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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, 5 October 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (October 5-6)

The final round of Premier League fixtures are going into the books before the next international break of the season.

This is an important time for managers who are perhaps beginning to feel the heat of a poor start to the campaign with clubs having two weeks to think about the direction the team is heading in.

Going into the break off a loss will make it a nervous fortnight for the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Steve Bruce and Marco Silva, while Quique Sanchez Flores has to be a little concerned at impatient Watford.

It is a big weekend for all four of those managers and my thoughts about Solskjaer at Manchester United which were written before the Arsenal game can be read here.

The Champions League Picks during the week had very little luck attached to them when you think of the domination of Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, but both settling for narrow wins, and Liverpool blowing a 3-0 lead against Salzburg.

Hopefully that is not indicative of the kind of month October is going to be as I look to get things moving in a positive direction with these selections from this weekend.

Brighton v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The opening Premier League game of the weekend comes from the Amex Stadium and there is going to be a lot of eyes on this fixture to see how Tottenham Hotspur react to their 2-7 home defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

The final result was harsh on Tottenham Hotspur who conceded three times when chasing the game in the final few minutes. It was reminiscent of the way Manchester City scored late goals to put a gloss on a big win at Old Trafford a few years ago and I think Mauricio Pochettino is right to call for calm.

The problem for the manager is that this result has come during a poor run of form when there have been rumours that he is not happy and that the squad is not in sync with one another. It has left Tottenham Hotspur looking like a team short of confidence and when they concede you do see heads begin to drop.

A poor away run in the Premier League has seen Tottenham Hotspur lose 7 of their last 9 on their travels and they are a favourite that looks very short on the prices being offered.

Ultimately it is difficult to back Brighton considering they have not won a League game since the opening weekend and none of their last 9 at the Amex Stadium in the Premier League. Graham Potter does have Brighton playing more attacking football which has yet to be rewarded as it should be, but the absence of Shane Duffy leaves them looking short of quality at the back too and I would think Tottenham Hotspur have the kind of attacking players to take advantage.

Neither team has convinced at the back so this does feel like a game that will feature at least three goals shared out. Brighton games at home have been low-scoring this season, but both teams have scored in 2 of the 3 Brighton have played here and I am not sure Tottenham Hotspur would settle for that as they look to erase the memories of the last Champions League game.

The last two games between these clubs have seen both teams score too and I am going to look for a fun start to the weekend with chances and goals scored in this one. Backing at least three goals to be shared out is the play here.

Burnley v Everton Pick: Both Burnley and Everton will head into this weekend believing this is a fixture they can win and I do think the layers are underestimating the chance of seeing goals when these teams face each other.

For all of the headlines Everton were making defensively at the end of last season and early this, it has been clear that they are a work in progress at the back. Teams have been creating plenty of chances against them and Everton are short of confidence which is no surprise considering they have lost 3 in a row in the Premier League.

This is an area that Burnley will look to exploit, especially from set pieces, and the last few games played by Sean Dyche's men have seen them looking a little more confident going forward. They have scored at twice in the last couple of Premier League games against Norwich City and Aston Villa and Burnley are showing enough in the final third to believe they can give Everton problems.

Everton will also feel they can attack Burnley with success as the home team have not been as secure as they would like at the back. I expect that will improve with the work Sean Dyche does with his team, but Everton have shown they can create chances and it is very much about finding that consistent goalscorer to put away the opportunities that have been produced.

A lack of goals away from home is a concern for Everton, but they did create chances at Villa Park and the Vitality Stadium and I think we will see more of the same on Saturday at Turf Moor. 3 of the last 4 Premier League games that both Burnley and Everton have played in recent weeks have ended with at least three goals shared out.

The last 4 between these clubs at Turf Moor have also featured at least three goals shared out and I will back that to be the outcome on Saturday at odds against.

Liverpool v Leicester City Pick: This is a big game in the Premier League as we get to see Liverpool take on another test in their bid to maintain their 100% record and 5 point lead in the table. They would have loved to have come into this one having not needed to put in the energy they did in the 4-3 win over Salzburg on Wednesday, especially as Liverpool held a 3-0 lead with a few minutes to go before half time.

Jurgen Klopp will be using the game as a learning experience for his squad and ultimately they did win the game to keep the momentum behind them.

However there have been some red flags from Liverpool in defensive positions that have to be a worry. Teams have been creating big chances against them and this Leicester City team are playing with the belief that they can challenge for a top six berth and possibly even more in the Premier League this season.

Brendan Rodgers has had a week to prepare for the game and will be hopeful that James Maddison is passed fit. That will offer Leicester City another attacking option and I expect them to pose problems for the hosts who might be missing Joel Matip again.

He might not get the headlines, but Matip's absence was highlighted in the win over Salzburg as the visitors took advantage of any rustiness Joe Gomez was feeling. I do expect the Liverpool defenders to be more focused when taking on Leicester City who sit 3rd in the Premier League, but it would not be a surprise if The Reds are waiting for their first clean sheet at Anfield for another game.

Both teams have scored in 6 of the last 7 games between Liverpool and Leicester City and in 5 of the last 6 at Anfield in this fixture. I can't see any way Liverpool do not score, but Leicester City can contribute and both teams should hit the net.

Norwich City v Aston Villa Pick: Two of the bottom four teams in the Premier League meet on Saturday and both Norwich City and Aston Villa will be looking for some positive momentum to take into the next international break.

Both clubs have to be happy enough with where they are at considering both were in the Championship a few months ago. They have shown enough to believe they can compete at this level, but the injuries in the Norwich City squad has perhaps influenced the prices on the day.

Aston Villa might have been even shorter if they had beaten ten man Arsenal when leading 1-2 at the Emirates Stadium or held on to two leads against Burnley in the draw at Villa Park last weekend. However there still feels like a real issue with the balance between attack and defence and Norwich City did have the better of Aston Villa in the League last season.

There are injuries that can't be ignored, but Norwich City have been very attacking and are creating chances. They have also felt much more comfortable in home surroundings and I do think the venue gives The Canaries the edge in this one.

I would not be surprised if we see another Premier League game with at least three goals shared out here. The layers are firmly on top of that market, but I do think they are underestimating the chances of Norwich City rallying together for one big effort before the two week break for many of these players following this fixture.

Norwich City seem to be highly motivated by the supporters at Carrow Road and the attacking threat they pose can't be ignored. If they can get the first goal on Saturday I do think they have enough to go on and win the fixture and I will back Norwich City to show some bite by backing them on the Asian Handicap which will return the stake in the event of a draw.

Watford v Sheffield United Pick: The owners of Watford Football Club have shown they are not afraid to rectify mistakes in the managerial office and so Quique Sanchez Flores has to know the importance of a positive result to take into the international break. He has already been sacked once by Watford so Flores will understand the expectations at this club.

The results have been tough to take since he took over from Javi Gracia, but away losses at Manchester City and Wolves can be forgiven if Watford win this game. They were a touch unfortunate last weekend, but there are signs that confidence is hard to build at the moment and the first goal is going to be very important at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Watford have created chances, but defensively they have looked very poor and it would have been a tough week on the training ground to get things a little more secure. In normal circumstances you might consider Sheffield United the right opponent as they have struggled to convert chances, but The Blades have looked sharper away from home and any defensive mistakes will be seized upon here.

Chris Wilder was not happy with the result against Liverpool last week despite the praise his players got for the performance and he will be looking for a reaction. They have a 12 game unbeaten run away from home to protect and Sheffield United will look to sit in and make it a frustration afternoon for their hosts and look to capitalise on any nerves that begin to sit in.

They have shown some resilience away from home, but Sheffield United are going to have to show some more if they are going to get a result here. I expect Watford will begin to have some things breaking their way sooner rather than later with the way they have been playing and the work on the training field should show up here as Quique Sanchez Flores puts The Hornets in a position to win the game.

Sheffield United won at Everton last time out with only a single shot on target and I do think they are lacking a little bit in the final third. One goal might be enough for them to avoid defeat, but Watford should be encouraged by their last couple of performances at Vicarage Road and I think they can be backed on the Asian Handicap which will return half the stake in the event of a draw.

West Ham United v Crystal Palace Pick: The second live televised game from the Premier League on Saturday comes from the London Stadium as West Ham United look to continue a very strong start to the season at the expense of London rivals Crystal Palace.

Both clubs have been in seemingly solid enough form which should mean a decent game is produced. The onus is on West Ham United to get on the front foot, but that should play into the hands of a counter attacking Crystal Palace that have plenty of pace in the final third to cause problems for their hosts.

Defensively there remain some big concerns for West Ham United and that was highlighted again in the 2-2 draw at Bournemouth last weekend. However they remain a team that look like they have enough in the final third to cause problems for any side they face and I think that is going to contribute to a high-scoring game on Saturday.

Crystal Palace will be looking to exploit any holes left behind when West Ham United get forward and they certainly have shown enough in the final third to believe they can do that. Wilfried Zaha is yet to fire in the Premier League since not earning his move away from Selhurst Park, but he was an influence in the win over Norwich City last weekend and Crystal Palace are actually offering more attacking threat than you may expect from this team that have sometimes lacked goals.

They certainly are solid enough away from home to be respected and games between these two clubs have been decent watches in recent years. Both teams have scored in each of the last 4 between West Ham United and Crystal Palace, while 4 of the last 5 hosted by The Hammers have ended with three or more goals shared out.

Weather was a concern, but it looks to be a largely drier day in London which should aid two clubs that do want to get the ball down and play. I think that will also see at least three goals produced by them when they meet this weekend.

Arsenal v Bournemouth Pick: An early blitz of Standard Liege has given Arsenal a 100% start to their Europa League Group and Unai Emery will be looking to make sure his team can maintain their top four spot in the Premier League through the international break. A win over Bournemouth will be enough for Arsenal to secure that place and give the fans plenty to be encouraged about ahead of a run of fixtures that should see the team pick up a lot of momentum.

Arsenal have been very strong at home which has to be respected and they have also been scoring goals for fun. It is hard to see Bournemouth being able to contain their hosts considering the weaknesses shown in defence all season, but Eddie Howe won't be afraid to ask his team to get forward and at least challenge an Arsenal team who have not been impressive at the back themselves.

The Cherries have won 2 of their 3 away games in the Premier League this season which will give them belief they can earn an upset on Sunday. However, I do think it is hard to ignore the fact that Bournemouth have struggled to compete consistently with the top six teams in the Premier League ever since being promoted to the top flight.

Eddie Howe won't change the approach he wants from his team and that has largely been a hindrance for Bournemouth in these games against the better teams in the Premier League. They have struggled at Arsenal in recent years with some one-sided defeats in those fixtures and I do think the home team will have too much firepower for them even without Alexandre Lacazette.

I will look for The Gunners to score the goals which can give them every chance of covering the Asian Handicap and that is the selection here.

Manchester City v Wolves Pick: Balancing the Premier League and Europa League commitments has proved to be troublesome for clubs in England for a number of years and it is a real challenge for a Wolves team that is not the deepest in terms of the squad. A strong Wolves team did earn a big win in Istanbul on Thursday evening, but I do have to be concerned about what they are going to have in the tank for arguably the toughest test in European Football.

Manchester City hammered Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday despite the 2-0 nature of the scoreline and they are strong favourites to see off Wolves. I can't see anything but a home win here, especially considering the energy Wolves expended to win in Istanbul two days after Manchester City played in the Champions League.

The real question is what kind of margin of victory will we see here? I do have to respect the fact that Wolves have made life difficult for some of the top teams in England over the last fifteen months since returning to the top flight. A bigger factor may be the absence of Kevin De Bruyne which does take away a vital piece of Manchester City's attacking play.

The Belgian has been in stellar form to open the 2019/20 season after missing much of last season and I do think Manchester City have already proven they can win big titles even without the obvious quality De Bruyne brings to the team.

Defensively Manchester City are much better at the Etihad Stadium where the players feel more comfortable and I think that will be key for them getting into a position to cover the Asian Handicap in this one. Wolves will dig in and I do think Kevin De Bruyne's absence will make it a touch harder to break them down, but they are on a short turnaround and playing the toughest opponent they could face at this moment.

Last season ten man Wolves were beaten 3-0 here and I feel fatigue is going to make them feel like they have a man less in the last half hour of this Premier League game. It should see Manchester City being able to turn the screw and win this by a good margin in the final game before the international break.

Southampton v Chelsea Pick: There is always going to be room for improvement with young players who are just settling into being Premier League footballers, but I have been impressed with this Chelsea team. Frank Lampard has also shown he is capable of managing at this level and is developing a good team that will believe a top four spot is the minimum they can earn this season.

The win in Lille in the Champions League during the week will be a huge boost for every player involved and those experiences of away European nights will significantly aid the development of the players involved. Tammy Abraham continues to show he can lead the line for Chelsea and his goal will be huge for the striker who has been called up for England for the next two Euro 2020 Qualifiers.

Chelsea will head to the south coast with some real confidence having won 3 in a row overall and also their last 3 away games in all competitions. Scoring goals has not been a problem for The Blues who have managed at least two in each of those away wins and they should be able to cause plenty of problems for their hosts who have struggled to defend cohesively.

On the other hand Chelsea do keep conceding goals and Southampton will have noted the issues the former had from set pieces in the win over Lille. The Saints are a big team who scored from a corner against Manchester United, while they continue to create hosts of chances without having Che Adams or Danny Ings really find their feet in front of goal.

Ings has at least scored three goals in his last two games for Southampton and I do think they can cause problems for Chelsea with the attacking play. The young Chelsea team have not looked that solid when being attacked and this feels like a game in which both teams will hit the back of the net, but also produce enough attacking football to see more goals scored.

The last 8 Premier League games at St Mary's have seen both teams score and everything points to that being 9 by the end of this one. 7 of the last 9 between these clubs hosted by Southampton have ended with at least three goals shared out too and I am going to back that to be the outcome on Sunday.

Newcastle United v Manchester United Pick: There are little sign that things are getting better at Old Trafford and another lacklustre performance in the Europa League on Thursday will not have given the fans much encouragement for big games coming up.

The mood could be improved if Manchester United are able to win at St James' Park in the Premier League on Sunday and at least improve the current position in the League table. For all those who say the manager needs time to put his stamp on the squad, I do think he has to be held to account for what has to be seen as an underachieving start to the season.

This squad may be some way away from challenging for the Premier League title, but they are far better than the 10th best team in the Division. A good looking set of fixtures has not been taken advantage of and Manchester United can't afford to head into the international break with another defeat knowing they are going to be short of confidence ahead of the big home game against Liverpool.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not the only manager under pressure in this fixture as Steve Bruce tries to rally the Newcastle United players following a 5-0 defeat at Leicester City. The home form has been a little better with Newcastle United being unbeaten in 3 games here in all competitions, but they have struggled for wins and that is the only thing that is going to appease the fans.

In recent seasons Newcastle United have had a hard time facing Manchester United with 3 losses from the last 5 when they have hosted them. However this is a Manchester United team that look very vulnerable and I can't have them at odds on to win any away game considering they have not won any of their last 10 on their travels.

Goals might be at a premium on Sunday, but the layers are beginning to get to grips with that in Manchester United games. A few weeks ago you might have been able to get a bigger price on there being two or fewer goals shared out in this one, but the headlines have been made by Manchester United's failures in front of goal.

Newcastle United are not exactly an attacking powerhouse either and 4 of the last 5 between these clubs at St James' Park have ended with one of them failing to score. Backing that to be the outcome of this game on Sunday is priced up at almost odds against and that looks far too big.

The Magpies have failed to score in 2 of their 3 home Premier League games and Manchester United have played 260 away minutes without scoring too. A 1-1 scoreline could be the one that is most dangerous to the selection, but I do believe it will be difficult for either side to respond if they fall behind and so looking for one to pick up a clean sheet is the play.

MY PICKS: Brighton-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Burnley-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool-Leicester City Both Teams to Score @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Norwich City 0 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Watford - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Southampton-Chelsea Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.70 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Newcastle United-Manchester United Both Teams to Score- No @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)

October 2019/20: 1-4-1, - 5.18 Units (12 Units Staked, - 43.17% Yield)
September 2019/2013-9-1, + 8.82 Units (46 Units Staked, + 19.17% Yield)

August 2019/2014-17-2, - 8.78 Units (64 Units Staked, - 13.72% Yield)

Fantasy Football GameWeek 8
This is going to be a fairly short part of the thread about the Fantasy Football from GW8 and that is largely down to the fact that I am planning to keep hold of two transfers that can be used right out of the international break.

Last week I ended up picking up 48 points which was below the average and that has to be a disappointment. To compound things one of the hits I took in the transfers to bring in Todd Cantwell might be a really short-term move if his hamstring injury is more of an issue than Norwich City have let on right now.

With the upcoming international break, I don't want to waste a transfer taking him out of the squad if his absence in GW8 is a precaution and I would likely do the same if I had Kevin De Bruyne in my squad.

Another miss in picking my Captain only increased the frustration from last week, but we go again in GW8 and this has largely been a much better start to the season than I usually enjoy.

Below you can see my team selection for the upcoming GW.

Ederson- home game with Wolves, although this might be the first week my backup goalkeeper is also in action thanks to injuries at Carrow Road.

Andrew Robertson- got a goal in the Champions League during the week and is a real attacking threat even during a time when Liverpool are struggling for clean sheets.

John Lundstram- Sheffield United defender in the FPL game, but plays higher up the pitch and may have chances at Watford.

James Tarkowski- I have predicted there being goals in the Burnley-Everton game, but I still need to play Tarkowski ahead of the two Leicester players I am leaving on the bench. Everton's poor away record might play a part here too.

Fabian Delph- another defender playing in midfield which may result in some attacking returns.

Sadio Mane- home game with Leicester City and been in amongst the goals for several months now.

Raheem Sterling (C)- I can't believe the amount of people who have lost faith in a player that seems to be scoring every time he is on the pitch. Might have a number of new owners with Kevin De Bruyne ruled out this week.

Bernardo Silva- I don't think Bernardo Silva is racist, but he was foolish in posting what he did to his social media page. Will likely start in the absence of De Bruyne and should be the key creative source to unlock a stubborn, but fatigued Wolves defence.

Todd Cantwell- an injury doubt, but if he plays he can be a big influence against Aston Villa at home.

Josh King- away game at a big six club is not ideal for Bournemouth, but one of the weakest defensively is Arsenal so King might have more opportunities than you might expect.

Tammy Abraham (VC)- had chances against Brighton as my Captain last week but could not convert. Still managed a Champions League goal in Lille during the week, was called up by England on Thursday and surely feeling confident to round off the week at Southampton.

Bench- Michael McGovern (plays this week with the injury hit Norwich City team, but hard to see them earning a clean sheet), Youri Tielemans (happy to have him come in for Cantwell if injury rules out the latter), Caglar Soyuncu (another Leicester City player I am happy to keep as a backup in their trip to Anfield), Xande Silva.

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