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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, 22 November 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (November 23-25)

The last international break of the 2019 calendar year has come and gone and we have been given the twenty nations that will definitely be playing at the next European Championships which begin in June 2020.

Before this month comes to a close the draw for the Finals will be made and that will be of huge interest to fans of England and Wales. Before that the Play Off draw is also made as the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland look to make the most of the reprieves they have been given after failing to finish in the top two of their respective Qualifying Groups.


Having a major international tournament coming up in the summer is obviously going to be exciting, but that is for another day for most players. The focus now will be getting ready to enter what is always a very hectic part of the English Football calendar as most Premier League teams will be ready to play nine games in the top flight before the FA Cup Third Round over the first weekend of January.

During that time the top teams will have two more European Champions League/Europa League Group games to negotiate as well as the Quarter Final of the League Cup. Watch out for rotations and injuries becoming a major factor at this time of the season with teams looking to make sure they don't lose any momentum in a period where matches are played every few days.

That is difficult for the managers to negotiate and also for all the Fantasy Football players that will be looking to make some hay during this time of the season. I would definitely keep an eye on deadlines for transfers with limited time between games to pick up information and it is going to be a tough time for all.


In this thread you will see my Picks from the latest round of fixtures and I will then move onto GW13 and my Fantasy thoughts out of the international break.


West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Things can change very quickly in football and proof of that came in North London this past week as Jose Mourinho takes over from Mauricio Pochettino as manager of Tottenham Hotspur.

Within the space of twelve hours Tottenham Hotspur made the decisions that have taken over all of the headlines in England. Whether this is the correct decision will be seen in the months and years ahead, but Tottenham Hotspur have an underachieving squad that should quickly pick up under new guidance.

A toxic environment seems to have been partly the reason for Pochettino to be moved on months after reaching the Champions League Final. We saw at Manchester United last December that teams can quickly turn their form around when the manager has been replaced and I think we could see that with Tottenham Hotspur too.

Winning in East London won't be easy, but West Ham United have been in miserable form and this looks as good an opportunity for Tottenham Hotspur to snap their poor away run as they could have hoped for. Spurs have won on their last three visits to the London Stadium and this is a team who have the goals within the squad to hurt a West Ham United team who are defending poorly.

West Ham United might feel they can create chances of their own considering the performances of Tottenham Hotspur away from home, but I think the new voice is going to get off to a positive start.

Jose Mourinho suffered an embarrassing loss when he took Manchester United to the London Stadium last season, but I think this squad is capable of turning around their form very quickly. The price has shrunk for an away win as soon as the news came out about the Mauricio Pochettino sacking, but I think Tottenham Hotspur can be backed.

At odds against you can back Spurs to win a game featuring at least two goals and I think that is a good price considering I feel the away team will need at least two goals to win here.


Arsenal v Southampton Pick: On the face of things you can understand why Arsenal are such favourites to beat Southampton on Saturday, but it is not easy to trust the home team on their current form.

No wins in 5 games in all competitions have just increased the pressure on Unai Emery as manager of the club, while Arsenal have found it difficult to blow teams away even at home.

Back to back teams have visited the Emirates Stadium and come away with a point so there will be some belief in the Southampton squad. However they have also been having some difficulties in finding positive results despite being a competitive team outside of the stunning 0-9 defeat to Leicester City.

Ralph Hasenhuttl is another manager feeling the pressure at the moment, but his team have been more competitive away from home. They had the lead at Manchester City in the Premier League earlier this month and have scored in defeats to Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Chelsea in the League this season.

The Saints can definitely play their part here, but Arsenal should have too much for them when it is all said and done. I can't really back Arsenal to cover the Asian Handicap on their current form, but they can win a game featuring two or more goals and that is the selection here.


Bournemouth v Wolves Pick: If there is one team in the Premier League I have yet to really get to grips with it is Wolves and that is largely down to the fact that the team doesn't score a lot of goals, but also doesn't concede a lot either.

For the majority of the season that has meant me moving past their games even though Wolves secured a winner when earning a draw at Arsenal earlier this month.

This is a difficult looking game out of the international break, although I do think Bournemouth have been dented by the injury suffered by Josh King. A team who have not been as free-flowing in the final third as in recent years can ill-afford another attacking absentee, but Bournemouth have to be respected for the strength they have shown defensively this season.

It makes this a tough game to really have a good feel for and I think there are better options out there.


Brighton v Leicester City Pick: I had little doubt that Brendan Rodgers could guide Leicester City to the best of the rest position outside of the top six at the beginning of the season, but even I have to be surprised by how much they have pushed on. This was a team I felt were a dark horse for a top four spot when you think of the issues the likes of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea had coming into the season, but Leicester City have been stronger than anyone could have really believed.

They are big favourites to keep their positive run going when travelling to Brighton on Saturday and I am sure there will be plenty ready to back The Foxes here.

However I am a little cautious because Brighton have been very good at home under Graham Potter. They won't be afraid to attack Leicester City and can also hurt them on the counter attack too and I think this could be a close match.

Aaron Connelly's injury is a blow for the home team, but Leicester City are a team grabbing the headlines which makes them plenty short in the market. They may well win here and keep the momentum going, but I have to give this one a watching brief.


Crystal Palace v Liverpool Pick: Over the next few weeks Liverpool could really take a firm grip on the Premier League title race as they manage a good looking fixture list at a time when Manchester City have to play the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal.

Jurgen Klopp doesn't need to worry about what other clubs are doing if his Liverpool team keep winning and they should be good enough to see off a Crystal Palace team who have struggled in recent weeks.

Those struggles have come at a time when Crystal Palace have faced a number of teams inside the top six and the back to back losses to Manchester City and Leicester City at home shows the kind of ceiling this team have.

If Wilfried Zaha is not fit to play then it makes things all the more difficult for Crystal Palace and that is even accounting for the fact that Mohamed Salah may not be available.

At this stage of the season I do think we already have a clear favourite for the Premier League title and Liverpool have continued to find big results through difficult times. They have goals in the side and Crystal Palace struggle in the final third which should mean a sixth straight win for The Reds at Selhurst Park.

Backing Liverpool to cover the Asian Handicap is difficult because this is a team who seem to do just enough to secure the points on their travels. Only one of their five away Premier League wins have come by more than a single goal margin and that is going to be needed to win on the Asian Handicap.

Instead backing Liverpool to win a game featuring two or more goals looks the best angle in this Premier League game.


Everton v Norwich City Pick: Earlier this month I mentioned that Brighton looked very short to beat Norwich City in the Premier League, but they were comfortable winners and it seems more and more likely that the latter are simply not up to the standards of the Premier League.

That could change with some huge investment in January, but Norwich City have to make sure they are still in touch with the teams above them at that time.

We have the busy festive period coming up first and Norwich City have looked short of the quality needed at both ends of the field. They have particularly struggled away from home and all 5 losses have come by at least two goal margins.

Everton can match those results as they have proven to be a much better team at home than on their travels. The win at Southampton should be a boost in confidence the players might need and Everton should have the majority of the play in this one.

I do sometimes worry about the ability of a team like Everton to break down a side they should be beating. They also don't have the best record against Norwich City in recent years, but I can't ignore how poorly Norwich City have been defending and I think that shows up here.

Backing Everton to win and cover the Asian Handicap is my pick.


Watford v Burnley Pick: A win over Norwich City will have given Watford Football Club a big lift, but the international break could not have come at a worse time.

They are favoured to beat Burnley this weekend, but I don't really want to oppose Sean Dyche's men who have made it a habit to surprise in fixtures like this one.

Both teams scoring would not be a big surprise, but the fixture is one that will turn on the first goal and I am not prepared to guess which may that goes. I can make a case for all three results in this fixture, although with a gun to my head I would likely pick a 1-1 draw.

Luckily for me I am not being forced to put any units down on this one and so I will move onto the late Saturday kick off.


Manchester City v Chelsea Pick: The headlines this Premier League weekend might be all about the return of Jose Mourinho, but Manchester City versus Chelsea is the big game in this round of fixtures.

Manchester City are looking to bounce back from the 3-1 loss at Anfield which leaves them 9 points off the leaders, but this is a club who have responded to setbacks under Pep Guardiola. The manager will know his team need a long winning run to see if they can at least pressurise Liverpool into mistakes and Manchester City have been very strong at home.

Wolves won here though and Chelsea won't be intimidated by the task in hand with their young players seemingly thriving when playing away from home. The Blues have won 7 away games in a row including twice in the Champions League and Frank Lampard won't want to shift too far from his principles to make sure Chelsea threaten Manchester City way more than they did under Antonio Conte or Maurizio Sarri.

Last season Chelsea were hammered 6-0 here, but Lampard's team have been scoring goals for fun away from Stamford Bridge.

They will feel they can hurt a Manchester City who have looked vulnerable at the back ever since Aymeric Laporte went down with an injury and they have to be respected. However I think it is difficult to ignore the fact that Chelsea have lost twice to Manchester United, once to Liverpool and drawn with Leicester City so far this season.

Even 5th placed Sheffield United earned a draw with Chelsea and I do think Frank Lampard's team have struggled against the top teams. Chelsea did win at Ajax, but The Blues were 1-4 down at home before their hosts were reduced to nine men and I think Manchester City will prove to be too strong on the day.

Backing Manchester City to win the game and cover the Handicap in a high-scoring game looks to be the play here.


Sheffield United v Manchester United Pick: There is one Premier League game being played on Super Sunday this week and it looks an intriguing one between Sheffield United and Manchester United.

On the face of things you would likely expect a low-scoring, tough to read match and in all honesty Sheffield United look a very big price to win the game when you think of how they have played this season.

Sheffield United have beaten Arsenal here already, while Liverpool needed some luck to win thanks to a mistake from Dean Henderson. The goalkeeper has largely been effective for Sheffield United though and his absence this weekend is a blow for Chris Wilder who has a preferred eleven in his thoughts.

That absence could make Sheffield United a little more vulnerable to the Manchester United attack which has come to life in recent games. After struggling for goals, the return of Anthony Martial has just sparked things for Manchester United and they have now scored at least twice in 4 of their last 5 games in all competitions.

Chances are being created too and I do think the front three of Martial, Marcus Rashford and Daniel James can cause problems here.

In saying that I also think Sheffield United will be effective going forward thanks to the style employed by Chris Wilder. They don't score a lot of goals, but Sheffield United do create chances too and I think the layers might be underestimating the chance of seeing at least three goals shared out this Sunday.

Goals might not have been flowing at Bramall Lane, but I think that could potentially change if teams continue to create chances at both ends like we have seen. Better finishing will see different results from what we have seen so far this season and I think that could potentially begin this weekend.

At odds against backing at least three goals to be shared out looks to be the play.


Aston Villa v Newcastle United Pick: The final match of the Premier League weekend comes from Villa Park as Aston Villa host Newcastle United in a big game for both clubs.

Dean Smith and Steve Bruce will recognise the importance of picking up points from fixtures like this one for Aston Villa and Newcastle United respectively in the fight to avoid the drop.

Both teams were playing well enough prior to the international break to think this could be a good game of football for the neutrals to enjoy. Aston Villa have proven to be strong at home, but Newcastle United have just found an identity to produce goals and I can see the two teams scoring in this one.

Much of that is down to Aston Villa being a solid attacking team, but one that has allowed too many chances throughout the course of the season. It should mean Newcastle United can be in a position to work some good openings in this match, but holding out against Aston Villa won't be easy for a team who have lost 66% of their away games played this season.

Aston Villa look like a team that will be involved in some higher scoring games throughout the season with their current approach. However they will believe they can win plenty of games if they perform as they have been and I give them a narrow edge in this one.

My bigger feeling is that this game will feature at least three goals shared out though and that is the approach I am going to have to this fixture. At close to odds against quotes I believe backing goals is the best way forward in this fixture.

MY PICKS: Tottenham Hotspur & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.00 Coral (2 Units)
Arsenal & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.61 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Liverpool & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.70 Coral (2 Units)
Everton - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Sheffield United-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Unit)
Aston Villa-Newcastle United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)

November 2019/203-6, - 6.46 Units (18 Units Staked, - 35.89% Yield)
October 2019/2016-14-2, + 6.14 Units (62 Units Staked, + 9.90% 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 13
The last international break of the 2019 calendar year is now behind us and there are plenty of Fantasy Football decisions to be made in the coming days and weeks.

Remember this is the time of the year when games come thick and fast which means multiple GameWeeks are also scheduled to be played. It does mean you should be looking to make some long-term decisions (those that will take you through until the change of the calendar year), while I would also make sure you are happy with your bench option at a time when rotations are going to be made by the managers.

I picked up 68 points in GameWeek 12 which is a decent enough return and above the average of the week. My Captain also put in a good effort too, but you can read the changes I have been forced to make to my team in GW13 when you read further below.

Before that I have a few thoughts about teams that seem to be in vogue at the moment and those that might be ready to have us join a potential bandwagon.


Leicester City- fantasy players have been falling over themselves to bring in Leicester City squad members into their teams thanks to a 4 game winning run.

Many of their assets have increased in value and I don't think you can be put off by what looks a generous fixture list over the next four GWs.

I have two players, but I still believe it is not worth adding a third. Jamie Vardy is in great form, but I continue to look past him as some of the underlying stats are simply not making great reading. He is someone who can over-perform expectations, but I do think all the value is gone and going with a midfielder and a defender is good enough.

James Maddison is still the midfielder I would target if I was playing from scratch, although I am happy enough with Youri Tielemans.


Arsenal- Unai Emery's uncertain position as manager does make it hard to really trust Arsenal assets, but I do think this is a good time for them to make some hay.

The fixture list looks very kind in the weeks ahead and I really like Alexandre Lacazette at a price which is below Roberto Firmino and Jamie Vardy's in the FPL game. He is usually the main centre forward when getting a start for Arsenal and the shot count underlines that.

Injuries do leave him more open to rotation which is a concern, but I think Lacazette will enjoy games against Southampton, Norwich City, Brighton and West Ham United.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is another choice, but he is largely played out on the left when Lacazette plays, while I would have a second look at Nicolas Pepe too.


Tottenham Hotspur- I doubt this has gotten past anyone, but Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League and takes over a Tottenham Hotspur team who have been underperforming to say the least.

It is going to be interesting to see how Tottenham Hotspur line up under Mourinho, but I would expect to see an improvement defensively so those assets could be worth bringing back.

Harry Kane had been playing deeper than we have become accustomed to under Mauricio Pochettino, but he is another I fully expect to be back in a more standard Number 9 spot and this is a team I am keeping a close eye on. After the Manchester United game in early December I think I will be using some Spurs players with a more manageable fixture list to come.


Crystal Palace- I know they have been in poor form, but don't ignore the fixture list Crystal Palace have been involved in.

They finish up their run of matches against top six clubs this weekend and this is a club that looks to have a generous run until January after that.

Jordan Ayew, Wilfried Zaha and a couple of defenders have to be on the potential shortlist to bring into the squad.


My GameWeek 13 Team
Injuries have just been getting the better of my Fantasy team in recent weeks and that forced me into making the change from Ederson to David De Gea two weeks ago.

The international break wasn't very kind to my team with doubts about Andrew Robertson and both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Josh King also suffering.

I really don't want to take a hit right now and so I have to try and manage what transfers I can make and that means going into GW13 with a potential of being short of a starting XI.

There had to be at least one transfer used this week to try and avoid that fate, but I have a clear plan in place and that means I am not going to be too rush right now.


David De Gea- Manchester United seemingly concede whenever put under any kind of pressure, but the goalkeeper remains in place.

Andrew Robertson- another team without as many clean sheets as I would have imagined at this stage of the season. Robertson still provides an attacking threat and may be able to shake off an ankle injury in time for this one.

Benjamin Mendy- he was surprisingly a healthy scratch against Liverpool, but Manchester City's defensive performance was far from ideal. The Frenchman could be back in the starting line up this week.

Caglar Soyuncu- Brighton away is far from easy, but Leicester City have three clean sheets in a row.

John Lundstram- I think the game against Manchester United might be more eventful than what the layers believe. Using Lundstram means having a midfielder rather than the designated defender he is.

Anthony Martial- the Manchester United Number 9 has sparked a return to scoring goals for the club.

Sadio Mane- in the form Mane is in, you can't afford to be without him.

Raheem Sterling (C)- it wasn't the best international break for Sterling having got into it with Joe Gomez which led to a one game suspension. Should mean the England winger is fresh enough for this one and I am going to Captain him in what could be a high-scoring game against Chelsea.

Youri Tielemans- a tough game at Brighton, but Tielemans with every chance of an assist or a goal.

Andreas Pereira- this will surprise many, including those who I speak to about Manchester United on a regular basis, but Andreas Pereira is going to be starting more often than not while Paul Pogba is out.

In the position he is being asked to play, Pereira is set for potential returns in goals and assists even if he is not the long-term answer for United fans. With the games coming up, he looks a no brainer for me and being a lot cheaper than Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Tammy Abraham- Chelsea should head to the Etihad Stadium with more ambition than the last two managers. With the home team looking vulnerable defensively, I don't mind playing Abraham (although I don't have a lot of choices).


Bench- Michael McGovern, Fiyaki Tomori (playing at Manchester City, but also my only fit sub), Josh King (injured), Xande Silva (injured).

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