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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, 20 September 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (September 20-22)

The first European games of the Group Stage of both the Champions League and Europa League are in the books and it was a mixed week for the English clubs.

Three of the seven playing during the week were beaten without scoring a goal, while Tottenham Hotspur blew a 0-2 lead away from home at Olympiacos. Both Manchester clubs won at short odds, and Arsenal stunned Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany, but all of the clubs involved know there is plenty of time to get things right in a Group which is played over three months.

For now the concentration will be back on the Premier League as clubs look to bounce back in the sixth round of fixtures to be played. Manchester City have a point to prove having fallen to a defeat at Norwich City last time out and they have the opportunity to at least close the gap on leaders Liverpool for twenty-four hours.

Games are split over three days this weekend and with the early Friday deadline for the Fantasy Football players, I will get straight into the Picks and GW6 team selection.

Southampton v Bournemouth Pick: The opening Premier League fixture in this round of games is being played in front of the television cameras on Friday night as Southampton and Bournemouth face off in the latest edition of this south coast derby.

Picking a winner is not easy, although you might give the edge to Southampton having an almost fully fit squad to choose from compared with Bournemouth.

However it is hard to trust either club when you think of the defensive issues they have had and now they are coming up against opponents who have been creating plenty of chances in the League over the first six weeks of the campaign.

Bournemouth have continued to score freely even with David Brooks sidelined and they have scored in their last 8 Premier League games including all 5 played this season. Southampton have scored in their last 4 League games and are on a positive run of form, while 15 of their last 16 Premier League games at St Mary's has seen both teams score.

Fixtures between these clubs have not always produced a lot of goals which is a concern when backing goals, but recent form of the two clubs suggests we will see enough chances to reach at least three goals shared out. The last two between Bournemouth and Southampton at St Mary's have both ended with at least three goals shared out and I would be very surprised if both teams don't score in this one.

1-1 could be the one scoreline that hurts this selection, but I think Bournemouth and Southampton will recognise the importance of the three points in this one. With an attacking game in the offing, I will back at least three goals to be scored in what should be a good opening Premier League fixture this weekend.

Leicester City v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Both Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur are going to be trying to pick themselves up from negative results when they meet in the first of the Saturday Premier League fixtures.

Many would have given Leicester City a big chance to earn the upset at Old Trafford last Saturday, but they largely underperformed. They were not bad from a defensive point of view, but Leicester City struggled to create a lot although they might be helped by the opponent they face this week.

Tottenham Hotspur blew a 0-2 away lead for the second game in a row as they settled for a 2-2 draw at Olympiacos having done the same in the first North London derby of the season. Mauricio Pochettino seems to be very frustrated at the moment and it has continued the poor run on their travels which has affected Tottenham Hotspur for months now.

There is a vulnerability about Tottenham Hotspur and even the poor Leicester City home record against this opponent is not enough to put me off in believing Brendan Rodgers can mastermind a win here. They should have chances against this Spurs defence which has looked weak, especially when dealing with the pace Leicester City have.

My one concern is the amount of goals Tottenham Hotspur are scoring- they have created plenty of chances in their last couple of away games at Arsenal and Olympiacos, but I also think Leicester City may have a superior defensive shape than both of those clubs.

Under Brendan Rodgers Leicester City have been difficult to beat here and I think there is enough about them to avoid defeat in the lunchtime kick off at the King Power Stadium. There does need to be a little more consistency in the final third from Leicester City, but they have the players to hurt Tottenham Hotspur and I will back the home team with a start on the Asian Handicap.

Burnley v Norwich City Pick: These are the kind of fixtures that Burnley have regularly won in the last few years which have kept them above the Premier League trapdoor.

I do think they are capable of winning this one too, but the tight underlying stats makes it hard to believe in them at odds on. Norwich City are off a very big win and clearly have a side that can score plenty of goals at this level which makes them very dangerous, and it is also enough for me to want to move on.

For clarity, I do think Burnley win this, but I can't have them at the prices and instead there look to be better options around.

Everton v Sheffield United Pick: There is some real pressure developing on Marco Silva to make sure Everton have the consistency to challenge for a top six berth this season, but the inconsistent away performances continue to blight them.

They come into this weekend in the bottom half of the table and Silva might not have the patience of the fans if Everton make a poor start after losing heavily at Bournemouth last Sunday. They were a touch unfortunate in that fixture, while Silva has to be confident in his team who have won 6 in a row at Goodison Park in the Premier League.

Everton have scored plenty of goals in those home wins and they have also been a stubborn team defensively, but I expect them to be tested by Sheffield United. The Blades have created plenty of chances in the majority of their Premier League fixtures and they have shown they don't know when they are beaten by coming from behind to nab draws at the Vitality Stadium and Stamford Bridge.

With Richarlison potentially missing for the hosts, Sheffield United will feel there is enough here to steal another away point. However they have to find a more consistent pathway to goal if they are going to do that with a lot of good football being played right up until the shot to convert the big opportunities being provided.

It might be tougher to come from behind at Everton considering how strong Marco Silva's team have been at Goodison Park. Pressure can do a funny thing to players if they feel the manager is not having full support from the boardroom, but Everton have bounced back from poor results, especially when playing at home.

I think Everton will do enough to win, but they are likely going to need to score at least twice to that. Backing the home team to win a fixture that has at least two goals scored in it looks the best approach and at odds against that looks a decent play this weekend.

Manchester City v Watford Pick: After losing to Norwich City in the fashion they did, Manchester City were always going to have a positive reaction like the one they produced in the Ukraine in the Champions League during the week. There are still some questions about the defensive performances considering the injuries they are dealing with, but Manchester City look to be entering a manageable portion of the season and Fernandinho's work against Shakhtar Donetsk was much praised by the manager.

Manchester City should be good to go by Saturday despite the long trip on Wednesday and it is a fixture that has been difficult for Watford in recent years. The 6-0 defeat in the FA Cup Final will still be fresh on the mind and I think that could either be a big motivational tool, or one that strikes fear into the hearts of the players.

Watford were very good in their draw with Arsenal which suggests they can cause problems for Manchester City, but defensively there is work for Quique Sanchez Flores to do. I think that is the main reason they are going to struggle to contain Manchester City on Saturday and I am seeing a comfortable home win for the Champions.

Sergio Aguero and Bernardo Silva were not in the starting line up on Wednesday so should be ready to go, while Manchester City have been scoring plenty of goals no matter who they start. The chances being created should put Watford under pressure and I will back Manchester City on the Asian Handicap with half the stake returned if they only win by two goals on the day.

I am favouring a win by at least three goals though and the chances being created by Manchester City makes me believe they can get to that mark. There is a worry that they concede considering the defensive problems, but Manchester City were largely untroubled by Shakhtar Donetsk and I do think this Watford team might be set up for a damage limitation task than one looking to test their hosts.

In the coming weeks Watford should begin to return more points, but it won't be this weekend as I look for Manchester City to secure a big home win to close the gap on Liverpool for twenty-four hours at least.

Newcastle United v Brighton Pick: This is another fixture in which I can see all three results occurring and my biggest lean was towards backing both teams to score.

Newcastle United and Brighton have both shown some life in the final third which suggests that is the right play, but recent fixtures between these teams at St James' Park have not produced fireworks.

It doesn't bode well for those tuning in for the late Premier League game on Saturday afternoon and I will be doing nothing more than checking the score intermittently.

Crystal Palace v Wolves Pick: If Crystal Palace were a stronger home team I would be happy to back them against an out of form opponent who are fresh off a Europa League defeat on Thursday afternoon.

However it can be difficult to trust Roy Hodgson's men at the Selhurst Park and they don't score a lot of goals which means Wolves should have their chances to end what has been a poor run.

The layers are finding it tough to separate the teams, but they are feeling there won't be a lot of goals and that looks plenty short too. On a Sunday featuring three other Premier League games, I think there are better options out there and will move past this fixture.

West Ham United v Manchester United Pick: The Premier League Super Sunday double offering looks to be a good one this week and first up is a trip to the London Stadium for West Ham United's home fixture against Manchester United.

Both teams have earned 8 points from the opening five Premier League games and there is enough positives from recent fixtures to think both sets of players will enter the match with a lot of belief.

Injuries continue to hurt Manchester United and I do think the lack of creativity in the final third is a bit of a problem. However the biggest challenge remains identifying a Number 9 that can be relied upon to finish off those chances that are coming their way and the continued absence of Anthony Martial has been a blow.

Manchester United have not scored more than a single goal in any of their last 5 games in all competitions and that makes it difficult to string wins together. At Old Trafford they have been largely pretty good defensively, but that is not the case on their travels and West Ham United are going to be tough to beat here this weekend.

The layers have Manchester United down as favourites, and at pretty short odds too, but that looks like a severe overreaction to a couple of wins. Manchester United have not won any of their last 8 away games in all competitions and just 1 of their last 5 visits to West Ham United.

Manuel Pellegrini's men have been in fine form of late and they have the attacking players to create lots of chances. West Ham United were hammered by Manchester City, but they have bounced back very well and I do think they can avoid defeat here.

In the last twelve months, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have fall failed to win at the London Stadium. The Hammers have been creating plenty of chances of their own and have players in the final third that will believe they can hurt Manchester United.

Defensively there is work to do for Pellegrini's men, but they have looked stronger in the last three weeks. Backing the home team to avoid defeat looks a very generous price all things considered and I think that is the right play, even though I would be very happy to get this selection wrong.

Arsenal v Aston Villa Pick: Playing in the Europa League on a Thursday and then having a Premier League game on the Sunday has proven to be a difficult test for many clubs down the years, but Arsenal should be very experienced to deal with the situation now. Unai Emery's team won half of their Premier League games out of the Europa League Group Stage twelve months ago and I do think they are strong favourites to win this fixture too.

The one concern you would continue to have about Arsenal is the really poor defensive displays that makes it difficult to win games easily. Last weekend all of the mistakes came to the fore as Arsenal were lucky to leave Vicarage Road with a point despite leading 0-2 and Emery has to hope there is going to be better coming from them.

The Gunners should have too much firepower for Aston Villa, even without Alexandre Lacazette, and I do think the visitors are struggling to find the right balance in the Premier League.

In the two away games played so far, Aston Villa have given up some big chances to the opponents and doing that against Arsenal is a recipe for disaster. They have also not been the best at creating opportunities and in this one I think Aston Villa will be looking to break with pace and hope to catch Arsenal out, although it looks like a very difficult test for The Villains.

Arsenal have a strong home record against Aston Villa in recent years and I think they can maintain that here. Backing The Gunners to win and cover the Asian Handicap is my play for this late Sunday kick off.

Chelsea v Liverpool Pick: Some of the momentum Chelsea had been picking up would have been curtailed after the 0-1 defeat to Valencia, but Frank Lampard has to be largely happy with the performance in what was an unfortunate loss. That does put Chelsea on the back foot in the Champions League Group, but Lampard will be looking for a big reaction when the team host Premier League leaders Liverpool on Sunday afternoon.

The defeat on Tuesday would have hurt, but Lampard might be more disappointed with the injury suffered by Mason Mount which is almost certainly going to keep him out of this League fixture. Mount has scored three times for Chelsea and has been a huge influence in the early weeks of the season, but Lampard will have to accept the situation and try and put Chelsea in the best position to have success.

There are talented players that can come in, while they are facing a Liverpool team who have not looked at their best defensively without Alisson in goal. That should encourage Frank Lampard to ask for an attacking performance from his team, although Chelsea still look a little vulnerable defensively which is certainly going to be tested by the Liverpool front three.

Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino have all been in strong form and they will have the ability to hurt Chelsea who have struggled with the balance between attack and defence. After a relatively poor performance in the final third against Napoli, I would expect Liverpool to be much better on Sunday and I think this is a fixture that will produce goals.

It has not always been the case when Liverpool and Chelsea have met in recent years, but I think the current defensive concerns of both sides can't be ignored. Mason Mount being an absentee is a blow for the home team, but I still think there is enough about Chelsea to cause problems for Liverpool, while the latter have been scoring plenty of goals.

The odds aren't that great, but I will back at least three goals to be shared out in this one.

MY PICKS: Southampton-Bournemouth Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.66 Bet365 (2 Units)
Leicester City + 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Chelsea-Liverpool Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.60 Bet Victor (2 Units)

September Update: 5-3-1, + 4.20 Units (18 Units Staked, + 23.33% Yield)
August 2019/20: 14-17-2, - 8.78 Units (64 Units Staked, - 13.72% Yield)

Fantasy Football (GameWeek 6)
Things did not go too badly for the GW5 team selected, although once again I made a transfer that ended up being unproductive.

Last weekend I took Harry Maguire out of my squad and replaced him with James Tarkowski, but Manchester United did return the clean sheet. It was still a move that I needed to make with games against West Ham United, Arsenal, Newcastle United and Liverpool coming up and so I do feel it will be one that works out in the long-term.

The decision to Captain Sadio Mane means I have finally picked the right player to double up my points and it was the thirty earned by the Senegalese winger which provided the boost for the team. Green arrows were seen in most Leagues and that is a good position to be in.

Over the coming weeks I am going to begin to reshape my squad and hopefully without needing to take a hit or use the first of the Wild Cards we get during the course of the season. I already have a decent place in which I am going to use that and I do think I can make the transfers I want without needing to hurt my points tally.

With the short week in play, you can see my GW6 team below.

GameWeek 6 Team
There continue to be minimum returns from some of the players in my squad that are frustrating and I have to be the latest to get off the 'big defence' mode I began the season with.

Clean sheets can be a great source of easy points being added up, but the two most likely candidates for that have struggled. Injuries are not helping Liverpool or Manchester City and the former have a difficult set of fixtures coming up which means there is better value elsewhere.

With that in mind it won't surprise to read that I am taking out Virgil Van Dijk this week and looking for a cheaper defensive option to open up funds for a stronger attacking player or midfielder being brought in next week. Only Manchester City look like having a very good fixture for attacking returns this week, so making a change in defence and stocking up the money in the bank to improve other aspects of the squad is my play.

The two attacking players I have look like they could be involved in a high-scoring game on Friday evening so I want to keep them on board this week, although Che Adams is out of chances.

Below you can see the one transfer being made and the starting team for GW6.

Ederson- home game with Watford, I am expecting Manchester City to have every chance of earning a clean sheet this week.

Andrew Robertson- out of the two Liverpool defenders, I am keeping the one who can offer attacking returns even during a time when clean sheets have not been forthcoming.

James Tarkowski- I have mentioned the attacking threat of Norwich City in this post so they have to be respected, but Burnley have made it a habit of winning games like this one based on a strong defence.

Fabian Delph- Everton continue to have a very positive set of fixtures outside of the home game with Manchester City next week. Being able to pick a defender who plays in midfield is always a bonus.

Sadio Mane (VC)- tough game at Chelsea, but Mane is a man on form and it would not be a big surprise if he provides the difference on the day.

Raheem Sterling (C)- two relatively quiet weeks and everyone is jumping off the bandwagon. Playing a full 90 minutes in the week in the Ukraine is a concern for his minutes, but Raheem Sterling will likely be rested at Preston North End during the week and can go back to offering decent returns.

Bernardo Silva- it has been a quiet start to the season for Bernardo Silva, but he did not play on Wednesday and I expect him to start this one.

Youri Tielemans- home game with a defensively suspect Tottenham Hotspur team might give the Belgian a chance for another positive return having produced 12 points in his last game at the King Power Stadium.

Manuel Lanzini- a difficult home game, but Manuel Lanzini will be pulling the strings for an attack minded West Ham United team.

Che Adams- I will admit this is the last chance I can afford to give the Southampton striker who looks short of confidence. If he can't score against the porous Bournemouth defence, a change is going to have to be made.

Joshua King- 10 points earned last week yet King seems not to have too many supporters behind him as Callum Wilson takes the headlines at Bournemouth. On penalties and there should be chances at St Mary's.

Bench- Michael McGovern, Caglar Soyuncu (does have a chance of a clean sheet in any home game, but Spurs have been scoring plenty of goals of late), John Lundstram (away game at Everton) and Xande Silva.

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