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NFL Week 14 Picks 2019 (December 5-9)

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Saturday, 9 March 2019

Weekend Football Picks 2019 (March 9-10)

The euphoria of Wednesday night has yet to really dissipate for most Manchester United fans and there is another big weekend ahead of the club as they continue the fight to finish in the top four of the Premier League table.

Manchester United visit Arsenal in the final League game of the weekend as the title race, top four race and the relegation battle heat up now we are down to single digits in terms of Premier League games left to play for each club.

We are also set for another round of Fantasy Football and this is the time of the season when you have to begin thinking about the best play to deploy the 'Chips' each team receives at the start of the game. Some will have used their Chips already, but I have yet to play any of mine and also am holding onto my second Wild Card as I prepare for Double GameWeeks and Blank GameWeeks.

There is a big Blank GameWeek coming up next Saturday when only five Premier League games are scheduled and most people should have been preparing what they are going to do for that. My choice is likely going to be the Free Hit as I am short of options in my team without taking multiple hits, but I have a team ready to attack the second Blank GameWeek coming up in early April.

Next season it is going to be a little irritating with the 'Winter Break' in February which means half of the teams will play on one GameWeek and the other half on another, but I think the Official Fantasy Game will have to make preparations for that perhaps by offering two Free Hit Chips next season and making it four Chips per team rather than three.

That will likely be decided in the off-season but for now let us concentrate on the weekend selections from the Premier League fixtures as well as the Fantasy Advice for the coming GameWeek.

Last weekend saw me identify a number of 'cheap' options that returned solid numbers, but some of my more expensive choices really did let me down. Hopefully that won't be the case this week as we get into GameWeek 30.

Crystal Palace v Brighton Pick: There were a number of derby games in the Premier League last weekend, but don't tell either Crystal Palace or Brighton fans that their rivalry doesn't count.

While they may be separated by a lot more miles than a normal derby, there is an intense dislike of each other and that has led to on field issues as well as off field.

Both Crystal Palace and Brighton are still involved in the FA Cup Quarter Finals and those ties are next on deck, but the three points on offer in this one is vital as the two clubs look to move away from the bottom three. Games involving these two teams have been exciting in the last eighteen months and I do think there will be some fun, attacking football to enjoy in this one too.

The two defences have not played as well as they would have liked and that should mean there are opportunities for some talented attacking player to take advantage of. It is especially the case for a Crystal Palace team who are about as healthy as they have been all season and who are facing a Brighton team who have lost 5 of their last 6 away Premier League games and who have conceded two or more goals in 5 straight on their travels.

Last season Crystal Palace scored three times against Brighton here and I think they can win a high scoring game again. I do think Brighton have played well enough even during their poor run in the League to cause problems, but Crystal Palace have really looked like they have turned a corner and have attacking players enjoying their football.

That can be key for the home team to put a really good performance together at Selhurst Park and I think they reward the fans for their patience by winning this derby game in a game featuring two or more goals.

Fantasy Star: Wilfried Zaha- looks to be back in fine form and surrounded by talented attackers who have been thriving for Crystal Palace.

Alternative: Michy Batshuayi- seems contented leading the line for Crystal Palace and has been in fine scoring touch.

Cardiff City v West Ham United Pick: Things have simply not been going right for Cardiff City and it feels like a long road to escape the drop when your team is being beaten heavily at home by the likes of Watford and Everton.

While still only 2 points behind Southampton in the safety zone, Cardiff City fans have to be fearing the worst after those back to back home losses.

They will arrive at the Stadium on Saturday with some nerves as they face a West Ham United team who have been poor on their travels but who are looking healthier at the moment and scoring plenty of goals. The Hammers have a miserable recent away record, but neither Watford or Everton were pulling up trees before hammering Cardiff City and it has to be a concern for Neil Warnock.

Mistakes and some poor defending is not a good formula to avoid relegation and especially not for a Cardiff City who have been struggling for goals. Sol Bamba's injury weakens the defence that much more and I do think West Ham United can take advantage of that here.

However I do think Cardiff City will be able to create chances against a West Ham United team who have not kept an away clean sheet in their last 7 attempts. I expect the home team to load the box and use set pieces and long throws to try and cause havoc for West Ham United, but the visitors should also have their opportunities to break out and create chances of their own.

Both teams scoring won't be a surprise and I think this is a fixture that will produce three or more goals on the day. The home team can't really afford to sit back and hope to nick a point which should encourage spaces to develop and I do think West Ham United are a team capable of scoring and conceding a fair few too.

At close to odds against I think the call will be backing at least three goals to be shared out as they were when these teams met at the London Stadium earlier this season.

Fantasy Star: Manuel Lanzini- the creative force is back for West Ham United and is facing a Cardiff City defence missing their best player in Sol Bamba.

Alternative: Victor Camarasa- has not pleased Neil Warnock by sitting out some games with a very slight knock but is back and has to be the spark for Cardiff City if they are going to earn a result.

Huddersfield Town v Bournemouth Pick: This has to be the most difficult of the Premier League games to work out this weekend with both Huddersfield Town and Bournemouth hard to trust in the situation.

Huddersfield Town have long looked like a Championship team that is being forced to play Premier League fixtures and you can't ignore the huge amount of losses they have had. The win over Wolves last time out at home will inspire the fans to get behind them, but injuries are hurting the options for Jan Siewert.

On the other hand Bournemouth have lost 10 straight away games in all competitions and have conceded two or more goals in 9 in a row in the Premier League on their travels. They have mainly faced the top clubs in that run which has to be factored in, but Cardiff City beat Bournemouth 2-0 last month and a lack of goals and an inability to keep a clean sheet is a big problem.

I did consider backing both teams to score, but it is Bournemouth's issues in front of goal away from the Vitality Stadium which concerns me. At least Huddersfield Town have scored in 7 of their last 10 home games and that makes me think they may do enough to avoid a defeat here.

Last season Huddersfield Town crushed Bournemouth 4-1 here and so the players may feel this is a good chance to at least pressure Fulham for 19th place and avoiding finishing bottom of the table. That is the last real goal for The Terriers and I think they can at least earn a result here and so will recommend backing them with a start on the Asian Handicap.

Neither team is easy to trust and the first goal could be massive on the day, but a start with the home team looks the way to best approach this one.

Fantasy Star: Steve Mounie- Huddersfield Town are short of goals so will need their main forward to help them upset the odds.

Alternative: David Brooks- most teams have enjoyed playing Huddersfield Town and Brooks could be the key player if Bournemouth are going to be the latest.

Leicester City v Fulham Pick: Brendan Rodgers will lead Leicester City out at the King Power Stadium for the first time on Saturday and his team are big favourites to beat struggling Fulham.

I do think that is the most likely outcome of this fixture despite the visitors also hoping for a new manager bounce effect after removing Claudio Ranieri and giving the interim job to Scott Parker.

Fulham played very well in their 1-2 home loss to Chelsea, but this is a team who are conceding too many goals and you are not going to win too many matches like that. They will likely give it a go with a slim chance still in front of them to get out of the bottom three, but Leicester City should have the fans behind them with a new manager at the helm themselves.

Brendan Rodgers will need some time to get his philosophy and tactics instilled into the players, but Leicester City played well in the first game under his guidance and I think they could have a strong end to the season. Jamie Vardy overcoming a knock is a big boost for Leicester City and I think they will have the goals in the side to earn the victory in this one.

I won't be surprised if Fulham play their part in this one with an attacking intent as they search for the points that can give them a chance of avoiding the drop, but it may play into the hands of the home team and I think Leicester City win a game featuring two or more goals.

Fantasy Star: Jamie Vardy- scored last week and is going to be passed fit to start this week.

Alternative: Harvey Barnes- an attacking threat for Leicester City who has had some very good chances to get on the scoreboard already this season. He should have some more against this Fulham defence.

Newcastle United v Everton Pick: This is another very difficult game to predict in the Premier League this weekend with two teams who will feel they have enough to earn the three points coming into the fixture.

Newcastle United have been in fine form at St James' Park where they have managed to win 4 Premier League games in a row while scoring two or more goals in each of those wins. That has built the confidence of the players when it comes to performing in front of their passionate home fans which has proven to be a real challenge for them in recent years as the standards of The Toon Army have not been met.

Everton played well enough to earn a goalless draw with Liverpool last Sunday, and this is a team that has won 2 of their last 3 away games in the League while keeping clean sheets in both of those victories. Marco Silva has a decent squad to call upon and Everton look to have plenty of options for this game.

They have a very good record in this part of the North East with 4 wins from their last 5 visits to St James' Park and that should give Everton the belief to win here.

I do think think the home team are looking much better over the last month too and they have the attacking players to cause problems. However the feeling is that their results have perhaps been better than they should have and Everton may just edge them out having produced a number of clean sheets recently and looking like they have enough in the final third to score here.

Backing Everton on the Asian Handicap is the recommendation from a tough fixture to read.

Fantasy Star: Lucas Digne- the left back was in very good form last week in the Merseyside derby and a threat from set pieces to produce assists or a goal.

Alternative: Solomon Rondon- the striker has been the key for Newcastle United's move up the League table and will be important to break down an improved Everton defence.

Southampton v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: A big game that has an affect on the Premier League table at the top and bottom takes place this Saturday at St Mary's and it is Tottenham Hotspur who come into this fixture as the favourite.

That is the right decision from the layers, but you do have to be concerned by the run of losses they had on their travels before the win in Dortmund during the week. Even in that game Tottenham Hotspur had to ride their luck through the first half and were fortunate that Hugo Lloris had a big game for them, but Harry Kane is firing in front of goal and Spurs will be looking to bounce back from recent poor results in the League.

Southampton will certainly feel they can cause problems for Tottenham Hotspur with the standards they have set in recent games. A narrow defeat at Old Trafford last weekend showed they can compete with the best teams in the Premier League, but Southampton are still in the pressurised situation of a relegation battle which does produce tensions.

They don't have the best recent record against Tottenham Hotspur which is an issue the players will have to deal with but I do think Southampton can play their part in an entertaining game.

However I do think the win in Dortmund during the week will be a huge boost for Tottenham Hotspur who can go into this one knowing they have a three week gap between games coming up. It should mean they can leave it all on the line before getting the chance to refresh for a big month coming up and Tottenham Hotspur have won on 4 of their last 6 visits to Southampton.

At just under odds against I think they can be backed to win here on Saturday afternoon. It won't be easy for Tottenham Hotspur with Mauricio Pochettino likely to be absent from the sidelines, but I do think they can build on their Champions League progression and earn a narrow win here.

Fantasy Star: Harry Kane- has scored in three of four games since returning from injury and always the key for Tottenham Hotspur.

Alternative: James Ward-Prowse- a great goal at Old Trafford last week and has been in good form from set pieces. An important avenue for goals for Southampton in this fixture.

Manchester City v Watford Pick: The team that handles the pressure best is going to be the one that wins the Premier League and Manchester City's experiences from last season has to stand them in good stead in the next two months as the campaign draws to a close.

Without a doubt the biggest worry has to be the amount of games they have to play as they continue chasing an unprecedented Quadruple and the injuries are beginning to stretch the squad. There is still enough quality for Manchester City to call upon and they certainly will feel they have the players to make sure they can see off a Watford team who were beaten 5-0 at Liverpool in their last away game.

Watford haven't played at Anfield for a while, but they been able to give Manchester City one or two things to think about. They have been beaten in 9 of their last 10 visits to Manchester City, but in recent years they have rarely been blown away and Watford are in fine form heading into this fixture if you take the Liverpool result as just being a bad day in the office.

However Javi Gracia has to make sure his players remain focused and not be instead thinking past this game at the FA Cup Quarter Final which is coming up next week. That could be easy to do if Watford fall behind though knowing what happened when they went to Anfield and I do wonder if Gracia will at least change the system to make his team harder to beat than they were at Liverpool.

Defending in numbers has at least slowed down the Manchester City goal output in the last couple of games, although I think it is as much to do with a slight lack of composure in the final third and goalkeepers having strong days as anything else. In this fixture I do think an early goal could potentially open the floodgates for a relatively comfortable home win and I will back Manchester City to cover the Asian Handicap here.

Fantasy Star: Raheem Sterling- should start and will be well aware of the damage Liverpool did to Watford down the channels.

Alternative: Leroy Sane- thinking is same as for Sterling although Leroy Sane perhaps a little out of favour at the moment. Injury to Kevin De Bruyne does open up a space in the line up.

Liverpool v Burnley Pick: The early Sunday kick off can be a tough time for footballers to play as we have seen in the past and Liverpool players could be dealing with the pressure of knowing Manchester City have extended their lead at the top of the Premier League table the previous evening.

I do think that result is going to have a big bearing on the way this one goes and it is something to keep in mind when you read this prediction.

My feeling is that Manchester City will have beaten Watford on Saturday and opened up a 4 point lead at the top of the Premier League and that is going to make this fixture a little more difficult for Liverpool. You know what you are going to get from Burnley as they look to sit in and compact the spaces around the final third and try and frustrate their hosts, while they are also a team who pose a genuine threat through set pieces on the other side of the pitch.

Liverpool have had some recent difficulties against Burnley too- last season they saw their 9 game winning run against them at Anfield come to an end, while they needed an injury time winner to beat them at Turf Moor in the 2017/18 season. Earlier this season they came from behind to beat Burnley away from home and again needed a 90th minute goal to put the seal on the three points.

It goes a little further too. In the 2016/17 season Liverpool lost at Turf Moor and needed to come from behind to beat Burnley 2-1 at Anfield so there is a clear reason to suspect Burnley can make life difficult for the home team here, especially with the pressure of Manchester City opening a lead as I suspect.

The game will have a totally different feel if Manchester City have dropped points though and that is where the prediction could look totally out of shape.

However I have to go with what I think will happen and I do think Burnley can be backed with the start on the Asian Handicap despite Liverpool winning by wide margins in each of their last couple of League games here. Bournemouth and Watford both allowed Liverpool the space that Burnley won't and I do think the visitors have a chance of scoring here which will make it very difficult for Liverpool to cover the number on a day where they will simply want to put the three points on the board.

There is no doubt Liverpool can put teams to the sword when at their best, but that has not always been the case in the last six weeks and Burnley can cause one or two problems of their own. Only Manchester City have beaten Burnley by more than a two goal margin this season and they have caused issues for the other top six sides they have travelled to in the last three months.

Burnley have conceded a lot of goals of late, but the underlying statistics suggest they have been hard done by and better composure in front of goal might have changed the narrative of their form. They have routinely given Liverpool one or two problems to solve and I will back the visitors with the start.

Fantasy Star: Sadio Mane- scored plenty of his goals at Anfield in recent weeks while Mohamed Salah has been out of touch.

Alternative: Trent Alexander-Arnold- should be a threat going forward and chances for an assist and a clean sheet.

Chelsea v Wolves Pick: The second of the live Premier League offerings on Sunday afternoon will give Chelsea the chance to move into the top four ahead of Arsenal hosting Manchester United later in the day. A win will move Chelsea above both of those clubs, but they won't be overlooking a Wolves team that have been able to produce the required quality to test the top clubs in the Premier League all season.

Nuno Espirito Santo's system is completely understood by the Wolves players and they will want to show the manager that they are ready for the FA Cup Quarter Final which is played next weekend. It could be easy for the players to perhaps already have turned their attention to that big Cup tie, but the manager is not going to tolerate standards slipping.

So far Wolves have shown they can challenge the top clubs having earned draws with Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal and beaten both Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The style of play makes them dangerous as they can quickly get out and counter attack those teams, while they can press high and force mistakes under pressure too.

They will be looking to do that against a Chelsea team that were in action on Thursday night, but you can't ignore how well the home team have been playing at Stamford Bridge. The win over Dynamo Kiev makes it 8 wins from 9 at home in all competitions and Chelsea have scored two or more goals in each of those victories, while Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuain were kept fresh.

Wolves have only kept 1 clean sheet in their last 12 away games in all competitions and I do think Chelsea will create chances, but I am not ruling out Wolves playing their part here. They have scored at Old Trafford, the Emirates Stadium and Wembley Stadium and avoided defeat in each of those games, and I think there will be goals in this game on Sunday afternoon.

A narrow home win looks the most likely outcome, but I will simply look for three or more goals to be shared out by the two teams with the most likely result to scupper that being a 1-1 draw.

Fantasy Star: Gonzalo Higuain- scored one last week and could have had more as his fitness is improving in each passing week.

Alternative: Raul Jimenez- has been in fine goal-scoring form and the main threat for Wolves in this one.

Arsenal v Manchester United Pick: It has been a long time since Manchester United fans would have been able to experience a night like they did in Paris on Wednesday and even the fortune that was on their side on the evening will not have dampened spirits.

The win said as much about Manchester United as it did about Paris Saint-Germain who essentially gift wrapped the Champions League Quarter Final berth for their visitors.

Kindness aside, Manchester United fans and players have to be feeling very positive about their chances the rest of the season and even the Champions League has an open feel to it with the likes of Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain out of the competition. It could be a huge couple of months for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, although not one that should make any affect on his chances of becoming permanent manager which looks to be an open secret now.

In general the manager seems to have got his tactics spot on away from home where Manchester United won for the ninth time in a row on Wednesday and another on Sunday may knock out one of the rivals for a top four finish.

Arsenal are under pressure with games beginning to run down and their own trip to France during the week did not go anything near as well as United's did. A terrible couple of decisions from Sokratis saw a tie they were dominating turned on its head and Arsenal were beaten 3-1 at Rennes in the Europa League Last 16 First Leg which means they can't really afford to lose touch with the top four in the Premier League if they want to return to the Champions League.

That tie is still alive, but the confidence of the players will be adversely affected if they were to lose to Manchester United for the second time in seven weeks especially as Arsenal have been pretty decent at home. I would expect Unai Emery to have learnt a lot from the FA Cup tie at the end of January, but ultimately Arsenal are short of quality in defensive areas and Manchester United can exploit those positions like they did in the Cup.

I fully expect Arsenal to play their part as they have been strong in front of goal at the Emirates Stadium and this has all the makings of another high-scoring game between the teams. Four goals have been shared out in both meetings in 2018/19, while three or more goals have been shared out in 8 of their last 11 in all competitions.

Backing at least three to be scored on Sunday looks the best way to approach this game. I did consider recommending Manchester United as the underdog considering their run of wins on their travels, but the underlying statistics worry me a little bit and I will just hope they are on the right side of this one.

Fantasy Star: Romelu Lukaku- six goals in three games including two in Paris Saint-Germain should mean the Belgian continues to lead the line for Manchester United.

Alternative: Alexandre Lacazette- can score in six consecutive League games at the Emirates Stadium and should be the fresh threat for Arsenal in the final third.

Fantasy Football
This is the part of the thread where I identify some potential players that could produce some decent returns for the Official Fantasy Football game run by the Premier League.

Goalkeeper 4.8 Million and Above
Ederson (Manchester City- 5.6 Million): A home game with Watford gives Ederson the chance to add to his clean sheets for the season.

Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester City- 5 Million): Facing goal-shy Fulham at home should provide a clean sheet opportunity for Kasper Schmeichel and Leicester City.

Goalkeeper 4.7 Million and Below
Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham United- 4.7 Million): Cardiff City have been struggling for goals, but Fabianski has also showed he can be the vital final line for West Ham United with some big saves when necessary.

Jonas Lossl (Huddersfield Town- 4.4 Million): A rare chance for a Huddersfield Town clean sheet if Bournemouth continue to struggle away from home.

Defender 5.1 Million and Above
Nicolas Otamendi (Manchester City- 6 Million): Suspended in the Champions League during the week so almost guaranteed to start this game. Always a threat from set pieces to score a goal.

Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool- 5.5 Million): An assist maker and being in the Liverpool defence gives the right back every chance of earning clean sheets.

Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City- 5.4 Million): A player who will be given licence to get forward under Brendan Rodgers.

Defender 5 Million and Below
Joel Matip (Liverpool- 4.9 Million): A cheap option into the Liverpool defence although Joel Matip could soon be pushed by Dejan Lovren and Joe Gomez for the place next to Virgil Van Dijk.

Issa Diop (West Ham United- 4.3 Million): There is a real chance for West Ham United to get a clean sheet this weekend and Issa Diop has been a strong defender for them all season.

Midfielder 6.7 Million and Above
Sadio Mane (Liverpool- 9.8 Million): Has scored five goals in his last four games at Anfield and has stepped up while Mohamed Salah has just hit a poor patch of form.

Bernardo Silva (Manchester City- 7.5 Million): The absence of De Bruyne means Bernardo Silva should be back in a position to run the show for Manchester City where he has thrived for much of the season.

James Maddison (Leicester City- 6.7 Million): Been in good form for Leicester City and can help create chances and potentially score goals against a porous Fulham defence.

Midfielder 6.6 Million and Below
Manuel Lanzini (West Ham United- 6.4 Million): The Argentinian is back playing ninety minutes and he is a key creative influence for West Ham United.

Pedro (Chelsea- 6.3 Million): Scored another goal for Chelsea on Thursday and has been in good form at Stamford Bridge.

Harvey Barnes (Leicester City- 5.5 Million): Has been in fantastic goal-scoring positions but just needs to show a touch more composure when he gets into those positions.

Forward 6.1 Million and Above
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City- 11.8 Million): A strong record against Watford, as Aguero has against everyone, and I do think he leads the line before Gabriel Jesus takes over the striking duties to give Aguero a rest.

Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace- 6.9 Million): Been in great form for Crystal Palace and Wilfried Zaha is facing an underperforming Brighton defence.

Forward 6 Million and Below
Charlie Austin (Southampton- 5.5 Million): Has to lead the line for Southampton and can cause problems for Tottenham Hotspur who had been conceding plenty of away goals before beating Dortmund during the week.

MY PICKS: Crystal Palace & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.37 Bet Fred
Cardiff City-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet Victor
Huddersfield Town + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet Victor
Leicester City & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.85 Bet Fred
Everton 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365
Tottenham Hotspur @ 1.86 Bet Victor
Manchester City - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet365
Burnley + 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Fred
Chelsea-Wolves Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet Victor
Arsenal-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.66 Bet365

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