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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, 25 October 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (October 25-27)

The third round of Group games are in the books in both the Champions League and Europa League and it was a very big week for all of the Premier League clubs.

Seven matches were played and the English clubs won all seven which means they are all in strong positions to book their places in the Knock Out Rounds of those competitions and possibly ahead of the final Match Day of Group games too. That is important as managers and players will be looking for any kind of rest they can earn in December during the busy festive period so expect all of those clubs looking to put another three points on the board in the rematches of the Match Day 3 fixtures on Match Day 4.

There are a couple of weeks between those European fixtures and in that time we have a couple of League games to come as well as the League Cup Fourth Round during the week between those sets of fixtures.

Below I have my selections for the weekend football, which begins on Friday, as well as a brief look at GW10 of the Fantasy Football season.

Southampton v Leicester City Pick: The Premier League weekend opens up with a Friday Night Football offering from the south coast as Southampton prepare to take on Leicester City. The two teams might be on opposite ends of the Premier League table, but I think it could be an entertaining affair with both Southampton and Leicester City capable of creating chances but not always being the most convincing at the back.

That has certainly been the case for Southampton who continue to be let down by defensive errors while they have long been a popular 'Both Teams to Score' choice. 17 of the last 18 Premier League games played at St Mary's have ended with that being the outcome and I have little reason to think it won't be the case on Friday with the way Southampton have been performing.

Leicester City might have something to say about that with a decent defensive team capable of springing out on the counter attack. However they have conceded in 12 straight away Premier League games and that includes all 9 played under Brendan Rodgers. In fact Leicester City have only had 2 clean sheets all season and one of those was against ten man Newcastle United, while the other was thanks to a very dubious decision to disallow a Wolves goal on the opening weekend.

This all seems to be lost on the layers who are offering up close to odds against quotes on there being at least three goals shared out on Friday. I know Leicester City are not a prolific goal-scoring team, but they do like getting forward and I would not be surprised if Southampton help out with more defensive mistakes, while The Saints have been creating plenty of chances under Ralph Hasenhuttl and will be looking to exploit the lack of clean sheets their visitors have had on their travels.

4 of the last 5 Premier League games between these clubs have featured at least three goals share out. The last 4 at St Mary's between Southampton and Leicester City have done the same and there hasn't been a lack of goals in their home/away fixtures respectively this season.

A rainy day and the potential of a 1-1 scoreline is the biggest threat to this selection going wrong, but I do think both managers will be keen in being positive to earn the three points. It should gel into a decent football game on Friday night and I am backing at least three goals to be shared out.

Manchester City v Aston Villa Pick: The conditions in Manchester on Saturday might be the biggest hindrance to Manchester City when they host Aston Villa with heavy rain expected around the time this game kicks off. That will settle down during the ninety minutes and I think it is going to be a very difficult day for the visitors especially after seeing the kind of form Manchester City have displayed in the last seven days.

Comfortable wins over Crystal Palace and Atalanta have seen Manchester City score seven goals, while they are now facing an Aston Villa team who have had some real problems at the back. Those should be exposed by the levels Manchester City have produced throughout the season, although the real question mark remains in defensive areas as Manchester City continue to struggle to make up for the losses of Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte.

Teams are creating chances against Manchester City and I do think Aston Villa's approach will see them do the same. Brighton came here earlier in the season and did have opportunities, although the approach does mean more spaces for Manchester City to expose as they did that day in a 4-0 win.

Aston Villa do not have a very good record at the Etihad Stadium in recent visits, but the last of those was over three years ago and Dean Smith won't be worrying about that. He has shown he wants his Aston Villa team to be positive and I do think there is every chance they can score at the Etihad this weekend.

If they do it will make the Asian Handicap look very big and one of the few times I might want to oppose a rampant Manchester City team. Pep Guardiola's one match in charge of this fixture did end 4-0 to Manchester City, but they will need to match that margin for a full payout here on the main Asian Handicap line.

However, I do think there might be some juice in playing the slightly adjusted line in favour of Manchester City this weekend. That will offer a full payout with a win by three or more goals and I do think they can match the tally that both Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have managed in home games against Aston Villa this season.

While I do think Villa will score this weekend, I also have seen a team who give up hatfuls of chances and facing the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling is a huge challenge for them. Those three players have combined for six of the seven Manchester City goals in the past week and I do think the team will be chomping at the bit to close the gap on Liverpool with another strong showing here.

Pep Guardiola won't have forgotten the last Premier League result at home and I think his team will prove they have too many goal threats for Aston Villa to manage on the day. If they fall behind like they did on Tuesday it could be very difficult to surpass this line, but Manchester City scoring first should see them come through with a comfortable win in an entertaining affair that Aston Villa will contribute to with their own positive approach.

Brighton v Everton Pick: A lack of goals looks to be holding back both Brighton and Everton who are sitting inside the bottom six of the Premier League table when they meet on Saturday.

They come into this fixture in contrasting moods as a late goal secured the three points for Everton in a 2-0 win last time out, while Brighton lost a point when conceding deep into injury time against Aston Villa at Villa Park.

The venue is all important here when you consider the struggles Everton have had on their travels. A lack of goals has to be a concern, but they did create chances at Bournemouth and Burnley which should bode well for them.

Brighton have been stronger at home and could easily have three wins here already having been the better team in draws with West Ham United and Burnley before hammering Tottenham Hotspur. A progressive side under Graham Potter, I do think Brighton will get forward and cause problems here and the only game in which they have failed to score at home was the one in which they were reduced to ten men after half an hour against Southampton.

Yerry Mina being potentially ruled out will leave Everton short at the back and I do think Brighton can exploit that, but the latter will have their own chances. With Potter's style, Brighton are not as watertight defensively and Everton have pace that should at least create one or two big opportunities to score too.

Backing both teams to score looks to be the play with half of their previous 4 Premier League games ending that way. A first half goal for either team could really open up the match and I do think there will be enough positive play in the final third to see chances created at both ends.

I was hoping the 'Both Teams to Score' market would have continued to underestimate the new look Brighton, but they are about right with the prices and that is my selection.

Watford v Bournemouth Pick: This looks a really difficult game to have a very good feeling about.

Watford are the favourites, but Bournemouth have been in the better overall form and have a decent record at Vicarage Road including thumping them 0-4 here last season. The goalless draw with Norwich City last weekend was a disappointment for Bournemouth, while Watford might feel they deserved more than the point they earned at Tottenham Hotspur, so it does feel a close game that might be decided by fine margins.

A draw can't be ruled out- 8 of the last 11 between these clubs have ended with the points shared out and I would not be surprised to see that again. However I do think there are better plays out there this weekend and will leave this one alone.

West Ham United v Sheffield United Pick: After the results last weekend I am sure there will be one or two people out there backing Sheffield United to continue their away Premier League successes with a victory at the London Stadium.

Any team who earns back to back away clean sheets in this Division have to be respected and a 'never say die' attitude instilled by the manager has seen Sheffield United come from 1-0 down to earn a draw with Bournemouth and 2-0 down to do the same at Stamford Bridge.

Those results have to be respected, but I can't help think that Sheffield United have overachieved and ridden their luck to their successful unbeaten start to the season away from home. Andre Gray missed an absolute sitter against them in the goalless draw at Vicarage Road and I do think we will see a much better performance from West Ham United who were dire at Everton last weekend.

The Hammers were beaten by Crystal Palace last time out here too which is a concern for Manuel Pellegrini, but I am not sure Sheffield United have the goals to really expose what has been a vulnerable defence. West Ham United also had clean sheets in wins over Norwich City and Manchester United here so they won't be too worried about bouncing back from a couple of setbacks.

West Ham United score goals and that will always give them a chance and one that should lead to an important three points this weekend. I do think Sheffield United will have their moments and this is a team that clearly doesn't lie down for anyone they face, but the lack of goals is a long-term concern for me unless they can resolve that in January.

It might be the difference between these teams on the day as Sheffield United may also find it hard to get the energy back after a strong showing in the win over Arsenal last Monday. Backing West Ham United on the Asian Handicap to return half the stake in the event of a draw looks the angle for me here as I think they have enough in the final third to edge out a tough Sheffield United outfit.

Burnley v Chelsea Pick: Frank Lampard said his boys turned into men in the win over Ajax in the Champions League on Wednesday and I have to admit that Chelsea were very deserving of their success. They have some very talented players in the squad who are building experiences at the highest level, but Lampard's statement will be tested by a rugged Burnley team on Saturday.

This is the second of the live televised games being broadcast on Saturday and looks like a really good one on paper. Burnley have been strong at home and have also given the likes of Arsenal, Wolves and Leicester City plenty food for thought away from home while having a week to prepare for this fixture.

That could be key, especially as Burnley will have been stewing after being 'wronged' in the defeat at Leicester City last weekend. A controversial decision to disallow an equaliser will have not sat well with anyone associated with the club, but Burnley won't allow that to distract them here.

You know what you are going to get with Burnley as they look to make things difficult and find long balls to the likes of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes. The latter might be missing this weekend, but Wood has been in great form himself and I do think Chelsea will be tested in a much different way than Ajax managed.

This time they will be faced by a team strong from set pieces and it will be difficult to keep another clean sheet having secured two already over the past week.

On the other side I do expect Chelsea to cause problems of their own as they are a fairly big team, but also have talented forwards in the final third that can create something out of nothing. The return of Callum Hudson-Odoi has been huge for Chelsea and I do think they will just about edge this game on recent away performances.

I would think Chelsea need at least two goals to win here and so backing them to win a game featuring at least that many at odds against looks the play. They have won 4 of their last 5 visits to Turf Moor and on each occasion Chelsea have needed at least two goals with the exception being a 1-1 draw.

Burnley will be tough and hard to beat as always, but Chelsea can show how much they have been learning by making it a seventh win in a row in all competitions.

Newcastle United v Wolves Pick: The Europa League is expected to tax a squad that looks to be as shallow as the one Wolves have, but they have managed to find some big results out of the Thursday games. The biggest was the 0-2 win at Manchester City prior to the last international break, but it is still hard to have complete faith in them.

Wolves just simply haven't been creating a lot of chances and you do think one goal is enough to get something from them. Whether Newcastle United have that in themselves is difficult to call too and like the layers I am finding it hard to separate these teams.

It might not be the best game to watch for those tuning in to the first of two live games on Sunday afternoon and I don't really have a good feel for the match.

Arsenal v Crystal Palace Pick: The layers are never going to offer the best prices for the big six in the Premier League and that is the case this weekend when Arsenal host Crystal Palace.

You have to credit the home team for the fight they have shown to recover from losing positions of late so they are deserved favourites, but they look short and hard to back when you think of the way Crystal Palace have played against the top six clubs over the last twelve months.

They have won at Old Trafford and the Etihad Stadium and Crystal Palace also won at Arsenal a few months ago. However the layers aren't offering appealing prices on Roy Hodgson's men either and backing goals are plenty short too which makes me believe better options are out there with the live televised game that is being played at the same time.

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The second of the Super Sunday live televised fixtures comes from Anfield as Liverpool look to keep their positive run moving forward at home and to maintain the lead they have over Manchester City coming into the weekend. The likelihood is that Manchester City would have beaten Aston Villa on Saturday which means an 8 point lead in the Premier League table is down to 3 points by kick off, but Liverpool should be confident at home.

They have won 13 in a row at Anfield in all competitions and Liverpool are scoring plenty of goals in those fixtures with at least two scored in each. That is always going to give them a chance to win football matches and they are now facing a Tottenham Hotspur team who have not been in good form.

Even taking on board the 5-0 win over Crvena Zvezda, Tottenham Hotspur have struggled for consistency and beating an overmatched opponent doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. The away form has been particularly poor in the Premier League with 8 losses from the last 10 games on their travels and I find it very difficult to believe Spurs can get something from this one.

However you should remember that one of the exceptions to those defeats was a 2-2 draw at Manchester City when Tottenham Hotspur rode their luck massively. It shows they can do that and Tottenham Hotspur did create chances in games against Liverpool last season despite losing all three of the fixtures against this opponent.

My expectation is that Liverpool will have too much, but I also anticipate this being a fixture that features a few goals. Backing Liverpool to win a game that has at least three goals featured would have been a winner in both Premier League games played between these teams last season and I think that is the most likely outcome here.

At odds against that has to be worth a back in my opinion.

Norwich City v Manchester United Pick: It says all you need to know about the current mindset of the manager and the club when you hear Ole Gunnar Solskjaer suggest he wants to 'stop' Norwich City when Manchester United visit Carrow Road on Sunday.

After a win in Belgrade he is also hoping to have some momentum to build upon, but it was another underwhelming performance as Manchester United continue to lack real creativity. Yet again a penalty is the best source of goals for Manchester United and very little outside of that was produced in the final third.

Things could change this weekend when they visit a Norwich City team who have conceded a host of goals in the Premier League this season as injuries have piled up. Norwich City have conceded at least two goals in each of their last 3 at Carrow Road, but Manchester United have not managed that many in a single game since the opening weekend of the season so something is going to have to give.

There are goals in the Norwich City team which makes them a threat and they did score at least twice against Chelsea and Manchester City here. Recent games have not been the best for Norwich City, but they will believe in their abilities at Carrow Road and there is plenty pointing to goals being the outcome of this one.

Manchester United have not scored enough goals to think they are a good thing at odds on here. And that is especially not the case when you think Norwich City could create the chances to hurt their visitors.

The home team receiving a start on the Asian Handicap looks the right angle here. However I am going to move past this as I hope Manchester United can prove my feeling wrong.

MY PICKS: Southampton-Leicester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.70 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Brighton-Everton Both Teams to Score @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
West Ham United - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea to Win & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.05 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Liverpool to Win & Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Ladbrokes (2 Units)

October 2019/2011-13-1, - 2.26 Units (50 Units Staked, - 4.52% 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 GameWeek10
In a GW where the average score was 37 points, picking up 54 points was a boost and resulted in plenty of green arrows on the screen which is all I can really ask for each week.

My only disappointment is that once again I have missed out on the right Captain and that continues to frustrate me. Last week it was Tammy Abraham who should have scored at least once, but instead I only earned the basic two points from him.

Callum Hudson-Odoi, Youri Tielemans and a couple of clean sheets proved important to tick the points along.

In GW10 I do have one free transfer to use on my team and I think it is important to use it because of the way the fixtures have panned out. You can see the semi-risky move I am going to do below, although it is one that could easily be one I regret very quickly.

You can see my GW10 below as I look to build on last week and keep the green arrows coming. My aim is to use this squad for the next two GW and then have two transfers ready to go for the final game before the November international break.

Ederson- two home games against Aston Villa and Southampton to come. Both teams do offer a counter attacking threat against Manchester City, but you would expect at least one clean sheet.

Benjamin Mendy- with the injuries in the defensive areas, Benjamin Mendy may be back in a position to be the Fantasy darling he was prior to his injury in 2018/19. Has started back to back games this week, but I think he could be set for a run and I liked the Manchester City fixtures over the next two weeks despite the dangers both Villa and Southampton pose.

Andy Robertson- as he showed last week, the potential for assists covers up the lack of clean sheets. I expect that to begin to change very quickly though with Liverpool having some nice fixtures coming up.

Fiyako Timori- back to back clean sheets will be a boost for Chelsea, and Burnley could be down both Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood this weekend.

Sadio Mane- goal-scoring form can't be ignored, impossible to drop and has to start regardless of fixtures.

Raheem Sterling (C)- another huge performance from Raheem Sterling shows he has entered the 'world class' category of players. Picking him as Captain an easy choice but could be rested after two big games.

Youri Tielemans- a goal last week in the win over Burnley and now faces a Southampton team that can't keep a clean sheet.

Todd Cantwell- has been offering nothing in recent weeks, but Norwich City are a different proposition at home.

Callum Hudson-Odoi- a huge influence for Chelsea in the last couple of weeks as he returns from an injury and has to start.

Josh King- I have to assume King was rested last week because of his Norway commitments, but will have a watch on him in the coming weeks. Bournemouth have a nice set of fixtures and King has scored four goals in last three fixtures at Vicarage Road.

Tammy Abraham- possibly under pressure from Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi for playing time, but for now Tammy Abraham is Chelsea's first choice striker. That makes him a must start.

Bench- Michael McGovern, John Lundstram (tough away game at West Ham United, but happy to have him as first sub), Caglar Soyuncu (difficult away game at Southampton who have scored in 18 home Premier League games in a row), Xande Silva.

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