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Friday, 29 March 2019

Weekend Football Picks 2019 (March 30-April 1)

The final international break of the 2018/19 season is now behind us and that means two months of intense domestic football is ahead.

We are down to the last seven rounds of Premier League Football and for Fantasy Players this is the exciting time of hitting Double GameWeeks and Blank Weeks when you can really take a hold of your mini-Leagues.

Ten teams play twice this week and later in the month there is going to be another couple of rounds where there will be the chance to double up the points. Most will still have chips to use to maximise their returns, but for me I would suggest this could be the most productive of the Double GameWeeks ahead.

The bigger name clubs have good looking fixtures on paper compared with the Double GameWeek coming up in Week 35 so this may be the time to let the 'Bench Boost' or 'Triple Captain' chips loose- I know I will be playing one of those.

As with any Fantasy Week I had some very good plays and some that I would like to forget in GW31 when five Premier League fixtures were played across two days. Ryan Babel being a potential star for Fulham was perhaps my favourite as he did score, but Eden Hazard failed to sparkle as I thought he could for Chelsea at Everton.

Below you will be able to read my thoughts about the fixtures to be played this week as well as the Fantasy Star and Alternate for each game.

I will then have my top selections in from goalkeeper to forward from the Fantasy game this week which will hopefully offer some positives for those who decide to transfer in any of those players I have highlighted.

Fulham v Manchester City Pick: The Premier League title race looks like one that could run down to the very last day of the season and both Liverpool and Manchester City have to recognise how fatal the next slip could be.

It is Manchester City who get to go up first this weekend as they open the Premier League round of games with a trip to Craven Cottage. A win would move them back to the top of the table twenty-four hours before Liverpool are due to host Tottenham Hotspur, but anything less may give their rivals the impetus needed to go on and win a first English title in twenty-nine years.

Pep Guardiola will be reminding his players to take things game by game, but they have not looked completely convincing away from home in recent weeks. Two late goals were needed to win in Schalke, while Manchester City came from 2-0 down and needed some controversy to beat Swansea City 2-3 in the FA Cup Quarter Final two weeks ago. Add in the narrow win at Bournemouth and you have to say there are one or two things for Guardiola to have addressed during the two week international break.

With players heading off around Europe it can be a tough time for teams to produce their best out of the international break, although Manchester City have won by wide margins in all three previous occasions following the internationals this season. It is certainly something Scott Parker and Fulham will be looking to take advantage of, but it is hard to see that really happening.

Two weeks ago Fulham almost put a spanner in the Liverpool title charge when holding them to a draw and time ticking on, but another defensive mistake cost them another defeat. Fulham have been beaten by all five of the top six they have hosted this season, but they have shown they can hang in for long enough to cause one or two problems which has to be something Manchester City look to avoid.

However both Arsenal and Manchester United have won here comfortably and Fulham have not defended well enough to think they can contain Manchester City. Perhaps they sit in and make life difficult as they can, but Liverpool could have hammered Fulham early on and this Manchester City team score enough goals to think they win here by a comfortable margin.

Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool have all won 1-2 here, but I think Manchester City get closer to the margin Manchester United produced and I will back the visitors to cover the Asian Handicap and earn one of their more routine away wins in the last two months.

Fantasy Star: Sergio Aguero- looks to be the starting striker for Pep Guardiola and has had two weeks rest while Gabriel Jesus has been playing for Brazil.

Alternate: Raheem Sterling- improving all the time and the England winger is in fine form for both club and country. Will he start after playing two games for England, that is my only question mark?

Brighton v Southampton Pick: This is a big game down at the bottom of the Premier League table as both Brighton and Southampton look to ease relegation concerns by winning this weekend when they face each other at the Amex Stadium.

The international break can destroy some of the momentum teams have built up, but both teams should be feeling confident in their chances of earning the three points when you think of how they have been playing.

Southampton have won 2 of their last 3 Premier League games which has allowed them to move out of the bottom three, while Brighton have won back to back Premier League games and also knocked out Millwall in the FA Cup Quarter Final on a penalty shoot out.

Confidence shouldn't be a problem in what is expected to be a tense game where both teams should have their chances of at least getting on the scoreboard. Both Brighton and Southampton have looked threatening going forward in recent games, but neither has shown such strength defensively to think they are going to put together a host of clean sheets.

All 3 Premier League games between them over the last eighteen months have finished in score draws too and I would not be surprised if that is the case again on Saturday. At odds against you can back both teams to score in this one and that would have been a winner in 6 of the last 7 games Brighton have played as well as in 9 of the last 11 Southampton games.

You can't always tell how the international break would have affected form, but I think the two teams may be quite content if this did end in a draw and backing both teams to score is my pick. I think the 1-1 scoreline is most likely to continue the run of score draws between these south coast rivals.

Fantasy Star: Glenn Murray- his goals are going to be key for Brighton to avoid the drop and he should have chances against this Southampton defence.

Alternate: Danny Ings- is back from an injury and like Murray, I would expect the striker to get some chances against an underperforming Brighton defence.

Burnley v Wolves Pick: This is a fairly difficult game to predict with Burnley out of form going into the international break, but Wolves being a team who can sometimes play down to the level of their opponent and also potentially focused on the FA Cup Semi Final which is coming up next weekend.

A run of 4 losses in a row is a concern for Burnley and that concern is doubled down when you think they have conceded at least twice in each of those defeats. That includes a 1-3 loss to Crystal Palace and a 1-2 defeat to ten man Leicester City in their last couple of games at Turf Moor, but Burnley remain full of belief that they have enough to make sure they finish outside of the bottom three of the Premier League table.

They are facing a Wolves team who don't score a lot of away goals- while they have proven to be a tough team to beat, Wolves have scored more than one away goal in just 3 of their 15 away Premier League games this season and that means they simply don't win as many games as they would like.

Wolves tend to get at least the one goal though as they have managed to hit the net in 8 of their last 10 away Premier League games and one of the failures came at Manchester City when reduced to ten men very early on. That is going to be a concern for a Burnley team conceding as many goals as they have been, but they can take encouragement from the fact that Wolves have conceded in 11 straight away League games too.

The system employed by Sean Dyche has produced goals for Burnley who have scored in 11 straight games at Turf Moor in all competitions and I can't help feel the layers have given up a decent price for both teams scoring in this one. The last time they met almost exactly three years ago saw both teams hit the net against each other and I do think the 1-1 is a real player again in this one.

Perhaps this is a day when Wolves put their chances together and produce a clinical performance, but I do think both teams will have their opportunities and at close to odds against I will back both teams to hit the net.

Fantasy Star: Raul Jimenez- it's a boring selection, but he has been a huge part of the Wolves attack and likely a key figure again if they are going to score at Turf Moor.

Alternate: Dwight McNeil- the youngster has been in impressive form for Burnley and is going to be key to unlocking a stubborn defence.

Crystal Palace v Huddersfield Town Pick: This has to be seen as a big chance for Crystal Palace to earn an important three points that can take them away from the bottom three of the Premier League and perhaps begin to ease the fans from any relegation worries that may be around.

Going out of the FA Cup in the Quarter Final was a blow for Roy Hodgson's men, but they have key players back this weekend and ultimately survival in the Premier League was the main ambition for the manager at the start of the campaign.

Playing at Selhurst Park has been difficult for Crystal Palace with their style of play not really that effective when it comes to breaking down opponents who want to sit in deep. Defensive mistakes means The Eagles have found it tough to score the two goals they have needed to win such games, but they should have enough to beat a Huddersfield Town team who conceded too many and don't score enough on their travels.

Granted The Terriers managed three at West Ham United two weeks ago, but that snapped a run of 6 without scoring on their travels. Huddersfield Town have also lost 3 straight to Crystal Palace without scoring in any of those games and Roy Hodgson's team's last 5 home wins have come in games where they have kept clean sheets.

You would have to imagine a team containing the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Michy Batshuayi, Christian Benteke and Andros Townsend will have enough to create chances and score goals against this struggling Huddersfield Town team and I do think they can win this fixture.

It didn't work out for me two weeks ago, but I will back Crystal Palace to win this fixture with a clean sheet at odds against and move into a position where they are close to securing another season in the Premier League.

Fantasy Star: Michy Batshuayi- has looked pretty lively and been amongst the goals for Crystal Palace. Could be main threat with Wilfried Zaha possibly missing.

Alternate: Jeffrey Schlupp- a defender who can be used in midfield and who has been involved in creating and scoring goals. Clean sheet bonus a real possibility too.

Leicester City v Bournemouth Pick: This should be one of the more exciting games of the Premier League weekend with both Brendan Rodgers and Eddie Howe wanting their Leicester City and Bournemouth teams to play attacking football.

Neither team has defended as well as they would have liked so there should be opportunities for both teams to take advantage.

In recent years the games between these teams have tended to be tighter than you would think, but I do think the home team will be set up to get forward with much more conviction than Claude Puel would have done for Leicester City.

Since Brendan Rodgers has come in as manager, Leicester City have scored in all 4 games and they have scored two or more goals in 3 of those. They've needed those goals to win games as Leicester City have not been keeping clean sheets, and I do think they can take advantage of the fact that Bournemouth have been conceding goals at an alarming rate away from the Vitality Stadium.

It would be a surprise if a Bournemouth team containing David Brooks, Callum Wilson and Josh King are not able to create problems for the home team, but I believe Leicester City can edge them out for an important three points. I am anticipating goals and Bournemouth had conceded two or more goals in 9 away Premier League games in a row before the clean sheet earned at Huddersfield Town.

Backing Leicester City to win a game featuring two or more goals looks to be the call here.

Fantasy Star: Jamie Vardy- looks to be enjoying his football under Brendan Rodgers and has scored four times since Claude Puel was sacked.

Alternate: David Brooks- the Welshman has been in fine form and could be the man to take advantage of a Leicester City defence that has struggled for clean sheets.

Manchester United v Watford Pick: There should be a really good atmosphere at Old Trafford on Saturday after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was announced as the permanent manager of Manchester United on Thursday.

This is a decision that might leave me a little unconvinced, but in reality the performances and results have improved to such a level under the Norwegian that it was the only real decision the board at Manchester United could have made.

A big summer awaits the club, but the key for Manchester United is earning a top four finish at the very least and making sure Champions League Football is being offered to any new potential recruitments. They can move into one of those places by beating Watford before the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea play this weekend and I think the positive atmosphere is going to help produce a positive performance after back to back losses.

Manchester United have not been at their best at Old Trafford in recent games, but the late win over Southampton earlier this month ended a run of 3 without a win at home.

Now they are facing a Watford team who have lost at Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Manchester City this season and who will be trying to remain focused on the Premier League ahead of the FA Cup Semi Final being played next Sunday. I don't think that will be a big distraction coming out of the international break and certainly not the factor that decides this fixture, but Watford have struggled when visiting the top teams and I expect that may continue.

Javi Gracia will likely want to have his team set up to frustrate Manchester United, but the home team have shown they can create the chances to break them down. Manchester United have beaten Watford 7 times in a row at Old Trafford and I think the positive feelings from the appointment of Solskjaer will see the crowd get behind the team and help them overcome this opponent.

Manchester United have scored at least twice in 8 of their last 10 at Old Trafford and I think they will do just enough to cover the Asian Handicap in this one.

Fantasy Star: Paul Pogba- has thrived under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and can underline that point by scoring in the first game since the Norwegian was made permanent manager.

Alternate: Marcus Rashford- was missing for England duty, but is available this week and looks to lead the line in the absence of Romelu Lukaku. Could take advantage of a distracted Watford team looking ahead to the FA Cup Semi Final next Sunday.

West Ham United v Everton Pick: This might not have been the fixture that leapt off the page for live television coverage in this round of Premier League games, but West Ham United and Everton could produce an entertaining fixture for the neutrals tuning in.

Neither team has looked very secure defensively, but there are some really good attacking players that can take advantage of those vulnerabilities and I think that should mean chances at both ends.

You have to give the edge to West Ham United considering they have won 5 of their last 6 at the London Stadium although the manner of the win over Huddersfield Town will raise some doubts. In that fixture The Hammers trailed 1-3 before fighting back for a stunning 4-3 victory, but going down to Everton will be a much bigger mountain to climb.

Everton have won 2 of their last 4 away Premier League games and they also led 0-2 at Newcastle United before blowing it in the second half of a 3-2 defeat. A strong second half saw them dismiss Chelsea two weeks ago, but the pressure remains on manager Marco Silva with rumours suggesting Everton will be looking for yet another new manager at the end of the current campaign.

I would imagine those rumours would disappear if Everton can finish 7th in the Premier League table, but that remains a big task for a team who have generally struggled away from home.

This is a fixture that has produced goals in recent years and I do think we are going to get at least three in this one. I was very close to backing West Ham United on the Asian Handicap considering the home form compared with the Everton away form, but the last few performances on their travels has made me a little wary of opposing the the visitors.

In saying that I would be surprised if West Ham United were to lose this game considering they have only been beaten in 1 of their last 5 at home by Everton. While I do think we will see goals, I think West Ham United may edge the victory on the day and I am going to select them on the Handicap to do that.

Fantasy Star: Javier Hernandez- West Ham United have been strong at home and Javier Hernandez has scored in 2 of the last 3 at the London Stadium.

Alternate: Gylfi Sigurdsson- if Everton are going to upset the home team, the Icelandic midfielder is likely going to be an influential part of their success.

Cardiff City v Chelsea Pick: The first of the live televised games from the Premier League on Sunday afternoon comes from Wales and it has big implications at the top and bottom of the table. With games beginning to run down the importance of every fixture is increasing tenfold and neither Cardiff City nor Chelsea can afford a defeat.

On Saturday Cardiff City will have watched a couple of their rivals in avoiding relegation face each other, while Burnley take on a potentially distracted Wolves team so the gap between them and safety may have grown. With games against Chelsea and Manchester City to come this week it does put pressure on Cardiff City and they have struggled when facing the top clubs so far this season.

Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have all scored at least three goals and won by at least three goal margins in wins at the Cardiff City Stadium this season. Arsenal scored three times in a narrow win here too, and I do think this Chelsea team are capable when at their best.

The only issue with Maurizio Sarri's men is you don't seem to know what you're getting from half to half let alone game to game. Two weeks ago they were beaten at Everton to lose their 5th away League game in 6 played, but Chelsea could have been out of sight in the first half before crumbling in the second.

A similar level here will likely be enough to see Chelsea break down Cardiff City and their one win in recent away League games did come at struggling Fulham. They've also won comfortably at Huddersfield Town, Southampton and Burnley earlier this season and edged out Brighton so I do think the talented Chelsea players can get the better of a Cardiff City team missing influential centre back Sol Bamba and who have conceded plenty of goals at home all season.

It is hard to trust Chelsea, but they have winnable League games coming up over the next nine days and I think they can get back into a position where the top four finish they crave is back within their control. That will begin with a win at Cardiff City and I will back them to do that by a comfortable margin when it is all said and done.

Fantasy Star: Eden Hazard- scored for Belgium during the international break and banged in a hat-trick against Cardiff City earlier this season.

Alternative: Ross Barkley- might not be a starter so a risky play, but had chances against Everton and was in good form for England.

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: At this stage of the season you are going to see many people predicting how the rest of the Premier League campaign is going to play out and this looks like one of the major obstacles in front of Liverpool over their last seven games.

Tottenham Hotspur can play spoiler as they visit both Anfield and the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League before the season is out, but the game means plenty for clubs as they chase the ambitions they have set out for the 2018/19 season.

In the last couple of months Liverpool have lost control of their own destiny as far as the title race is concerned, but Jurgen Klopp has to feel winning their remaining seven League games will be enough to earn a first title since 1990. Two major fixtures at Anfield look to pose the most problems and the first of those is the visit of Tottenham Hotspur despite the fact that Spurs have not won in 8 attempts here.

On the face of it Liverpool look very short, but they have been very good at Anfield all season and Tottenham Hotspur have just lost their way away from home. Spurs have lost their last 3 Premier League games on their travels and that has seen them pulled into a battle for the top four places in the table, but this is still a dangerous team that can cause problems for the best teams in England and Europe.

I expect they will cause problems for Liverpool, but ultimately I would not be surprised if there is too much attacking threat from the home team to be contained by the visitors. Tottenham Hotspur have conceded at least twice in their last 3 away League games and Liverpool have scored at least three times in 3 in a row at Anfield which is likely part of the reason they are such strong favourites to win here.

However teams have begun to create more chances and taken more opportunities against Liverpool and I think Tottenham Hotspur will play their part in this one. Liverpool have kept 2 clean sheets from their last 6 Premier League games at home and that includes conceding to Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Burnley. Over the course of the season Tottenham Hotspur have shown they can score away goals and I think they will help play their part in a fixture that finishes with three or more goals shared out.

4 of the last 6 overall and 5 of the last 7 at Anfield between these clubs have hit that mark and I will select this fixture to do the same.

Fantasy Star: Sadio Mane- the player propelling the Liverpool title race at the moment having scored and won the penalty in the win over Fulham two weeks ago.

Alternative: Harry Kane- scored the equaliser at Anfield last season and should be sharper with more creativity behind him having returned from an injury six weeks ago.

Arsenal v Newcastle United Pick: The final Premier League game of the weekend sees yet another top four chasing side looking to keep the pressure on the teams around them by earning the three points. Arsenal are hosting Newcastle United in front of the television cameras and they are will likely be looking to get back into the top four by the time this game kicks off as both Manchester United and Chelsea are expected to win their fixtures played on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

There could be some tension in the Arsenal stands with the fans knowing how important a return to the Champions League is for the club, but they have been very strong at home this season and I expect that will continue.

Arsenal have won 6 in a row here in all competitions while scoring at least twice in each game. They have creative, attacking players that will feel they can break down a Newcastle United team that will be set up to counter the home team and I think they can do that.

While Newcastle United have been in improved form, they have not been the best travellers and the majority of their best results have come at home. They do have a decent front three that can cause problems for a vulnerable Arsenal defence, but Arsenal have shown improvement of their own with a single goal conceded in their last 5 at home.

Fortune has perhaps helped that number of goals conceded, but Arsenal should be confident and they should be too strong for Newcastle United having beaten them 6 times in a row at home. The last 5 wins earned by Arsenal at home have come by two or more goal margins and I will back them on the Asian Handicap to continue that run in this one too.

Newcastle United are rarely blown away which has to be respected and only Liverpool and West Ham United have beaten them by more than a one goal margin. They have lost 2-1 at Manchester City, 3-2 at Manchester United, 2-1 at Chelsea and 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur, but Arsenal are in really good nick and I think they will be able to score the goals to win by a wider margin than those four teams mentioned.

A Newcastle United goal will be tough to overcome on the Handicap, but I will look for Arsenal to find a way to cover.

Fantasy Star: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang- loves playing at the Emirates Stadium and should have chances against this Newcastle United defence.

Alternative: Sead Kolasinac- a potential assist maker and also the chance of a clean sheet with Arsenal managing 5 in their last 6 at the Emirates Stadium.

Fantasy Football
This is where I will be looking to identify the key players that could make a difference for your teams in the Official Fantasy Football game in GameWeek 32.

There is a Double GameWeek being played so the main focus may be on those players having a couple of games, but that has to be expected with the opportunity to maximise points. I've been building a team with this Week in mind for some time and all eleven of my players starting will be playing twice this week.

It does mean a difficult GameWeek 33 is coming up, but I should have at least nine of the required eleven in action then too. Next season I will take a more personal approach to this section as I improve it, but for now I am continuing with identifying up to four 'expensive' and four 'cheap' options in the four positions we need to fill out our teams where possible.

Goalkeeper 4.8 Million and Above
Ederson (Manchester City- 5.6 Million): Games agains Fulham and Cardiff City to come should offer a really good chance for at least one clean sheet and some will be expecting two. One of the key players in the Manchester City that won't be given a rest or be rotated.

Kepa (Chelsea- 5.4 Million): He may have annoyed his manager and fans for his antics in the League Cup Final, but Kepa should be playing both games for Chelsea this week. Those come against Cardiff City and Brighton and like Ederson I would expect at least one clean sheet and possibly two.

Goalkeeper 4.7 Million and Below
Ben Foster (Watford- 4.6 Million): Huerelho Gomes has been the Cup Goalkeeper for Watford so Ben Foster could start both games this week against Manchester United and Fulham. Clean sheets have been tough, but Foster does add up the 'save' bonus points and could be a cheap option if you want to divert funds elsewhere.

I considered Rui Patricio, but Nuno Espirito Santo gave John Ruddy a chance in a League game so he was prepared for the Cup game he was going to play for Wolves and that may be the case this week too.

Defender 5.1 Million and Above
Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea- 6.3 Million): He is expensive, but Chelsea's other right back is injured at the moment so 'Dave' should play both League games where the team have a decent chance of collecting one clean sheet at the least.

Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City- 5.9 Million): If you want to invest in a Manchester City Defender rather than the Goalkeeper, Aymeric Laporte is the most likely to start both Premier League games in my opinion.

Luke Shaw (Manchester United- 5.1 Million): Clean sheets have not been that common for Manchester United, but the English left back can get into attacking positions under the new management staff.

Defender 5 Million and Below
Jeffrey Schlupp (Crystal Palace- 4.5 Million): A Defender who plays in Midfield from time to time and has been involved in creating and scoring goals for Crystal Palace. Decent chance of one clean sheet against Huddersfield Town and The Eagles have been very good going forward away from home so could cause problems at Tottenham Hotspur who are opening their new Stadium.

Adrian Mariappa (Watford- 4.2 Million): There are likely to be changes to the Watford starting eleven as Javi Gracia prepares them for the FA Cup Semi Final to be played next weekend. However I don't think they will be wholesale changes and Mariappa could be selected for the home game with Fulham and the chance of a clean sheet at a cheap price.

Midfielder 7.1 Million and Above
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City- 11.6 Million): The English winger is in incredible form for club and country and Pep Guardiola will surely start him in both League games as Manchester City look to keep the pressure on Liverpool in the Premier League title race.

Eden Hazard (Chelsea- 10.9 Million): I have both of the players I've identified here in this mini section. Eden Hazard should have some real opportunity for a big return in games against Cardiff City and Brighton especially as Chelsea don't play again until Monday.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United- 8.9 Million): Another midfielder I have in my Fantasy Team and one who could be looking to cap Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's appointment as permanent manager by underlining his progress under the Norwegian.

Heung-Min Son (Tottenham Hotspur- 8.6 Million): A tough game at Liverpool followed by a home game with Crystal Palace in the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Might be a bit of a risky play, but Son should be confident having scored in the win over Colombia for the South Korean national team.

Midfielder 7 Million and Below
Jesse Lingard (Manchester United- 6.7 Million): An alternative to Paul Pogba at 2 Million cheaper. Should be well rested having not joined England during the international break and likely to start both League games with Romelu Lukaku injured.

Pedro (Chelsea- 6.4 Million): Been starting more than not under Maurizio Sarri and does offer a goal threat for Chelsea.

Ross Barkley (Chelsea- 5.1 Million): Scored for England on international duty and is an attacking threat for Chelsea. Risk is question of whether he plays both League games.

Forward 6.4 Million and Above
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City- 11.8 Milion): Was not selected for Argentina international duty so has been resting at home and ready to add to the goals he has been banging in for Manchester City. Expecting him to start both League games, could fill his boots.

Marcus Rashford (Manchester United- 7.6 Million): Romelu Lukaku is expected to miss both League games this week which means Marcus Rashford will lead the line for Manchester United. Hasn't been in the best form, but did score a consolation in the FA Cup Quarter Final defeat at Molineux two weeks ago.

Raul Jimenez (Wolves- 6.8 Million): A key player for Wolves all season, but my only doubt is he may not start both League games with the upcoming FA Cup Semi Final in mind.

Forward 6.3 Million and Below
Glenn Murray (Brighton- 6.3 Million): Has a good chance to score against Southampton on current form of the The Saints defence, and it wouldn't be a big surprise if he caused problems for Chelsea during the week too.

Javier Hernandez (West Ham United- 6.1 Million): Scored in two of his last three home games for West Ham United, the former Manchester United player could have chances against Everton to add to that run. Only player I've selected who is not playing twice this week, but a cheaper option that can see you stock up other positions with higher priced players.

MY PICKS: Manchester City - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor
Brighton-Southampton Both Teams to Score @ 2.00 Bet Fred
Burnley-Wolves Both Teams to Score @ 2.00 William Hill
Crystal Palace Win to Nil @ 2.05 Bet365
Leicester City Win & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.15 Ladbrokes
Manchester United - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet Victor
West Ham United 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Fred
Liverpool-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 
Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet Victor

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Miami Masters Tennis Picks 2019 (March 28th)

I only had the one Tennis Pick on Wednesday and Simona Halep's strong run of five games in a row to close out the match enabled that selection to be returned as a winner.

On Thursday we have two remaining ATP Quarter Final matches to be played as well as both WTA Semi Final matches on the last really busy day at the Miami Masters. The new surroundings have looked decent on the television of the limited tennis I have managed to see over the last ten days, but I am going to be interested to hear how the players feel and that should be much clearer in the weeks ahead.

There have been some fresh new faces reaching the business end of the tournament, but I am not sure that is down to the conditions as much as how the draw has panned out. Some of those faces are also players that look set to be at the start of very promising careers too, but the breakdown of the Miami event will be there for all to see soon.

Roger Federer - 3.5 games v Kevin Anderson: The rain in Miami meant Roger Federer's Fourth Round match against Daniil Medvedev had to be postponed until Wednesday. He did manage to move past the youngster in efficient manner, but Federer is going to have had little rest compared with opponent Kevin Anderson who won his Fourth Round match against Jordan Thompson on Tuesday.

I am not anticipating that being a big problem for Federer and I do think the Swiss player is going to be able to get past Anderson for a place in the Semi Final of the Miami Masters. I also am expecting Federer to do that in relatively serene fashion and backing him to cover a number I thought would potentially be at least one game higher.

The most famous match played between Federer and Anderson clearly occurred at Wimbledon last summer when the South African was able to rally from 0-2 down in sets for a stunning win in the Quarter Final. It was just one of those days for Federer who had the chances to win the match on multiple occasions, and I do think this is a match up that hasn't really bothered him too much.

An element of revenge was exacted by Federer in the ATP World Tour Finals in November when he proved to be an easy winner over Anderson and that also improved his record to 4-0 against the big man on the hard courts. In those matches Anderson has only held serve in 58% of his games which is a remarkably low number for someone used to holding in the high 80's as a percentage.

He has not been able to get into the Federer service games either with the former World Number 1 winning almost 75% of the points behind his own serve. I don't think Anderson is going to improve that much against Federer in Miami considering how well the latter has been serving in 2019 in general and in this tournament, while Federer's return game has been much improved over the last month at Indian Wells and here which gives him every chance of covering this spread.

Kevin Anderson has some impressive numbers in his return to the Tour having not played since the Australian Open, but this is a step up by a considerable margin from having played Jaume Munar, Joao Sousa and Jordan Thompson. With a historically bad match up in front of him, I think Anderson is going to have a hard time keeping Federer off of him and I think the latter will find the breaks of serve he needs to win this match and cover this number.

Federer has broken in just under 25% of the return games played over the last month on the hard courts and his strong performances against Anderson suggests he can make enough balls in play to find those breaks in this one too.

Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 games v Anett Kontaveit: Backing up a big win like the one Ashleigh Barty had over Petra Kvitova in the Quarter Final is going to be a tough task, but the Australian has become used to playing and winning matches at the top tournaments and that should put her in a good position to earn a spot in this Premier Event Final.

Recovering from dropping the second set to breeze through a third shows Barty is now very much amongst the best players on the Tour, although the clay court season is going to present a different test for her in the weeks ahead. However Barty has shown an all around improvement in her game over the last twelve months and I fully expect her to crack the top 10 and keep moving up the World Rankings.

Winning the title in Miami would be a huge boost of confidence for Barty and she should have a little too much for Anett Kontaveit who has battled her way through to the Semi Final.

The Estonian has really had to battle after needing three sets to win three matches in the tournament while the other saw Bianca Andreescu forced to retire in the second set. Those wins have been close affairs too and Kontaveit has yet to beat a top 20 Ranked opponent so far in the tournament.

Matches against the top 10 players on the hard courts have been tough throughout her career and I think Kontaveit is going to have to up her level significantly if she is going to win this match against someone soon to join those Rankings. So far Kontaveit has returned very well in the tournament, but Barty has an edge on that side of her game and also seems to be serving at a higher level too.

This is a big number considering the power that Kontaveit has and the ability she has to hit through the court, but Barty's defensive skills should be a frustration to her too. The conditions are generally slower in Miami and I think that will allow Barty to switch from attack to defence and vice versa much better than her opponent and lead to a strong looking win on the day.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Ashleigh Barty - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

Miami Update: 7-3, + 5.82 Units (20 Units Staked, + 29.10% Yield)

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Miami Masters Tennis Picks 2019 (March 27th)

Tuesday was a little more frustrating than Monday, but these things happen and I am not going to be negative about a week which is still producing a positive return.

The Miami Masters has reached the business end of the tournament with the WTA Premier Event Semi Final line up being put together by the end of Wednesday and the first of the ATP Masters Quarter Final matches also scheduled to be played.

There are five matches scheduled to be played on Wednesday as we get down to the final few days of the first half of the hard court season. The next hard court events on the main Tour will be played at the end of July when we will begin the run towards the US Open, and many players exiting in Miami will be heading to Europe and beginning preparation for the clay court season which will begin next week.

Simona Halep - 3.5 games v Qiang Wang: Winning two matches to reach a Premier Event Quarter Final is rare, but that is the case for Qiang Wang who has benefited from Serena Williams being forced to withdraw from the tournament in Miami. Wins over Johanna Konta and Yafan Wang have come in straight sets, but this is a step up for Wang against a player who is chasing to return to World Number 1 ahead of her favourite time of the season.

Simona Halep is a quality operator on the hard courts, but I don't think it is wrong to suggest that the clay courts are her favoured surface. The two month run to the French Open begins at the end of this week, but Halep has remained very consistent and can return to World Number 1 if she wins the title in Miami after Naomi Osaka's early exit.

The Romanian has dropped one set in three matches so far this week and Halep dominated Venus Williams in a comfortable win. This is a match in which the Halep serve will be tested, but she is returning very well in the conditions in Miami which may suit her game and I think that returning ability is going to put Qiang Wang under some pressure.

I have no doubt that Wang is an improved player, but she has yet to really put wins together against the very best players on the WTA Tour on the hard courts. A 10-10 record against top 20 opponents on this surface over the last fifteen months isn't horrible, but her numbers have taken a big dent compared to her overall hard court ones when she has been in those matches.

You can't completely draw a line through Wang considering her own ability to return serve, but I do thinK Simona Halep has an edge over her on that side of her game. I expect that will show up in this match and I can see Halep edging Wang out with at least one more break of serve in each set of a straight sets win and I think she is worth backing to cover the slightly smaller spread being offered by a couple of layers.

The odds are reflected in that smaller handicap, but I like Halep in this Quarter Final.

MY PICKS: Simona Halep - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet365 (2 Units)

Miami Update: 6-3, + 4.38 Units (18 Units Staked, + 24.33% Yield)

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Miami Masters Tennis Picks 2019 (March 26th)

It's good to be back.

A small break between the end of the Indian Wells Masters and the start of the second week at the Miami Masters recharged the batteries and the opening selections from this tournament could not really have gone much better.

Six Picks were made on Monday, five are in as winners as I write this although the last has made a miserable start.

It's still a start I appreciate and hopefully gives me a foundation on which to build another winning week from the Tennis Picks on the Tour. In 2019 I have only had the sole losing week so far and that is reflected in the extremely positive season totals ahead of the clay court season beginning.

The season is a long one and the turnaround in the middle of 2018 to end up with a winning record on that season shows things can change very quickly if not focusing on the task at hand.

I'm not looking at November, but taking things day by day, week by week and hopefully that will lead to a lot more winners than losers.

On Tuesday the entire Fourth Round of the ATP Masters event is set to be played and the first half of the WTA Premier Event Quarter Final matches are also scheduled for what has been a wet Miami at times.

Hopefully we are not going to see the same kind of delays that affected Monday's play.

Below you can see the selections made from the matches set to be played on Tuesday and at the end of it I am hoping more positive numbers have been added to the week's totals.

Petra Kvitova - 2.5 games v Ashleigh Barty: For the third time in 2019 we are going to see Petra Kvitova and Ashleigh Barty meet on the hard courts and I think it is going to be the player from the Czech Republic who will continue her dominance over this opponent.

Both of the matches in 2019 have been won by Kvitova Down Under where Barty would have been receiving a lot of support. The Australian remains a very popular figure, but I think the crowd split will be a lot more even and that should give Kvitova even more time to settle on her shots.

The two players have both produced solid performances this week to move through to this Quarter Final, but I still worry about Barty's mentality in these big matches. There is no doubting the talent she clearly possesses, but Barty has regularly struggled to put away top 10 opponents and I do think she needs to be a little more ruthless on the court.

While others will get louder and more 'in your face', Barty tries to play a calm game and I am not sure that helps in the critical moments. One of the strengths of the Barty game is the aggressive return, but this match up makes it more difficult for her against a big server like Kvitova and I do think that is where the multiple time Grand Slam Winner is able to come through against Barty.

Ashleigh Barty has been playing the more eye-catching tennis so far this week in Miami, but Petra Kvitova has looked strong too. The two players are both seeing the ball big enough to get a lot of joy out of the return of serve and I think the narrow edge on the serve is in Kvitova's favour which means I do think she can make it three wins in a row over Barty in the 2019 season.

Confidence is not going to be an issue for either, but I believe Kvitova has the stronger mentality in this one and I think that will see her edge out Barty in what could be a very good Quarter Final.

Felix Auger Aliassime v Nikoloz Basilashvili: One of these players will be an unexpected Quarter Finalist at the Miami Masters and give their World Ranking a real boost with the points they can earn. Not many would have picked Felix Auger Aliassime or Nikoloz Basilashivili to get to the Fourth Round, but both have been deserving of their place and will have full belief that this is a winnable match for them.

Felix Auger Aliassime is starting to make waves on the Tour as he has reached a career high World Ranking prior to the tournament beginning. The decision to play in clay court events over the last few weeks has not affected his confidence to produce on the hard courts and he has battled through the Qualifiers in Miami to make the main draw before winning three matches.

He has needed three sets to overcome three of the five opponents he has beaten in the event, but the day off between matches should mean the 18 year old is not suffering from any lingering fatigue. The numbers in the Miami Masters have been similar to what Auger Aliassime has been producing throughout 2019 on the hard courts and that bodes well for him as it does not feel like he is overachieving to make it through to the Fourth Round.

A strong 85% number of holds of serve in the tournament are being backed up by very good returning and Auger Aliassime is going to be tough to knock off at his current standards.

Nikoloz Basilashvili will feel he can do that having won his opening two matches very well in the tournament. He is inside the top 20 of the World Rankings these days, but I can't help feel the Georgian is playing above his level to be in this position and it is not one I feel he is going to hold for a long time barring a significant improvement.

He is having a strong tournament, but Basilashvili's overall percentage of hold of serves on the hard courts is down at 79% in 2019 and that is about where he has been in recent years. In this event he is up to 85% of holds, but I expect his young opponent to test that number.

Basilashvili is a decent enough returner, but this is another area in which I have to give Auger Aliassime the advantage and I think it is going to lead to a win for the Canadian. It might be a close match though and I am not going to play any handicap but simply look for Auger Aliassime to find a way past an opponent who is perhaps overachieving on the World Rankings.

Within a year I would perhaps even think these two players will pass each other on those Rankings and the improving Auger Aliassime is my pick.

MY PICKS: Petra Kvitova - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Felix Auger Aliassime @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Kyle Edmund @ 1.91 William Hill (2 Units)

Miami Update: 5-1, + 6.72 Units (12 Units Staked, + 56% Yield)

Monday, 25 March 2019

Miami Masters Tennis Picks 2019 (March 25th)

So I haven't made any Tennis Picks since the end of Indian Wells and that is very much down to being away from the United Kingdom and just taking a bit of time to reset.

I can't really complain about the performance of the Tennis Picks as another winning week was put on the board and it honestly felt like being my first winning tournament from Indian Wells in forever

The decision to get away between Indian Wells and the second week in Miami beginning was made a long time ago and very much down to one simple factor- the international break in Football which meant not missing any Manchester United games.

I've a patient partner to say the least.

This week is going to be a busy one for the blog- there should be Tennis Picks daily from the remainder of the Miami tournament and I am going to update season totals before the clay season begins in Charleston next week and kicks into overdrive heading towards the French Open at the end of May.

I will also be posting the next Fantasy Football post and thoughts from the weekend Premier League action on Friday as we hit the first Double GameWeek of the season. Plenty of points are up for grabs so mini-Leagues are not lost for those playing and I've been on a pretty good roll when it comes to selecting key players.

And finally the week is going to be rounded off with the next set of Boxing selections.

First things first is the Tennis from Miami and the continuing rise of Bianca Andreescu is creating headlines for the WTA as she backs up her title win in Indian Wells with a strong run here. It is a loaded field entering the Fourth Round which is completed on Monday, while the ATP Masters Fourth Round line up is completed on the same day.

The shift to the clay courts will then be welcomed by some of the players on the Tour and others less so, but it is one of my favourite times of the season and I am hoping to have a strong part of the year to really set 2019 up to becoming a top one for the selections.

Below you can read the analysis of a couple of the matches being played on Monday and full selections can then be seen in the 'MY PICKS' section.

Roger Federer - 4.5 games v Filip Krajinovic: I am going against one of my more recent rules on Monday in the ATP Masters Third Round and that is backing Roger Federer to cover more than a four game handicap in a best of three set match on a hard court.

The spot has to be very much the reason for it and I do think it is a good place for Federer to continue the roll from Indian Wells and especially after coming through a tough Second Round match. The former World Number 1 needed three sets to get past a much improved Radu Albot and it is clear that Federer is not the force of old, especially when it comes to the return of serve.

That makes this kind of spread a difficult one for him to cover in my opinion, although Federer is playing an opponent who had difficulty holding serve against him in their two meetings on a hard court in 2018. The second match was much tougher for Federer, but the latter has been serving at a very high level throughout 2019 and it is the ability to break the Filip Krajinovic serve that should give him a chance to win and cover.

It won't be too long before Krajinovic is back approaching his peak World Ranking of Number 28 which was achieved eleven months ago, but injuries have knocked him out of the top 100. That hasn't stopped him producing some strong results and the run to the Indian Wells Fourth Round coupled with winning two matches in Miami will have built the confidence.

There is no doubting what a dangerous player Krajinovic can be and his numbers are strong on the hard courts for 2019 and very similar to the level he was producing in 2017 before an injury hit 2018. However this is a step up to a level he has not been used to playing and last week we saw Krajinovic struggle to get into the Rafael Nadal service games in Indian Wells.

Now he has to face an opponent holding almost 95% of the service games played on the hard courts in 2019 and that is going to make it very difficult for the Serbian to get his teeth into this match. I do think he has the talent to test Federer, but this could be a comfortable match up for the latter in terms of the type of tennis he is facing from the other side of the net.

Over the last two weeks Federer has shown a little more out of his return game too and I think that can see him cover this number at odds against. I would not back him at odds on with these kinds of spreads because so much is determined by the coin toss at the start of the match, but Federer should have the majority of break point chances and the superior serving should give him a chance to put pressure on Krajinovic and find the breaks of serve needed to cover.

Denis Shapovalov - 2.5 games v Andrey Rublev: Two of the bright young talents of the ATP Tour meet in the Miami Masters Third Round on Monday and it has the makings of being a really good watch.

The higher Ranked player going into this match is Denis Shapovalov who is getting close to reaching a new career high World Ranking and eyeing up a spot in the top 20. His game is a dynamic one, although there is no doubt the teenager is still looking for the consistency to challenge the very best out there.

He faces Andrey Rublev who had been close to dropping out of the top 100 of the World Rankings thanks to a series of injuries that had seen his form drop away from levels he had displayed on the Tour. Coming through two Qualifiers is always a confidence booster and Rublev has also upset Marin Cilic on his way through the Miami draw, while the hard court numbers have improved with a run to the Indian Wells Final in a Challenger event at the same site as the Masters event is played.

Rublev is the superior returner in this match, but there have been definite signs that Shapovalov is improving that side of his game all the time. A better conversion rate of the break points will help the young Canadian, but he should also have a real edge when it comes to the serve and I feel that is going to make the difference on the day in what looks a close match to call.

In the last month Shapovalov has been creating more break points than he has been allowing and Rublev's 73% hold percentage on the hard courts at the main ATP level is not really going to be good enough. He might have more success playing a returner like Shapovalov, but the improvement mentioned means Rublev will have to deal with the pressurised moments if he is going to earn the upset.

Confidence that has been built up by Rublev can't be ignored and he did win their previous head to head. That caame in the ATP Next Gen Finals at the end of 2017, but the rules are different and even on that day Shapovalov had a host of break point chances that slipped through his fingers.

As long as he can be a little more clinical when the chances come his way, I think Shapovalov can win and cover in this one.

MY PICKS: Roger Federer - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Denis Shapovalov - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Petra Kvitova - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Qiang Wang - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)
Simona Halep - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Karolina Pliskova - 4.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Boxing Picks 2019- Errol Spence Jr vs Mikey Garcia (March 16th)

I can get a little fed up of seeing some of the 'he said, she said' interviews we can begin to see from those involved in Boxing, mostly from the promoters and network executives and sometimes you do get a lot of hype from those people when it comes to putting together some fights.

That is not the case on Saturday when we really are getting a Super-Fight between Errol Spence Jr and Mikey Garcia as the latter 'dares to be great' and the former wants to show why he is the premier Welterweight in the world.

Dallas, Texas is the venue for this one and I truly think it is going to be a memorable fight and one that has seen people change their minds about the outcome the closer we have got to it.

More on that below.

A solid undercard is also in play with the whole event being shown on ITV4 for those of us in the United Kingdom and there is no doubt that this is the Fight of the Year so far. Hopefully it will be one that lives up to the expectations.

Luis Nery vs McJoe Arroyo
Chris Arreola is also on the undercard of the big fight in Dallas this weekend, but he could be in for a tough encounter against an unbeaten prospect looking to take the next step in his career.

That's a difficult fight to read so my first selection from this card will come from the bout featuring the returning Luis Nery.

This is the first appearance of Nery in 2019 and he is looking to get back into a position to become a World Champion having lost an opportunity to do that on the scales in 2018. He might not be involved in the World Boxing Super Series which is taking place at this weight, but many will consider Nery the man to beat even when a Unified Champion is created out of a fantastic tournament which has had financial worries.

The winner of the World Boxing Super Series taking on Nery some time in late 2019 or early 2020 is going to be what the fans will be demanding, but it is up to Nery to make sure he keeps winning and winning in style.

In all honesty I would be surprised if Nery is not able to stop McJoe Arroyo in this fight, although the Puerto Rican has gone the distance with Jerwin Ancajas.

Arroyo was knocked down in the fight but went the full Twelve Rounds in losing his fight for the IBF Super Flyweight Title, but he is now coming up for this fight against a big puncher.

That is going to make the difference and I do think Nery will push through Arroyo and force the stoppage. Luis Nery himself thinks the fight won't go more than Six Rounds and I do think we will get a mid-fight stoppage from the Mexican who will want to announce himself ready for a big 2019.

It is hard to judge how much punishment Arroyo is going to be able to take going up a weight especially against someone like Nery. That may determine how long this one is going to last, but I have a feeling it is going to a fight where Nery shows everything he has and starts putting the pressure on after a couple of Rounds to feel things out.

I will have a small interest on Nery putting the afterburners on at around the halfway mark and get Arroyo out there in either the Fifth or Sixth Round.

David Benavidez vs J'Leon Love
Failing a test for cocaine use saw David Benavidez stripped of his World Title and he has now been out of the ring for over twelve months.

The Super Middleweight makes his return on the undercard in Dallas and he is going to be in line for a shot at the WBC Title, although things have been complicated by the ending of the Anthony Dirrell-Avni Yildirim fight last month. The WBC are expected to make their ruling on things on Monday to clear it all up, but for now Benavidez will be looking to shift some of the ring rust when he faces J'Leon Love who returns after losing a Decision to Peter Quillan last year.

This is a big step up for Love and David Benavidez doesn't look as weight drained as he has in recent bouts at 168 when the expectation was that he would be moving up.

Ring rust is an issue, but Love's own absence from the ring and his insistence of trying to wind up Benavidez may work against him here and the latter can get the job done early in this one.

It is scheduled for Ten Rounds, but Benavidez is looking to make a statement on his return to the ring since losing his WBC Title. J'Leon Love has only been stopped once and that came in the Third Round and much is going to depend on how quickly Benavidez gets back into a groove. I think that he is going to come out swinging and I am not sure Love stands up to it.

Errol Spence Jr vs Mikey Garcia
This is the fight I have been looking forward to most in the first half of the 2019 Boxing season.

Errol Spence Jr goes by the moniker 'The Truth' and I have long felt he is the man to beat at Welterweight with the natural size to eventually move up to Light Middleweight and perhaps beyond.

He is a quality underrated boxer, but also has the power to catch the eye and an ability to wear down and break down opponents.

However there is the question about the resume and the lack of real top names, but I give Spence Jr a slight pass knowing how many have tended to look elsewhere than call him out. A bigger concern is only being in the ring once in the last fifteen months and in that time Spence Jr has fought just a single Round as he defended his IBF Welterweight Title.

Spence Jr gets his chance to re-announce himself at the very top of Boxing if he can win this fight on Saturday though and he is the favourite even if there are enough doubters to up the intrigue of the bout.

Mikey Garcia is coming up twelve pounds and two weight Divisions to take on Spence Jr and he has begun to convince enough people that he was right in suggesting he has seen something to exploit in the Texan. All credit to Garcia to stepping up to the plate and 'daring to be great' and he has the credentials to really cause some problems and maybe even the upset.

However I am of the belief that weight Divisions exist for a reason and I think this is going to go along the lines of Oscar De La Hoya's failed effort to dethrone Bernard Hopkins and I say that even though ODLH had been operating at the Middleweight limit for a fight already.

From what I have seen, Garcia has not carried his power up to 140 so I expect him to make less of a dent on Spence Jr. Ultimately if you can't deter Spence Jr from coming forward and wearing you down, it is going to be a long night for any Boxer and I do think that is going to be the outcome of this one.

I can see Garcia beginning the fight well as Spence Jr just works out what his opponent is going to offer. However it will begin to turn in the middle of the fight and by the time we get to the Championship Rounds Spence Jr should be having his way with Garcia.

There is going to be a spirit about Garcia and a resilience that I have to respect, but Spence Jr is someone who comes on strong at the weight and he is going to be significantly the bigger man in the ring. At some point I expect that see Spence Jr take over the fight and I have a feeling there is going to be a stoppage for the Texan in the Championship Rounds and potentially an announcement that he will be facing Manny Pacquiao next.

MY PICKS: Luis Nery to Win Between 5-6 @ 5.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
David Benavidez to Win Between 1-5 @ 2.87 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Errol Spence to Win Between 9-12 @ 5.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)

Weekend Football Picks 2019 (March 16-17)

There are four FA Cup Quarter Final matches and five Premier League matches to be played on the final weekend before the first international break of the season.

It does mean I am going to not have a full post with Fantasy Advice this week and instead just focus on the Fantasy Star and Alternative that I have been using for a while.

As we get down to the final weeks of the season, this is the time of the year more people will begin to play their 'Chips' in the official Fantasy game. From next season I am planning to offer more of a breakdown as to how I am going to play mine to try and maximise returns and I will also have more screenshots of the way I have developed my team, but for this season I can say that I am using my 'Free Hit' in this GameWeek while keeping three other Chips for after the international break.

This was the best play for me as I think I have the options to 'Triple Captain' in GW32 and then have the chance to put a Wild Card together for the maximum Bench Boost for GW35. It should put me very much in a position to surpass the 2000 point mark for the season, but I am looking for more as I want to crack the top 100k by the time the season is over.

Bournemouth v Newcastle United Pick: The Premier League fixtures have been decimated this week due to the FA Cup Quarter Final matches scheduled for the same weekend, but there are still some important games to be played.

One of those comes at the Vitality Stadium where both Bournemouth and Newcastle United will be chasing the three points that can improve their chances of completing their ambitions for the season. Bournemouth are hopeful of another top 10 finish in the Premier League, while Newcastle United will edge closer to the 40 point mark they would have been targeting back in August if they can secure the upset here.

It could be quite a good game despite the windy conditions that are affecting the United Kingdom at this moment. Those conditions can be a little more brutal on the coasts and that is my one concern here, but otherwise two teams who have gotten forward and continued to show defensive vulnerability could combine to produce at least three goals on the day.

Rafael Benitez is perhaps known as a defensive manager, but he has gotten Newcastle United playing much further up the park in the last few weeks and the results suggest he won't change his tactic. On the other side is Eddie Howe who wants his team to get forward and score goals and the returns of Callum Wilson and David Brooks should help Bournemouth have chances to get back to winning ways at the Vitality Stadium.

The last two fixtures between these clubs have seen both teams score and at least three goals shared out on the day and I think that will be the case here. Barring completely horrendous conditions, I will look for goals to be scored here.

Fantasy Star: Callum Wilson- scored on his return last week and should be leading the line for Bournemouth in this one too.

Alternative: Ayoze Perez- been in good goal-scoring form for a more adventurous Newcastle United and is facing a vulnerable Bournemouth defence.

Burnley v Leicester City Pick: This is a vital game for Burnley as they look to move clear of the bottom three after a weekend in which almost everything went wrong for them.

Failing to hold onto a lead at Anfield was not that unexpected, but Brighton, Southampton and Cardiff City all won on Saturday and that means they have dragged Burnley back to a position just outside the bottom three.

If this was being played a month ago you would have really fancied Burnley to get a result, but Claude Puel has left Leicester City and the players look a lot happier now. Brendan Rodgers will play to the strengths of the likes of Jamie Vardy and the former England international has responded with goals in each of the last two games since Rodgers officially took over as manager.

Leicester City have looked more confident going forward, although they are going to be tested defensively by a Burnley team who are creating chances. The concern for the home team is that they have made some sloppy mistakes themselves in their own final third and I do think this could be yet another game that features goals this weekend.

Both teams have scored in all 5 Leicester City away games played in 2019 and 4 of those ended with three or more goals shared out. In fact both teams have scored in 9 of 10 Leicester City games in the new calendar year and all but two of those fixtures have ended with three or more goals produced.

It might surprise but both teams scoring has been a factor in recent Burnley games too with the last 4 at Turf Moor ending that way. The 1-1 is thus the one scoreline that could be a killer, but I will back at least three goals to be shared out by these teams at odds against.

Fantasy Star: Jamie Vardy- has been scoring goals for Leicester City and I have identified Jamie Vardy in each of the last three weeks and I don't want to get off the bandwagon.

Alternative: Ashley Barnes- Burnley have been creating chances and they will need Ashley Barnes at his best to secure a result.

West Ham United v Huddersfield Town Pick: David Wagner felt he could do no more with his Huddersfield Town team when he resigned as manager a few weeks ago and the appointment of Jan Siewert looks to be one that is going to keep the consistency of the model going despite Wagner's departure.

You have to feel that preparation for life back in the Championship has been going on for some time for Huddersfield Town who have spent two years overachieving and upsetting the odds.

The 2018/19 season has proved a step too far for them and The Terriers will soon have relegation confirmed barring a miracle beyond miracles. They have continued to struggle for goals when not playing Wolves and Huddersfield Town have not hit the net in 6 straight away games in all competitions ahead of this visit to the London Stadium.

West Ham United are looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Cardiff City last weekend, but playing at home has been a much more positive experience for them. They are unbeaten in 6 here and West Ham United have won 4 of their last 5 in front of their own fans.

3 of those wins have come with a clean sheet and I do think they can be the latest to achieve one of those against Huddersfield Town. The Hammers are not always the most convincing defensively and they are going to have to deal with long, high balls being played into strong winds and that could cause one or two problems for them.

However I still think Huddersfield Town are going to need someone to either get a little fortunate or a big mistake from West Ham United if they are going to score with confidence in a bad place at the moment. With that in mind I think the home team will win and can be backed to do so with a clean sheet at a good looking price.

Fantasy Star: Manuel Lanzini- he has looked good on his return to the West Ham United team and this is a game in which he can shine.

Alternative: Declan Rice- another favourite of mine especially when someone set as a defender is playing much higher up the pitch.

Fulham v Liverpool Pick: The layers are expecting a routine win for Liverpool at Craven Cottage on Sunday as they are looking to build on the momentum of an away win in the Champions League and take that into this Premier League fixture. The Premier League title contenders look very, very short for a win here when you think of the prices other clubs have been, but I can't really look beyond a Liverpool win.

Fulham simply have not competed well enough to believe anything else will happen, but they have been better at home as indicated by narrow defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Craven Cottage. However both Arsenal and Manchester United won by wide margins and I think the Asian Handicap is hard to call.

The best the home team could do is cause one or two problems for Liverpool who would have put a huge emotional effort into winning at Bayern Munich during the week. The game was on Tuesday and this one is on Sunday so there is time for Liverpool players to have reset their minds, but Fulham have scored against Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea and missed glaring opportunities against Manchester United which suggests they could score in this one too.

It is about as good as I think it will get for Fulham, although scoring goals against Liverpool has proved to be far from easy this season. Teams do have their chances, but not too many so much will depend on how clinical Fulham are in this fixture.

Regardless I think Liverpool will win the game, but backing both teams to find the net at odds against isn't the worst shout in the world. Liverpool are most definitely scoring unless Fulham have found a brand new defence and I do think the home team have been able to cause one or two problems for the top teams to believe they will have their opportunities here and it just depends on whether they can take them.

Fulham have scored in 6 of their last 7 at Craven Cottage and backing both teams to score is the pick here.

Fantasy Star: Sadio Mane- has scored four goals in the last eight days and covered up the Mohamed Salah dip in form.

Alternative: Ryan Babel- the former Liverpool player is going to be a threat for Fulham and any goal the home team is going to earn will need his influence.

Everton v Chelsea Pick: The trip to the Ukraine on Thursday night does make this away game a little more awkward for Chelsea as they look to move up alongside their rivals for a top four finish in the Premier League. Maurizio Sarri can't use the travel as an excuse and Chelsea have a chance to put some pressure on the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester United who are not playing in the Premier League this weekend.

Everton have been resting and recovering in that time which may give them a chance of springing the upset, but they are going to have to be a lot better than last weekend when they blew a 0-2 lead at Newcastle United.

They have been struggling for goals at home which makes it hard to trust Everton and they are a team that still feels like it needs some huge investment despite the outlay made by the club in the last two summers. The season has not gone quite as Marco Silva would have hoped and Everton have found the very top teams tough to contain.

Earlier this month they did hold Liverpool to a goalless draw, but poor finishing from the visitors contributed to that and now they host a Chelsea team in decent form. The motivation for the Everton fans and players won't be nearly as high as when they hosted the Merseyside derby and I think that will help Chelsea find a way to produce a big three points prior to the international break.

Goodison Park has proved to be a tough venue for Chelsea to visit in recent seasons, but they did win here a couple of years ago. The Blues are clearly still a work in progress under Maurizio Sarri, but they have been playing with more confidence of late and Everton's struggles in front of goal could give the visitors the opportunity to leave with a victory on the day.

Fantasy Star: Eden Hazard- scored a fabulous equaliser for Chelsea last weekend and is clearly the spark for the team.

Alternative: Dominic Calvert-Lewin- has been on the scoreboard for Everton and the favoured player to lead the line for Marco Silva at the moment. If Everton are going to have success, Calvert-Lewin could be key to it.

Watford v Crystal Palace Pick: Both Watford and Crystal Palace have to view this FA Cup Quarter Final as a real opportunity to make their way to Wembley Stadium and perhaps even go on and win the Cup with a bit of fortune.

The two Manchester clubs are both still involved and are the favourites, but the winner of this one will believe they can upset the odds once they get into the neutral venue matches in the Semi Final and Final.

This is not an easy game to read and you can make a case for both clubs.

Watford have done the Premier League double over Crystal Palace this campaign and they snapped a run of 7 at home without beating The Eagles in the victory at Vicarage Road. They have been in good form when not playing the top two teams and Watford have scored plenty of goals which makes them dangerous.

The case for Crystal Palace is that this is a team that have enjoyed playing away from home as they tend to get a little more space to exploit in those matches. They have been punishing those spaces with 3 straight wins away from home in all competitions and Crystal Palace have scored at least twice in each of those wins.

Both teams will be playing with a bit of pressure knowing what the prize is for the winner and the belief they should be winning this tie. Picking a winner is not easy although the mental edge has to be given to Watford with the two League wins over Crystal Palace behind them.

The two games have both featured at least three goals shared out and the underlying stats showed that the number of chances should have produced those goals. The situation could mean both teams are more cautious than they would be because the players will be desperate to play in the FA Cup Semi Final, but I think we are going to see another 2-1 scoreline although not necessarily to Watford for the third time.

Swansea City v Manchester City Pick: As we go into the final two months of the season Manchester City remain on course to win an unprecedented Quadruple even if the manager is not allowing his players to think of history. The old cliche of taking things game by game is being applied by Manchester City, but so far it is working a treat and they are big favourites to reach the FA Cup Semi Final.

Even if Pep Guardiola decides to make a number of changes to his first team, Manchester City have a lot of good options to go with and that means they should not be weakened too much. Most of the play will be dominated by the visitors and the way this match goes will depend very much on how Swansea City approach it.

The home team could choose to sit in and make life difficult for Manchester City as Bournemouth did earlier this month, but it is not really the style of Graham Potter or the club. And that would worry me if I supported Swansea City.

While they have nothing to lose, playing an open style of football and looking to get on the front foot could leave Swansea City massively vulnerable to Manchester City here. There is pace in the final third that will make the home team dangerous and they do have a very strong recent record at the Liberty Stadium, but Swansea City have not really come up against too many teams like this Manchester City one and I do think they could be put to the sword.

My feeling is that Manchester City will be able to get going in the first half and then begin to pick off a Swansea City team chasing the game in the second half. This is a huge handicap for Manchester City to cover away from home, but they are playing with confidence and players can leave things on the line with a two week international break to come when they will get a chance to rest some tired limbs.

I do think the home team will have one or two moments of their own, but Manchester City are rolling along and they can win by a comfortable margin to reach yet another Semi Final under Pep Guardiola.

Wolves v Manchester United Pick: The last of the FA Cup Quarter Final ties to be played on Saturday looks to be the best one on paper and I think both Wolves and Manchester United can contribute to a decent watch for the fans.

There are times I do watch Wolves and think they are a workmanlike team with a touch of quality about them, but other times when I am very impressed with them as they swarm forward and cause problems for opponents including from those in the top six of the Premier League.

Being at home means there is an onus on Wolves to play further up the pitch compared to their counter attacking style away from home. That has seen them beat Chelsea and draw with Manchester City here, but both Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool have won. The latter two visitors both scored at least twice in the Premier League games here, but Wolves got some revenge over Liverpool by beating them in the FA Cup Third Round.

Wolves have been very good going forward in recent games at Molineux with two or more goals scored in 5 of their last 6 fixtures here. That should mean they are confident enough to test the Manchester United defence, although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got his tactics right away from home as proven by their 9 game winning run which was only ended last Sunday in the defeat at Arsenal.

Prior to that Manchester United had scored two or more goals in 4 away games in a row in all competitions and I do think the attacking football both of these teams will look to play could lead to another high-scoring FA Cup tie. Spaces will open up if one of these teams is leading going into the final fifteen minutes, but I would expect at least three goals to have been scored as both teams hit at least one on the day.

Manchester United are the favourites, but Wolves won't make this easy and it could be a game that features three or more goals at odds against.

Millwall v Brighton Pick: Fixtures between Millwall and Brighton have been tight affairs in recent years, but they meet for the first time in four seasons in this FA Cup Quarter Final and I do think we could see a lot more in terms of goals this time around.

This is a one off tie to reach the FA Cup Semi Final and Millwall being at home means they should have the confidence to get forward and cause problems for Brighton. The win at Birmingham City during the week is a huge result for Neil Harris and his players and they have already beaten Everton here in the Cup this season.

In fact Millwall have a decent record in the FA Cup in the last three seasons and that has seen them go unbeaten in 9 ties they have hosted. In that time Millwall have beaten FOUR Premier League clubs and for the most part they have been in a similar League position to the one they find themselves in now.

The last couple of games at the New Den have not gone in Millwall's favour, but there have been four goals shared out in both and this is a team that looks like they can create chances, but also concede plenty of goals too.

Brighton might not be the best travellers in the Premier League, but I do think they can take advantage of some of the defending Millwall have produced. The win in the big rivalry game against Crystal Palace last weekend means Brighton have scored in 7 straight away games in all competitions while they have now conceded in 12 away games coming into this weekend.

A 1-1 scoreline and Extra Time would not be a huge surprise here, but I think Brighton could potentially just edge Millwall out in the ninety minutes regulation. They are likely going to need at least two goals to do that and I will look for this to be the fourth FA Cup game of the weekend that produces at least three goals on the day and another one at odds against quotes too.

MY PICKS: Bournemouth-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals
Burnley-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals
West Ham United Win to Nil
Fulham-Liverpool Both Teams to Score
Watford-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals
Manchester City - 2.25 Asian Handicap
Wolves-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals
Millwall-Brighton Over 2.5 Goals