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Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (August 17-19)

The first round of Premier League Fixtures are in the books and it can be very easy to get carried away from one set of results and make swe...

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Weekend Football Picks 2018 (November 3-5)

There is one more big week of domestic and European action before the final international break of the 2018 calendar year.

While there will be plenty of fans looking forward to watching their teams play this weekend, the Football Leaks that came out on Friday made for stunning reading. It is such a shame that the sport is as corrupt as it is and the promotion of a European Super League which is being pushed by the biggest clubs in England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy could have a profound impact on European Football in the coming years.

A European Super League has felt like it would be inevitable since the changes made to the Champions League in recent years, but the back handed way the rich are trying to get richer leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

At the moment you would think these teams are all going to remain in their domestic Leagues, but I wouldn't put anything past them in a bid to rinse more money out of the game.

This is another busy weekend of Premier League Football with games to be played from Saturday lunchtime through to Monday evening. We could see big impacts made at the top and bottom of the Premier League by the end of the weekend ahead of the Champions League and Europa League Match Day 4 games to be played next week.

Bournemouth v Manchester United Pick: Not many would have predicted this Premier League game in early November would be featuring two clubs in the top eight of the table and even fewer would have tipped Bournemouth to be heading into the fixture higher in the table than Manchester United.

That says as much about the poor three months Manchester United have had as it does about how well Bournemouth have been playing under Eddie Howe.

Make no bones about it- this is a huge test for Manchester United at the start of a week in which they have to visit Juventus in the Champions League and then Manchester City in the Premier League before the final international break of the calendar year.

At least the recent Premier League performances will give the fans some real belief that Manchester United have turned a corner. Games against Newcastle United and Chelsea have seen huge improvements in the second half and Manchester United could have easily won both of those, but the more heartening game may be the start made against Everton.

In recent games it has been a criticism that Manchester United have started slowly as they have trailed at half time in 3 games in a row before leading against Everton. Making a fast start could be key at the Vitality Stadium as they take on a confident host who remain unbeaten here in all competitions.

Bournemouth are dangerous as highlighted by the fact they have scored at least twice in 7 of their 8 home games in the 2018/19 season. Eddie Howe's style suggests they will take the game to Manchester United and I don't know many United fans who will believe they are capable of securing a clean sheet here.

However Bournemouth are a team that can be attacked and Everton, Leicester City and Blackburn Rovers have all scored at least twice in fixtures here. This is also the first really big test for Bournemouth this season having negotiated a comfortable fixture list to this point and, while I have been impressed, I am looking to see how they deal with a team with plenty of quality all around.

Defensively it is hard to see how Manchester United keep Bournemouth out though as Jose Mourinho himself admitted the side just cannot keep clean sheets at the moment. On the other side of the field I do think Manchester United have looked dangerous going forward in recent Premier League games and I am going to back at least three goals to be shared out by these teams with a lean towards Manchester United winning the game at a big price.

Not many of the top six from last season will be odds against to win at the Vitality Stadium so the price on a Manchester United win is very appealing. The only negative is that they have not been consistent enough to back at those prices and will need to score at least twice here to win so goals looks the most likely outcome of this fixture.

Fantasy Star: Anthony Martial- the form the Frenchman is displaying means he is the biggest threat going forward for Manchester United who have to be favoured to win here.

Alternative: Callum Wilson- Bournemouth score goals and in Josh King's absence it is going to be Callum Wilson who leads the line and is on penalty duties.

Cardiff City v Leicester City Pick: One week after owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha tragically lost his life in a helicopter crash that also killed four other people his football club will take to the field against Cardiff City in what is surely going to be an emotional occasion for everyone inside the Stadium.

It is tough to really know how the Leicester City players are going to react and I imagine Claude Puel will be keeping a very close eye on the group and picking those who look to be dealing with matters the best. Human nature means we all respond differently to difficult times, but the players agreed that they needed to play this Premier League fixture in honour of the owner who had been such a big support to them and the entire city during his time with the club.

Neil Warnock has to be urging his players to avoid the sentiment of the occasion and instead focus on trying to earn an important three points in their fight against relegation. That isn't going to be easy for the Cardiff City players, and this fixture is going to come down to which of the players deal with the entire day the best.

That simply is a factor that can't really be determined until the game kicks off and certainly makes it more difficult to know how the fixture will develop.

There is obviously going to be a high motivation in the away dressing room to put on a big performance for their owner's family who will likely be at the Cardiff City Stadium. In recent games Leicester City have been playing well enough to believe they can become the latest club to get the better of Cardiff City who simply have not defended anything near the level they need to if they want to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.

Cardiff City have conceded at least two goals in 5 straight home games in all competitions and Leicester City have shown they have an appetite for goals away from home. They might have seen their run of at least two goals scored snapped at 3 away games in a row when losing at Arsenal, but anyone who saw that game will have noted the amount of chances Leicester City can create with slightly more composure in the final third.

I think we will see that on Saturday as they look to produce a big performance and Leicester City have shown they can be a very dangerous team when pulling in the same direction. The home team will try and use the occasion to their benefit, but Leicester City are the stronger team and I think they produce one of their better games in the trying situation they find themselves in.

Fantasy Star: Jamie Vardy- I expect Leicester City to honour their owner in the best manner possible.

Alternative: Ben Chilwell- gets forward from defence and I think Ben Chilwell could also have the chance of earning a clean sheet.

Everton v Brighton Pick: Both Marco Silva and Chris Hughton have to be very happy with the starts their Everton and Brighton teams have made to the Premier League, although the fans of both clubs are likely disappointed they are not involved in the League Cup. There is just a point separating these teams in 9th and 11th place respectively, but you have to believe home advantage gives Everton a real edge in this contest.

The teams have contrasting home/away with Everton playing well here, while Brighton have continued to struggle on their travels. Some fans will point out the 0-1 win at Newcastle United last time out, but Brighton had lost 8 of 12 away games in all competitions prior to that win and it can be argued they were somewhat fortunate to escape with the three points in that fixture.

Brighton have won 3 games in a row by the same 1-0 scoreline, but all of those have had a touch of fortune on their side and I can't see how that can be sustained. The defence may have 3 clean sheets, but teams continue to create chances against them and Everton have shown they have a good idea where the goal is.

Everton have now scored at least twice in their last 2 home Premier League games and their attacking football has been rewarded in recent games with the points they have earned. Even last weekend at Old Trafford they fashioned some decent positions, while Everton can't expect Brighton to produce the same intensity Manchester United did.

There is a threat from Brighton because they are in a confident frame of mind, but I can't see them sustaining the charmed life their own goal has been leading. I expect Everton will prove too good going forward and I think the home team can be backed to win a fixture that features at least two goals with the chances they are likely to create and the expected opportunities Brighton should be able to find against the home defence.

A few months ago it ended 2-0 in favour of Everton in the corresponding fixture and a similar margin of victory would not surprise me.

Fantasy Star: Richarlison- he is currently being played in the Number 9 position and Everton should be an attacking force at home.

Alternative: Gylfi Sigurdsson- the Icelandic midfielder has been in good form of late and is a real avenue for goals and assists.

Newcastle United v Watford Pick: I think most of us will be looking at Watford and wondering how long they can maintain the standards of football they have been producing in the first three months of the 2018/19 season. Twelve months ago they made a similarly impressive start under Marco Silva before really losing their way around early December, but Javi Gracia has pulled his team out of a poor run of form.

Winning at Wolves and then beating Huddersfield Town at home has given Watford new momentum as they sit in the heady heights of 7th in the Premier League table.

Inconsistencies still exist though and there have been games where Watford have looked really impressive and others where they have struggled wildly. The 0-4 defeat at home to Bournemouth is a real case of the latter, but those games have not been as frequent as in previous years and that means all credit has to go to the manager.

One thing Watford have maintained is a strong sense of a team that can play very good attacking football and one that will create chances. Even in losses they have managed to do that and that makes them very dangerous for a Newcastle United team who have been far from convincing going forward.

However The Magpies have to point to the last home game with Brighton and I would suggest a similar performance will get them more rewards in future. There is still a feeling they don't have a striker they can rely on at the moment which is going to temper any enthusiasm you can have for them, but Newcastle United could be more dangerous against a Watford defence that has been far from convincing themselves.

Even with that in mind I am surprised you can back Watford on the 'Draw No Bet' handicaps at a bigger price than Newcastle United. They have won back to back games which will give them confidence and the last 2 trips to St James' Park have seen Watford come away with the three points.

You can't ignore the fact that Watford look to have a lot more goals in the side too and I think The Hornets can be backed to win on the handicap knowing the stake will be returned in the event of a draw. If Watford can score twice here, as they have on their previous two games at Newcastle United, I fear the home side will be ready to take their sixth consecutive home defeat to open the 2018/19 Premier League season.

Fantasy Star: Roberto Pereyra- he was the right call last week and could be Watford's main creative threat in this one.

Alternative: Jose Holebas- the defender has been a real attacking threat for Watford and could return this weekend having missed out last weekend. Newcastle United's lack of goals means there is a clean sheet chance here too.

West Ham United v Burnley Pick: There is no doubting that West Ham United look incredibly short to win this game considering their run of 3 losses in their last 4 games since their incredible win over Manchester United.

However the layers seem to have cottoned onto the fact that The Hammers are actually not playing that badly and it feels like a matter of time before results turn their way. Last weekend it took a very late leveller from Leicester City to prevent West Ham United and an inspired Hugo Lloris somehow kept them at bay when they hosted Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League a couple of weeks ago.

There is some pressure on Manuel Pellegrini to get a result here considering he rested so many players in the 1-3 loss to Spurs in the League Cup, but they could be facing Burnley at the right time.

A few months ago Burnley came here and won 0-3 so they should be respected by the home players, but the performances in 2018/19 have been way short of the standards produced last season. They may have picked up some vital points of late, but Burnley are not playing as well as those results suggest and I do think West Ham United should have too much all around for them.

It is hard to trust an erratic team like West Ham United, but they are creating more chances than Burnley and you do have to feel another win is not too far away. Missing their first choice central midfield is a blow, but I am not sure Burnley are playing well enough to capitalise while back to back heavy losses to Manchester City and Chelsea will have dented some of the confidence of the players.

Sean Dyche may not have expected much in terms of results from those two games, but the manner of the defeats would have hurt and I will back West Ham United to find a way to a narrow win in this one. Odds on quotes don't appeal to me here, but I can't imagine West Ham United winning this game if they concede twice and I don't think they are capable of battering too many teams at the moment.

With a tight win expected, you can find a big price on West Ham United winning a game that doesn't feature a lot of goals.

Fantasy Star: Marko Arnautovic- he was rested during the week in the League Cup and the Austrian is the main West Ham United threat.

Alternative: Fabian Balbuena- a threat from set pieces and West Ham United could become the latest club to keep a clean sheet against Burnley.

Arsenal v Liverpool Pick: I have never liked watching Liverpool win any game of football, but I was looking forward to seeing a very big price for them to win at the Emirates Stadium after Arsenal put together an 11 game winning run in all competitions.

Anyone who has been following the Arsenal performances will know there were a number of games in that winning run where this team had ridden enough luck to cover a full season, but the layers seem to be of the same mindset as I am.

Ultimately it boils down to an Arsenal defence that simply isn't as good as it should be for the tactics employed by Unai Emery and I really do fear for them against this Liverpool dynamic attack. I would be surprised to see Emery change his own tactics which means Arsenal will push high up the pitch and leave gaping holes behind the defence in which they are expecting Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi to beat out Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah in foot races.

Hector Bellerin's potential absence only makes the back four that much slower and the likes of Watford and Leicester City have shown what athletic, quick attackers can create against Arsenal.

Going forward Arsenal have looked good, but Liverpool's defence is much improved from the one that came here and conceded three goals in eight second half minutes to blow a 0-2 lead. Last season the back five had Simon Mignolet, Ragnar Klavan and Dejan Lovren, but this time you would think Alisson and Virgin Van Dijk plus an even more improved Joe Gomez make a significant difference.

Liverpool have played Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester City in the Premier League and conceded just twice- the two London clubs both hosted Liverpool which makes that number that much more impressive. Arsenal have created a lot of chances with a strong attacking unit left over from the Arsene Wenger regime, but there have been games where they have simply showed more composure than opponents and that has been enough to turn things in their favour.

A couple of weeks ago you may have had some doubts about Liverpool's attack having seen them score just 4 goals in 4 games. However those fixtures were against Chelsea (twice), Napoli and Manchester City and I would say this Arsenal team is significantly weaker at the back.

Honestly I think this could be a big defeat for Arsenal... Liverpool to win by two or more goals is a big, intriguing price.

That might be being greedy though despite what I feel could be a real statement win from Liverpool as they expose the soft underbelly of Arsenal which has just about been unexposed by clubs in recent weeks. Liverpool are much stronger going forward than many Arsenal have faced in the last couple of months since back to back losses to Manchester City and Chelsea and I will back the away team at odds against to win here.

As a Manchester United fan I would love to be wrong, but my judgement of this football game is that Liverpool win and win well.

Fantasy Star: Mohamed Salah- I think Liverpool could expose the Arsenal defensive vulnerabilities so all of the Liverpool attackers are worth a back. I've listed Mohamed Salah here on current form as the goals have begun to flow again.

Alternative: Roberto Firmino- Salah and Sadio Mane have earned recent praise, but it could be time for the Brazilian to grab some headlines of his own.

Wolves v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: There are three live games on Saturday in the Premier League and the last of those is being played on Saturday evening as Wolves host Tottenham Hotspur. Part of the reason for the schedule is the Champions League game Tottenham Hotspur have to play on Tuesday night, although the Premier League have created a Saturday evening slot which will come into play from the 2019/20 season.

It can be tough on the fans in these late starts, particularly the away fans, but I think Tottenham Hotspur will just be happy to be playing on a surface that resembles a Premier League football pitch.

Playing away from Wembley Stadium has been a recipe for success for Tottenham Hotspur so far this season with 5 wins from 6 away Premier League games, but this is a very difficult place to play. Wolves have come into the top flight and really imposed themselves in matches and having taken points from both Manchester clubs I don't think they will be too worried about having to face Spurs.

Back to back Premier League defeats will have dented the confidence of the players, but Wolves were very good at Brighton last week and deserved much more than they got. They will feel they can get after this Tottenham Hotspur defence which has looked a little vulnerable without leader Jan Vertonghen and Wolves have created enough chances in their Premier League games to believe they can pose more issues for this opponent.

Defensively there have been some lapses though and I also expect Tottenham Hotspur to have some success. The returns of both Christian Eriksen and Dele Allis is a huge boost for Tottenham Hotspur and this is a team that has got a threat going forward and I think the game is going to be an entertaining one.

Tottenham Hotspur look short to win at a ground where Manchester City did not this season, but I can understand the layers not wanting to give too much away on their price. For a moment Wolves intrigued me with the start on the Asian Handicap, but that is short enough too considering they have lost back to back League games and failed to score in either.

The chances created and those that Tottenham Hotspur have given up suggests that streak will be snapped at two games, but I think the away team will have their opportunities too. Backing both teams to score looks like it has every chance of being the right play and that is where I will head with this selection.

Fantasy Star: Harry Kane- the England international is the biggest threat for Tottenham Hotspur and the returns of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli could boost the creativity of the side.

Alternative: Matt Doherty- don't lose faith in the left wing back who has been close to adding to the one League goal he has scored so far this season.

Manchester City v Southampton Pick: The injury to Kevin De Bruyne would have cast a shadow over Manchester City's dominant performance against Fulham in the League Cup, but they have shown they can live without their Belgian star.

There is no doubt that Pep Guardiola would love to be able to call on De Bruyne, but the likes of David Silva and Bernardo Silva have stepped up their play without him and I don't expect Manchester City to suddenly drop off a cliff.

It would be a huge upset if that was to happen on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium as Manchester City go for a fourth straight win here and fifth overall since the goalless draw at Anfield. Defensively Manchester City have looked very composed and that does not make for much optimism for a Southampton team who have only scored more goals than Huddersfield Town so far this season.

Lacking goals has become a long-term problem for Southampton which is a surprise with the likes of Danny Ings, Nathan Redmond and Charlie Austin in the squad. It has also perhaps led to a lack of composure in the final third as shown in their goalless draw against Newcastle United when critical errors occurred at inopportune times as Southampton surely should have been scoring.

You do feel teams will always have one or two chances when they visit the Etihad Stadium simply because of the way Manchester City play, but the home team have been displayed strength when put under pressure. They have kept clean sheets in 6 straight Premier League games and I am confident they are likely going to have a seventh once this fixture is concluded.

While I think there is a good chance Manchester City keep a clean sheet, it would b a huge surprise if they were not able to score. Even without De Bruyne there is plenty of attacking threats sprinkled around the side and Southampton have conceded at least twice at Everton, Liverpool and Wolves in the Premier League this season.

Manchester City may not blow Southampton away, but it should be noted that both Liverpool and Chelsea have beaten them by the same 3-0 scoreline this season. I will just look for Manchester City to keep their run of clean sheets going by backing them to win this fixture without conceding.

Fantasy Star: David Silva- with Kevin De Bruyne ruled out for five weeks, David Silva can continue to shine in the creative midfield spot.

Alternative: Aymeric Lapore- Man City should be able to earn another clean sheet and Aymeric Laporte has scored two goals already this season.

Chelsea v Crystal Palace Pick: There is only one live offering from the Premier League on Sunday and that comes from West London as Chelsea prepare to host Crystal Palace.

I really think this is a difficult game for Roy Hodgson and his players as they have continued to show little consistent attacking threat. Last weekend they were much better against Arsenal, but Crystal Palace needed two penalties to salvage a draw and the Arsenal defence is significantly poorer than the Chelsea one.

In saying that Chelsea have struggled for clean sheets and both Manchester United and Derby County have scored twice in recent visits to Stamford Bridge. That may be a slight concern for Maurizio Sarri, but as long as Chelsea continue to provide the attacking threat they have been I believe the Italian will be very comfortable with the performances being produced.

Eden Hazard could return this weekend, but Chelsea showed they can handle things without the Belgian by scoring seven goals over the last week. Willian is a huge threat and Ross Barkley is beginning to exert more and more influence in centre midfield and the entire team look much happier being asked to play the way Sarri wants.

The Crystal Palace defence is far from watertight and I think they are going to have a difficult time in trying to contain a Chelsea team who have scored at least twice in 6 of their 8 home games under the Italian manager. Crystal Palace have conceded twice in each of their last 2 away Premier League games and I think Chelsea will be on the front foot in this one for much of the contest.

Wilfried Zaha can pose a threat with his pace and trickery, but it should not be enough to derail Chelsea in keeping tabs with the Premier League leaders. Eden Hazard can be a big performer on his return to the starting eleven and I will look for Chelsea to prove too good with a win by two or more goals on the day.

Fantasy Star: Willian- Eden Hazard may not get a lot of minutes and Willian has been thriving under Maurizio Sarri.

Alternative: Alvaro Morata- he has been scoring goals and is expected to lead the line with Olivier Giroud ruled out.

Huddersfield Town v Fulham Pick: Monday Night Football comes from the John Smith's Stadium and there is no doubting the importance of this fixture between Huddersfield Town and Fulham.

Two clubs inside the bottom three playing in November might not be a critical time of the season, but neither Huddersfield Town or Fulham dare to lose this game. In fact you may even argue that both David Wagner and Slavisa Jokanovic have to win this game for different reasons.

Jokanovic's case is simply that he needs to win to remain in his job as manager of Fulham. The 0-3 home defeat to Bournemouth has put Jokanovic on the brink of being shown the exit and you have to imagine a defeat here and one at Liverpool next weekend is likely going to be results where the board say enough is enough.

David Wagner is less likely to lose his job even if Huddersfield Town were to be relegated, but he will be conscious of the fact that anything less than a win would speed The Terriers towards the trapdoor. They have already failed to beat Cardiff City at home this season and a failure to beat another relegation rival will make it very difficult to know where the points are going to come from.

They are facing a Fulham team who have really struggled at the back and even a Huddersfield Town team that have yet to score at home should be able to take advantage. It has been a mix of poor finishing and some misfortune which has prevented Huddersfield Town from scoring goals in the last couple of games here and I do think that can be turned around against a Fulham team who just don't defend well.

On the other hand I am fully expecting Jokanovic to stick by his principles and set Fulham up to attack. They have shown they can score goals in the Premier League and the manager will likely live or die by his principles at this stage of his tenure when all the pressure is building on him.

It does feel like a game that will produce at least three goals.

That may be a surprising suggestion, but Fulham really do defend so poorly that I am expecting Huddersfield Town to find some good chances in this one. Remember Cardiff City had scored just four goals in 8 Premier League games before doubling that against Fulham, while the West London club have conceded at least twice in all 5 away games played in the League.

Huddersfield Town have only kept one clean sheet, so Fulham have to feel they can create chances having scored twice at Brighton and Cardiff City. The last time these teams played in the same Division two seasons ago saw them share out at least five goals in both League games and I think we are going to see goals when they meet on Monday.

At odds against I think backing three goals or more to be shared out is an option.

Fantasy Star: Steve Mounie- this could be a game with little entertainment and it's hard to pick a fantasy player who could thrive. This is a selection opposing Fulham and their porous defence.

Alternative: Aleksandar Mitrovic- he hasn't scored in his last four Premier League games, but Aleksandar Mitrovic could be the biggest threat to Huddersfield Town having scored at Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton in the League.

MY PICKS: Bournemouth-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Leicester City - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet365 (2 Units)
Everton & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Watford 0 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United & Under 3.5 Goals @ 2.30 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Liverpool @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Wolves-Tottenham Hotspur Both Teams to Score @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Manchester City Win to Nil @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Huddersfield Town-Fulham Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)

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