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

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Monday, 30 April 2018

NBA Play Off Picks- Conference Semi Finals (April 30-May 9)

We are down to the final eight teams in the NBA Play Offs after both the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers were forced into winning Game 7's at home to move into the Conference Semi Finals.

There is no rest for those players though with the Conference Semi Finals already beginning in the Western Conference this past weekend and the Eastern Conference Game 1's set to be played on Monday and Tuesday.

It does look like we have got four clear favourites in the Semi Final Series, but the NBA has a habit of surprising and over a best of seven Series and who is going to rule a line through LeBron James to do something special.

So far the two favourites in the Western Conference have put big wins on the board to open their Series. In this thread the remaining Semi Final Play Off Games Picks through to the Game 4's of all four Series will be contained and I will have a new thread for any remaining Games that need to be played.

Monday 30th April
Philadelphia 76ers @ Boston Celtics Pick: The Boston Celtics have rallied through injuries all season to finish with the Number 2 Seed in the Eastern Conference and then edge out the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games in the First Round.

However it has been one of those seasons for Boston who saw Jaylen Brown tweak a hamstring in Game 7 which means he is in danger of at least missing the first of the Conference Semi Final Play Off Games.

A short-handed Celtics team have to be respected considering how they have rallied throughout this season. They have also thrived as the home underdog all season, but it is a big ask for them against the rested Philadelphia 76ers who blew away the Miami Heat in the First Round.

The 76ers have put together a team that can get very hot from the three point range, but have a healthy penetration into the paint with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons showing they are ready to perform at their best in the Play Offs.

It is still a huge ask to cover this number on the road especially in the intense atmosphere Boston will create for every game here. That is going to be something new for the young 76ers to deal with and makes it much more difficult to really want to back them.

However they have some factors working in their favour- the youthfulness may mean Philadelphia can continue to express themselves and now they are also facing a Boston team missing another key part of their line up if Brown is unable to go as most expect.

The Celtics would also have invested plenty of emotional energy in winning Game 7 on Saturday and I think that could see them short if the 76ers begin clicking from three point range. Boston are a very good Defensive team who deserve respect, although I still lean towards the 76ers getting this Series off to a positive start with a solid looking road win.

Tuesday 1st May
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors PickThe Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers both came through as favourites from the First Round Play Off Series, but both will recognise they were given real scares by the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers respectively. The Raptors needed six games to move through to the Conference Semi Finals, but that means they have had a little more rest than the Cleveland Cavaliers who won a tight Game 7 on Sunday.

LeBron James was the difference for the Cavaliers in their win over the Indiana Pacers and there is no doubt in my mind that they would have been blown out if James was playing for the other team. There will be more of a burden put on James' shoulders in this Conference Semi Final Series if his supporting cast can't find the consistency they need, especially as James himself has admitted some 'burn out'.

Have little doubt that James will still bring his best to the court on Tuesday in Game 1 which takes place in Canada, but it looks a very difficult Series for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have knocked Toronto out in back to back years in the Play Offs, but it is the Raptors who will come in as favourites with their bench play likely to be a significant difference.

The bench has been restored to full health with Fred VanVleet back and having a few more days rest to make sure he is ready to go in Game 1. With the Cavaliers playing an emotional and tough physical Game 7 on Sunday, it does feel like the Toronto depth is going to be a real factor in Game 1 as long as the home team are not too emotionally scarred from losses to Cleveland in the Play Offs over the last couple of years.

These teams only met once in Toronto in the regular season and it resulted in a big win for the home team. I can see another here as they cover the spread in Game 1 despite the big number in front of them.

The host of Game 1 in the Semi Final Round has a very strong record in recent years against the spread and the first three Series have all seen the home team cover. The Raptors can become the latest to do that against what has to be a tired opponent who are heavily reliant on LeBron James to carry them to a success.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State Warriors PickL After being blown out by the defending Champions in Game 1, the New Orleans Pelicans would have hoped for better news than hearing Steph Curry is going to return for Game 2 without any restrictions on the minutes he can give the Golden State Warriors.

A tough Conference Semi Final Series has gotten that much more difficult for the Pelicans who need to make some serious adjustments to get Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday going. Getting a combined 32 points from Davis and Holiday is not going to be good enough for the Pelicans to earn an upset in this Series and both are hoping for a little better help from the referees when they attack the Warriors.

That won't be easy with Golden State clearly in 'Play Off mode' when it comes to the way they are Defending around the court. They stifled the San Antonio Spurs for the most part in the First Round and Game 1 saw Golden State restrict New Orleans in the Quarters either side of half time which contributed to their 22 point win.

With the Warriors playing as well as they are, it can be very difficult to want to oppose them in any game they play especially at this time of the season.

However the Pelicans have to believe they can make the adjustments they need to at least be more competitive than they were in Game 1 when they trailed by 31 points at the end of the Third Quarter. Generally New Orleans have struggled to really compete with the Warriors for 48 minutes which makes it even tougher to believe in them, but getting a double digit start might be enough to at least cover the number.

In this Round of the Play Offs, hosts favoured by more than 7 points in Game 2 have not had a very good record against the spread. The hosts have also struggled off a blow out win and New Orleans have to be respected as a team with a decent winning percentage this season.

The return of Curry is an obvious additional problem for the Pelicans to face, but perhaps that sees Golden State ease off the pedal from a mental standpoint. That could help the Pelicans and I will take the points with the big road underdog.

Wednesday 2nd May
Utah Jazz @ Houston Rockets PickThe Utah Jazz came out of a tough First Round Series and have quickly realised the level of competition has ramped up again after being blown out by the Number 1 Seed Houston Rockets in Game 1 of this Western Conference Semi Final Series. There isn't much time to turn things around for the Jazz ahead of Game 2 before they return home to host the Rockets for two games later this week.

Injuries are difficult to deal with at this time of the NBA season but the Utah Jazz have to find a way to make the adjustments they need to make this a competitive Series. Losing Ricky Rubio always looked a blow, but it was really highlighted in Game 1 and things aren't helped with Donovan Mitchell carrying a sore ankle.

That is not going to keep Mitchell out of Game 2 but it is hard for the rookie who is being asked to carry more of the load for the Jazz now Rubio is absent from the line up.

It is perhaps more important for the Utah Jazz to try and find a way to bring their strong Defensive schemes onto the court if they are going to have any chance in this Series. It has not happened for them against the Rockets at any point this season though which makes it hard to believe in the Jazz and James Harden has continued his dominant play against them.

Harden is almost being able to do whatever he wants with the ball in his hands and the Jazz are struggling to guard him. With Harden dominating, Houston are able to find their shots wherever they want them and they were knocking down the three pointers for fun in Game 1.

Much of where Houston will go depends on how hot or cold they get from the three point line, but they look like they are in a comfortable Series. That shooting is also key to any cover of the point spread, but Houston have been able to dominate Utah at home with three big wins already this season and I am leaning towards them being able to do that here.

I expect the Rockets to get more production from their second unit which could make things a little easier for them in Game 2 and I think the heavier scoring will see Houston pull away in the second half.

Thursday 3rd May
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Toronto Raptors Pick: The Toronto Raptors have to be second guessing themselves after losing Game 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team who have beaten them in the Play Offs in each of the last two years.

To lose Game 1 would have been a blow regardless, but to lose a game in which Toronto NEVER trailed in regulation before being overcome in Overtime has to hurt double. And there isn’t a lot of recovery time with Game 2 set for Thursday just two days after Game 1 was played.

For all intents and purposes it looked like Cleveland were there for the taking in Game 1 and LeBron James had his worst game in some time too. Even then the Raptors managed to rip away a defeat from the jaws of victory and mentally they are in a really tough spot knowing a loss in Game 2 will leave them ripe for the sweep against this team for a second year in succession.

That was not the way it was supposed to be for the Raptors who have improved their bench and seen their top players also play better than before.

However that did not come together in Game 1 as they blew a big second half lead and also a lead going into the Fourth Quarter. That has not been the case for the majority of the season for the Raptors, but just goes to show they don’t feel comfortable against the Cleveland Cavaliers which makes it risky to back the home team here.

In saying that I do think the Raptors can bounce back from a really poor outing in Game 1 and get back to what has taken them to the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference. They will look to spread the floor and make sure their big names have the ball in their hands late in this one.

The mental aspect is tough to get a read on because the Raptors have to know they blew Game 1 and they’ve struggled against the Cavaliers at this time of the season. Even with that in mind, I think the Raptors have to recognise they should have won Game 1 and I think a little more focus at critical times will allow them to do that.

You can’t expect LeBron James to have another really poor game like he did in Game 1 (by his own high standards), but even then I think the Raptors will be more efficient with their shots. This time I am not anticipating them blowing a big lead, if they get one, and I will look for the Raptors to win and cover in Game 2 before the Series shifts to Cleveland for two games.

Philadelphia 76ers @ Boston Celtics Pick: Things could not really have gone any worse for the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Semi Final Series, but they have recognised their own faults. There has been much internal criticism for the poor effort on both ends of the court and the expectation is that we will see a big reaction from them on Thursday.

The Boston Celtics continue to play far above the levels expected when they went down a third starter for Game 1. However that didn’t matter as they were able to get whatever they wanted from the field and the strong Defensive schemes were enough to keep the 76ers at arm’s length throughout the contest.

Jaylen Brown could be back for the Celtics in time for Game 2 although the nature of a sore hamstring makes him questionable at best. Brown himself will be wanting to go, but the Celtics have to urge some caution as they are already short-handed in this Series and won’t want to lose Brown going forward.

Produce the same effort as in Game 1 and Boston may even feel they don’t need Brown to make it 2-0 and put the franchise in a position in the Play Offs they don’t tend to blow. They have won all five Play Off games played here so far this post-season to increase the confidence and the Boston crowd can turn up the heat on the most experienced of teams.

Experience of these situations is not something the 76ers are blessed with and it will be interesting to see the adjustments they make for Game 2. They have recognised they have to be a lot better on the Defensive side of the court, and a better effort on that side should flow into better Offensive grooves.

I have to say I am not at all surprised that the public are behind the Boston Celtics who have proven to be a top home underdog to back all season. They have loved being a team that people can’t believe in and Boston’s record at home in the Play Offs will mean they will get their backers to win outright let alone with the points behind them.

However I can’t suddenly jump off the Philadelphia bandwagon and I do think they are the superior team IF they can impose their game on the Celtics. They have to make sure they are not allowing Boston to settle into the game with easy buckets and a better Defensive performance should bleed into better Offensively.

Philadelphia have the shooters to hurt the Boston Celtics regardless of how well they have played Defensively and I am expecting the adjustments to give the 76ers to steal home court away before heading back to their own Arena for two games.

It won’t be easy for the road team in a raucous environment, but the 76ers have shown they can win on the road and I will take them to cover the points and oppose the public in this one too.

Saturday 5th May
It has been a tragic time for the NBA Picks with more snapped leads which have cost teams wins and covers.

Saturday is a busy day so I am going to put the NBA Picks from the two Eastern Conference Semi Final Series Game 3's below.

Monday 7th May
I couldn't pick a winner in a one horse race at the moment, but again I have been hit with some ridiculously poor luck in some of the selections made.

That's not a good enough excuse though as my NBA season has taken a nosedive during the Play Offs, but I have to think that some of the awful bounces will come back my way.

Boston Celtics @ Philadelphia 76ers PickIt has been a horrible Semi Final Series for the Philadelphia 76ers who came into this Round as the favourite to come out of the Eastern Conference. Instead they find themselves 0-3 down and with a home game to try and avoid the sweep at the hands of the Boston Celtics.

Nothing has really gone right for the 76ers but dropping an Overtime home game in Game 3 might be a fatal blow to their chances of extending Boston in any way in this Series.

Even now the 76ers have had to talk themselves up and believe they can turn this Series on its head, but it is incredibly difficult to bounce back at this stage of a season. The pressure on the players to perform four quality times in a row is made all the more difficult with the type of opposition they are facing and the Boston Celtics have to be confident of closing things out as soon as Monday.

A young Philadelphia roster will be all the better in the years ahead for the experiences they are battling through at this moment, but you can't deny it has been a steep learning curve for Ben Simmons in particularly. Simmons has all the tools to be amongst the very best players in the NBA in years ahead, but he has struggled with the Boston Defensive schemes which remain some of the best in the Association.

Coaching has been a big factor too with Brad Stevens leading Brett Brown on the sidelines and I've lost some faith with the 76ers for this season at least.

Recent trends in the Semi Final Series don't make for good reading for the 76ers and taking the Celtics with this number of points behind them looks the right side.

A team losing three games in a row are just 3-14 against the spread, while they have gone 0-10 against the spread if they have lost their last game as the favourite. That is the situation for the Philadelphia 76ers in this one and I think Stevens can coach the Boston Celtics to keep this one competitive and perhaps even earn the sweep of the Series.

Toronto Raptors @ Cleveland Cavaliers PickAnyone who has ever doubted how great LeBron James is needs to watch the last two games of this Eastern Conference Semi Final Series and then re-evaluate the King of the NBA. Once again it was James who took all the plaudits as he made a ridiculously difficult shot look easy to beat the buzzer for the second time in the Play Offs for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

James has proven he is the difference maker in this Series as the Cavaliers moved 3-0 ahead against the Toronto Raptors and hosting Game 4 on Monday.

The Raptors finished with the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference and genuinely believed they could reach the NBA Finals. Having been beaten by Cleveland two years in a row in the Play Offs, Toronto felt more ready than ever to take on the 'team to beat' in the Eastern Conference but instead they are staring at back to back sweeps in the post-season right in the face.

To be perfectly honest it is hard to see anything else happen as Toronto have taken another body blow in Game 3 having thrown away Game 1. In another dimension the Raptors would likely be leading this Series and on the verge of making it back to Toronto with a big lead.

Now they face an elimination game and they have to show they can overcome the horrible trend that afflicts teams who have lost three games in a row at this stage of the post-season. Number 1 Seeds have been very good underdogs in the Semi Final Series though and Toronto covered in Game 3 in that situation despite going down to the buzzer beater from James.

When teams are giving up 5 points or less against the Number 1 Seed, they are a horrible 3-20 against the spread and that is where the Cavaliers find themselves on Monday. Of course Toronto have to overcome a huge mental hurdle with the way Game 3 went down and the blow out in Game 2 after something similar in Game 1 is fresh in the mind.

However I do think the Cavaliers can sometimes struggle as a favourite and they have not been a strong team to back in that spot all season. The role players have all been lighting up the scoreboards and you do wonder how that is going to last and I think the Raptors can potentially keep this one relatively close.

Tuesday 8th May
I can't say I am even surprised that my Picks have lurched from bad to worse.

What a shit run, personally I would think about fading my choices, I'm on that kind of ridiculous run.

Utah Jazz @ Houston Rockets PickThe Houston Rockets have seen the Number 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference already fall in the Semi Final Series of the NBA Play Offs, but they are not really fearing for their own position.

After dropping home court in Game 2, Houston have won back to back games in Utah and now they have a chance to close out the Jazz. They have been the superior team throughout this Series and in their regular season games and it would be a big surprise if the Rockets are not able to complete the Series win on Tuesday.

Injuries have really not helped the Utah cause with Ricky Rubio yet to feature in the Series and Derrick Favors restricted. The Jazz needed a full complement of players and a little luck at the start of the Series so playing with a short-handed rotation was always going to be a problem for Utah.

Donovan Mitchell has shown he has a lot of potential in his rookie season, but the lack of support from Rubio has just highlighted how far he is yet to go in his career. Matching up with James Harden and Chris Paul will have been a real learning experience for Mitchell who has been playing through the pain but has not been as effective as he would have liked.

Offensively Utah have struggled since Game 2 and they have not seen the three point shot falling as they would have liked. That has made it very difficult to stay with the Houston Rockets who have won their three games by at least thirteen points each time.

Houston are finding their openings and the aggressive play means they are getting to the Free Throw line with consistency and that has made it tough for Utah in the last couple of games. You have to think the Jazz have enough to try and give it one more big push to try and get this Series back home, but ultimately I think it is very difficult for them to do that without some key Offensive pieces.

Defensively Utah have been very good this season, but Houston have found a way to break them down and all of their wins have been by big margins against the Jazz this year. I think it will be more of the same in Game 5 when these teams meet back in Houston and I like the Rockets to cover a big number.

New Orleans Pelicans @ Golden State Warriors PickThe Golden State Warriors are rarely embarrassed in the Play Offs in recent seasons but they were in Game 3 of this Western Conference Semi Final Series as New Orleans cut into their 2-0 lead. It was no surprise to see the Warriors bounce back in the manner they did in Game 4 as they led from wire to wire and have put themselves in a position to win the Series against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Most people will be expecting the Warriors to close the Series out on Tuesday and get ready for what could be decided as the 'real' NBA Finals when they likely play the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.

Both teams have a chance to get a few days rest by winning their Semi Final Series on Tuesday and I am expecting both to do that.

New Orleans won't want to roll over for their hosts, but they have already overachieved without DeMarcus Cousins and this is another step up in level of opponent. The Golden State Warriors are all about preparing themselves for this time of the season and they are back to full health with a starting five that looks so, so good on paper.

Then again they are so, so good on the court too and the Golden State Warriors will look to match the intensity they began Game 4 with as they bid to give New Orleans no open door to get back into the Series.

The Pelicans can be dangerous if their three pointers are going down as they can, but Golden State have the players on the Defensive side of the court to make the shooters uncomfortable. They have shown that in this Series and Golden State have their own shooters who seem to be able to break down the Pelicans and get all of the shots they want.

It will be possible for New Orleans to challenge the Warriors for a while, but I expect the home team to pull away for another comfortable win and move through to the Western Conference Finals.

MY PICKS: 30/04 Philadelphia 76ers - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Boyle Sports (1 Unit)
01/05 Toronto Raptors - 7 Points @ 1,91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
01/05 New Orleans Pelicans + 11 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
02/05 Houston Rockets - 11 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
03/05 Toronto Raptors - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
03/05 Philadelphia 76ers - 4.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
05/05 Philadelphia 76ers - 6.5 Points FIRST HALF @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
05/05 Philadelphia 76ers-Boston Celtics Over 206.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
05/05 Cleveland Cavaliers-Toronto Raptors Over 216 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
07/05 Boston Celtics + 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
07/05 Toronto Raptors + 5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
08/05 Houston Rockets - 12 Points @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)
08/05 Golden State Warriors - 11.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Semi Final Update: 1-10, - 9.09 Units (11 Units Staked, - 82.64% Yield)

Friday, 27 April 2018

Weekend Football Picks 2018 (April 28-30)

The Premier League is coming down to the final three weekends of action and there doesn't look like a lot of storylines which are going to grab the attention. The title race has been run and the top four and bottom three look pretty secure, but things can change very quickly even at this time of the season.

Second guessing managers and working out motivations of teams is always a challenge at this time of the year, but there are plenty of big games this weekend.

Chelsea will be hoping to put some pressure on Tottenham Hotspur for 4th place in the Premier League as they get to play two days earlier and are 'only' 5 points behind them. They have a big game at Swansea City with implications at the top and bottom of the Premier League.

Southampton also host Bournemouth on Saturday to give themselves a chance of closing to those teams outside the relegation spot. The next three games all look winnable for Southampton and this has to be a game they win if they want to survive, something I believe they can do.

It's another busy weekend before we conclude the European Semi Finals during the week as the run to the end of the season picks up pace.

Liverpool v Stoke City Pick: You have to second guess what manager Jurgen Klopp is going to do with his team selection on Saturday as Liverpool host Stoke City in between the two Champions League Semi Final ties with Roma.

The 5-2 home win in the First Leg may make it easier for Klopp to try and maintain the rhythm his side have picked up by picking a strong team. The top four places in the Premier League are far from assured too which means Liverpool should be aiming for the three points to ensure they can fully focus on the Champions League the rest of the way.

Playing at home against Stoke City should be ideal for Liverpool as the visitors have to begin to feel that relegation is inevitable having dropped points rom winning positions against West Ham United and Burnley in back to back weeks.

Paul Lambert has made Stoke City a tougher team to play against, but Liverpool are in really strong form at Anfield. They have won 4 straight games here and have scored at least three times in each of those wins and getting to that number will be very difficult for Stoke City to be competitive.

A lack of goals has cost Stoke City and I am expecting a strong looking Liverpool team being in a comfortable position by around the 70 minute mark which will then see Klopp make some changes. Liverpool have beaten Stoke City 4-1 on the latter's back to back visits to Anfield and I think the home team win by a comfortable margin on Saturday too.

Burnley v Brighton Pick: Both Burnley and Brighton look to be coming into their final Premier League games in a position to achieve more than was expected of them back in August.

Burnley and Brighton may both have been tipped up for relegation back then, but instead Burnley are just about set to play Europa League Football next season and Brighton are almost certain to avoid the drop.

Both Sean Dyche and Chris Hughton preach hard work though and I think both will be asking for the players to produce one final push in their final three weeks of League Football.

Burnley being at home looks to be the right side to back here as they have been in fine form for much of the season at Turf Moor. A lack of goals can be a concern, but Burnley have been better in recent weeks and are facing a Brighton team who have had some difficulties at the back.

One goal could be enough for Brighton to feel they can earn a result here though and that is part of the reason I can imagine the layers have Burnley as a tempting odds against shot to win this fixture.

That concerns me a little, but I will back Burnley on the Asian Handicap which at least returns half the stake in the event of a draw. Burnley are playing really well of late and their two up front system is confusing teams which could play a part in creating chances against this Brighton team.

Burnley have won many games like this over the last eighteen months which has seen them become as successful as they have and I think they are more likely than not to win this one.

Crystal Palace v Leicester City Pick: There is probably one more win needed for Crystal Palace to ensure they don't avoid the drop into the Championship and recent form suggests they can find that in their final 3 League games.

Facing an unmotivated Leicester City could present the best chance for Crystal Palace especially if The Foxes have a similar attitude to the one they had in their goalless draw with Southampton ten days ago.

Having had a few days off, I do expect more from Leicester City who have scored goals away from home with their counter attacking style working perfectly well on their travels. They will feel they can get after the Crystal Palace defence which has conceded plenty of goals of late, although The Eagles will be confident in their own ability to score goals at Selhurst Park.

I do think Crystal Palace have dealt with the tense situations well in recent weeks and they have the attacking players to win this one. Keeping Leicester City completely quiet won't be easy though and I imagine there could be goals produced when these teams meet on Saturday.

The last 3 League games between them have featured three or more goals shared out, while the last 3 Crystal Palace home games have also hit that mark. 8 of the last 10 Leicester City away Premier League games have also seen three or more goals and I will back that to be the outcome of this one.

Huddersfield Town v Everton Pick: Nothing is guaranteed for Huddersfield Town with the season ending with games against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, but the late winner over Watford last weekend was a huge result when it comes to their chances of survival.

They may still need some points though to ensure they are not dropping into the bottom three on the final day of the season.

A 6 point lead over Southampton in 18th looks a very strong one, but Southampton don't have that bad a fixture list remaining with a distinct possibility of earning at least 7 points from their next three games. Swansea City could have a similar success from 17th place and that would put Huddersfield Town in a desperate position.

However I think a point could be good enough for The Terriers and they are capable of earning that against Everton this weekend.

Sam Allardyce's future as manager remains unconvincing in the long-term and Everton have not nearly been as effective away from home as they have at Goodison Park. The players looked short of motivation for much of their 1-0 win over Newcastle United last Monday and Huddersfield Town should be capable of avoiding defeat if they put in the hard work and raise their energy levels for their penultimate home game.

There is a chance Huddersfield Town surprise Everton too, but I think the focus will be to earn another point and see where they stand going into their final three Premier League games. David Wagner's team have been organised enough to get that especially with a few difficulties scoring goals and a low-scoring draw looks the likely outcome.

Southampton v Bournemouth Pick: Could Mark Hughes really be the man who effectively takes over at two clubs and has both relegated in the same season? It would be harsh to pin Southampton's blames on the Welshman's shoulders, but Stoke City's plight is down to Hughes and both of those clubs are now favourites to be playing Championship Football next season.

Southampton have a better chance than Stoke City of avoiding the drop and that is mainly down to the remaining fixtures. The game at Swansea City looks like it could be a huge one for Southampton in ten days time, but the focus is on this weekend and a winnable League fixture against south coast rivals Bournemouth.

There has to be better defending from Southampton to be in a position to do that, but they have created chances in recent games with Hughes looking for the players to take more risks in their play. A fit Charlie Austin could be huge for Southampton, but mentally they are a little fragile as shown in their 2-3 defeat to Chelsea when they looked to be the dominant team at 2-0 up.

With their opponents having nothing to lose, it could be difficult for Southampton especially as Bournemouth will look to get forward and score goals.

However Bournemouth have not been in the best recent form and I really do think this is a big chance for Southampton to earn a priceless three points. They have still looked iffy defensively, but the returning Jack Stephens could help, while Southampton have found a little more creativity in the final third to help their cause.

Risking two up front has helped Southampton and I think they are in a position to earn the win although Bournemouth could play their part. The Saints are very, very short for a team who have not won a home Premier League game since back in November but backing them to win a game which features at least two goals could be the way to go.

That is offered at odds against and it feels like Southampton will need to score twice to win this fixture. They are facing a Bournemouth team who concede goals away from home and I will look for Mark Hughes to ease some of the personal criticism he is getting by giving Southampton a chance to avoid the drop.

Swansea City v Chelsea Pick: The second live game from the Premier League on Saturday afternoon comes from the Liberty Stadium as both Swansea City and Chelsea search for key points to achieve their goals at the top and bottom of the table.

Swansea City are trying desperately to keep their heads above water while Chelsea are trying to put some pressure on the top four chasing teams.

With that in mind I can see both teams both playing with the desire to win the game and it could be a decent football match on Saturday.

Games between Swansea City and Chelsea in Wales have tended to be good scraps and it is hard to fancy Chelsea at short odds here. They have won back to back games at Southampton and Burnley, but were fortunate in one of those at St Mary's and Chelsea have looked far from watertight.

Chelsea have the attacking players to give Swansea City problems to deal with, but the home team have been good enough at home to think they can earn a result here.

Under Carlos Carvalhal Swansea City have won 7 of 10 home games in all competitions and beaten the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool in the Premier League. That will give the team confidence, although it is how they handle the pressure if Southampton or Stoke City have won earlier in the day to close the 4 point gap to The Swans to just a single point.

Even with that in mind, I think Swansea City have been tough to beat here and Chelsea's away form has been erratic to say the least. Swansea City have shown they can create chances when they get forward at the Liberty Stadium and Chelsea's defence have had 1 away clean sheet in their 7 away Premier League games this calendar year.

The Blues have also scored in 6 of those 7 away games and I am surprised the odds against quotes are available for both teams to score here. Swansea City have scored in their last 5 home Premier League games and I am going to look for both teams to get on the scoreboard in this late afternoon live fixture.

West Ham United v Manchester City Pick: There is still a little bit of work for West Ham United to do to make sure they are not being dragged back into a relegation scrap and the pressure may be ramped up if the likes of Stoke City, Southampton and Swansea City earn positive results on Saturday.

In all honesty it would be a surprise if West Ham United are pulled back down towards the bottom three with the current 6 point gap to those places, but they can't afford for complacency to take over.

Complacency is likely to be punished significantly by Manchester City if West Ham United are not at the races and the fans may be a touch concerned. For starters Manchester City can play with the freedom that comes after securing the Premier League title and they also won 0-4 and 0-5 at the London Stadium last season when not considered as strong as they have been this time around.

Manchester City have also looked to have recovered from their 3 consecutive losses earlier this month and they have been very good away from home all season. The side have won 4 away Premier League games in a row and all of those have come by two or more goal margins with Manchester City showing plenty of attacking intent.

That is going to be tough for West Ham United to deal with, but Joe Hart will want to make a point to his former club with a big display in goal if he is given the chance to start. That may not be enough for West Ham United though and their best chance may be to try and get after a Manchester City backline that have shown some vulnerabilities in recent weeks.

West Ham United have been tough to play at the London Stadium and have had some solid results here under David Moyes which has to be respected. However they have also found it tough when the best teams have been in their best form and I think they are facing Manchester City at the wrong time.

I will look for Manchester City to continue their strong away run in the Premier League with a 5th straight away win by two or more goals.

Manchester United v Arsenal Pick: This is the last time Arsene Wenger will take an Arsenal team to Old Trafford but the line up may not be that familiar with the expected first team players likely to be rested for a huge task in the Second Leg of their Europa League Semi Final against Atletico Madrid.

With the First Leg played on Thursday there is no doubt that Wenger will appreciate that the mental and physical effort put in by his team will mean players are a little fatigued. The body blow of conceding a late equaliser against a team who played with ten men for over 80 minutes will really have hurt Wenger especially as it means they are firm underdogs to go through to the Europa League Final.

The fixture at Old Trafford against Manchester United will conjure up some famous memories for Arsene Wenger who guided Arsenal to wins here in 1998 and 2002 which helped his team go on and win the Premier League title. Sentiment means this remains an important game, but the reality is that Arsenal don't achieve a lot by investing a lot of energy into winning this game and being punished for the effort in Madrid next Thursday.

That is not to say the players coming in won't want to win, but it does mean I expect wholesale changes to the Arsenal team who have been vulnerable away from home all season.

Manchester United are back at home for the first time since the West Brom debacle and Jose Mourinho will expect his players to want to right that wrong. They have already beaten Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Chelsea at Old Trafford this season and the win in the FA Cup Semi Final last week should mean players are ready to show the manager they should be picked for the Final in mid-May.

It might not always have been the free-flowing football the Manchester United fans would like to see, but Mourinho's team have been effective and have performed well in the big games for the most part. Against a weakened team whose focus may be elsewhere I would expect Manchester United to be too strong on the day.

The layers all have that in mind with the prices reflecting that, but I think Arsenal's away form doesn't offer a lot of encouragement for them. West Brom did win at Old Trafford a couple of weeks ago, but Manchester United have recovered from that setback and I think they can ease by Arsenal in this Premier League fixture.

Tottenham Hotspur v Watford Pick: It was a real surprise to hear Tottenham Hotspur fans as down about their team as they were in the wake of their 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup Semi Final. A club that has really enjoyed the elite in England are desperate for some trophy success to underline their progress even if Mauricio Pochettino is less concerned unless it is winning a Champions League or Premier League title.

Pochettino's language following the defeat to Manchester United was a little concerning with the suggestion it is hard to reach his ambitions with the restrictions Tottenham Hotspur have financially.

That should worry the Tottenham Hotspur fans more as their side look to bounce back from 3 consecutive losses at Wembley Stadium.

Playing Watford looks a good chance to get back to winning ways with the visitors looking like they are back in their usual late season swoon to the finish line. Since hitting 36 points, Watford have lost 4 of 6 Premier League games and their away form has been nothing to write home about.

Losing 10 of 11 away games in all competitions and only scoring twice in that entire run will mean Tottenham Hotspur are big favourites to win this fixture. The recent Tottenham Hotspur form has not been the best though which makes it harder to believe in them covering a big Asian Handicap which is focused on Watford's seemingly loss of focus in the last few weeks of the season.

However the lack of Watford goals can't be ignored and I think Tottenham Hotspur will find a way to win this fixture. Backing them to win the game with a clean sheet looks an appealing price despite the recent setbacks at Wembley Stadium and I think Tottenham Hotspur can do that.

MY PICKS: Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Burnley - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Huddersfield Town-Everton Draw @ 3.10 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Southampton Win & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Swansea City-Chelsea Both Teams to Score @ 2.10 William Hill (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur Win to Nil @ 1.80 Boyle Sports (2 Units)

Tennis Picks 2018 (April 27th)

Thursday was a solid recovery day for the Tennis Picks with both choices returning as winners to get this week back into a position where a strong end can record another positive week to add to the season totals.

While the Tennis Picks recovered, I am still on the road to full fitness after a cold knocked me out over the last couple of days. That does mean the Tennis Picks on Friday will also not have any analysis to go with them, but I have put the research together while lying in bed and trying to stay warm.

Another good showing on Friday will turn this week right around after a poor Wednesday and that is the plan from the Picks made.

MY PICKS: Aljaz Bedene - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta @ 2.20 William Hill (2 Units)
David Goffin - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Elina Svitolina - 2.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Caroline Wozniacki - 5.5 Games @ 1.72 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 3-4, - 2.16 Units (14 Units Staked, - 15.43% Yield)

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Tennis Picks 2018 (April 26th)

I was not impressed with the manner in which at least two of my Tennis Picks faltered on Wednesday having been in a dominant position to try and cover the number of games.

Both players won which didn't make me feel any better as I suffer through a cold (real cold not 'man flu' or at least as far as I am concerned).

On Thursday I am simply placing the Tennis Picks I have below, but I don't have a lot of feel for the matches even though there are some full schedules to be played in Barcelona and Stuttgart.

Both Tennis Picks come from Stuttgart as I try and get this week turned back around.

MY PICKS: Jelena Ostapenko - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet365 (2 Units)
Coco Vandeweghe @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Weekly Update: 1-4, - 6.18 Units (10 Units Staked, - 61.80% Yield)

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Tennis Picks 2018 (April 25th)

There are four tournaments which are being played this week but I couldn't find any Tennis Picks from the first two days of the events in Barcelona, Budapest, Istanbul and Stuttgart.

That may be a surprise to read, but this season continues to move in a positive direction with another winning week put together in Monte Carlo last week. With that in mind I am sticking to the research and putting the numbers together like I have been over the last couple of months and so far it is working out as well as I could have hoped.

To be fair only a couple of matches came close to being picked and I won't lie here but instead admit that none of those would have been winners. I have to be positive that they didn't hit the threshold I am looking for which have produced good results, but hopefully it is just an indication that those were not good enough Picks and not highlighting a poor turn of results about to come out.

On Wednesday I do have five Tennis Picks which cover the ATP events in Barcelona and Budapest and the big WTA event in Stuttgart.

There are some big names out there this week with the majority of them getting underway on Wednesday having received byes or delayed First Round matches through the first couple of days.

They are going to be played across the day so let's hope for another strong week to add to those being experienced in the last couple of months as the clay court season goes on.

Aljaz Bedene - 3.5 games v Matteo Berrettini: Over the last couple of years Aljaz Bedene has reserved his best tennis for the clay courts and even the loss to Rafael Nadal last week in Monte Carlo won't have knocked too much confidence.

Bedene has to feel he can produce some really good weeks on the Tour during this part of the season as long as he can avoid being given an early test against Nadal who continues to look head and shoulders above his competition on this surface.

The field in Budapest is certainly one in which Bedene should feel comfortable and his numbers on the clay courts are very strong. On Wednesday he meets Italian Qualifier Matteo Berrettini who is making his biggest impact on the Tour at this level.

Bedene's record against players Ranked outside the top 100 on the clay courts has improved to 19-0 over the last fifteen months, and both the serving and returning numbers have been impressive.

He will be challenged by Berrettini who is very comfortable on the clay and built confidence and momentum with his run in Budapest. The serve can be an important weapon for Berrettini, but I think Bedene will challenge him on the return in ways the Italian will not have been used to.

His own return could have problems getting to grips with the Bedene serve and I think the higher Ranked player wins with a break more in each set of a straight sets win.

Karen Khachanov - 1.5 games v Leonardo Mayer: There are plenty of matches scheduled in Barcelona on Wednesday when the entire remaining Second Round is completed.

However only one takes my fancy and it has all the makings of a tough one between Karen Khachanov and Leonardo Mayer.

Both players are very well adapted to the clay courts and I think both will believe this is a winnable match for them on this surface. The serve is a huge weapon for both Khachanov and Mayer and I do think there will be plenty of holds of serve throughout the Second Round match.

There isn't a lot between these players and the layers are about right to have it close to a pick 'em contest, but I think the young Russian may be an improving player when it comes to the return of serve. That could be the key element to the outcome of this match with the expectation that Khachanov will earn the majority of the break point chances where those should come at a premium.

Mayer is a tough out on the clay courts and he has shown tremendous fight in his losses on the surface in 2018. However I think it will be Khachanov who makes the big plays when they matter the most and I will look for him to win in either two or three sets which will still give him every chance of covering this number.

Carla Suarez Navarro - 4.5 games v Veronika Kudermetova: This is a battle between a veteran of the WTA Tour and a youngster looking to make a name for herself, but I think that is going to be a big test for Veronika Kudermetova to do that.

For starters she has simply not been used to playing opponents who are in the top 100 of the World Rankings let alone one who is towards the upper echelon of the Tour.

Suarez Navarro is even better when it comes to playing on the clay courts and she has reached the Quarter Final in the usually tough field of Stuttgart four years in a row. The serve can be very vulnerable on any surface and especially on the clay courts which does reduce some of the enthusiasm in backing the Spaniard, but she has dominated those players she has played from outside the top 100 of the World Rankings on this surface.

The younger player will have nothing to lose and it may take Suarez Navarro a bit of time to work out her game which gives Kudermetova a chance to be competitive in the first set.

However I fully expect Suarez Navarro to get to grips with things and her consistency from the back of the court should be enough to help her hold a couple more times than Kudermetova and eventually cover this big number.

Petra Kvitova - 3.5 games v Angelique Kerber: It may be something of a surprise to note the relatively poor results Angelique Kerber has had on the clay courts over the last thirteen months. You would expect her defensive ability to be a strength on the slower surfaces, but her serve becomes even more vulnerable and I think she is in for a tough afternoon on Wednesday.

Kerber faces Petra Kvitova in a match which feels completely out of place as a First Round match in any tournament. That underlines the depth of the WTA Stuttgart field and Kerber also has to recover mentally from being destroyed by Kvitova when they met in Fed Cup action over the last weekend.

That match actually took place in the same place the Stuttgart tournament is played and Kvitova was a comfortable winner while Kerber was also beaten by Karoline Pliskova. Kvitova's win over Julia Goerges was another key result in the Fed Cup Semi Final as the Czech Republic moved past Germany away from home and I think Kvitova can double down on her win over Kerber.

Her serve is much more likely to bring up cheaper points than Kerber's, even on the clay courts, and I think that is a key difference between the players.

Kvitova's confidence can't be understated here either and I am looking for the Czech player to record another impressive win over Kerber.

Simona Halep - 5.5 games v Magdalena Rybarikova: I would expect Simona Halep to be amongst the favourites to win the French Open at the beginning of June, although she is going to have to cope with the pressure that comes with that expectation.

The clay courts are where Halep has tended to play her very best tennis, although still effective on all surfaces, and I would expect her to be too good for Magdalena Rybarikova who has not had a lot of competitive clay court tennis in recent years.

Injury have played a part in that, but I also think Rybarikova's game is suited to the quicker surfaces out on the Tour. She does have a solid looking win over Daria Kasatkina in the First Round which has to provide a real boost in confidence, but Rybarikova is going to be challenged by the exceptional returning Halep can produce on the clay courts.

This is a big spread when you think the indoor clay court in Stuttgart does have a different feel to the majority of clay court tennis the players will be used to playing. However I think Halep's returning numbers on the surface give her every chance to beat Rybarikova with a big enough margin to cover.

Rybarikova may feel she can cause some problems for Halep with her own return, but eventually I would think the Romanian can put a run of games together which helps her pull away for the win in this Second Round match.

MY PICKS: Aljaz Bedene - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Karen Khachanov - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Carla Suarez Navarro - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Coral (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 5.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Season 2018 Update: + 24.68 Units (488 Units Staked, + 5.08% Yield)