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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, 19 October 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (October 19-21)

The second international break of the 2019/20 season is behind us and that means the return of the Premier League and other top domestic Leagues around Europe this weekend.

With one more international break to come between now and the end of the calendar year, the next few weeks have some big football matches ready to be played. We have a couple more rounds of European Group fixtures to come which are going to really begin to separate those clubs who will be playing European Football after Christmas and those beginning to have to focus on their domestic campaigns alone.

There are a few managers under pressure over the coming weeks in the English Premier League and some of those won't be around for the busy festive period of which we learnt when games will be played just recently.

Marco Silva, Steve Bruce and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are most feeling the strain and I would imagine poor returns from Everton, Newcastle United and Manchester United in the next few weeks might see changes made. Out of three, I imagine Bruce has the most rope regardless of the positive statements that seem to be coming out of Old Trafford, but putting a run of wins together can quickly change the opinions and feeling of momentum.

In this thread I will have the October update, the picks from this week of the Premier League and also Fantasy Football thoughts going into GW9 of the season.

Everton v West Ham United Pick: The opening Premier League game of the weekend could be a good one from Goodison Park as both Everton and West Ham United look to bounce back from some recent disappointing results.

Both teams suffered defeats two weeks ago in the final League game before the international break, but it is Marco Silva who will be the manager most keen to find answers to his team's slump. Everton dropped into the bottom three and the manager is barely holding onto the confidence of the board, although the underlying statistics suggest Everton are not playing as poorly as the results.

Confidence is a problem and I would not be very keen on their chances of recovering if they were to fall behind on Saturday, but Everton are making opportunities and just need someone to show some consistency in front of goal. That has been a long standing problem for the club since selling Romelu Lukaku, but you do have to believe Everton have enough to get things turned around sooner rather than later.

They will need to take their chances against West Ham United who have shown some real attacking intent throughout the season. However The Hammers continue to be a defence that has struggled with the balance of having so many attacking players in the starting eleven and that is an area Everton will be looking to exploit.

Both teams scoring in this one would not be a huge surprise, but Everton have shown a little more defensively than West Ham United and I think that will give them the edge on the day. They have a strong record against the East London club, and the two week break should have offered Everton a good chance to just reset and see the wood for the trees.

Coming out for an early kick off out of an international break is far from ideal, but Everton can show they are still behind the manager with a strong performance on Saturday. West Ham United will cause one or two problems of their own, but Everton should find enough to exploit the defensive issues Manuel Pellegrini's men continue to display and I will look for the home team to win a game featuring at least two goals.

Aston Villa v Brighton Pick: I was tempted to go with Aston Villa to earn the three points here, but I do think there are still question marks about them defensively.

They are also facing a Brighton team who have been playing really well under Graham Potter. With a bit more luck, Brighton would have been operating much higher up the Premier League table and they have shown in games against the likes of Newcastle United and Burnley that they can dominate some of the teams in and around them.

Doing that at Villa Park won't be easy and I would not be surprised if both teams were to score in this one. Picking a winner becomes a little more troublesome when looking through the recent form of the two teams which suggests both will have their chances in this one.

I really think there are better options around this weekend so am moving on from this fixture.

Bournemouth v Norwich City Pick: It sounds like the Bournemouth injuries are beginning to clear up ahead of the very busy December schedule which is fast approaching, but the Norwich City squad continues to be decimated.

A lot of the problems they are having are in defensive areas and not many look to be returning to help shore up a team that just conceded five in an embarrassing home defeat to Aston Villa. Norwich City continued to create a lot of opportunities in the final third, but they remain a real liability at the back and it does put pressure on them when they do get into goal-scoring positions.

Most of the best work has come at Carrow Road too as Norwich City have been a little naive away from home. It is one thing losing games, but Norwich City have been well beaten at Liverpool, West Ham United, Burnley and Crystal Palace and now have to face a Bournemouth team who do have plenty of scoring power to fall back upon.

Bournemouth have not produced a very strong home record and they have only won 2 of their last 11 at the Vitality Stadium in all competitions. However they have held leads against Sheffield United and West Ham United and I think they would be markedly shorter in the win-draw-win market if they had won those games.

You can't ignore the fact that Bournemouth can be defensively suspect, and that Norwich City have enough in the final third to punish them if they are not improving in that regard. However I do think Norwich City will also offer plenty for Bournemouth to get their teeth into and my feeling is that the home side win a game featuring two or more goals.

The Cherries have scored at least twice in their last couple of games here which will be difficult for Norwich City to match considering their lack of goals away from Carrow Road. The home team are right to be favoured to win, but I think they will need at least two goals to secure the points so the price for Bournemouth winning a game with goals looks appealing enough to me.

Chelsea v Newcastle United Pick: The international break might have come at the wrong time for both Chelsea and Newcastle United who would have wanted to build on big results earned on Sunday 6th October.

Chelsea had won at Southampton earlier in the day before Newcastle United beat Manchester United at St James' Park, but now the managers will be looking to put together a strong game plan for this Premier League game off the back of an international break.

You have to give the edge to Chelsea who have won 4 in a row in all competitions and been scoring plenty of goals, especially when you think of the amount of goals Newcastle United have been conceding on their travels. The Magpies did win 0-1 at Tottenham Hotspur though and they are an experienced team who will be looking to frustrate a young Chelsea squad, but even that might not be enough when you think of the amount of chances Chelsea are creating under Frank Lampard.

Their record at Stamford Bridge is perhaps a concern, but better finishing would have seen Chelsea beat Valencia in the Champions League, while they deserved more than a single point from games against Sheffield United and Liverpool in the Premier League. Defensively there are some issues that need to be cleared up, but there have been one or two positive signs for Chelsea that better is to come.

Newcastle United continue to allow teams to create far too many opportunities and they were a tad fortunate to beat Manchester United. I still worry about the amount of goals they can score and I think Chelsea will be too strong even out of the international break when much of their squad was spread around the world.

The strong home record against Newcastle United should inspire confidence for the players and I think Chelsea will become the latest team to beat The Magpies by two or more goals at home.

Leicester City v Burnley Pick: Two teams who have overachieved through the first couple of months of the season meet at the King Power Stadium on Saturday and the approach used by Brendan Rodgers and Sean Dyche are very different from one another.

Both Leicester City and Burnley sit in the top seven of the Premier League table and so there should be plenty of confidence in the two teams.

The venue feels important with Leicester City earning 71% of their Premier League points at the King Power Stadium, while Burnley have only secured 25% of their total away from Turf Moor. Burnley have to be respected for the fact they have only lost 1 of 4 away Premier League games this season, but they have needed late goals at Brighton and Aston Villa and this is not a team who will score a lot of goals, especially away from home.

Leicester City have also had their issues in scoring goals at home and their number is significantly boosted by the five scored against Newcastle United. However that does represent the third League game in a row where Leicester City have scored at least twice at home and I think that gives them a narrow edge in this fixture.

I have to credit Burnley's away stubbornness, but they do concede goals on their travels and the likes of James Maddison and Jamie Vardy should be well rested. Breaking down Burnley won't be easy, but Leicester City are playing with confidence at home and I think they will score the goals they need to win this game.

I expect Burnley to use the long ball to cause one or two problems of their own, but Leicester City should continue to find the goals to earn the victory and I will back them to be another Premier League club to win a game featuring at least two goals shared out on the day.

Tottenham Hotspur v Watford Pick: Both managers will be feeling the pressure coming out of the international break as Tottenham Hotspur and Watford search for a win to turn around their seasons. The two clubs have disappointed in the first two months of the 2019/20 season and Mauricio Pochettino and Quique Sanchez Flores will be desperate for three points that will ease some questions about them.

Pressure on Flores might be a surprise, but Watford have impatient owners who would have expected more of a bounce from his appointment than they have gotten. A defeat on Saturday ahead of fixtures against Bournemouth, Chelsea, Norwich City and Burnley means the manager is on a short rope with Watford not allowing things to spiral and having a big gap to make up before we even get to December.

Mauricio Pochettino might be afforded more time considering his successes with Tottenham Hotspur, but more and more fans are feeling his tenure at the club has run its course. I am not sure Daniel Levy feels that way, but things change quickly in football and it will be tough for Tottenham Hotspur to not consider changes if they were to lose on Saturday and then go into pressurised games with Red Star Belgrade and Liverpool.

Tottenham Hotspur being at home should be key in this fixture even if they were battered 2-7 by Bayern Munich in the last one hosted here. In the Premier League Tottenham Hotspur have been relatively strong at home and Watford have been poor travellers for a number of months in the Premier League.

The first goal will be crucial, but if Tottenham Hotspur can earn that I do think they will be too good for Watford on the day. The Hornets have struggled for defensive cohesion and Tottenham Hotspur do have plenty of goals in the squad at home, which should make the difference.

As I have said, the first goal is critical for Tottenham Hotspur with their confidence in a tough place at the moment, but the same can be very much said for Watford. If they concede first I do struggle to see where they are going to find the goals to recover and I am going to back Tottenham Hotspur to get back to winning ways on Saturday that will give them some momentum to take into a big Champions League game during the week.

Wolves v Southampton Pick: After putting three wins in a row on the board rounded off by the impressive 0-2 win at Manchester City, I am not surprised to see Wolves as odds on favourites to beat Southampton.

Realistically that is the most likely outcome of this match, but I do think Wolves still look short considering they have not been dominant winners. The clean sheets put together look good, but Wolves are still not defending all that well and I do give this Southampton team a chance here and do believe they can cause problems.

Southampton have been decent right up until the final shot for much of the season and they are creating good openings under their manager Ralph Hasenhuttl. Even away from home Southampton have been able to create big chances and the fact they have earned the majority of their points on their travels means they should head to Wolves with some real belief they can cause an upset.

They have scored in 7 of their last 9 away Premier League games and Wolves' clean sheet against Watford was the first in 7 games at Molineux. It can be tough to score against Wolves here, but recent games have seen teams produce their chances and Southampton can follow suit, although their own defensive issues can be a problem.

With a bit of luck Southampton have had clean sheets at Brighton and Sheffield United, but Wolves are better than those two teams when they go forward. I would be very surprised if they are not able to score in this one considering Wolves have only failed to do that in 1 of their last 12 home Premier League games and backing both teams to score here looks the most sensible play.

Crystal Palace v Manchester City Pick: You have to figure Pep Guardiola would have been chomping at the bit to get his players back from international duty and refocused after seeing Manchester City lose 0-2 to Wolves a couple of weeks ago. It was a stunning result that has left the Champions 8 points behind Liverpool after only 8 League games have been played and Guardiola will be keen to close that gap ahead of the leaders visiting Old Trafford on Sunday.

Last month Manchester City were shockingly beaten 3-2 at Carrow Road and they did bounce back to score 19 goals in 5 straight wins in all competitions. The manager will be looking for a similar reaction with a kind set of fixtures coming up, but they can't afford to think things will be easy at Selhurst Park.

Crystal Palace have been a different kettle of fish here in 2019/20 than they were last season and only conceding 1 goal in 5 games in front of their faithful has to give Roy Hodgson's men some confidence. They have got some defensive reinforcements back and Crystal Palace are 6th in the Premier League table which will give them plenty of belief.

We will find out a lot about them between now and the November international break as Crystal Palace are set to take on the five teams above them in the League table in consecutive weeks. Roy Hodgson is pragmatic enough to try and set Crystal Palace up to be hard to beat and I imagine that will be his idea on Saturday, but you also have to believe that Crystal Palace will look to counter and take advantage of a vulnerable looking Manchester City team.

Kevin De Bruyne's likely return is huge for Manchester City though and will certainly help a team that struggled to break down Dinamo Zagreb before the poor defeat to Wolves. With the Belgian back, Manchester City might have too much for Crystal Palace and this is a team that have been very productive away from goal when it comes to creating chances and scoring goals.

Manchester City have managed three in each of their last 3 away wins in all competitions and have hit that number in 5 of their 6 on their travels this season. The only game they failed to do that was the defeat at Norwich City, while last season Manchester City secured the win at Selhurst Park with a late third goal.

They have hit that mark in half of the 4 visits to this ground under Pep Guardiola and I am going to back Manchester City to come out with a statement performance following the international break. Most of the markets look very tight, but backing Manchester City to score at least three times here is a good enough price to be worthy of getting behind as far as I am concerned.

Manchester United v Liverpool Pick: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made it clear that the game against Liverpool was a potentially 'perfect' one for Manchester United to bounce back from a slump in form which has seen them fall to 12th in the Premier League table. That might have been the case once upon a time, but for most Manchester United fans there is something of a fear factor at play that their team could be seriously outclassed on Sunday.

One positive is that it sounds like Manchester United's squad could be boosted by the returns of Luke Shaw, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial. The last of those players could be particularly important as Manchester United have really been struggling for an end product to their play.

Prior to the international break you may have felt there would be chances against a Liverpool team that have not been defending as well as last season, but things could be different on Sunday. Having Alisson and Joel Matip back in the squad could be huge for the players, especially having the starting goalkeeper back and that might actually give Liverpool a bit more solidity that has been missing.

Even without Alisson this is a team that has not been giving up a lot of chances in recent games so Manchester United are going to be under pressure to find some creativity to set things up for their forward players.

Keeping a solid hold of the vaunted front three of Liverpool is another big challenge for Manchester United who have perhaps defended a little better than the lack of clean sheets may suggest. Manchester United have only managed a single clean sheet in their last 5 in all competitions, but the return of the two full backs as well as Victor Lindelof could offer a boost for the entire team.

Games between these teams are always going to be competitive, but it is hard to ignore the feeling that Liverpool have a stronger team with a clear identity and that can make the difference for them. I can't remember the last time Liverpool would have been as short a price to win at Old Trafford and even the David Moyes led Manchester United were favourites when they hosted Liverpool which kind of shows the expectations that most have of this fixture.

Liverpool score goals and Manchester United don't keep a lot of clean sheets so there is the belief the visitors will head in and win easily at Old Trafford. It would be hugely disappointing if that is the case on Sunday and I am expecting Manchester United to defend deep and try and constrict the space for the Liverpool front three, while trying to hit their visitors on the counter attack.

It is potentially going to be effective, but Manchester United need to play a hugely clean game if they are going to push Liverpool here.

Unlike the layers, I am anticipating a close game where the two defences are able to contain the attacking threats just well enough to see them come out on top. 3 of the 4 games played at Old Trafford between these clubs since Jurgen Klopp took over at Liverpool have ended with less than three goals scored.

In fact they have played 9 times with Klopp leading Liverpool and 7 of those have ended with less than three goals shared out. Manchester United have defended well enough to belief they can do some sort of job at the back and Liverpool are a difficult team to score against with improving performances and with Alisson back between the sticks.

David De Gea’s likely absence is a huge blow for Solskjaer and Manchester United, but Sergio Romero is a decent backup. They will be looking for the Argentinian to have a big day in helping to keep Liverpool out, although he clearly is a step down from De Gea.

An early goal will change the atmosphere of the fixture completely, but I can see both teams having a look at each other before trying to turn the screw. Backing less than three goals to be shared out at odds against looks a big price.

Sheffield United v Arsenal Pick: The final game of the Premier League this weekend comes on Monday Night Football when Sheffield United host Arsenal at Bramall Lane.

Sheffield United have had a difficult time at home throughout the early part of this season, and they have lost 3 in a row here by the same 0-1 scoreline. Chances are being created, but finding a consistent avenue to goal has been something of a problem for Chris Wilder's men and the absence of both Oliver McBurnie and David McGoldrick won't be much help for The Blades.

It will be encouraging for Sheffield United that they have been able to create chances and I do think they can create problems for Arsenal who have not always been very convincing at the back. There have been better signs from Arsenal of late, but I do think this is the kind of atmosphere in which they can struggle to keep their composure as we saw when Arsenal blew a 0-2 lead at Watford in an eventual draw at Vicarage Road.

You can see why Arsenal are the narrow favourites here as they have been playing with a real attacking intent in recent games. They do create chances of their own and Sheffield United have not been as effective defensively as they would have liked.

Those recent performances have contributed to the price on seeing less than three goals in this fixture, but I do think the layers have underestimated the chances of that happening. Sheffield United have been struggling for goals and it has been a long time since Arsenal have blown any team away in the Premier League when not playing at the Emirates Stadium.

Like I said in the Manchester United-Liverpool prediction, an early goal could really open this entire game up with the two teams perhaps happier getting forward than defending. However both teams have shown they can have some issues scoring goals at home/away respectively and I think that may show up here.

At odds against backing less than three goals to be shared out in the final League game of the weekend is worth an interest.

MY PICKS: Everton & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.35 Coral (2 Units)
Bournemouth & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.86 Coral (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Wolves-Southampton Both Teams to Score @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester City Over 2.5 Team Goals @ 1.95 Coral (2 Units)
Manchester United-Liverpool Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sheffield United-Arsenal Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.25 Bet Victor (2 Units)

October 2019/20: 6-9-1, - 5.28 Units (32 Units Staked, - 16.50% Yield)
September 2019/20: 13-9-1, + 8.82 Units (46 Units Staked, + 19.17% Yield)
August 2019/20: 14-17-2, - 8.78 Units (64 Units Staked, - 13.72% Yield)

Fantasy Football GameWeek 9
Ending any Fantasy Football GW with green arrows across the board and with a total some way higher than the average score can never be a bad thing, but I have to say I do feel some points have been left out there.

Once again I have got my Captain choice wrong which is beginning to be frustrating.

Sadio Mane was my top scorer in GW8, but the likes of James Tarkowski and Tammy Abraham were solid contributors too. Other than that it was a so-so week and I am looking for better in GW9 to try and really begin to make a significant push up the standings both in my personal Leagues and overall.

Before I get onto my team and transfers from GW9, I will put down a list of a few players that have been piquing my interest after some solid performances between the international breaks in September and October. These are players that have potentially good fixtures at good prices before the November international break and some you may think about targeting with transfers in that time period.

Fikayo Timori (4.7 Million- Chelsea): The young centre half has made a very positive impact in his appearances for Chelsea and he looks like he is set for one of the centre half roles for a few weeks.

Both Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen are dealing with injuries and I think Timori has been more impressive than Kurt Zouma which should secure his place in the starting eleven for the next few games.

Between this and the next international break, Chelsea face Newcastle United and Crystal Palace at home and Burnley and Watford on their travels so a cheap way into that defence looks appealing.

Shane Duffy (4.9 Million- Brighton): A defender with the capability of scoring goals can't be ignored, while Brighton face Aston Villa, Everton and Norwich City over the next three GameWeeks.

The latter two are at home against goal-shy opponents and Brighton did earn a clean sheet in their last fixture at the Amex Stadium.

Diego Rico (4.2 Million- Bournemouth): It is never easy wanting to bring in a Bournemouth defender, but Diego Rico has been a real attacking threat from this position.

The upcoming games do not look massively taxing for Bournemouth and Rico might be able to make up for a lack of clean sheets with the potential of attacking returns. At the price it opens up the chance of picking up spare cash to improve the forward positions.

Gylfi Sigurdsson (7.6 Million- Everton): Time is running out for Marco Silva a manager of Everton and owners of Gylfi Sigurdsson in the FPL game have lost complete faith in the Icelandic midfielder.

I still think there is a chance for things to improve for Everton in the weeks ahead and this is a team that is playing better than the results. Any improvement will be heavily influenced by Gylfi Sigurdsson and I think he can have a much bigger impact than we have seen all season so far.

Callum Hudson-Odoi (5.9 Million- Chelsea): All of the headlines early in the season have come from youngsters Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham, but Callum Hudson-Odoi is back from an injury and had a positive couple of weeks prior to the international break.

He was in great form for England Under 21 over the last two weeks too and I am very high on this player (I was desperate for Manchester United to bid for him when having contract issues at Chelsea).

A long-term contract at Stamford Bridge has since been signed and Hudson-Odoi has been given his chance by Frank Lampard. He is considerably cheaper than Mount in the FPL game and over the next month I think the winger could show how important he is going to be for Chelsea over the coming weeks, months and years.

CHO has two assists in two League games played this season and I also think he has a few goals in his locker so this is someone I like at the price.

Troy Deeney (6.2 Million- Watford): This has not been a very good start to the season for Watford, but they played much better than the results would indicate and especially if you remove the awful 8-0 hammering at Manchester City.

Troy Deeney has long been an influential figure at Vicarage Road and I do think he will help the team put some finishing touches to good play up until the final pass/shot.

After Tottenham Hotspur this week (when Deeney might be a sub at best), Watford play Bournemouth, Chelsea, Norwich City, Burnley and Southampton and that is a group of games that do appeal.

Raul Jimenez (7.1 Million- Wolves): I am surprised so many Raul Jimenez owners have given up on the striker and there might be some value getting with the Wolves player now.

He is not a 25 goal a year striker, but Jimenez has a major impact on much of the Wolves attacking play which makes him a source for assists too.

Up until the middle of December it feels like Wolves have the kind of fixtures that Jimenez should be able to take real advantage of and it has been clear Nuno Espirito Santo is going to use him in both Premier League and Europa League matches.

My GW9 Fantasy Team
I didn't use any transfers in GW8 anticipating I would be able to deal with any injuries that came out of the international break that was taking place following that FPL week.

It has turned out to be a fairly productive idea and I am using both transfers this week as I bring in Fikayo Timori and Callum Hudson-Odoi for Fabian Delph and Bernardo Silva.

I will explain my reasons below as I lay out my team for GW9.

Ederson- it is difficult to trust Manchester City to keep clean sheets at the moment, especially away from home. The return of John Stones should help though and a good set of fixtures means keeping faith in Ederson.

Andrew Robertson- any time Liverpool visit Old Trafford you have to expect a really tough game, but I would not be massively surprised if they kept a clean sheet there again like they did back in February.

Fiyako Timori- a home game with Newcastle United and some strong fixtures to come for Chelsea meant it was an easy choice to bring him in for Fabian Delph.

The Everton player withdrew from England duty and is set to miss out this week, while tougher fixtures to come means I can't really afford to wait until he is ready to return.

Caglar Soyuncu- he helped Turkey move to the brink of a place in the next European Championships over the last two weeks. The Leicester City defender has made the fans forget about Harry Maguire and a home game with Burnley is a good chance for another clean sheet.

Sadio Mane- another Liverpool player at Old Trafford, Sadio Mane is the form player of the three vaunted forwards that will make the short trip from Anfield.

Raheem Sterling (VC)- always at risk of rotation under Pep Guardiola, but I do think the importance of trying to close the 8 point gap to Liverpool means Manchester City can't afford to mess around with their starting eleven.

Callum Hudson-Odoi- I have to say I do think Frank Lampard will be careful with CHO and how much football he plays, but his last few performances warrants a start in this one.

I removed Bernardo Silva for Hudson-Odoi because the Portuguese player seems to have lost some of the favour he had with Pep Guardiola. Some of that might be down to the FA charge he has been dealing with, but either way I am not holding a player of such value that may or may not start any given week.

Todd Cantwell- not much reward has arrived since bringing in Todd Cantwell, but Norwich City are playing a far from watertight Bournemouth team and Cantwell has a chance for some positive returns in next three to four weeks.

Youri Tielemans- a home game with Burnley and a player who gets off more shots than his fantasy returns suggest.

Joshua King- a penalty taker, a home game with defensively vulnerable Norwich City and playing for a team that loves to get forward.

Tammy Abraham (C)- I've probably jinxed him by picking Abraham as Captain this week considering my lack of success with that role, but a home game with Newcastle United is hard to ignore.

Yes they kept a clean sheet at Tottenham Hotspur, but Newcastle United have conceded 11 goals in three games at Norwich City, Liverpool and Leicester City and at least three in each fixture.

My only concern has to be that Abraham has only scored two of his eight Premier League goals at home.

Bench- Michael McGovern (back up again at Norwich City), John Lundstram (home game with Arsenal means an unlikely clean sheet, but I don't mind him being my first sub with possible attacking returns Lundstram provides), James Tarkowski, Xande Silva.

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