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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...

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (September 28-30)

We might only be eight days away from the next international break of the 2019/20 season, but for the top Premier League clubs it is a big eight days which covers two rounds of Premier League fixtures as well as Match Day 2 of the Champions League and Europa League.

Big games need big performances so there is pressure on teams to deliver especially at the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United where negative headlines have been written by clubs who were beaten in the Premier League last weekend and then struggled massively in the League Cup during the week as they were taken to Penalties by teams from the lower Leagues.

At least Manchester United managed to earn their place in the next Round of the League Cup, but Tottenham Hotspur losing on Penalties to Colchester United has just kept the questions going about whether something is seriously wrong in that part of North East London.

My deeper thoughts on Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can be read here.

We move into the next Round of Premier League fixtures- this thread is concentrated on selections to be made from the games to be played from Saturday through to Monday Night Football, but I will then have a thread for the Midweek Champions League and Europa League games before rounding off the week with another set of Picks from the Premier League as well as Fantasy Football talk going into GW8.

It is GW7 this week and there look to be some big decisions that need to be made in terms of who to select as Captain, but I will get to those after the Premier League Picks from this weekend which can be seen below.

Sheffield United v Liverpool Pick: The early kick off in the Premier League comes from Bramall Lane as Sheffield United host Liverpool and the layers can only see one team winning.

It would be a surprise if Liverpool were to drop their first points of the season in this fixture when you think of the lack of goals that Sheffield United seemingly have in the side. I know they scored twice last weekend, but Sheffield United had only one shot on target which underlines some of the problems they are having at this level.

That has been particularly evident at home where Sheffield United have failed to score in their last two games against Southampton and Sunderland. They did create chances against Southampton, but this Liverpool defence is considerably better than the one The Saints send to the field even in the absence of Alisson.

Alisson has been a big miss if judging by the lack of clean sheets Liverpool are producing, but they have been a little unlucky in a couple of games. That was not the case last week at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea created the better of the openings, but there is a belief about Liverpool at the moment and the front three they can send out onto the field should be able to cause Sheffield United some big problems.

In the early away games played this season, teams have created good chances against Liverpool so there is an opportunity for Sheffield United if they can get things right in the final third. The problem for Chris Wilder's team will be finding the balance between attack and defence, especially at home, and I do think that will ultimately be too much to figure out against one of the two best teams in England.

I expect a lot of hard work and energy put in by the Sheffield United players, but Liverpool have scored at least twice in 7 away Premier League games in a row and that may be enough for them to cover this Asian Handicap.

Aston Villa v Burnley Pick: This is the kind of fixture that Burnley have made it their business to earn a result which will eventually lead to safety in the Premier League. Last weekend they beat newly promoted Norwich City comfortably at Turf Moor and Burnley have shown enough resilience away from home to believe they can cause all sorts of problems for Aston Villa.

The home team have played well this season but Aston Villa are finding it hard to strike the balance between attack and defence at Villa Park. Dean Smith has some talented players at his disposal, but Aston Villa have not created a lot of chances in the last couple of games here and they struggled to impose themselves on West Ham United when the latter were reduced to ten men.

I expect Burnley will look to come here and make things as tight as possible, but Sean Dyche will also want to see some defensive improvements from the last Premier League away game. Brighton should have beaten Burnley that day, but this tough, hard working Premier League club were much better against the Norwich City attackers last week and I really don't think there is much between the clubs.

The layers are expecting goals and an Aston Villa win judging by the odds being offered. I actually feel the opposite is more likely in both markets with Burnley and the start on the Asian Handicap appealing.

However I would need a Burnley win for a full payout and I am not completely in belief they can earn that. Instead I am going to back at least one of the teams to fail to score which might not have hit in any Burnley away game so far, but would have been a winner in the last two at Villa Park.

Neither team creates a lot of chances in home/away games respectively and the biggest threat to my selection is likely going to be set pieces. Aston Villa are better than what they have shown at Villa Park so far this season, but Burnley have the know how of the Premier League to limit them here, while they simply don't offer as much going forward on their travels as they may do at Turf Moor.

An early goal will shift the dynamics of this one, but if we can get through the first half hour at 0-0 the possibility of just one goal being enough to settle this increases massively. I will back at least one of the teams not to score in the fixture at a very big looking price.

Bournemouth v West Ham United Pick: The layers look to have a good feel for this game with the very short odds on there being goals between two attacking teams.

Both Bournemouth and West Ham United used much changed teams in the League Cup during the week and both were upset by League One opponents away from home. That shouldn't have dented the confidence of the players too much considering the majority of those involved on Saturday did not play, but the defeats are still disappointing.

My lean is towards Bournemouth using home advantage to earn the three points, but this is a tough fixture to pick considering the improvements West Ham United have made. They have shown some resiliency away from home which makes me lean towards Bournemouth too slight for me to play this game with better options out there as far as I can read right now.

Chelsea v Brighton Pick: Frank Lampard will feel a sense of relief that Chelsea have finally won at Stamford Bridge under his watch even if it was against an overmatched lower League club in the League Cup.

After defeats to Valencia and Liverpool in games Chelsea deserved more than they got, Lampard has to be pleased the squad was utilised in the fashion it was and the return of Callum Hudson-Odoi is a huge bonus for the club.

Hudson-Odoi is unlikely to be risked from the start on Saturday, but Chelsea will be big favourites to win their first League game at home. They have created a host of chances in their last couple of games here without reward, but I think the players have some belief in what the manager wants from them and I do think they are going to be a little too good for Brighton.

I am not disrespecting Brighton when I say that as I have been impressed with the changes Graham Potter has already made at the club. They are attacking with verve and slightly better finishing would have resulted in a lot more points earned than they have on the board right now.

Not many teams would try and take the game to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium as Brighton did, but that openness has perhaps left them a little vulnerable at the back. I don't think Potter will change his methods so I do think Brighton can potentially hurt a Chelsea team that don't seem to deal in clean sheets any more, but I also believe that we will see Chelsea continue to create a lot of chances at Stamford Bridge.

It could be a fun game to watch for the neutrals, but my feeling is that Chelsea's extra quality in the final third will be telling by the end of this one. They did blow a 2-0 lead over Sheffield United here so it is not easy to back Chelsea, but I believe they win their first League game at Stamford Bridge under Frank Lampard and can cover the Asian Handicap in the process.

Crystal Palace v Norwich City Pick: I am only going to make one point about this game- if Crystal Palace had been a better home team over the last couple of years they would have been very much worth backing to win this game at odds against.

No Premier League team should be odds against to beat Norwich City at home on the current form shown by Daniel Farke's men away from Carrow Road. Last weekend they were beaten comfortably at Burnley who created a host of chances against them, but Crystal Palace are much tougher to trust at Selhurst Park.

I do think Crystal Palace win and they came close to being picked, but ultimately it would not be a massive surprise to me if Norwich City did earn something here. When you think like that, I do think it is hard to back a team at the price Crystal Palace are and I will move on.

Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton Pick: There is a bit of unrest at Tottenham Hotspur and the defeat to Colchester United in the League Cup Third Round has only compounded the darkness that is beginning to engulf this club.

Mauricio Pochettino does not seem to be very happy and there are a number of players who have their futures clouded which is perhaps disrupting the harmony inside the squad. It has led to inconsistent results and performances and that makes this is a very big game for Tottenham Hotspur and the manager on Saturday.

They can't expect an easy ride against a Southampton team who have won 4 away games in a row in all competitions and just come off a crushing of rivals Portsmouth at Fratton Park. The goals for Danny Ings will have helped the confidence of a striker for a team who have perhaps not been as clinical in the final third as they would have liked and it certainly means Southampton will arrive in North East London with a spring in their step.

The Saints have not enjoyed recent visits to Tottenham Hotspur with 3 straight losses here and the last two have come by wide margins. As bad as it feels things are at Tottenham Hotspur, they have won 2 of their 3 home games in the Premier League and scored at least three goals in both wins and I do think we will see a reaction from the home team.

It may only be a slight relief from the pressure that is building and I do think Southampton might be able to play a part here considering the defensive issues at Tottenham Hotspur. However I do think Southampton have been riding their luck to 4 away clean sheets in a row and I will look to back Tottenham Hotspur to remind the fans they are still on the same page from manager to player with a good looking win on Saturday.

I will look for Tottenham Hotspur to cover the Asian Handicap in this one.

Wolves v Watford Pick: What can you say about this game? Wolves have looked like they are troubled with the commitments they have to make to the Europa League alongside the Premier League and have not put too many wins on the board in recent weeks and nothing domestically that makes them hard to trust at odds on.

On the other hand Watford have produced two contrasting performances under Quique Sanchez Flores. In the first game they battled back from 0-2 down to draw with Arsenal at Vicarage Road and arguably deserved more than they got, but then last week Watford lost 8-0 at Manchester City.

I would expect The Hornets to have a much stronger sting this week and they did win at Molineux last week, but I can make a case for either of these teams bouncing back from some poor form. I'll keep a watching brief on this one.

Everton v Manchester City Pick: There are some big expectations at Everton and this was a club that many thought would challenge the top six from last season after further investments were made in the summer. Marco Silva's men had a strong end to the 2018/19 season which increased hopes and the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur all look vulnerable.

However Everton have not been able to take advantage of what looked a good opening set of fixtures and the 0-2 home defeat to Sheffield United last weekend has really put some pressure on the manager.

A win over Sheffield Wednesday in the League Cup will have helped soothe some of the unrest at Goodison Park, but Marco Silva might have wished for almost any other opponent rather than the Champions. Manchester City have been scoring goals for fun all season and rested some of their biggest names in the League Cup win at Preston North End during the week, while Pep Guardiola learned plenty of lessons from his first visit as manager to this ground.

Manchester City have won back to back games here and were the last team to win a Premier League game at Goodison Park before Sheffield United managed to match their result last weekend. With the goals in the squad I do think Manchester City will erase memories of their last Premier League away game at Norwich City and I think Everton are still on the edge of complete mutiny against the manager.

If Manchester City take the lead here I do think the home fans might show plenty of discontent which will make it difficult for the Everton players to make the kind of impact they would want. The defensive issues at Manchester City does raise some questions, but I think they have played very well at Goodison Park in the last couple of visits and mentally the players will be more prepared than they were for the trip to Carrow Road.

Plenty of the top names got a rest during the week and Manchester City have scored two or more goals in 6 straight away games in all competitions. Everton will have their moments, but I think Manchester City will be too strong for an opponent who are quickly going to lose confidence if they fall behind.

As long as Manchester City play a clean game defensively and avoid the big mistakes they made at Norwich City, I think they can win and cover the Asian Handicap here too.

Leicester City v Newcastle United Pick: This is a big game for Brendan Rodgers and Leicester City to show they are ready to compete for places higher up the Premier League standings. It is one thing beating Tottenham Hotspur as an underdog, but dealing with opponents like Newcastle United with a huge sense of expectation behind them is the next step in the development of Rodgers' team.

They look set to be without James Maddison this weekend which is a big blow and the only team to win at the King Power Stadium since Brendan Rodgers was appointed are the visitors this weekend.

Leicester City have shown they are capable of creating chances, but they will miss Maddison's creativity against a Newcastle United team who are going to sit back and look to constrict spaces. That will make it tough for Jamie Vardy, but Newcastle United are a team that will offer chances for Leicester City and Steve Bruce is yet to really get the fans onboard with his decisions.

At least Bruce can point to the win at Tottenham Hotspur as a sign of how his team can be successful here, but the goals conceded at Norwich City and Liverpool is a concern. Newcastle United looked short of ideas for long periods against Brighton last week and I do think this Leicester City have shown strong enough defensive shape to be able to contain their opponents.

We might not see the most free-flowing of games on Sunday in front of the television cameras as both teams might struggle to break down their opponent. However you have to give the slight edge to Leicester City even without James Maddison and I think they can win a tight game that features fewer than four goals on the day.

At the prices it is more appealing than asking Leicester City to cover the Asian Handicap and win by two or more clear goals. I don't think Leicester City have shown enough to think they can score three or more goals here which means that any win is going to fail to surpass the number of goals I have set here.

With that in mind my selection at odds against looks to be the call.

Manchester United v Arsenal Pick: Two teams who only just missed out on a top four finish last season meet on Monday Night Football this week and the pressure is on Manchester United to get back to winning ways.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does not want his side to begin to lose touch with the teams chasing the Champions League places with the season yet to roll into the third month of the 2019/20 campaign. He admitted as much after the win over Leicester City earlier this month, but once again Manchester United are going to have to dig deep to earn a result.

Losing Marcus Rashford to injury means United could be down to Mason Greenwood as the only recognised striker they can call upon. Anthony Martial is hoping to be passed fit to return, but otherwise it is going to be up to the 17 year old who has scored in his last two starts at Old Trafford.

A teenage striker has made an impact for an injury hit Manchester United team against Arsenal before when Marcus Rashford really announced himself to the fans with two goals in a 3-2 win over them in 2016. It is still asking a lot for Mason Greenwood to do the same even if Arsenal have defensive issues, especially as Manchester United have displayed a real lack of creativity in recent games.

Arsenal are scoring plenty of goals at the moment which is going to have a lot of people looking to back the underdog to win at Old Trafford. I can't blame the thinking, but Arsenal have not been very creative in recent away games and I do think Manchester United have defended well enough to at least limit what the visitors can do.

It just feels like the makings of a much tighter game than the layers are expecting and this may be another opportunity to back less than three goals being shared out as I did when Manchester United hosted Leicester City. Outside of a penalty little was created that day, and even the defensive issues that Arsenal clearly have may not be fully exploited in this fixture.

3 of the last 5 between these clubs at Old Trafford have ended with at least three goals shared out so history suggests I am barking up the wrong tree here. However, looking at the early performances of the two clubs and I can see a game being played out with some caution by both with two under pressure managers not looking to concede too much ground.

Defensively Manchester United have looked the stronger, but I am not sure they have enough attacking thrust to score twice here. Arsenal will feel they have the goals and creativity to win here and score the goals needed to do that, but they haven't been as good on their travels and I am going to back under 2.5 goals being shared out on the day.

MY PICKS: Liverpool - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Aston Villa-Burnley Both Teams to Score- No @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City & Under 3.5 Goals @ 2.05 Coral (2 Units)
Manchester United-Arsenal Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)

September 2019/20: 10-5-1, + 8.42 Units (32 Units Staked, + 26.31% Yield)
August 2019/20: 14-17-2, - 8.78 Units (64 Units Staked, - 13.72% Yield)

Fantasy Football (GameWeek 7)
Like many Fantasy managers last week, Pep Guardiola's decision to rest Raheem Sterling hurt all the more when you think Manchester City scored eight goals against Watford.

He was my selection for Captain and that meant Sadio Mane took over the double points portion of the game.

Other than that decision from Guardiola which infuriated a lot of managers out there, it was a very good week in the most part for the GW6 team that was selected. A return of 68 points was almost 20 points more than the average for the week and it was Bernardo Silva's hat-trick that was the key contribution as my faith in sticking with the midfielder was rewarded.

Andy Robertson, John Lundstram (who came in because Sterling did not play), James Tarkowski and Ederson were the other big contributors as I saw a bunch of green arrows beside my team as we all aim for every week.

In GW7 I am looking to only make the one transfer and it is finally the right time to move out Che Adams who has had some big chances, but has not had the confidence to score the goals he perhaps should have. I am still convinced Adams will be ok at this level, but he needs that first goal to just get back on track mentally.

However Southampton are about to hit a difficult patch of their schedule and there is no point holding onto someone who is not producing the points needed.

There were four strikers that really appealed with the money I have in the bank and those are Teemu Pukki, Ashley Barnes, Tammy Abraham and Sebastian Haller.

All of those players are affordable and ready to enter a decent portion of their schedule, but you will have to have a read of my GW7 team to see which one of those I have selected.

Thanks to some misinformation about the availability of a midfield player, I also made the decision to take my first four point hit of the season. It is my mistake as I usually wait until after the Friday press conferences before making transfers, especially when having injuries in the squad, but the downgrade I saw on Thursday evening on Manuel Lanzini's status meant I wanted to change him.

Hopefully that decision does not come back to haunt me in the weeks ahead.

Picking a Captain is not easy this week with the main contenders away from home, so it is actually a new signing that will take the armband for my squad in GW7.

GameWeek 7 Team
Ederson- a tough away game at Everton, but I remain a one goalkeeper team.

Andrew Robertson- started to produce the returns on the attacking side of the field even though Liverpool have struggled for clean sheets.

James Tarkowski- Burnley have not had an away clean sheet, but I think they have a chance of potentially getting from the visit to Villa Park.

Caglar Soyuncu- Leicester City are facing a goal-shy Newcastle United and have looked pretty good defensively for the most part this season.

Youri Tielemans- James Maddison might be missing for Leicester City so it will be up to Youri Tielemans to find the creativity to unlock what is likely going to be a stubborn Newcastle United.

Sadio Mane- expected to overcome a knock suffered in the win over Chelsea and a big threat for Liverpool.

Raheem Sterling (VC)- it won't be easy at Everton, but Raheem Sterling should be fresh having only played 70 minutes at Preston North End over the last ten days.

Bernardo Silva- there is a potential ban incoming for Bernardo Silva after a poor decision to tweet 'banter', but his hat-trick last weekend should offer him another start here.

Todd Cantwell- I mentioned him very early in the season, but I had yet to make my move for him. Manuel Lanzini looked set to miss a few weeks so I had to take a hit here to move him out and bring in a player who has a good set of fixtures coming up. Remember kids, never make transfers before the full injury updates are available to us to avoid taking more hits in the future.

Josh King- a home game with West Ham United and Josh King is off an influential outing against Southampton.

Tammy Abraham (C)- Che Adams is moved out and Tammy Abraham was the player I felt most comfortable bringing in, even though his value has rocketed in the last few weeks. That price is not likely to come down if Abraham is able to score points during a run where Chelsea take on Brighton, Southampton, Newcastle United, Burnley, Watford and Crystal Palace.

Bench- Michael McGovern, John Lundstram (home against Liverpool), Fabian Delph (home against Manchester City), Xande Silva.

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