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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, 2 November 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (November 2-3)

There are two more rounds of Premier League Football matches to be played before we head into the next international break of the season and the final one before the draw for the Euro 2020 Finals is made at the end of the month.

Before that we have some big games to get through with the most notable at the top of the table being the Liverpool vs Manchester City game a week on Sunday which is the final League game before the international break.

We also have another round robin of Champions League and Europa League fixtures to get through as Match Day 4 is placed in the books. Some of the teams involved in those matches will be looking to secure their passage through to the Knock Out Rounds which will give managers the chance to rotate the squad and ensure players are fresh for a hectic run out of the November internationals that lasts through to the Winter Break in the Premier League which comes in February.

In this thread I am going to have my Picks from the Weekend Premier League fixtures as well as the Fantasy Football opinions and team for GW11.

Bournemouth v Manchester United Pick: Football can be a funny game and it is one in which things can look a lot rosier for teams and managers very quickly. That is where things stand for Manchester United who looked to be close to having to make a decision about the future of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as manager of the club before turning around their form with 3 away wins on the bounce.

The win over Partizan wasn't the most impressive, but performances against Norwich City and Chelsea have been much more positive and there is some momentum behind them. They are still 7 points off the top four, but Manchester United will feel they can close that gap in the weeks ahead with League games against Brighton, Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur to come.

Before that Manchester United will be looking for a fourth away win in a row when they head to the Vitality Stadium on Saturday. They have won 3 in a row over Bournemouth here and might be catching the home team at the right time with Eddie Howe's men just having one or two difficulties at the moment.

Bournemouth might only have lost 1 of their last 6 Premier League games, but they have failed to score in any of their last 3 which is something you don't associate with Eddie Howe teams. Back to back goalless draws with Norwich City and Watford are not great results considering both are in the bottom three and the lack of chances being created has to be a concern for the manager.

There has been an improvement in the defensive side of the game, but that is going to be tested by Manchester United who have suddenly found their goalscoring boots again. The return of Anthony Martial has been important to them and Marcus Rashford's confidence should be high having scored three goals in the last two games.

Even before the win over Chelsea I had Manchester United on my shortlist this week and that has as much to do with their improvement as it does with Bournemouth's recent poor form. The Cherries have been stubborn, but they have not faced too many top teams during their their recent games and I think Manchester United have enough momentum to keep it going here.

Backing the away team on the Asian Handicap will return half the stake in the event of a draw, but Manchester United have won three in a row at the Vitality Stadium and I expect them to extend that run.

Arsenal v Wolves Pick: This is a really important game for Unai Emery to just ease some of the rumours that Arsenal are preparing to move on and potentially bring in Jose Mourinho as a replacement. The issue has been that not many are seeing the kind of stamp Emery was expected to put on this Arsenal squad following on from Arsene Wenger and instead it feels like more of the same but with a new manager.

There have been plenty of positive results as Arsenal still hold a very attacking threat, but defensively it has been a mess for far too long. Last Sunday was the 4th time in 7 home games that Arsenal have conceded at least two goals, and only late winners against Aston Villa and Vitoria have papered over the cracks.

It is going to need an all around performance to beat a Wolves team who fought back for a 1-1 draw at Newcastle United last Sunday. Since returning to the top flight, Wolves have really given some of the big names huge problems and only last month they won 0-2 at Manchester City in the Premier League to show what they are capable of.

Unlike Arsenal, Wolves have generally been defensively sound and that is going to hold them in good stead against a team they earned 4 points from last season. You have to believe Wolves will have their chances to score here and even in the absence of Willy Boly I don't believe they are going to capitulate defensively.

With that in mind I do think Wolves are a decent looking play with the start on the Asian Handicap. It will return half the stake if this fixture ends with a narrow Arsenal win, but I do think Wolves are good enough to avoid defeat on their current form.

Over the last fifteen months, Wolves have drawn at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge, while beating Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley and Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. They also drew 1-1 here having led until the 86th minute and I am going to back Wolves with the start to do just about enough to earn a positive result again.

Aston Villa v Liverpool Pick: When you think of how the Premier League has developed over the last fifteen months I think it is going to be very few days in which Liverpool and Manchester City are anything other than short price favourites when they visit clubs expected to be in the lower half of the table come May.

That is the case on Saturday when the League leaders travel to Villa Park, but I do think there is a case to be made for Aston Villa to at least keep things competitive.

For one Aston Villa are creating a lot of chances and they are unbeaten at home in their last 5 games in all competitions. They challenged Manchester City last weekend and things might have been different if not for a sloppy opening to the second half and then a controversial VAR moment when Manchester City were able to make it 2-0.

There is energy in this Aston Villa team and they are facing a Liverpool defence that has been nothing like as watertight as the one they had last season. With Joel Matip ruled out, Dejan Lovren becomes a serious weakness that can be exploited and I do think Aston Villa will cause problems here.

Backing them with the start on the Asian Handicap looks the play despite their poor record against Liverpool in the more recent years. As well as Liverpool have played to move 6 points clear at the top of the Premier League, only 1 of their 5 away League games have resulted in a win by two or more goals.

A deeper look shows only 3 of their last 14 away games have seen Liverpool win by two or more goals and 2 of those games saw that margin reached in the last ten minutes.

There is no doubt in my mind that Liverpool are capable of blowing past Aston Villa, especially with the defensive performances of Dean Smith's team. Aston Villa do give up chances, but Liverpool tend to do just enough away from home to win games and it is a formula that has clearly been working for them.

I do think Aston Villa can score here and if they do they should be good enough to at least avoid a comfortable defeat. Backing the home team with the Asian Handicap start is the call for me here.

Brighton v Norwich City Pick: Even if you do fancy Brighton to beat Norwich City this weekend, the odds on quotes have to be very off-putting. They have beaten Tottenham Hotspur and Everton in games here, but Brighton could have easily failed to do that in the latter and both West Ham United and Burnley have earned positive results here.

This Norwich City team might not be as strong away from home and they are off a very heavy home defeat to Manchester United, but they did recently draw 0-0 with Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.

That result is hard to shift from the back of the mind and one that makes me think Brighton are plenty short here. Other options look much more appealing over the weekend and I will just say that I do think Brighton are the likely winners for anyone who asks me with a gun to the head.

Manchester City v Southampton Pick: It would have been hard enough to deal with the embarrassing 0-9 home loss suffered last weekend without thinking about having back to back away games at the Champions Manchester City. However that is the position Southampton and Ralph Hasenhuttl have found themselves and the pressure is on the manager.

Losing by the biggest margin at home in the English top Division of ALL TIME is going to be hard to forget for everyone associated with Southampton. The capitulation would have stung, but the manager has to be much happier with the kind of effort produced in the defeat in this Stadium on Tuesday night in the League Cup.

Ultimately Southampton are continuing to concede too many goals though and I really do worry for them on Saturday. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling did not play on Tuesday and will be raring to go and I really don't fancy Southampton's chances much of containing Manchester City who continue to rack up the opportunities in the final third and score plenty of goals.

Even getting to half time goalless did not prevent Aston Villa from suffering a 3-0 defeat here last weekend in the Premier League and I have to imagine Manchester City will reach that kind of margin again. The price is not as appealing as it was last weekend and Southampton have to be respected for posing a threat in the final third too, but I can't see anything but another comfortable home win for the Champions who have scored 11 goals in 3 games here since their 0-2 defeat to Wolves.

I won't be that surprised if Southampton have their moments, but Manchester City should see enough quality players chomping at the bit to make this a relatively straight forward day in the office.

Sheffield United v Burnley Pick: Another battling performance saw Sheffield United come from behind to earn another away point in the Premier League and that is already the third time this season they have recovered from being behind on their travels.

All credit has to be given to the players belief and the Chris Wilder tactics, but it has been more of a struggle at home. Scoring enough goals is a real issue for Sheffield United and they are going to be tested by a Burnley team who have made it a habit to earn results in these types of games which has helped them maintain top flight status.

Sheffield United had failed to score in 3 straight home games before the 1-0 win over Arsenal and they are facing a Burnley team who have proven to be stubborn opponents on their travels. Barring a somewhat controversial decision to disallow a Chris Wood game at Leicester City, Burnley would have been coming in with a run of 4 away draws in a row in the League.

With that in mind the draw is a real player here, but I think Burnley have to be backed with a start on the Asian Handicap at the prices here. I am really surprised that Sheffield United are as short as they are considering the issues in front of goal and they have not been as watertight at the back as their clean sheets this season would suggest.

Teams are creating chances against them and Burnley have shown they have goals in the side. Burnley have scored in all 5 away games in the Premier League this season and I really do think one goal is going to be enough to secure at least a point here especially as Burnley have defended better than their results may suggest.

There won't be much between these teams on Saturday afternoon, but backing Burnley with a start looks the play for me and at a reasonable price too.

West Ham United v Newcastle United Pick: Recent performances from both West Ham United and Newcastle United won't be that encouraging, but it should mean that there is plenty of belief that they can earn a result against the other this weekend.

Something will have to give at some point over the ninety minutes as a vulnerable West Ham United defence faces a goal-shy Newcastle United attack. The home team do give up a few opportunities but Manuel Pellegrini will point out 2 clean sheets in 4 Premier League games at the London Stadium this season, although the 1-1 draw against Sheffield United last weekend shows the vulnerabilities West Ham United have.

What has been evident is that West Ham United continue to be a very positive team going forward and I do struggle to see how Newcastle United contain them. The Magpies might have won at Tottenham Hotspur, but they have suffered some heavy away losses and had to be very grateful to their goalkeeper in the 1-0 defeat at Chelsea.

They will need more of the same to earn a result here, but I am not convinced that is going to happen. West Ham United should have enough in the final third to at least create the chances to win this game comfortably and they have needed at least two goals to secure their two wins here already this season.

I think that is going to be a number they need to reach again on Saturday if they are to earn the three points against Newcastle United. There should be enough opportunities to do that and I can't really see Newcastle United scoring more than once having failed to do that away from home this season and only once in their last 9 away Premier League games.

West Ham United have a solid home record against Newcastle United in recent seasons with 3 wins from the last 4 times they have hosted them. They have scored at least two goals in the last 3 against them at home and I will back West Ham United to win a game featuring two or more goals at odds against.

Watford v Chelsea Pick: There will have been some understandable disappointment in the Chelsea dressing room that they were not able to progress in the League Cup, but Frank Lampard won't be allowing the players to lose any belief in their performances. It was a changed team that were beaten and Chelsea have shown they can produce some big performances away from home already this season.

I fully expect Chelsea to bounce back this weekend when they visit Watford in the late Saturday Premier League fixture, although it won't be an easy fixture. The home team are fighting and scratching for points and Chelsea have not defended that well away from home which may offer an opportunity for Watford, although a slim one.

Watford have simply not fired under Quique Sanchez Flores as the fans and the board would have hoped and I do think he is under some pressure for a result before the international break. Going out of the League Cup won't have been a big concern, but Watford need Premier League wins and back to back goalless draws with Sheffield United and Bournemouth will feel like points being dropped.

A lack of confidence has been part of the problem for them, but that isn't the concern of Frank Lampard or his Chelsea players. They have been very clinical in the away games played so far this season and that might be key for this team again.

Chelsea have scored at least two goals in their last 4 away Premier League games and those have resulted in 12 points earned. They can get to that margin again as they look for a third win in four seasons at Vicarage Road and I do think it will be difficult for Watford to match that attacking output.

This will be closer than the layers may think, especially when you think of the recent Chelsea defensive performances and without the protection of N'Golo Kante either. However I think Chelsea will have enough goals to edge it and I will back them to win a game that features at least two goals on the day.

Crystal Palace v Leicester City Pick: Brendan Rodgers looked frustrated and irritated with some of the football he was watching Leicester City play last Friday night as he refused to let the players drop their standards- the funny part of that is they were winning 0-4 at Southampton at the time.

His body language and half time team talk clearly was taken on board by his Leicester City players who ended up with a record breaking 0-9 away win at St Mary's and they are now being genuinely talked about as a potential top four team.

I have no doubt about the quality in the Leicester City squad and being without European Football this season might be a blessing in disguise if they are going to upset the odds again. They might not be a 5000-1 Premier League title winner, but Leicester City were a huge price to finish in the top six let alone the top four and anyone who backed that has to be pleased.

The layers are taking no chances with Leicester City this weekend knowing the freshness of their win over Southampton will be on the minds of all looking to add them to accumulators. However for me they are a very short price to win against a club that has proven to be something of a bogey team for them in the last few seasons.

Crystal Palace are not like Southampton- expect Roy Hodgson's men to sit deep and invite Leicester City onto them before hitting them on the break with the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend. That will constrict the space for Jamie Vardy, while the Crystal Palace players are likely be well aware they have beaten Leicester City 5 times in a row in the Premier League.

Unlike last season, Crystal Palace also look much more comfortable when playing at home in the Premier League this time around. They have deserved to beat Norwich City and are creating chances, while Leicester City had a rare clean sheet away from home last week thanks mainly to Southampton being reduced to ten men very early on.

As much as I like the way Leicester City are performing, I do have to make a point that this is not a team who have been excelling away from home. Take away the win at Southampton and Leicester City have struggled for goals away from home and I do think they look a touch overrated this weekend to win at Selhurst Park.

My feeling is that Crystal Palace can surprise in front of their own fans and one goal might be enough to avoid a defeat. There is no doubting the talent that Leicester City have, but Crystal Palace are far from an easy touch and I would not be surprised at all if they can win this outright.

Instead I like the chance of being able to back Crystal Palace to avoid defeat at the price I have seen and that is my selection.

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The last game in the Premier League this weekend will be broadcast from Goodison Park and some wags out there might describe this as a 'Sack Match' with the losing manager likely to be under intense pressure.

Both Everton and Tottenham Hotspur are underachieving this season and Marco Silva and Mauricio Pochettino are having their ability to take the respective clubs forward being questioned. For the former it is not getting enough out an Everton squad in which he has invested plenty, while for the latter there are people wondering whether his Tottenham Hotspur team have peaked and need a new voice in the dressing room.

The venue looks to be important with at least Everton keeping their best performances for their fixtures at Goodison Park. They were a touch unfortunate to lose to both Sheffield United and Manchester City here and back to back wins since will have given them a shot in the arm.

It has been far different for Tottenham Hotspur away from home with 1 win from 13 away games in all competitions, and failing to win any of their last 11 on their travels in the Premier League and slipping to defeat 9 times in that run. There is one aspect of losing games, but the other is that Tottenham Hotspur have looked very weak defensively and are conceding far too many and putting that together means confidence can't be in a good place.

At least Tottenham Hotspur will have good memories of facing Everton having won on 2 visits in a row to Goodison Park. That should help a team who are creating chances, but who seem to lack the mental strength to recover from setbacks within matches.

The first goal could be crucial in determining which of these teams win on the day, but an early one could really open up the fixture. The last 5 fixtures between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur have all featured at least three goals shared out and plenty points to that being the outcome of this one when you see how both clubs are performing from attacking and defensive dynamics.

Yerry Mina being out weakens the Everton defence further and I would not be surprised if both teams score here. A 1-1 draw would do little for either and I am going to back at least three goals to be shared out in the second of the live Sunday offerings.

MY PICKS: Manchester United - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Wolves + 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.91 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Aston Villa + 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Manchester City - 2.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.70 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Burnley + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.66 Bet Victor (2 Units)
West Ham United & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.15 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Chelsea & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.91 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Crystal Palace + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Everton-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)

October 2019/20: 16-14-2, + 6.14 Units (62 Units Staked, + 9.90% 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 11
It was another week in which my team earned more than the average points in GW10 as I secured 64 more points which put a few more green arrows next to the team.

The Leicester City 0-9 win over Southampton was the one that hurt the most with only one of my eleven players involved in the game after I benched Caglar Soyuncu. Obviously it was a move I regretted while watching the game, but the stats suggested Southampton would have had chances to score and I can't really factor in the red card they received very early on.

It was a damaging result as Leicester City kept a clean sheet and Jamie Vardy banged in three goals, but overall I have to be pleased having had a number of players produce the goods for me. One of those that let me down was Todd Cantwell (as a Manchester United fan I wasn't bothered) and he has been a poor selection since I brought him into my squad. With one Free Transfer this week, Cantwell has been on my 'cut' list and a former squad member is ready to return.

Before I get onto my team for GW11, I will just have a few thoughts about some Fantasy Football options that people are taking up.

Are Leicester City worth Trebling Up?- this seems to be the big question in the FPL Community ever since the hammering of Southampton and many will be picking at least two and possibly even three Leicester City players in their squads.

I already have two secured so would be something of a hypocrite to suggest others shouldn't do it, but it is a case of 'Buyer Beware'. While The Foxes are very pleasing on the eye, I do think they have shown they don't have a massive cutting threat and that is especially away from home.

That might sound crazy after what we saw at St Mary's last week, but it really was something of a one-off. In previous four away games Leicester City have struggled to create a lot of chances so I wouldn't really want multiple attacking players from this team in the belief they are going to provide big returns week after week.

Having a defender is not a bad shout as Leicester City have proven to be about as good as any other team in the Premier League when it comes to restricting chances, but attacking wise I don't think I would be prepared to have more than one of James Maddison, Youri Tielemans and Jamie Vardy.

All should have their moments, but last week was an aberration and even the positive fixture list in front of them is not changing my mind yet... Beat Palace by three or four goals and my tune is one that could be very different by the time GW12 and GW13 roll around.

Anthony Martial is Back- a missed penalty at Norwich City was a disappointment, but Anthony Martial's return is proving to be important for Manchester United who scored more than once in a single game for the first time since beating Chelsea 4-0 at Old Trafford in August.

The Frenchman has made two starts since returning from an injury against Liverpool and has scored two goals, while also freeing up Marcus Rashford from the Number 9 spot.

I think this is crucial return for the way Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants Manchester United to play and it also boosts the FPL potential of both Martial and Rashford. With games against Bournemouth, Brighton, Sheffield United, Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur to come, I think these players as well as Daniel James become valuable assets.

Going Big at the Back- this was the template I had for my FPL team back in August and the lack of clean sheets suggest it might have been the wrong decision despite the strong returns so far this season.

Some have moved away from it, but I think I have found the balance with the likes of Caglar Soyuncu and John Lundstram meaning I can invest some wealth on other defenders without losing value in other areas of my squad.

I do think Manchester City are still quite vulnerable with injuries they have suffered and especially away from home, but I honestly am expecting Liverpool to turn a corner following the international break when they might be worth investing in again.

It has helped that Leicester City and Sheffield United have the joint best defensive record in the Premier League alongside Liverpool which has made those players I mentioned real value.

My GW11 Fantasy Team
After a solid week my mindset did change slightly with the tactics I wanted to use with my Free Transfers in the FPL GW11.

Last week I mentioned that I was planning to save two transfers that I would then use in GW12, but Anthony Martial's performance in GW10 as well as Todd Cantwell's hamstring issue has made the one transfer for this week an easy one to use.

The Frenchman comes in with a good run of fixtures ahead of him and he could be back on penalty duties if Marcus Rashford is not passed fit. I expect Martial to have chances against the next four opponents Manchester United face and I would expect the designated midfielder in the FPL game to be leading the line in all of those.

His inclusion has meant making a difficult decision on the formation for the week, but I have settled on a 3-5-2 with two bench players who should have the minutes to at least provide make up points if any of the starters i have selected cannot play.

My GW11 team is as follows:

Ederson- a home game with Southampton should give Manchester City a chance of a second Premier League clean sheet in a row.

Benjamin Mendy- with injuries in the Manchester City defence, Mendy should be starting having been rested in the win over Southampton in the League Cup. Always the potential for attacking returns too.

Andrew Robertson- this looks a tough away game at Aston Villa and a clean sheet is far from assured. However Robertson has made up for a lack of those by creating a few chances and earning assists.

John Lundstram- it came down to a straight choice between Lundstram and Fiyoki Timori. I think both teams may struggle for a clean sheet this weekend, but Lundstram might always come away with some attacking points as he continues to be used in midfield.

Raheem Sterling (C)- scored in the win over Aston Villa to maintain his hot form for club and country. Being rested on Tuesday night in the League Cup must surely mean Sterling starts this one against a defensively weak Southampton team.

Sadio Mane- Liverpool may struggle for a clean sheet this weekend, but Aston Villa's poor defensive record will likely be exploited too. Sadio Mane is undroppable at the moment for club manager and Fantasy players alike.

Youri Tielemans- 20 points from the last two GW's is unsustainable, but Tielemans also scored in the League Cup during the week. A huge part of whatever attacking threat Leicester City can provide.

Anthony Martial- a Number 9 for Manchester United as a midfield option in the FPL game. This is a 'no brainer' to select Martial while he is first choice striker for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Callum Hudson-Odoi- he did not start last weekend at Burnley, but Hudson-Odoi should be back in this week. Faces bottom club Watford and Chelsea have scored plenty of away goals all season.

Tammy Abraham- goals seem to have dried up a bit, but Tammy Abraham remains the first choice for Frank Lampard at Chelsea. Like CHO, Abraham has a very good looking match to get back amongst the goals this weekend.

Joshua King- my patience is beginning to be lost with Josh King who has only returned positive points three times this season. He is on penalties and faces a Manchester United defence that might be without both Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof this weekend.

Bench- Michael McGovern, Fiyaki Timori (away game at Watford is potentially a clean sheet spot, but Chelsea have not had one away from Stamford Bridge in the League all season which makes others better options), Caglar Soyuncu (I might be burned for a second week in a row, but Crystal Palace should score against Leicester City), Xande Silva

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