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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...

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Midweek Football Picks 2019 (January 29-30)

The FA Cup Fourth Round covered the weekend schedule for many clubs up and down the country, but that does mean a full Premier League round of fixtures has to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday.

With only two weeks to go before the Champions League and Europa League resume, February is a very busy month for the top clubs in the Premier League. That is especially the case for the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea who have progressed to the League Cup Final and the FA Cup Fifth Round meaning they will be playing two games a week for the entire month and squad rotation is going to be key to the managers as they also try and maintain the momentum picked up.

The fixtures are split over two days this midweek and it gives Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United the chance to put some pressure on their rivals for the Premier League title and the top four places. There are big games for those clubs fighting against relegation too as Fulham host Brighton on Tuesday and Southampton host Crystal Palace on Wednesday and Fantasy Football is back this week too.

Below you can read the selections from the games as well as the stand out players for Fantasy purposes, although I did mention I am thinking of a new way to promote the players I like going forward.

Arsenal v Cardiff City Pick: The Premier League is back after last weekend was reserved for FA Cup Fourth Round action.

Arsenal were one of those clubs involved, but a 1-3 home defeat to Manchester United really upset the locals. I really am not sure why the Arsenal fans are so quick to jump on a few negative results and I believed they would give Unai Emery some time to transition his team as he would like, especially after hounding out Arsene Wenger at the end of last season.

Perhaps the overachievement earlier in the season has raised expectations too much, but Arsenal were picking up results that they perhaps had not deserved to at that time. The substitutions made by Emery in the long unbeaten run suggested he had the Midas touch, but that has not been the case as much recently.

To be perfectly frank I am not sure what the Arsenal fans are moaning about- yes it is never nice to lose at home in the Cup and defeats to Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup and Manchester United in the FA Cup would have hurt. However Unai Emery has his team just 3 points out of the Champions League spots and they are still involved in the Europa League with the ambition to return to the premier European competition still very much the goal for the club.

The fans should be happier at the end of this ninety minutes anyway as Arsenal can join Chelsea on the same number of points if they win this game. They should be able to do that with the better performances in recent weeks coming at the Emirates Stadium and they are facing a Cardiff City team struggling for goals and confidence.

It is going to be an emotional evening for Cardiff City who play for the first time since Emiliano Sala's plane went missing over the English Channel just days after signing for the club. While that search continues privately, most will accept that Sala's fate has been decided and it is going to be hard for the players and fans even if he had not yet pulled on the shirt for the club.

Neil Warnock has to try and help the players through a difficult time, but this fixture looks a tough one and his focus may already be on the next two League games against Bournemouth and Southampton where Cardiff City have more chances to earn points. Against the top teams Cardiff City have conceded too many goals and they don't score enough and I do think that will be the case here too.

Arsenal have recently beaten the likes of Burnley and Fulham by two or more goal margins and even through their defensive problems I think the home team will be able to do that here.

Fantasy Star: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang- I can see many people picking him with what looks a relatively comfortable home game to come. The Gabonese striker remains in good form through Arsenal's inconsistencies.

Alternative: Saed Kolasinac- I considered him if only because this should be a good chance for Arsenal to keep a rare clean sheet. The left back is also a threat going forward and good for an assist or two.

Fulham v Brighton Pick: This is a big game for Fulham who are trying to somehow put a positive run together and give themselves a chance of avoiding the drop. It has also become an important one for Brighton and Chris Hughton who selected a weakened team in a very open FA Cup that means having to go through a Replay and that decision was made with the Premier League games to come in mind.

Failing to get a result in their two League games this week will make that FA Cup selection stand out, but Hughton does enjoy the support of the fans who are going to give him time as manager after the successes of the last couple of years.

Claudio Ranieri does not enjoy that same rapport with the Fulham fans yet and the Italian manager is facing increasing pressure as his team can't find any consistency. With games against Brighton and Crystal Palace to come this week, Fulham have to be targeting at least four points to give them hope of closing the gap to those teams outside the bottom three in the Premier League table.

It should make this a tense fixture on what is going to be a cold evening in London on Tuesday with some suggestions it could even be snowing. The performances on the pitch have not exactly warmed things up for the Fulham fans, but they have given it a go at home and I do think a little more fortune would have seen better results for them.

Finding the balance between attack and defence has been difficult and this Brighton team do offer more of a threat going forward away from home than they did twelve months ago. However they also look a little vulnerable defensively despite the organisation and shape given to them by the manager and the layers may have underestimated the chance of seeing at least three goals here.

I do think both teams will have opportunities to find the net and there is enough on the line to think neither manager will settle for a point. It will do Brighton more good than Fulham, but the home team pushing ahead may leave spaces to exploit and I will back at least three goals to be shared out between these teams on Tuesday evening.

Fantasy Star: Aleksander Mitrovic- he is on penalty duties and likely to be the key to any points Fulham can get out of this one.

Alternative: Shane Duffy- has scored a couple of big goals for Brighton away from home and Fulham do look vulnerable from set pieces.

Huddersfield Town v Everton Pick: A new manager can sometimes give a team a real boost in confidence, but it is going to take more than that for Huddersfield Town to escape the trapdoor in the Premier League this season. At least the arrival of Jan Siewert may make the transition from David Wagner a little easier for the players to manage with the new boss also fresh off the Borussia Dortmund II production line.

Siewert has had a few days to get his ideas across to his new team, but Huddersfield Town have to find a major source of goals to have any chance over the next couple of months. The preparation has probably already begun for life back in the Championship after three special seasons under David Wagner, but Siewert has to hope there is some fight left in his players.

This could be a good chance for Huddersfield Town to earn some priceless points as they host an Everton team who have been struggling for consistency. Marco Silva is under pressure and he won't have been helped by a controversial goal awarded to Millwall in their upset win over Everton in the FA Cup Fourth Round on Saturday.

Everton did crush Burnley 1-5 at Turf Moor at the end of last month, but they have been erratic away from home and it is very hard to know what to expect from them. The 5 losses in 6 away games in all competitions have seen Everton go down at Brighton, Southampton and Millwall in their last 3 away games and I do think this is a team that is struggling to perform for the manager.

On a pure talent level Everton should be beating Huddersfield Town easily and the home team have lost 5 in a row in front of their own fans. However I do think Everton are looking just as short as they did in the Cup tie at Millwall and The Terriers have had a few more days to prepare and could have a positive reaction for a new manager.

Ultimately I wouldn't risk too much on this selection because Huddersfield Town are a poor side and Everton have shown flashes of their ability. With that in mind I will back Huddersfield Town with a start to avoid defeat at the very least.

Fantasy Star: Lucas Digne- I know I've written I fancy Huddersfield Town to get something from this game, but the lack of goals can't be ignored. Lucas Digne also strikes a mean free kick so assists and goals are also relevant for him.

Alternative: Jonas Lossl- if Huddersfield Town are going to get a point, maybe investing funds on a cheap goalkeeper is the way forward for this one. Jonas Lossl will need a big game for The Terriers to secure any point they potentially earn.

Wolves v West Ham United Pick: Both Wolves and West Ham United were considered clubs who could focus on the FA Cup and have a very deep run in a competition that was going to lose at least two of the big six by the end of the Fourth Round. Tottenham Hotspur were also going to exit, while both Wolves and West Ham United had away trips to struggling clubs from League One.

Unbelievably both clubs found themselves trailing by multiple goals at Shrewsbury Town and AFC Wimbledon respectively, but Wolves were able to come from 2-0 down to earn a late 2-2 draw and enter the hat for the Fifth Round.

West Ham United were not so capable as they trailed 3-0 at League One bottom club AFC Wimbledon and were eventually beaten 4-2 in a fixture that left manager Manuel Pellegrini 'ashamed'. Many of those starters won't get many opportunities through the remainder of this season and Pellegrini will be expecting a big reaction from his players on Tuesday.

It is a tough ground to get that reaction considering West Ham United have lost 3 away games in a row and conceded at least twice in each defeat. On the other hand Wolves have won 4 of their last 6 at Molineux and beaten the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool in that run.

Nuno Espirito Santo will pick a much stronger team for this League game than he did in the Cup and I do think Wolves have the edge with home field the key. They have been scoring plenty of goals at home of late and I expect them to expose the vulnerable West Ham United defence while the latter set of players will have really taken a big confidence hit from the defeat at AFC Wimbledon.

There will be a stronger West Ham United team out for this one too, but I think Wolves at home are a tough proposition for many teams. They should have enough goals to edge this one and I will look for Wolves to win this one, but backing them on the Asian Handicap at least returns half your stake in the event of a draw.

Fantasy Star: Raul Jimenez- came off the bench to give Wolves a lifeline in their two goal recovery in the 2-2 draw at Shrewsbury Town on Saturday. Leads the line for Wolves and should have chances in this one.

Alternative: Diego Jota- playing further up the pitch and well rested after his hat-trick exploits last time out against Leicester City. Getting to grips with the Premier League now.

Manchester United v Burnley Pick: I stated on Saturday that I was not convinced Burnley were too bothered about the FA Cup Fourth Round tie at Manchester City, but they have suffered multiple times on that ground over the last eighteen months. The 5-0 defeat was thus not a big surprise, but Burnley have had more success at Old Trafford having earned a point in each of their last two visits here.

Sean Dyche will remind his players of that and try and get them to ignore the strong run that Manchester United have been on.

Any team that wins 8 in a row in all competitions has to be respected and Manchester United look to be playing with a confidence that has been missing in the last twelve months. They are getting forward in numbers and teams are beginning to feel the pressure of the attacking talent Manchester United have.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has to be given credit for taking off the handbrake from his team and the players have responded with smiles leading to very strong performances. The win at Arsenal on Friday was arguably the best performance of the lot as Manchester United fully deserved a 1-3 win at the home of a top four rival and I expect them to back that up on Tuesday.

You know Burnley will be physically tough and defensively well organised, but they have struggled against the top clubs this season. Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool have had comfortable away wins against them, while Manchester City (twice) and Arsenal have beaten them by two or more goals at home.

They were involved in a stubborn 1-0 defeat at Wembley Stadium against Tottenham Hotspur, but the home team missed a lot of chances that day and Burnley are going to need to ride their luck in a similar manner here. At the moment Manchester United have too many players in good form to believe that will happen and I will look for the home team to win by a comfortable margin on the night.

Fantasy Star: Paul Pogba- Marcus Rashford has been the key player for Manchester United of late, but Paul Pogba's driving runs through the middle has led to more shots on goal than earlier in the season. Back on penalty duty too.

Alternative: Victor Lindelof- Manchester United have struggled for clean sheets, but Victor Lindelof been the stand out performer in the defence. Getting closer to a first goal for United in the last couple of games too.

Newcastle United v Manchester City Pick: There is a clear difference in squad depth between Newcastle United and Manchester City and the performances in the FA Cup Fourth Round on Saturday underlined that.

Both Rafael Benitez and Pep Guardiola will pick stronger teams for this Premier League fixture as both Newcastle United and Manchester City are desperate for the three points for differing reasons.

However let's not beat around the bush and state that Benitez would rip your arm off if you handed him a point right now. That was the case when these teams played last season at St James' Park as Newcastle United barely came out of their defensive shell and ended with a comfortable 0-1 defeat to Manchester City.

I don't think Benitez is going to change his opinions for this one and I expect Newcastle United to sit in with a lot of numbers and hope to steal something on the break. The main ambition will be to contain Manchester City though and make sure Newcastle United have something to steal in the final twenty minutes, but it is a big ask on the current form of the two teams.

Manchester City have been scoring goals for fun over the last month and while the majority of the biggest wins have come at home, they have scored at least three goals in back to back away Premier League wins. This Newcastle United team have conceded at least two goals to Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at home this season and I fully expect Manchester City to have too much for their hosts and put the pressure on Liverpool.

My gut feeling is that Newcastle United are going to hope for something to break their way and they may well decide to accept a defeat as long as they are not hammered in this one. With a limited threat the other way, I think Manchester City will be able to win this one with a clean sheet to boot.

Fantasy Star: Raheem Sterling- been well rested and should be itching to go. Scored the winner at St James' Park last season and also against them earlier this season too.

Alternative: Leroy Sane- another who has been well rested and should cause plenty of problems for Newcastle United.

Did want to stick Sergio Aguero here, but Gabriel Jesus is pushing him as a starter. Aguero has an amazing record against Newcastle United, but the majority of those goals have been at the Etihad Stadium.

Bournemouth v Chelsea Pick: This is a busy month coming up for Chelsea who have received the plaudits for their Cup exploits, but need to make sure they are finding some consistency in the Premier League. With Arsenal and Manchester United breathing down their necks, Maurizio Sarri is under pressure to get Gonzalo Higuain ticking immediately, while the Europa League is another potential avenue back into the Champions League.

Getting back into the premier European competition had to be the top goal for Sarri when he was appointed manager back in July and Chelsea have opened the door to the teams below them by winning half of their last 6 Premier League games.

They have remained strong away from Stamford Bridge though and I think Chelsea are facing Bournemouth at the right time with the home team struggling for consistency over the last couple of months. The Cherries have only lost 1 of their last 6 home Premier League games, but they've been visited by three of the top six so far this season and lost each of those games.

Bournemouth do have goals in the side which makes them dangerous, but Callum Wilson is a doubt for this one and that does hurt their chances. Dominic Solanke is not yet ready to make his debut and I can see a rested Eden Hazard inspiring Chelsea to a win at a ground where they have enjoyed plenty of success since Bournemouth were promoted to the Premier League.

As a Manchester United fan I would love to see Chelsea slip up here, but I don't think that happens on Bournemouth's current form and they can become the latest top six club to win at the Vitality Stadium. The Blues may need two goals to get it done, but Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool have hit at least two goals in visits to this ground in the 2018/19 season and I would not be surprised to see Chelsea do the same in an important away win.

Fantasy Star: Eden Hazard- boring selection, but he should be back in his favourite position and is the key performer whenever Chelsea play well.

Alternative: Gonzalo Higuain- I am not sure how Higuain is going to fit in with Chelsea in terms of getting used to the English style of football, but he should have chances for a first goal against a struggling Bournemouth team.

Southampton v Crystal Palace Pick: Teams sitting in 14th and 15th in the Premier League meet on Wednesday and neither Crystal Palace or Southampton can feel very comfortable about their current positions.

Both teams are 3 points clear of Cardiff City in 18th place and that means the winner in this League game may begin to feel they are going to be able to pull away from the relegation zone. However the losing team will be in danger of being dragged into a very tough relegation battle and that makes this an important and potentially tense fixture.

Out of the two teams Southampton may be trending in a more positive direction with consecutive League wins behind them at the same Crystal Palace have lost twice in a row in the Premier League. However The Eagles have shown they can be very effective away from home and Southampton remain vulnerable defensively to say the least.

On the other hand Southampton have looked very good going forward with some key players reinvigorated by the arrival of Ralph Hasenhuttl as manager and I do think this could develop into a very good game of football.

It may be one for the neutrals rather than the fans who will know the importance of winning this fixture, but the attacking threats coupled with the defensive issues suggests we could see at least three goals here. The last 6 games at St Mary's have all featured three or more goals, while 4 of the last 5 Crystal Palace games away from Selhurst Park have done the same.

5 of the last 7 between these clubs at St Mary's have also produced three or more goals shared out and I will back that to be the case in this one too.

Fantasy Star: Nathan Redmond- been in fine form under the new manager for Southampton and a real threat in the final third.

Alternative: Andros Townsend- this could be a fun game to watch and Townsend can take advantage of space afforded to him as Southampton perhaps focus on Wilfried Zaha. Perhaps on penalties too if Luka Milivojevic is on the bench.

Liverpool v Leicester City Pick: Two teams who should be well rested come into the live television offering from the Premier League on Wednesday night and both Liverpool and Leicester City are searching for the points for differing reasons.

The form of the two clubs is quite different too with Liverpool looking like they have bounced back effectively from early losses this month while things have worsened for Leicester City and Claude Puel.

The Frenchman has to be feeling the pressure as Leicester City manager with the defeat to Newport County in the FA Cup looking worse and worse when you think of the teams remaining in that competition. Winning silverware should be important to a team like Leicester City, but Puel has prioritised finishing 7th over a strong Cup run and that won't fit well with the agenda of the owners nor the fans.

It would be easy for the Leicester City players to down tools if they are as unhappy with Puel's methods as they seem to suggest, but instead they have rallied around their manager. Whenever Puel has been under pressure Leicester City have found a big performance but doing that at Anfield looks a long shot.

Liverpool have been very strong here with 9 straight wins and they have begun scoring plenty of goals. The 4-3 win over Crystal Palace ten days ago saw Liverpool score three or more goals for the fourth consecutive game at Anfield in the Premier League and they may need more of the same considering the defensive problems that still surround the club.

I would expect Virgil Van Dijk to be passed fit for this one, but Leicester City are capable of causing problems with the speed they have in the final third. They have given the top six clubs problems in fixtures against them and Leicester City could do the same for Liverpool despite losing 6 of their last 7 visits to Anfield including the last 3 in a row.

However they have only been beaten by more than two goals once in that run of visits and Leicester City can make this one a competitive outing too. Like I suggested with Crystal Palace, backing Leicester City with a two goal start on the Asian Handicap looks the way to go even if Liverpool may ultimately win the game.

At worst I would imagine the stake would be returned unless the Leicester City players have checked out on Claude Puel.

Fantasy Star: Mohamed Salah- another uninspiring selection, but Liverpool might need to outscore Leicester City with their defensive problems and Salah has four goals in last three at Anfield.

Alternative: Roberto Firmino- looks to be back in form and amongst the goals and Liverpool should have the majority of chances in this fixture.

Tottenham Hotspur v Watford Pick: If everyone was fit and firing for Tottenham Hotspur you would expect them to be too strong for Watford, but this is a very difficult patch for the home team. Mauricio Pochettino has been criticised for some of his comments made in the aftermath of the FA Cup exit on Sunday, but I really do feel he is overachieving by keeping Tottenham Hotspur in the top four while working with very little financial support.

That lack of support does mean the squad depth suffers and he could not risk key players burning out at a time when Dele Alli and Harry Kane are set to be on the sidelines for at least another month.

Mauricio Pochettino will feel justified in his approach if he can guide Tottenham Hotspur to a couple of wins this week when they host Watford and Newcastle United. The squad is still stretched though and Watford are proving to be no pushovers as they want to continue with the momentum they have put together.

A single loss in 10 games in all competitions is a very strong run for a club like Watford, while they have been even better on their travels. The Hornets are unbeaten in 6 on their travels in all competitions, but they have won 4 of those and have scored at least twice in each game.

They are still falling short against the very best teams though and Watford have lost all 5 games played against the top six in the Premier League since beating Tottenham Hotspur at home. The side have a poor record when visiting Tottenham Hotspur in the League too and I do think the players are going to bounce back from their Cup exit at Selhurst Park and prove the manager was right to rotate his squad.

Watford may play their part here, but I will back Tottenham Hotspur to win a fixture featuring two or more goals.

Fantasy Star: Christian Eriksen- should be back having been rested on Sunday and the key attacker who can supply the goals and assists for Tottenham Hotspur.

Alternative: Troy Deeney- if Watford are going to challenge Tottenham Hotspur, Troy Deeney may be the best avenue for goals.

MY PICKS: Arsenal - 1.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Fred
Fulham-Brighton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.40 Betfair Sportsbook
Huddersfield Town + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Fred
Wolves - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor
Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor
Manchester City Win to Nil @ 1.91 Bet Victor
Chelsea to Win & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred
Southampton-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Betfair Sportsbook
Leicester City + 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor
Tottenham Hotspur & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred

Monday, 28 January 2019

Tennis Picks 2019 (January 28th)

The first Grand Slam of the 2019 Tennis season entered the books on Sunday with Novak Djokovic joining Naomi Osaka as the Singles Champions at the Australian Open.

January winds down over the next few days but the Tour doesn't stop with Davis Cup Qualifiers set to be played next weekend and the WTA Tour moving on to stops in Thailand and Russia. There are some huge names out in both of those events which take place ahead of a break during which the focus will be on the run up to the opening Fed Cup matches.

With Davis Cup ties to come it does mean the ATP Tour has a week break but February is anything other than a quiet month with both the ATP and WTA taking in events in the Middle East as well as the South American Golden Swing.

Below are a few thoughts about the Australian Open and then I will get onto any Tennis Picks I have from the Monday schedule in both tournaments being played on the WTA Tour this week.

Novak Djokovic is the Man to Beat: The World Number 1 looked a little vulnerable in his tough win over Daniil Medvedev in the Fourth Round but by the end of the Australian Open Novak Djokovic was motoring along very nicely.

He has won his third Grand Slam in a row and it is hard to remember at what a low place he was after losing to Marco Cecchinato in the French Open last June. It was so bad for Djokovic back then after a couple of poor losses on the hard courts earlier in the season that he even suggested he would miss the grass court season and return to the Tour when he was feeling in a much stronger place.

Ultimately Djokovic gathered himself, won the title at Wimbledon and has looked by far and away the best player on the Tour since then while improving to fifteen career Grand Slam titles with his win on Sunday. Roger Federer's twenty titles are now within reach with Novak Djokovic likely going into every tournament as the favourite to win it and if he stays healthy I do think there is every chance he is going to be the standard setter for men's tennis when he does decide to hang up his racquet.

The French Open may be the biggest challenge, but the manner of his win over Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open coupled with a victory already secured over Nadal at Roland Garros means the World Number 1 is the man to beat in the season ahead.

Take nothing away from Rafael Nadal who had a great tournament and should be much more match ready by the time the French Open comes around, but Novak Djokovic is returning to his level of three years ago when he was dismantling all in front of him.

When Will the ATP Youngsters be Ready to Win a Grand Slam: Stefanos Tsitsipas took the headlines with a strong run at the Australian Open that ended in the Semi Final, but the defeat to Rafael Nadal underlined how much work is in front of him.

The Greek star may have taken the step on the likes of Alexander Zverev, Karen Khachanov and Daniil Medvedev, but all of those players look like they could have an impact in the year ahead, although I am not sure any of them are truly ready to win a Grand Slam.

Both Khachanov and Medvedev should be able to take the next step once they find a touch more consistency in their game, while Alexander Zverev is in danger of entering Grand Slam draws with a millstone around his neck. It was another disappointing Grand Slam effort from the 21 year old German who has played so well at Masters level and won the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November that suggested he was ready to take the next step at a major.

For me Zverev is still the closest to putting it all together to win a Grand Slam, but I do think he is at least a year away from doing that with the way Nadal and Djokovic are playing.

The Top of the Women's Game is in a Healthy Spot: Over the last twelve months I would have to say that the women's Grand Slam events have perhaps been more exciting than the men's and the top of the WTA Tour looks to be in a healthier spot in years.

Naomi Osaka has broken through as a multiple time Grand Slam Champion and taken over as World Number 1 after a stunning Australian Open, while Petra Kvitova played close to her best tennis. Those two could be in for a real rivalry at both Wimbledon and the US Open to determine the big prizes, but the likes of Simona Halep, Serena Williams, Karolina Pliskova may not be too far behind.

Others can still have strong tournaments in the relatively short periods of a Grand Slam, but I think those five players will be the ones who show the most consistency in 2019 across the surfaces and I would be surprised if the Grand Slam titles are not shared between them.

In recent years too many times the women's game looked to have little consistency at the top which saw players reach World Number 1 without winning Slams, but so many have broken through the mental barrier that I think it can only be good for the sport.

Serena Williams is no Sure Thing to Win Grand Slam Number 24: When Serena Williams won the Australian Open in 2016 it would have been incredibly short odds for her to not only tie Margaret Court's record number of Grand Slam Singles titles won, but for the American to surpass that number.

Pregnancy meant over a year away from the Tour following that success and Serena Williams has reached two Finals and one Quarter Final in her four Grand Slam tournaments played on her return.

In her time away some of the top WTA players have grown and the Serena aura is no longer as strong as it once was with the likes of Simona Halep coming close to beating her here in Australia and Karolina Pliskova getting the job done. Naomi Osaka playing her first Grand Slam Final handled the occasion and all of the drama of the US Open Final fabulously to beat Williams and Angelique Kerber did the same in the Wimbledon Final.

Players are no longer fearing the presence of Serena who is also not helped by a lowly Ranking, by her standards, which means tougher draws to negotiate.

I'm not ruling Serena out from winning another Grand Slam or two, but I do think things have gotten much tougher for her with the improvement in the women's game. While she will likely be the bookmakers favourite to win any tournament she enters in 2019, I think the odds of her even tying Margaret Court's twenty-four Slams is much longer than it has been for a long time.

Andy Murray's Fight to Return to the Tour: If I am being critical I am not sure Andy Murray timed his decision to announce he may retire from tennis just days before the Australian Open began as well as he would have liked. He certainly will wish he could re-word his Press Conference after it was subsequently made clear that the British player was still exploring all avenues to return to the Tour.

An awkward goodbye and good luck video from his peers was played at the end of his titanic First Round defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut, but it is clear we have yet to see the last of him.

I only have respect for everything Murray has achieved in his career up to now and I do think 2019 might be written off by him as he decides to go back in for a second surgery on his hip which may give him a chance to return to the Tour. There are no guarantees in life, but I do think Andy Murray himself believes that match in Melbourne is not the last one he has played as a professional.

The announcement he was thinking about finishing up at Wimbledon in July has to be scrapped- going in for surgery will mean the rest of this season is likely over for Murray and he can then look to make a return in 2020.

The decision on the surgery has yet to be made, but the fighting spirit is still burning bright within Andy Murray and I hope he can end his career in the manner he wants and not enforced to do.

Tennis Picks 2019
The Australian Open added to a very good start for the Tennis Picks in 2019 with plenty of profits to add to the first month of the season.

Twelve months ago it was a difficult tournament, but the last six months of the Tennis Picks in 2018 ensured that season finished with a profit and 2019 has begun in a very promising way.

This week the WTA Tour moves to Hua Hin in Thailand and St Petersburg in Russia. At the end of the week the Davis Cup Finals Qualifying ties are played over Friday and Saturday with the new format of that competition set to go for the 2019 season and I should have some Picks for most of the days this week.

Next week the ATP Tour returns with three stops on the calendar as we get to see some indoor tennis and also the start of the Golden Swing in South America.


Season 2019: + 26.16 Units (213 Units Staked, + 12.28% Yield)

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Australian Open Tennis Day 14 Picks 2019- Men's Final (January 27th)

The Women's Final on Saturday was a really good watch and I have little doubt that the Men's Final to be played on Sunday is going to be the same when Novak Djokovic takes on Rafael Nadal.

Before I get onto that Final, I have to say all credit to Naomi Osaka for the way she was able to battle through the emotions of dropping the second set to win the title and back to back Grand Slam titles.

It is the first time since Wimbledon 2015 that a player on the WTA Tour has managed to win back to back Grand Slam titles when Serena Williams was able to do it, while Osaka became the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win back to back Grand Slams for her first two major titles.

For me Naomi Osaka is the most deserving World Number 1 since Angelique Kerber hit that level in 2016 and I do think she is going to go into a number of tournaments amongst the favourites to win it. Ultimately the women's game still feels pretty open that no one should be a clear favourite, but Osaka's mental strength and pure talent will mean she should go close at Wimbledon and the US Open.

Petra Kvitova had a wonderful tournament too and she should be very proud of the tennis she put together. Even during her peak times Kvitova could be a little erratic with her play as she will always want to be attacking and finding the consistency to perform that kind of high risk tennis is never going to be easy.

If she can put some tournaments together to back up the Australian Open, I think Petra Kvitova may just go into Wimbledon as the player to beat while I would expect her to challenge the likes of Osaka at the US Open too.

We do have a couple of big hard court tournaments to come in the next two months, but the shift will soon be on to the clay courts and the build towards the French Open. The clay courts are still quite a specialised surface for players to produce their best so the likes of Kvitova and Osaka could be vulnerable on the clay where they have yet to play their best tennis.

It is something the layers don't always recognise immediately, but that is for another day and there are still hard court tournaments to come when I would expect the two Grand Slam Finalists to next be out on the court.

While we all were excited to see the new faces in the Men's Semi Finals a few days ago, in reality the Final that everyone would have wanted is waiting for us and I am looking forward to it.

I will have a short breakdown of the match below and how I feel this one will go in what has been a very strong start to the 2019 season for both players as they look to set a marker for the rest of the year.

Rafael Nadal v Novak Djokovic: The World Number 1 and the World Number 2 meeting in the first Grand Slam of the 2019 season suggests this could be another special year for both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal as long as they can remain healthy.

Last season they took home three of the four Grand Slam titles and I really don't think it would be a big surprise if these two didn't let anyone else get a look in during the 2019 season. Health will be a big test for both Djokovic and Nadal, but right now they are the clear one and two in the world and this should make for a very good Final.

Despite leading the way, Djokovic and Nadal only met twice in 2018 with the epic Semi Final win for the Serb at Wimbledon the big match that perhaps really gave him the belief that he can return to the very pinnacle of the men's game. He went on to win that title and the one at the US Open, but I would suggest that Rafael Nadal is playing at a higher level going into this Final.

Both players have produced some incredible serving numbers, while Novak Djokovic has the slight edge on the return, although those have been boosted by the last couple of Rounds. The Djokovic return is going to be a huge key to this match as Rafael Nadal faces him down with his new service motion which has generated a 97.5% hold record at the Australian Open and which has not been broken since the First Round.

It will be interesting to know what Nadal will do if the new serve is being put under pressure like Djokovic can do to the very best servers on the Tour. The Spaniard will have to stick to his game plan and make sure he doesn't lose heart, but the confidence is high and his hold percentage is a number of points higher than Djokovic's who has also been holding serve very well at over 90% for the tournament.

The Nadal return numbers are not quite as good as Djokovic's but they are far from poor and if there are lingering concerns about the back issue the World Number 1 had against Daniil Medvedev it could be a real problem for him.

You can't ignore the head to head on the hard courts which has seen Djokovic lead 18-7 against Nadal and he has won the last seven matches against him on this surface. In fact it is 14-0 in sets to Djokovic on the hard courts, although the last matches came in 2016 when the Serb was someway ahead of Nadal in levels of performance.

Things are much closer now and I do think Nadal may be playing the slightly better tennis over the last two weeks which could give him the edge. This is a court on which Novak Djokovic has had considerable success and the factors of the head to head on the hard courts and the returning numbers produced will see many stick with the World Number 1.

Prior to the tournament I thought Djokovic was the favourite to win his third Grand Slam in a row, but Rafael Nadal looks to be the one at a slightly higher peak going into the Final. Even factoring in those aspects that point towards Djokovic, I think Nadal is at a level that will be tough to top.

The last time Nadal beat Djokovic on the hard courts was in the US Open Final in 2013 and I think the Spaniard may just edge him out in another Grand Slam Final on this surface.

At critical times the Nadal serve may just hold up better than Djokovic's and I think he wins this Final.

This is one to enjoy though and so, while this is my selection, it will be a no unit pick as I sit with a morning cuppa and look forward to seeing the two best players in the world go at it hammer and tongs.

MY PICKS: Rafael Nadal @ 2.15 Bet365 (0 Units)

Australian Open 2019: 59-44, + 21.99 Units (203 Units Staked, + 10.83% Yield)

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Australian Open Tennis Day 13 Picks 2019- Women's Final (January 26th)

This has been a fun two weeks at the Australian Open and we are now down to the final four players with two Finals to be played over this weekend.

First up is the Women's Final and I think this is going to be a brilliant watch with both players capable of producing some big time tennis.

Petra Kvitova - 1.5 games v Naomi Osaka: No one can dispute that the two best players in the Women's tournament at the Australian Open are meeting in the Final and they are going to underline that status with the winner not only picking up a Grand Slam title, but also becoming the new World Number 1 and taking over from Simona Halep.

At this stage of a tournament there isn't much to hide about the way Naomi Osaka and Petra Kvitova have been playing and they should know all they need to about the other. It is going to be very much about which of these players is going to execute the best on the day with both Osaka and Kvitova capable of producing some huge tennis off the ground.

Much begins with how they are serving and I think the narrow edge has to be given to Peta Kvitova who has kept opponents under pressure throughout the tournament. The Czech player has only been broken four times in her six Australian Open matches and Kvitova has not allowed any opponent to secure more than four break points in a single match.

It is going to be a test for Osaka who managed to win 41% of points on the Karolina Pliskova serve in the Semi Final. That is a strong number against a strong server, but I would suggest that Petra Kvitova is producing even better from the serve than her compatriot.

Naomi Osaka has to at least try and put Kvitova in tough spots on the return, but this is still an aspect of her game that could perhaps need a bit of improving on the hard courts. The US Open Champion is getting better and better, but I do think the lefty serve of Kvitova is going to cause some problems and I believe it may give the two time Wimbledon Champion the edge in this match.

The Osaka serve is an impressive shot, but there is a difference with the amount of success she has had on it compared with Kvitova so far in this tournament. Where Kvitova has limited breaks of serve and break point opportunities, Osaka has allowed at least eight break points in three of her last four matches and she has been broken at least twice in four of the last five matches.

Petra Kvitova has been returning very well throughout this tournament and she is following on from the successes she had in winning the title in Sydney.

I do think she is playing slightly better on serve and return than Osaka and that is expected to lead to a win in this Final for Kvitova. It should be a fun Final with plenty of big shots keeping the other guessing, but Petra Kvitova might be the one in the best rhythm and can win this one and cover the number even if the match goes the distance.

MY PICKS: Petra Kvitova - 1.5 Games @ 

Australian Open 2019: 59-43, + 23.99 Units (201 Units Staked, + 11.94% Yield)

Friday, 25 January 2019

Weekend Football Picks 2019 (January 25-28)

Honestly it doesn't feel right getting to the weekend football and not having either a Manchester United game to look forward to (I hate a Friday kick off, makes the weekend feel much longer than it should do) nor having too much Fantasy Football viewing to at least pass the time.

The Premier League is back on Tuesday so I will have my Fantasy choices from the games as well as my breakdown of how I think the fixtures will work out, while I am also working out how to change the way I produce the Fantasy selections.

That may not be entirely in place until later in the month in February, but it is something I am considering to make those selections more meaningful to readers.

The final weekend in January is reserved for the FA Cup Fourth Round ties and there are some big ones to be played. This is the last Round that will have any Replays as the FA have changed up the format and will remove Replays from the Fifth Round onwards to make sure teams are not being asked to really congest the remaining months of the season with additional fixtures, especially those still involved in European competition.

No will dispute the tie of the Round comes from the Emirates Stadium where Arsenal host Manchester United as a second team from the top six of the Premier League will be exiting the competition. Others may follow, but at least one is guaranteed to join Liverpool in having a free weekend in the middle of February which has been reserved for FA Cup Fifth Round ties.

The breakdown of the Fourth Round ties can be read below.

Bristol City v Bolton Wanderers Pick: At this stage of the competition the FA Cup is perhaps not the priority for managers up and down the country and that kind of blasé attitude about the competition has filtered down to teams in the Championship too.

Two of those clubs meet on Friday night in a game that will go under the radar because two of the top Premier League clubs meet in the tie of the Round at the same time.

Both Bristol City and Bolton Wanderers are prioritising the Championship for different reasons- Bristol City are on the brink of cracking into the top six, while Bolton Wanderers are fighting against relegation.

The visitors in this tie have a huge game in the League to come on Tuesday when Bolton Wanderers host Reading and I have to think Phil Parkinson is already preparing for that one. It may mean not risking key players, while Bristol City have an 11 game unbeaten run to protect and have won 5 in a row so Lee Johnson's motivation in this tie may be somewhat greater than the manager of the opponents in this fixture.

Bristol City also have eight days before they play again compared to Bolton Wanderers who play in a few days time and the home team have already beaten The Trotters here this month.

It was a dominant performance from Bristol City regardless of the narrow 2-1 win and I think they are likely going to dictate much of the play in this one too. Neither team will want to add to the congested fixture list by being forced into a Replay, but I don't think Bristol City will need one as they can win this fixture with at least two goals featured on the night.

Arsenal v Manchester United Pick: As soon as the draw was made for the FA Cup Fourth Round the tie of the Round was the fixture between Arsenal and Manchester United who are the two most successful clubs in the history of this famous old trophy.

It could be a pivotal fixture for the two managers too as they look to put their clubs in a position to win some silverware, but it may also serve as something of a momentum builder in the race for the top four places in the Premier League.

There may not be points on the line, but Manchester United have won 7 straight under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and beating another top four rival away from home will be a big confidence boost. They did that at Tottenham Hotspur a couple of weeks ago and denting the confidence of Arsenal may just give Manchester United a leg up on those teams going into February.

Unai Emery may be thinking the same having seen his Arsenal team beat Chelsea last weekend and doing the same against Manchester United in the Cup may indicate his team are through a poor patch of form. It could also be a win that gives one of these teams the mental edge with the Premier League fixture between the two just six weeks away and I think there is enough on the line to think two strong teams will be picked.

The Arsenal line up is arguably easier to predict, but I would not be surprised if Manchester United make changes in the final third and allow Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to both start. Those changes may have an impact in the type of speed and energy offered in the final third, but Marcus Rashford could need a rest and Solskjaer does want options in attacking areas with the fixtures coming thick and fast over the next month.

Neither defence offers a lot of encouragement and I do think this is going to develop into a fantastic, attacking Cup tie. Both teams will know how much more comfortable they are on the front foot and either team earning a clean sheet would be something of a surprise to me.

There were four goals shared out at Old Trafford when they met in December and the desire to avoid a Replay should mean both managers set their teams up to be very attack minded. Picking a winner is not easy because Manchester United look to have rounded into nice form, but Arsenal have to be respected as a team who have been much better at home than on their travels.

I would love to see United do this and continue the momentum into the next three League games ahead of the Champions League resumption against Paris Saint-Germain, but the best selection for the game looks to be backing at least three goals to be shared out on what is going to be a chilly London evening.

Accrington Stanley v Derby County Pick: The television companies may have picked this tie anticipating Southampton would be the opponent for League One Accrington Stanley, but it was Derby County who upset those plans by knocking out the Premier League club.

While the League may be the priority, Derby County have seen some strong teams named by Frank Lampard in the domestic Cup competitions and I would expect they are going to be good enough to win here.

Accrington Stanley did beat Ipswich Town from the Championship in the last Round, but Derby County are a much tougher test and the home team have not been in great form.

I expect they can cause some problems on a pitch that may not be the best and with the home support behind them, but I would expect the Derby County quality to come through in a win here. The home team may play a part though with the goals they have managed at the Wham Stadium so backing the higher League club to come through a game featuring two or more goals is the selection.

Brighton v West Brom Pick: The FA Cup can be a very difficult competition to work out especially in January when teams still feel Wembley is far enough away that they can rotate their squads to freshen things up.

I think both Brighton and West Brom may be thinking about League matters and making sure their squads are not being overly stretched ahead of a busy time of the season when you want to begin making a positive run to the finish line.

Home advantage should give Brighton an edge and they did reach the Quarter Final of the FA Cup under Chris Hughton last season. However that was the best run Brighton have had in the FA Cup since the 2011/12 season when they were beaten in the Fifth Round at Anfield.

Unlike their hosts, West Brom have had some real success in the FA Cup in recent times without quite making it to Wembley Stadium for the Semi Final. They will be looking for a fourth appearance in the Fifth Round in the last five seasons, but Darren Moore knows a strong Cup run won't keep him in his job if The Baggies miss out on promotion to the Premier League.

It may be a tight game, but I think Brighton may edge out their visitors with perhaps more motivation in the home team than I am giving them credit for. The game at Fulham on Tuesday is a huge one for Brighton and that is perhaps skewing my feelings somewhat, but I will back the home team on the Asian Handicap to win this one knowing a draw will return half of the stake.

Doncaster Rovers v Oldham Athletic Pick: You have to imagine both Grant McCann and Pete Wild will be trying to take away the pressure from their Doncaster Rovers and Oldham Athletic players respectively by making sure they focus on this FA Cup Fourth Round tie rather than what could lie ahead.

With teams down to the final sixteen in the next Round the chances of landing a huge tie won't be lost on the Chairmen of either club and the financial rewards that could be in the offering.

Neither Doncaster Rovers or Oldham Athletic would have wanted to face the other at this stage of the FA Cup but they have to deal with the situation and this could be a very good Cup tie. Both teams have to want to take chances to win this tie and both have been scoring and conceding plenty of goals of late which suggests this will follow suit.

Games between these clubs at The Keepmoat Stadium have tended to be low-scoring in recent seasons with the last couple ending 1-1. However Doncaster Rovers have scored at least two goals in 7 straight home games in all competitions and Oldham Athletic have conceded that number in 3 of their last 5 away games.

On the other side Oldham Athletic have scored at least two goals in 4 of their last 7 away games and Doncaster Rovers have conceded at least two goals in 2 of their last 3 here.

I have to say I do give the edge to Doncaster Rovers in the tie though and I fancy they will be able to progress at the first time of asking. Goals may be shared out in the game, but I will back Doncaster Rovers to win a fixture featuring two or more goals at odds against.

Manchester City v Burnley Pick: The pitch may not have been to his liking, but Pep Guardiola has to be happy that the majority of his players came through unscathed against Burton Albion in their 0-1 win on Wednesday. With one Cup Final secured, the manager will turn his attention to guiding Manchester City ahead in the FA Cup when they host Burnley on Saturday.

There will be more changes to the Manchester City team but I think the manager is definitely going to go with a more recognisable eleven than the one that started at the Pirelli Stadium. A couple of the youngsters may keep their places, but I don't think Guardiola will want to risk having to play a Replay and Manchester City have proven to be far too good for Burnley in the last eighteen months.

In that time Burnley have visited the Etihad Stadium three times and in each visit they have conceded one more goal from three to four to five.

That will be a concern for Sean Dyche considering Manchester City have scored 21 goals in 4 home games played in January, but ultimately the Cup is not an important competition for Burnley. Instead his focus will be on the second trip to Manchester coming up on Tuesday as Burnley fight and scratch for their Premier League lives and I imagine the team selection will reflect that.

If Manchester City pick a team anything like what I am expecting I can see them beating Burnley comfortably for the fourth time in a row at home. All three previous wins have come by margins of three or more goals and I am going to back Manchester City to reach that level again as they move through to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup before turning their attention back to the Premier League with a game at Newcastle United to come on Tuesday.

Burnley will also look to turn back to the Premier League where they host Southampton in a huge game next Saturday. First they have to face the other club from Manchester, United, on Tuesday but Sean Dyche should have his key players well rested for that fixture.

Middlesbrough v Newport County Pick: This might not be the most important match in the season for Middlesbrough, but I don't think they can really afford to go into a run of facing West Brom, Leeds United and Sheffield United off an upset loss to a League Two side.

Any upset won't matter to Tony Pulis if Middlesbrough were to win those games, but it will be much tougher to explain away a poor run if some momentum is lost this weekend with a 5 game unbeaten run to protect.

In all honesty Middlesbrough should be too good for Newport County even if the home team were to make some changes to the line up to rest some key players. They have a week before they are playing again so Pulis can still pick a strong team and getting through to the FA Cup Fifth Round will still be something to aim for even if the League is the priority.

Middlesbrough have to be wary of a Newport County team that may be playing in League Two but who have beaten both Leeds United and Leicester City in the FA Cup over the last thirteen months. They even held Tottenham Hotspur, but all of those games were at home and Newport County have simply not been as productive away from Rodney Parade.

They have lost 5 of their last 7 on their travels including the last 4 in a row and those have come at a lower level than the one they are dealing with on Saturday.

Middlesbrough's lack of goals is a concern, but they did manage to knock five past Peterborough United from League One in the last Round and I think they will be a little too good for Newport County in this one too. With that in mind I will back Middlesbrough on the Asian Handicap to progress through to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup which is played after those three big League games I mentioned will be played.

Newcastle United v Watford Pick: Determining the motivation of managers is a big key to working out how some of these FA Cup Fourth Round ties are going to go and I have to believe Javi Gracia is much more interested in a deep Cup run than Rafa Benitez is.

The layers seem to have that in their minds too with Watford going to the North East as a considerable favourite to win this match. They are odds against, but Watford being favoured to win at Newcastle United is always a big deal and much of that has to be down to the teams selected by Newcastle United in the two FA Cup Third Round ties against Blackburn Rovers.

The Spaniard has made it clear that the Premier League is the priority and the squad is not able to cope with the Cup and League together. With two League games to be played in the next eight days, Benitez may be resting key players and giving some of the young players another chance to impress.

Beating Blackburn Rovers is one thing, but beating a motivated Watford is another altogether and I would imagine Gracia will be keen on overseeing a strong Cup run. Performances in the Premier League suggest Watford have more than enough to survive in the top flight so there is no reason to not have a go at the FA Cup.

Things are complicated by the midweek set of Premier League games to come, but Watford are not due out until Wednesday and points may not be as important as getting through to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup. At least that may be the case for the next few days and I will back Watford on the Asian Handicap to earn their place in the Fifth Round.

I will back Watford on the 0 ball Asian Handicap which will return the stake in the event of a draw because it is difficult to believe in them as the away favourite. However Watford have been scoring enough goals on their travels to make me believe they won't lose and I will look for them to have enough experience to edge out a much changed Newcastle United team.

Shrewsbury Town v Wolves Pick: Playing away from home in the FA Cup against a lower League club may offer some trepidation for Premier League players knowing how they will be received if they are upset in those fixtures.

Things have changed from years gone by though and these days you are less likely to be asked to play on tremendously poor pitches as you would have done before. This should make things more comfortable for a passing side like Wolves, although the temperatures in the United Kingdom have dipped and it could have hardened the Montgomery Waters Meadow playing surface.

It is still a huge ask for Sam Ricketts to mastermind an upset over the club he captained to the League One title in the 2013/14 season. The new manager has yet to have the kind of impact he would have liked with his Shrewsbury Town team and 1 win from the last 8 games in all competitions does not inspire a lot of confidence.

Shrewsbury Town also saw a long unbeaten run at home come to an end in their 0-3 defeat to Charlton Athletic last time out and I do think it will be very hard to contain their visitors.

Nuno Espirito Santo picked a strong team in the win over Liverpool in the Third Round and I do think the FA Cup is a realistic target for a Wolves team who have shown they can compete with the best in the Premier League. They are back in Premier League action during the week, but Wolves won't want to add to a February fixture list by taking chances with this fixture and having to play a Replay.

I imagine the team selection will reflect that and Wolves have shown they are very productive on their travels throughout this season. This is a team who does have goals in the side and I think they are going to be able to hit Shrewsbury Town on the break to complete the victory in this Fourth Round tie.

Wolves should be too good for a struggling League One team on what should be a decent playing surface and I will back them to cover the Asian Handicap here.

Swansea City v Gillingham Pick: Both teams have important League games to come on Tuesday, but the chance to progress to the Fifth Round of the FA Cup has to excite both sets of players ahead of this weekend.

You can really earn a big tie once you reach the Fifth Round of the FA Cup, but I think it is a big ask of Gillingham to win at the ground of a higher League club who look to be rounding into some very good form.

Gillingham have been playing some decent stuff of their own and the results away from home have to be respected, but the standard of opponent does go up significantly in this one.

Last season Swansea City were playing in the Premier League and their comfortable win over Aston Villa earned their spot in the FA Cup Fourth Round. Getting into the Play Offs in the Championship is the target for Graham Potter and Swansea City and they do have that important game with Birmingham City to come on Tuesday, but they can keep the momentum going having won 3 of their last 4 games.

Beating Gillingham won't be straight-forward if there are too many changes made by Swansea City to their starting eleven, but the visitors have been struggling and can concede too many goals in a lower Division. That should show up here and I will back Swansea City to win and cover the Asian Handicap.

Millwall v Everton Pick: This is a very interesting FA Cup Fourth Round tie and I have to admit I was taken aback at seeing Everton at odds on to win at the New Den considering the form they have been in. 4 losses from their last 5 away games is not ideal and while those have come in the Premier League I do have to factor in a loss of confidence into this fixture.

They are facing a Millwall team who have been much more inconsistent this season than twelve months ago, but who have remained tough to beat in front of their own fans. It happened the last time Millwall played here, but 2 losses in 10 games at home in all competitions shows this is going to be anything but a straight-forward day that odds on quotes would have you believe.

Everton certainly have the talent to win here and when they put their qualities together they can be very hard to play. Marco Silva must know he needs a strong finish to the season if he wants to remain in charge of the club and so there is real pressure on him to extract a performance from his players on a difficult ground.

Scoring enough goals has been something of a problem for Everton and this is a Millwall side who beat Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester City a couple of years ago on a fabulous Cup run through to the Quarter Final. Fulham did win here in the League Cup earlier this season, but that was a Millwall team that started the season quite poorly and I do think the confidence will be much higher for an upset in this one.

I am not quite sure they have enough to do that, but Millwall can certainly make a game of this and they have the ability to at least earn a Replay in ten days time. Backing the home team with the start on the Asian Handicap looks the way to go in a fixture where Everton look very, very short.

AFC Wimbledon v West Ham United Pick: The last FA Cup Fourth Round tie to be played on Saturday comes from the Cherry Red Records Fans' Stadium as AFC Wimbledon look to do a little better when they host Premier League West Ham United for the second time this season.

These teams met in the League Cup and AFC Wimbledon actually took the lead, but a sending off inside the first 20 minutes left them in a very difficult position and eventually West Ham United took over.

This is a big FA Cup tie for West Ham United with fans believing they have every chance of a deep run in the competition. The Premier League looks to be in good nick for The Hammers and so Manuel Pellegrini will be expected to pick a side that is good enough to progress from this Fourth Round tie.

I do think Pellegrini will make changes though and West Ham United are a very hard team to get a read on with inconsistent results a feature of the team over the last month. However there is enough class in the final third to give them the edge over an AFC Wimbledon team propping up the rest of League One and in a real fight to avoid their first club relegation.

When they met in the League Cup West Ham United were in a poor run of form and confidence was not great, but they should be much better now. Having won here already I would expect The Hammers to be able to frank that win with another on Saturday and I think they won't be caught cold as they were in the League Cup.

A stronger West Ham United team should be picked and AFC Wimbledon have suffered back to back heavy home losses in League One. Heads could drop if they were to fall behind in this one and I will back West Ham United to win and cover the Asian Handicap.

Crystal Palace v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: For 45 minutes Tottenham Hotspur looked lost on Thursday as they found themselves 2-0 down at Stamford Bridge, but they were much better in the second half and perhaps unfortunate to lose.

The squad is completely stretched at the moment and while Mauricio Pochettino would want to avoid a second Cup exit in a matter of days, he has to find a way to freshen things up.

Three key forwards are missing and Ben Davies is the latest to join a growing injury list. With just a few days before having to return to Premier League action with two games to be played in that competition over the next eight days, Pochettino has some big decisions to make.

The same can be said for Crystal Palace and Roy Hodgson who will pay a lot of respect to the FA Cup, but will also recognise that League games against Southampton and Fulham are vital to keeping his club in the Premier League for another season.

In the last Round Hodgson could afford to make changes against a League Two opponent, but he may be under more pressure to produce a stronger team with the feeling that Tottenham Hotspur are there for the taking.

It makes this a very difficult game to call, but what has been noticeable in Crystal Palace games hosting Tottenham Hotspur is the lack of goals. In a lot of Crystal Palace games at Selhurst Park that has been the case this season, while Tottenham Hotspur are not the same without three of their key attacking players.

A single goal could be enough to decide this tie one way or the other and I am going to back less than three goals to be produced in this Fourth Round tie.

Chelsea v Sheffield Wednesday Pick: The 6pm kick off time is a very strange one for a Sunday in England and it really doesn't account for the Sheffield Wednesday fans travelling to West London in huge numbers.

While I try and get over my utter 'surprise' that match going fans are ignored, the fixture on the pitch looks like one that Chelsea should be able to win without too many issues.

Clouding things is the fact that a strong starting eleven was needed to see off Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup Semi Final Second Leg on Thursday and the rotations that are going to be made should mean Chelsea are more vulnerable than they would usually be.

However Sheffield Wednesday are a team who have been struggling for consistency all season and are still waiting for Steve Bruce to come in and officially take over as manager. They have been in decent form of late, but this is a big step up for the players and Sheffield Wednesday have been a little weaker when playing away from home.

Last time out in the Championship they were swatted aside by in-form Hull City, but the changes made to the Chelsea team should make this a closer tie.

It is certainly something the layers are not quite factoring in and I think Sheffield Wednesday can be backed with a full two goal start on the Asian Handicap.

MY PICKS: Bristol City & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Fred
Arsenal-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.53 Bet Victor
Derby County & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.25 Bet Fred
Brighton - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.70 Bet Victor
Doncaster Rovers & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Fred
Manchester City - 2.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Fred
Middlesbrough - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Fred
Watford 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor
Wolves - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Fred
Swansea City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.72 Bet Fred
Millwall + 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor
West Ham United - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Fred
Crystal Palace-Tottenham Hotspur Under 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Sporting Bet
Sheffield Wednesday + 2 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor