasing the game and Manchester United can punish them on the counter attack. I do expect a much better performance from Manchester United than we saw on Tuesday night and I think they can get the better of Brighton in this FA Cup Quarter Final.

Life could be much more comfortable for Manchester United if they can get on the front foot quickly in this Quarter Final and give the fans something to get behind. I think that could be the approach and Manchester United can win this one by a couple of goals on the day.

Wigan Athletic v Southampton Pick: It is going to be interesting to see how the Southampton players react if they kick off this FA Cup Quarter Final inside the bottom three of the Premier League.

The decision to sack Mauricio Pellegrino has come late in the season and it sounds like Mark Hughes could be appointed ahead of this fixture. That will mean he doesn't have a lot of time to implement his ideas and the more telling influence may come from any new manager after the international break.

The Premier League is the priority for whoever comes in, but Southampton did reach the League Cup Final last season and this is a FA Cup tie that represents a very good chance to reach the FA Cup Semi Final and return to Wembley Stadium.

Some may say that is disrespectful to Wigan Athletic who have beaten Bournemouth, West Ham United and Manchester City at this ground in the FA Cup already this season. However the layers have the home team as the underdog with 30 League places between the two teams and you can't argue with Southampton as the favourites considering they have already won at Fulham during the Cup run.

Recent form has not been the best though and I think the players are short enough on confidence to be challenged by this Wigan Athletic team. The Latics score plenty of goals at home and they showed against Manchester City that they can be defensively sound enough to cause problems for this Southampton team who have been in poor form of late.

However Southampton had been tough to beat away from home prior to the 3-0 defeat at Newcastle United last weekend which cost Pellegrino his job as manager of the club. With the additional Premier League quality they should still find a way to get past Wigan Athletic, but I think the team is short on confidence which could at least see the home team force extra time.

Wigan Athletic's 3 wins over Premier League teams in the FA Cup this season makes them a dangerous team and I will back the underdog with the start on the Asian Handicap. As much as I believe Southampton have enough quality to win here, Wigan Athletic are in better form and may have more belief and that can be enough to bridge the gap between the teams and perhaps even see yet another upset for the League One club.

Leicester City v Chelsea Pick: The last of the FA Cup Quarter Final ties is played on Sunday afternoon at the King Power Stadium and I think Leicester City are going to feel confident in their chances of upsetting Chelsea.

While their visitors have been having a tough Champions League Last 16 Second Leg to negotiate during the week, Claude Puel would have been working with his Leicester City team to make sure they know exactly what they need to do on Sunday.

Puel has Leicester City playing well and they have been strong at the King Power Stadium in recent weeks, although they will be challenged by a Chelsea team that do come forward with some menace.

However Leicester City can expose some of the defensive vulnerabilities Chelsea have displayed in their 5 game losing run away from home and I think this could be a fun Cup tie for the neutrals to enjoy.

Both teams should feel confident going forward, but neither Leicester City or Chelsea will have full belief in the way they have been defending in recent games. With the attacking players likely to have the edge in the tie, I can see both teams getting amongst the goals in this one and backing at least three goals to be shared out looks the right way to go with this.

The nature of a Cup tie could mean spaces open up when a team begins to chase the game and I think both teams have the pace to hurt the other if they are leaving spaces behind them. The home underdog tempted me considering they have been preparing for this game all week, but recent Chelsea away games have featured a fair few goals and I think there will be enough chances for three or more goals to be shared out.

MY PICKS: Bournemouth-West Brom Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Huddersfield-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.40 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Stoke City - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.15 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool to Win & Both Teams to Score @ 2.70 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
Swansea City + 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.11 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.02 Bet365 (2 Units)
Wigan Athletic + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.08 Bet365 (2 Units)
Leicester City-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)