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

The English Winter Break is in play for the first time this season and I think it has not gone as well as the Premier League and the top clu...

Friday, 30 August 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (August 31-September 1)

It feels like the Premier League has only been back five minutes, but the first international break begins at the end of this weekend which has to be a little frustrating for fans.

This has come at the end of a busy wee for supporters, especially for those who support clubs playing European Football, as the draws for the next few months were put together. Even the managers admit that August is a month where the majority of teams are playing a single match per week, but in September through to the end of December games come thick and fast which means managers are under pressure to balance their squads and make the right team selections to get through all of the fixtures that have been scheduled.

I will have further thoughts about the Manchester United draw during the international break when I write my next 'United Corner'. That will follow the closing of the European transfer window and after the game on Saturday which has taken on real importance following the disappointing defeat to Crystal Palace last weekend.

This month has been really inconsistent, but it has been a frustrating one for the Football Picks. Things could easily have gone better than they have, but I do think things will be turned around if the statistics continue to back up the selections. Hopefully that begins this weekend.

Southampton v Manchester United Pick: These two teams come into the final Premier League game before the international break off of contrasting results. Southampton were winners at Brighton last weekend, but they were aided by a very early sending off for the home team, while Manchester United missed another penalty in what was an eventual 1-2 defeat to Crystal Palace.

It is a bad result for Manchester United and has just knocked the brief optimism that came out of the 4-0 win over Chelsea on the opening weekend of the season. The home defeat to Crystal Palace really can't be glossed over even if Manchester United were unfortunate to lose on the day, but the squad already looks far too thin to complete the objectives for the season barring having a huge amount of luck on the injury front.

That has not been the case so far with Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial expected to miss out on Saturday and that could mean a start for Mason Greenwood as the 17 year old is asked to pick up the slack. Mason Greenwood is talented, but there is a lot of pressure on a young man and this is an already difficult fixture to negotiate.

Southampton might only have won for the first time last weekend, but they have followed that up with a win at Fulham in the League Cup and actually have had the better of all three League games played so far this season. Losing Nathan Redmond to an injury is a real blow for Ralph Hasenhuttl's team, but they have some momentum to take into this Premier League fixture as they look for a first win over Manchester United at St Mary's since 2003.

Last season they actually scored the first goal in both League games against Manchester United and blew a 2-0 lead at St Mary's in what turned out to be Mark Hughes' last game in charge of the club. There remain some major questions from a defensive point of view that Southampton have yet to answer, but they are a team who can get forward and create chances which suggests they will have plenty to say for themselves in the early kick off.

Manchester United have created chances themselves, but the injury to Anthony Martial is a blow. I still think the Southampton defence is vulnerable enough for the United players to make opportunities in this one though and this might be the third game within the last few months that has produced plenty of goals between these two clubs.

Backing at least three goals to be shared out looks a decent enough price and the best way to approach this fixture.

Chelsea v Sheffield United Pick: It was a very important win for Chelsea last weekend as they held off Norwich City at Carrow Road, but they were deserved winners and the Frank Lampard era will feel like it has gotten underway. Beating another of the newly promoted clubs will give Chelsea some momentum to take into the international break and they are strong favourites to do that this weekend.

Injuries to the likes of N'Golo Kante and Mason Mount will be problematic, but it does mean Ross Barkley is given an opportunity to impress. The expectation has to be that Chelsea will get the majority of the ball in this one and the two goals scored by Tammy Abraham last weekend is a huge boost for his confidence and also for the team in general.

This is certainly not going to be an easy game for Chelsea though as they face a Sheffield United team that has plenty of energy and who know what the manager wants from each individual on the pitch. Chris Wilder was able to make wholesale changes for the League Cup win over Blackburn Rovers during the week so fatigue is not an issue, while Sheffield United will believe there are vulnerabilities in the Chelsea defence that can be exposed.

The real issue for Sheffield United is going to be whether they have enough goals in the squad to survive in the top flight and even Wilder admitted last weekend they need more than just effort. That may be enough to give Chelsea some issues, but I do think the home team are going to be feeling very good about themselves after the win at Norwich City and they might have a little bit too much about them for their visitors.

Chelsea have not been as clinical in front of goal as they would like either, but they are creating chances and the goals scored by Abraham last weekend might be the confidence boost he needed to start performing at this level. I think he could be influential in helping Chelsea win this game and covering the Asian Handicap on Saturday too.

Crystal Palace v Aston Villa Pick: After beating Manchester United at Old Trafford I am sure there will be plenty out there who really want to get behind Crystal Palace as a home favourite when they take on Aston Villa this weekend. There are some talented players that Roy Hodgson can call upon, but scoring goals remains a big problem for Crystal Palace and it makes them a vulnerable favourite.

They have beaten Aston Villa in 3 of the last 5 at Selhurst Park, but Crystal Palace have a pretty miserable record here over the last couple of seasons as they have become more of a counter attacking team. When teams don't leave spaces or when the onus is on Crystal Palace they do find it more difficult to break down opponents, although it does have to be said that Aston Villa have looked anything but watertight at the back so far this season.

However I do think Aston Villa can score goals and one may be enough to avoid defeat for the underdog on Saturday. They have shown they have quality in the final third to score the goals they need and I do think Aston Villa don't look a bad price to avoid defeat.

It won't be easy but Crystal Palace are not a team I would want to be backing as a favourite too often this season. So far they have not created enough to really believe in them and I do think they are lacking a consistent path to goal outside of the errors made by opponents like Manchester United did for both goals conceded last weekend.

The expectation of being able to back up the win at Old Trafford could also weigh on the mind and Aston Villa should be well rested ahead of this one having played Friday in the Premier League eight days ago. The visitors have created enough in the final third to think they will score a goal here and I think that will be good for at least a point which makes them an appealing back on the Asian Handicap to avoid defeat this weekend.

Leicester City v Bournemouth Pick: I have to admit I am a big fan of some of the football that Leicester City are able to produce, but Brendan Rodgers is still trying to find a little more consistency in the final third. For all of the eye-pleasing football, his team have sometimes struggled to create really good chances despite having some talented youngsters playing behind Jamie Vardy.

The 1-2 win at Sheffield United last weekend will be a boost, but Leicester City didn't create a lot of good chances at Bramall Lane and that has been a feature of their season so far.

Facing Bournemouth is going to help as The Cherries continue to look very light at the back, but this won't be an easy game considering the goals Bournemouth have been scoring. Straight away my feeling is that Leicester City are going to need to score at least twice to win this one, but they did manage a 2-0 victory over their visitors in the corresponding fixture at the end of March and I do think the confidence of their wins over the last seven days gives the home team some momentum.

Bournemouth have been on a fine run of scoring goals in their most recent away games and they managed two more in a win over Aston Villa earlier this month. With Callum Wilson and Joshua King, I do think Bournemouth have to be respected, but my underlying feeling is that defensively it is going to be a tough match up for them with the creative players Leicester City can put on the field.

I would not be surprised if the visitors did score, but Leicester City have shown enough at the back to hold them out just long enough for their strikers to win the game for them. Backing the home team to win a game featuring at least two goals is the play for me here.

Manchester City v Brighton Pick: Like with many Manchester City games, they are going to be big favourites to win against any team they face and that usually means it is difficult to find an angle to go with them.

This is a team who can absolutely blow teams away when at their very best, but Pep Guardiola won't be overly happy with the way they have been defending. I am not convinced Brighton will be able to take advantage of that, but in recent seasons they have proven to be a tough nut for Manchester City to crack.

Graham Potter has a different style to Chris Hughton, but even the former Swansea City manager will understand the need to be pragmatic in order to give Brighton the best chance to secure something from this fixture. He will likely look to what has been a solid defensive partnership between Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk to protect Mat Ryan, but even then it is hard to look past Manchester City.

To say this is a team creating a hatful of chances over the first month of the season is an understatement- it is not just the quantity, but the quality and I am not surprised Manchester City have scored at least twice in each of their Premier League games to open the season.

There are many options for the manager and Raheem Sterling can't miss at the moment which all suggests it could be a very long day in the office for Brighton. The Seagulls had not lost by more than two goals in any of the first 4 fixtures between these teams since being promoted to the Premier League, but on the final day of last season Brighton were beaten 1-4 by Manchester City who actually fell behind that day.

I think we are more likely to see that margin of victory again when you think of the level being produced by Manchester City over the first three League games. Brighton have not been bad defensively which raises some doubts, but I think an early goal for the home team will make it a tough afternoon for the visitors and I think backing Manchester City to win and cover this Asian Handicap mark is the way forward.

Newcastle United v Watford Pick: If Watford had shown any kind of form through the first three weeks of the Premier League season I would have really favoured them here at St James' Park. I do think Newcastle United have been over-rated by their win over Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, but Watford are not defending anything near where they should be and that makes it a hard game to call.

I wouldn't be surprised if the points have to be shared, but the pressure is on Javi Gracia to win and I think we are also going to learn plenty about what the players think of the manager.

Watford did win in the League Cup during the week which might be the result they need to begin to turn their season around, but I will look for other options this weekend.

West Ham United v Norwich City Pick: There has to be a lot to admire about the approach that Daniel Farke is taking to the Premier League and I think it would be very harsh to think of him negatively because Norwich City have lost to Liverpool and Chelsea in the Premier League. I do think they will need to find a better defensive shape at times, but Norwich City showed in the 3-1 win over Newcastle United that they are capable of producing at this level.

Ultimately the manager wants to put faith in the players that helped Norwich City earn promotion and he does trust them to take his instructions on board and then carry them out. They have been unfortunate to have had a very difficult fixture list put in front of them to open the season, but Norwich City look like a team that won't be overawed by any they face.

Heading to the London Stadium on Saturday, I expect Norwich City to want to take the game to West Ham United who have looked a little desperate at the back once again. They struggled in that aspect last season, but The Hammers do have some quality in the final third and those players are going to be looking forward to this fixture just as much as the Norwich City attackers are.

The layers have figured that out with 'over 2.5 goals' priced at a very low mark, but I would be very surprised if we didn't see goals.

I think West Ham United might be the team to edge a high-scoring game though with the home advantage likely going to be key to the outcome. I think Norwich City will offer the home team chances and, while they will be threatening, I also think The Hammers might be slightly more settled at the back which should help them.

Backing the home team to win a game which features at least two goals at odds against can't really be argued against and I will look to take that on.

Burnley v Liverpool Pick: The last game in the Premier League in August comes from Turf Moor as a fast starting Burnley team host an even faster starting Liverpool ahead of the first international break of the season.

Burnley have picked up 4 points already this season and that is despite what has been a difficult looking fixture list. In Ashley Barnes they have a striker in form and they have given Liverpool plenty to think about in the last couple of seasons to believe this is going to be anything but an easy game for the Premier League leaders.

In fact in both League games last season Burnley scored first before falling away and they have certainly shown enough attacking threat to pose problems on Saturday. They are going to be helped by the fact that Liverpool have been looking rocky defensively in their opening games and having a back up goalkeeper playing is perhaps making it more tense at the back than it would have been if Alisson had been in the line up.

I expect Burnley to test all aspects of Adrian's game, but keeping Liverpool out at the other end won't be easy. They have conceded at least twice in each of the last 3 League games against Liverpool and it is understandable why the visitors are such favourites to secure the three points on Saturday.

That is certainly the most likely occurrence in this fixture, but I would not be surprised if Liverpool are still waiting for a clean sheet at the end of the game. Teams have created chances against Liverpool and Burnley have shown they know a way to goal against them with a big threat coming from set pieces and the direct play to the forwards like Chris Wood and Barnes who can look after themselves and make it a nuisance for defenders dealing with them.

Burnley have created good chances against Arsenal and Wolves in their last two League games and they have scored in 6 straight against Liverpool. The layers are not really being as respectful of the chances of the home team playing a part in this fixture as they should be and there is some value at taking both teams to score at odds against when I think it should be closer to the price it was when Southampton hosted Liverpool two weeks ago.

Everton v Wolves Pick: I really could make a case for any of the three potential results in the first live game on Sunday and that makes it a game to have a watching brief.

Everton did have a poor Premier League result last time out, but they have been very strong at home over the last few months. On the other hand Wolves have tended to play up to the level of competition they face although the Europa League exploits could be taking a toll on them even at this early stage of the season.

Wolves did win here last season, but Everton have been stronger defensively in more recent months and I am just going to see how the game develops and add that to the sample we have of the way teams are performing this season.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The North London derby is the final game of the Premier League before a two week break and the television cameras will be looking forward to broadcasting what has been a pretty eventful game down the years.

On current form I would expect more of the same with both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur looking much more capable going forward than they do at the back.

Tottenham Hotspur are dealing with defensive injuries having also sold Kieran Trippier, but the continued dispute between Mauricio Pochettino and Jan Vertonghen is not helping anyone. Davinson Sanchez has looked very vulnerable in a two man centre defence and I would not be surprised to see the veteran brought back in to try and shore things up.

Christian Eriksen is another who has perhaps not been as focused on his football as much as any potential transfer to a European team and that has meant Tottenham Hotspur have been short of ideas. They were still unfortunate to lose to Newcastle United having been denied a stonewall penalty, but Spurs fans will be looking for a much improved performance on Sunday.

Anything less and I will struggle to see how Tottenham Hotspur can produce a positive result here- Arsenal remain a real liability at the back, but they have looked impressive going forward and gave Liverpool plenty to think about last week. With Nicolas Pepe having another week to integrate with his new team-mates, I think Unai Emery will continue trying to use attack as the best form of defence and I think The Gunners are right to be favoured to beat Tottenham Hotspur for a third League game in a row at the Emirates Stadium.

I know Tottenham Hotspur won a League Cup Quarter Final here to snap a long wait for a victory away from home over Arsenal, but they look less sure of themselves going into this fixture. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if the motivation of a derby sees the form book thrown out of the window, but I still think it is a big ask for Tottenham Hotspur to win here.

Arsenal have created enough chances to hurt the Tottenham Hotspur backline which is missing key players and I think backing the home team on the Asian Handicap is the way forward. That will at least return the stake in the event of a draw, but my feeling is that The Gunners will have too much firepower on the day and they can return to winning ways this weekend against a Tottenham Hotspur team who have lost 6 of their last 7 away Premier League games before somehow avoiding a loss at Manchester City two weeks ago.

MY PICKS: Southampton-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Aston Villa + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.10 Coral (2 Units)
Burnley-Liverpool Both Teams to Score @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Arsenal 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Season 2019/20: 11-13-1, - 6.58 Units (48 Units Staked, - 13.71% Yield)

Fantasy Football (GameWeek 4)
I've had a very good first two weeks of the Fantasy Football season, but things could not have gone much worse in GW3.

I'm the clever sod who decided to remove Tyrone Mings and Mohamed Salah in favour of Harry Maguire and Sadio Mane and that was a huge difference between the week I had and the one I could of had. To say I was disappointed is an understatement and I am looking for much better this week.

There has also seemingly been a chance in the way the price adjustments are made and it is not a good thing- at the moment it seems it doesn't take too many people selling an individual for them to lose value, yet the rubbish system of only earning 100K for every 200K your player increases in value means it doesn't seem as fair as it used to be.

Some players have increased significantly, but I am surprised by the fall in price in others and it is something to think about going forward.

After a week like the one I've had, it could be easy to think about making vast changes to the squad, but I am mainly sticking with what I have, although I think I will be using one transfer to make up for the likely absence of Anthony Martial.

My concern from the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer press conference is that Martial is going to miss more than this one game and Manchester United have a difficult fixture list in front of them. At this point it feels like I may be selling him high and that is always a positive in the game if you can get in front of players hitting their highs and lows.

Usually I would use this spot for identifying some players for future reference, but with the international break coming up I think it is a moot point until I see how injuries shape up in the next two weeks.

Instead I have gone straight into placing the starting eleven I am going to use this weekend.

GameWeek 4 Team
It was a miserable GW3 for my Fantasy Team which returned just 33 points and I was wrong with my Captain for the third week from three.

My transfers taking out Mings and Salah for Maguire and Salah really did not work out anything like I wanted, but these were long-term decisions and I have to be happy with them. Yes, it didn't work out last week, but GW4 could be a different story as I look for a much better return.

My team for GW4 is shown below- I have used my one transfer that was available by taking out Anthony Martial for Manuel Lanzini as I am not entirely convinced the Frenchman will be back in GW5, while he might not be holding his value through the international break at its current height.

Ederson- it has been three weeks since Manchester City have kept a clean sheet, but facing Brighton at home gives them a good chance to change that statistic.

Virgil Van Dijk- Liverpool have not had a clean sheet so far this season but I do think it is still worth keeping hold of their defenders. You would think it is a matter of time before Liverpool get back to basics, but it might not be this weekend.

Andrew Robertson- has lost some value in the last week, but Andrew Robertson is always in the mix for an assist. Liverpool play Newcastle United next in the Premier League so I wanted to keep both defenders seeing as I have been with them all season.

Harry Maguire- Manchester United will do very well to keep a clean sheet this weekend, but I am keeping Maguire as a starter as a threat from set pieces. Clea sheets were a struggle last season for United and the early signs are not good for that to change this time around.

Caglar Soyuncu- the youngster has been impressive in his early starts in place of Harry Maguire and Leicester City might just be able to earn a clean sheet this weekend if they continue playing the way they have been.

Sadio Mane (VC)- Liverpool have a tough game at Burnley, but they have created a lot of chances and Sadio Mane had a relatively quiet game last week.

Bernardo Silva- it has been a quiet start to the season for Bernardo Silva in terms of fantasy statistics, but he hasn't been playing badly. Has lost some value, but I expect things to start picking up for him sooner rather than later.

Raheem Sterling (C)- goals have been flowing for Raheem Sterling this whole month and I have yet to have thought about using him as my Captain. That changes this week and I will look for him to be my highest scorer this week.

Youri Tielemans- it has not been the start of the season for Youri Tielemans that I would have expected. He has been operating in an attacking position, but Leicester City have scored just three League goals, although things could change with a home game against Bournemouth to come.

Manuel Lanzini- this is the transfer I made this week as I move out Anthony Martial and bring in the West Ham United midfielder. It is a shame he is travelling for Argentina international games, but Lanzini has been playing well for West Ham United who have a good set of fixtures coming up. Being able to save 1.1 Million for future transfers can't be ignored and I will look for Lanzini to have a positive impact in games over the next few weeks.

Che Adams- the chances continue to come for Che Adams and I do think the first League goal is not far away. It would be typical for it to come against Manchester United this weekend.

Bench- Michael McGovern, Joshua King (should have some chances against Leicester City, but I think the home team are tough to break down. Bournemouth have favourable fixtures coming up so I want to keep King for now), John Lundstram (a tough away game at Chelsea), Xande Silva (I considered bringing in Mason Greenwood of Manchester United, but I want to see how he will be used before I make that decision, one that would have been a short-term choice too).

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