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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, 29 November 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (November 30-December 1)

Everyone who knows anything about English Football will understand the importance of December to clubs around the country with games being set to come thick and fast.

Over the next ten days there are three full rounds of Premier League fixtures with the first of those being played on Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

On Tuesday through Thursday there is another full round of fixtures and then next Saturday a third round begins which is going to be concluded on Monday. That means a busy time for managers and also for fans and Fantasy Football players and I will have three separate threads ready to go.

This one is out on Friday and my next two will hopefully be out on Tuesday and Friday in the coming days.

Teams coming out of the European action might be a little more cautious with their team selections in this round of fixtures compared to those clubs who have had a week to prepare for fixtures. It was an important week for Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur who join Manchester United and Wolves with a guaranteed spot into the Knock Out Rounds of the Champions League and Europa League respectively. The first two of those clubs have also secured their spots within the Group which will make Match Day 6 fixtures meaningless and likely means a number of first team players will be given a chance to get some rest.

Manchester United and Wolves can still win their Groups but will need home results on Match Day 6, while Arsenal are almost certainly going through to the Last 32 of the Europa League barring an embarrassing defeat at Standard Liege.

Chelsea should also be very confident having earned a 2-2 draw in Valencia meaning a home win over Lille is enough to progress to the Last 16 of the Champions League.

However Champions League winners Liverpool are perhaps in the stickiest of positions after a 1-1 home draw with Napoli. Instead of winning and guaranteeing top spot in the Group, Liverpool have to either earn a positive result in Salzburg or score at least four goals to control their own destiny.

Any other result and Liverpool will need Genk to upset Napoli in the other game in the Group and at least earn a point in Italy to have any hope. It is not ideal for a club who have a lot more games in December than the other Premier League clubs and the missed opportunity to make wholesale changes to a squad and also progress to the Last 16 is now passed them. I still would expect Liverpool to do enough to get through, but Salzburg have shown they are far from an easy touch.

For now all of the managers are focusing on the Premier League and earning a result this weekend. I am also looking for a strong end to November after a bit of an unfortunate time for the selections last week.

I have no idea how the Aston Villa versus Newcastle United game ended with less than three goals shared out considering the chances created, but it is what it is and I can only look to bounce back this week.

Newcastle United v Manchester City Pick: The opening Premier League game of the weekend comes from St James' Park and I think Manchester City look plenty short in the outright market when you consider their recent form.

A single win from the last 4 games in all competitions is a concern and Sergio Aguero's absence will be magnified if Manchester City can't get back to scoring goals. They have only scored more than once in the victory during that poor run and Manchester City are not creating the chances that they were.

It won't be easy to get things right at Newcastle United where Manchester City have only won once in their last 3 visits. Even an opening goal inside sixty seconds could not change that narrative last season in Manchester City's 2-1 defeat here and I am intrigued in backing the home team with a start.

That might sound a little strange considering Newcastle United's below par performance against Aston Villa on Monday Night Football. The scoreline might have read 2-0, but Aston Villa had plenty of chances to really embarrass Newcastle United on the day and so I can see why people might think they are going to be blown away in this one too.

However Newcastle United have long been a more effective home team than an away one and they have avoided defeat in all games played since the opening weekend 0-1 loss to Arsenal. They have been pretty good in those games for the most part and Newcastle United have pace in the final third and also a big team that can be dangerous from set pieces which has to worry a Manchester City team that have not kept clean sheets in recent weeks.

Steve Bruce has to be brave enough to take advantage of the clear vulnerabilities Manchester City have and I do think the home team will cause problems if they are brave in their play. It is still difficult to believe Manchester City will lose, but I would be disappointed if Newcastle United can't push them all the way and having a two goal start on the Asian Handicap should be good enough for us to at least receive the stake back.

I don't often want to oppose a Manchester City team who are capable of wiping out any opponent when at their best- however, we have not really seen them firing on all cylinders in the last three weeks and the absence of Sergio Aguero may mean a tight win is on the cards for the visitors at best.

Burnley v Crystal Palace Pick: On paper there will be plenty who think this will be the last game shown on any highlights programme you may watch on a Saturday night, but I am not sure that the layers are underestimating the chance of a few goals being shared out in this one.

Out of the two teams Burnley have been better form than Crystal Palace, but I don't really want to criticise Roy Hodgson's men considering the fixture list that has been negotiated. The performances have been a little mixed, but things are easing up from this week and I think Crystal Palace will be encouraged by how well they played against leaders Liverpool in their 1-2 defeat last weekend.

If they can produce those levels in the upcoming fixtures I think Crystal Palace will win more games than they lose and there is a considerable threat they can pose for teams with the forwards they have.

Burnley will certainly be respecting the challenge in front of them, but they can't help but be feeling confident after back to back 3-0 wins in the Premier League. Sometimes results can cloud the levels being produced, but Burnley have been creating a lot of chances in recent games and in Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes they have players who can score goals for the club.

The home team have scored at least two goals in 3 of their last 4 at Turf Moor and they should be able to create chances against this Crystal Palace defence which has been far from watertight. However Crystal Palace have also found an attacking threat in their away games and they have scored at least two goals in 3 of their last 5 on their travels despite the tough Stadiums they have visited.

This is another, but I do think these teams can provide the chances to share out at least three goals on the day. The odds against quotes for that look very appealing when you consider 3 of the last 4 between Burnley and Crystal Palace at Turf Moor have seen that number hit and that will be my play this weekend.

Chelsea v West Ham United Pick: If Valencia had some composure in the final third Chelsea would have been in big trouble in their Champions League Group, but Frank Lampard's men returned from Spain with a valuable point.

They will have to beat Lille at Stamford Bridge to ensure progress through to the Last 16 of the competition, but Lampard will turn his attention back to the Premier League before that. Chelsea will play three League games in a row before that Champions League Match Day 6 game and The Blues have to feel they can earn at least seven points from the fixtures in front of them.

First up is this very winnable looking fixture against West Ham United who have lost 3 League games in a row and conceded at least three goals in each of those defeats. Manuel Pellegrini is feeling the pressure and his team showed little fight until it was too late in the 2-3 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur last week.

Reports suggest West Ham United have put a shortlist together of potential replacements for Pellegrini, although he can end those rumours by guiding West Ham United to a win at Stamford Bridge. That looks a tall task for a team who have struggled defensively and who have scored just 2 goals in their last 5 away games in all competitions.

Chelsea are a team who can create chances and I do think we will see more of that on Saturday. The injury to Tammy Abraham is a blow, and he could be absent this weekend, but I expect Chelsea to still have enough in the final third to win and win well.

In recent years hosting West Ham United has been a challenge for Chelsea who have won 3 of the last 6 here against them. One of those was last season when Eden Hazard scored twice in a 2-0 win for Chelsea, but I think others can step up and help see off an opponent lacking confidence and with players wondering whether their manager has much of a future at the club.

Liverpool v Brighton Pick: The 1-1 home draw with Napoli in the Champions League has just given Liverpool a problem while there has to be a concern with the lack of clean sheets being produced by the team. As long as they remain on top of the Premier League I don't think any of the fans will be overly concerned, but Liverpool will need to be better defensively to make sure they are not putting too much pressure on their strikers to score the goals to win games.

At Anfield it has not been a problem for Liverpool who have won 13 League games in a row here and they have scored at least twice in each of those victories. They should be able to create plenty of chances against this Brighton team who have looked very weak defensively in losses to Manchester United and Leicester City either side of the international break.

Liverpool should be at full strength for this one despite the upcoming Merseyside derby that is coming up during the week and I think that will lead to a relatively straight-forward win for the home team.

I have been impressed with Graham Potter's impact at Brighton so I don't want to disrespect them, but it has been clear this is a team that is very different when it comes to games at the Amex Stadium and those on their travels. Last week even being at home could not help Brighton, while the team have lost comfortably at Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United in the Premier League already this season.

Brighton did beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-0, but that game was at home and I think they are going to struggle to contain Liverpool at Anfield.

The lack of clean sheets will make this selection look unappealing to some, but I do think Liverpool have defended well enough in recent home games to think those are going to come. Teams have just been clinical in front of goal and I am going to back Liverpool at odds against to win this one with a clean sheet as Brighton have struggled for consistency in the final third.

Aaron Connelly could be back to give them a boost and Brighton should provide a threat from set pieces, but Liverpool should control much of this game. At some point that control is going to be enough to limit teams in the final third and produce the clean sheets which should have arrived from the statistical breakdown of their games.

At odds against it is worth chancing that Liverpool can earn a fourth clean sheet in a row in a winning effort against Brighton.

Tottenham Hotspur v Bournemouth Pick: Games are coming thick and fast at this time of the Premier League season and that is especially the case for Jose Mourinho who is the new manager of Tottenham Hotspur. Instead of having some time to really put his ideas across to his squad, Mourinho is working with limited days between games at the moment and that means it is a real work in progress despite inheriting a decent enough squad.

The main problems for Tottenham Hotspur all season has been defensively and that is an area that will be irritating Mourinho even two games into his tenure with the club. In both games Tottenham Hotspur have conceded two goals and even the huge recovery against Olympiacos won't have given the new manager much relief as he looks to imprint his standard on the team.

I do think Tottenham Hotspur will improve under Mourinho's guidance because his teams have always been pretty secure defensively, but we might not see that impact for a few weeks. In the meantime the manager will rely on a strong set of forwards who have provided seven goals in his first two games in charge and I think there could be more scored on Saturday.

Tottenham Hotspur have played well when they have hosted Bournemouth and they might be catching them at the right time with injuries and back to back defeats for The Cherries.

Eddie Howe's men have had a good season to date, but they were well beaten by Wolves last weekend and this is a difficult ground to visit. Bournemouth being without Josh King is a blow for a team who will look to capitalise on the chances that may come their way, while Eddie Howe's future is once again being discussed as the likes of Everton show interest in the English manager.

I have been impressed with the defensive work that Bournemouth have done this season, but they have been in a poor run away from home. The lack of goals in those games is a concern too and I think Jose Mourinho might be able to enjoy a more serene home game in the Premier League than he had in the Champions League.

My feeling is that Tottenham Hotspur can win a fifth home game in a row against Bournemouth and I think they can win fairly comfortably on the day. Bournemouth have just lacked a real threat in recent away games and missing Josh King will make that much tougher for the visitors, while Spurs have scored seven goals in two games under the new manager. With that in mind I think Tottenham Hotspur have enough in them to cover the Asian Handicap and win at home in the Premier League for the first time since the end of September.

Southampton v Watford Pick: Two managers who have to be feeling the pressure will guide their teams into the late Saturday Premier League kick off and I don't think it is too far-fetched to suggest the losing team will be getting their P45 ready at full time for either Ralph Hasenhuttl or Quique Sanchez Flores.

The concern for Southampton and Watford is that they will be in danger of being cut off in the bottom three with a loss. With the money involved in the Premier League neither club will want the drop into the Championship and both owners have shown they are ready to make an immediate change if they feel their current manager is not going to get the job done.

The late goal conceded at Arsenal was a huge blow for Southampton as they dropped two points, but the performance will be encouraging. However the players have struggled at St Mary's all season and the 1-2 loss to Everton last time out here continued a worrying trend of conceding far too many goals.

Southampton do get on the scoreboard here, but that isn't enough if you are conceding at least two goals in every game and Watford do have players who can take advantage of that as they did in the 0-2 win at Norwich City.

That has been the one moment of light in an otherwise cloudy beginning to Flores' second tenure in charge at Vicarage Road. The 0-3 home loss to Burnley would have hurt everyone associated with Watford and I think the manager will be well aware that his time will come to an end if they can't earn a result here.

Games between these clubs have not featured a lot of goals in recent seasons, but both look capable of scoring and unlikely to keep a clean sheet. The 1-1 scoreline is a real player, but I think the motivation for the three points will be extremely high in both camps and the attacking players could have spaces to find a way to share out three goals on the day at a decent enough price.

Norwich City v Arsenal Pick: There are rumours that Unai Emery could lose his job as soon as Friday after Arsenal were beaten by Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League and the manager does look like a man who knows he does not have long left now. The Arsenal board are in meetings on Friday so the entire feel of this club might be a lot different by the time this fixture kicks off.

Right now the players look as disillusioned as some of the fans with the tactics run by Emery and even if he is in charge on Sunday I would worry about how much effort the Arsenal team want to put into this one. On the other hand he could be sacked by then and even then there will be some uncertainty as players wonder who the new manager is going to be and where they are going to stand and all of this adds up to being an opportunity for Norwich City.

The Canaries won't be worrying about problems others have considering the injuries they have been dealing with throughout this season. A newly promoted club who have not spent a lot of money in the summer were always going to find it difficult to plug the gaps, but Norwich City have not allowed themselves to be mentally worn down.

A lack of quality might cost them when it is all said and done in May, but the team are playing for the manager and the 0-2 win at Everton last Saturday is a big boost in confidence for them. They will be looking to back that up here, but you can't ignore how poorly Norwich City have defended at Carrow Road as Watford became the fifth Premier League club to leave the ground having scored at least two goals.

Norwich City have unsurprisingly lost 3 in a row here when you think of the goals they are conceding, but in general they do create problems of their own too. I expect that to be the case against an Arsenal team who have looked vulnerable any time a team has gone after them and I expect Norwich City to really want to pressure them from the opening minutes.

I can't completely ignore Arsenal's lack of away goals in the Premier League, but this is a team who can create chances and have some quality players in the forward line. I expect those to play their part in this fixture and I think a high-scoring game is in the offing.

The first 5 Norwich City games at Carrow Road all featured at least four goals shared out, while 2 of the 6 Arsenal away games have also hit that mark. If there is an early goal in this one, I can see an entertaining game played out with both teams creating a host of chances and those opportunities can lead to a game that features at least four goals shared out.

Wolves v Sheffield United Pick: The 3-3 draw at Sporting Braga on Thursday night underlines why I find it hard to really back Wolves with any confidence and I certainly have to be a lot more sure about their chances if I am going to consider them at odds on to win a game.

It is especially the case this Sunday when Wolves host Sheffield United who are unbeaten away from home and that includes them visiting Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League. Chris Wilder will have had a full week to work with his players and the energy they use can certainly make things difficult for a squad that were playing in difficult conditions on Thursday in Portugal.

Wolves have shown they can handle the pressure of playing both the Europa League and Premier League within days of each other and they are in fine form. You can understand why some would want to back them, but the newly vacated job at Arsenal has to be a potential distraction for manager Nuno Espirito Santo who is considered amongst the favourites to be given the job at the Emirates Stadium.

I don't think the manager is one who will lose focus, but Wolves are not a massively high-scoring team and that will give Sheffield United a chance in this one.

I can make enough of a case for both teams here and that means I won't be having an opinion on this one that will be backed.

Leicester City v Everton Pick: Football can always throw a curveball into the equation when you think you have got a good read of a fixture, but I really can't see anything but another Leicester City win this weekend.

The last live Premier League game of the weekend comes from the King Power Stadium where Leicester City are looking for a seventh win in a row in all competitions. They are facing an Everton team coming off a really poor 0-2 home defeat to Norwich City and with the future of manager Marco Silva being heavily discussed.

It isn't just media rumours about the manager, but it has sounded like the Everton board came close to sacking him earlier this week. Only a failure to agree on a potential replacement has given Silva a stay of execution, but the fixture list looks very menacing and it is hard to believe the Portuguese manager survives for much longer barring some big upsets.

Everton play at the top two in the space of a few days before hosting Chelsea and then visiting Manchester United. The Merseyside derby next week looks very intimidating and the players are not full of confidence at the moment despite having been unbeaten in 3 games in all competitions prior to the loss to Norwich City.

Where Leicester City have been very strong at home, Everton have only just snapped a 4 game away losing run in the Premier League when beating Southampton at St Mary's. They do have a decent record here in the last few seasons, but Leicester City are playing with a real belief in the system set up by Brendan Rodgers and I do think the Everton players might be considering what is going to happen at the club.

That uncertainty could lead to a fairly comfortable win for an in-form Leicester City who have scored at least two goals in the last 5 at the King Power Stadium. Backing the home team to win a game with at least that many goals produced on Sunday is a very appealing price here.

Manchester United v Aston Villa Pick: I am not going to dwell on any negatives about the 2-1 defeat at Astana for Manchester United, but instead say a number of the young players looked comfortable playing in Europe for the first team. Many of those were making their debuts at senior level and I think they can be proud of their performance while also be deserving of further opportunities.

It is less likely that fans are going to be able to gloss over any defeat in the Premier League this weekend when Manchester United host Aston Villa ahead of a big week for the club. On Wednesday Jose Mourinho will return to Old Trafford with his new club, while we are less than a week away from the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.

Those are big games for Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and the manager will want some momentum to take into those fixtures by beating Aston Villa. The last few games have seen Manchester United rediscover some of their goal-scoring form and that is not good news for Aston Villa who have not been defending anywhere near the level that Dean Smith would have wanted.

I do expect Manchester United to score goals and create a lot of chances, but that does not mean they are going to win this game easily.

As poor as Aston Villa may defend, they have been very good the other way and have caused issues for the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City in recent games. Dean Smith is the kind of manager who will want his team to have an attacking intent in the fixture and I do think Aston Villa will have some chances of their own as they have shown an ability to create opportunities over the last month.

They might even score here, but Manchester United have kept their first team fresh for this fixture without the need to travel to Kazakhstan. They have been a little better in the last couple of games at Old Trafford and I think Manchester United will enjoy some of the spaces that Aston Villa allow them to operate in and I will look for the home team to win a game featuring two or more goals on the day.

MY PICKS: Manchester City & Under 3.5 Goals @ 2.25 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Burnley-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.20 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Liverpool Win to Nil @ 2.10 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)
Southampton-Watford Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Norwich City-Arsenal Over 3.5 Goals @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Leicester City & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Manchester United & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.72 Coral (2 Units)

November 2019/20: 6-10, - 7.66 Units (32 Units Staked, - 23.94% 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 14
I am off my worst Fantasy Football GW of the 2019/20 season and I have to admit I was extremely frustrated by the nonsense of VAR last week.

I have made it clear I am not a fan of a system that only should appeal to those who are lacking any real passion for Football- there is no one who can say they are willing to lose themselves in the sport who want to see some fool with a protractor out trying to work out if someone's nose hair was less than a millimetre offside.

Twice I was done in by the system last week with Raheem Sterling's goal ruled out when it looked like he was level at best and the system is guessing his starting point. But to make matters worse was the Jamie Vardy twice taken penalty which saw countless owners who had captained him luck into points they simply didn't deserve.

Getting my Captain wrong again is becoming a feature of the season and I finished with a number that was below the average for the week which frustrates to say the least.

Injuries over the last couple of weeks are beginning to pile up and I am almost forced to take a hit in GW14 as my best laid plans have gone awry. This will only be the second hit I have taken this season, but it has to be done to make sure I am still able to capitalise on the first Wild Card of the season as I have planned to do for some time.

The two transfers I am making this week can be seen in my GW14 team which can be read below. Over the next couple of Rounds it is difficult to write out full Fantasy portions of this thread with the games coming thick and fast over the next week.

I have decided to keep Tammy Abraham despite him being ruled out for the game against West Ham United this weekend. Frank Lampard should have an update on his condition in the coming days and I don't really want to drop him unless he is missing out again during the week as I would then wonder if we see him before GW17.

Joshua King is another injury I am dealing with and I had decided to try and go big at the back one more time in a season when clean sheets have simply not been forthcoming for the top teams. I am doing that while replacing Benjamin Mendy who has not nailed down the left back role along with the Bournemouth striker and Abraham will be the next player out of the squad if he is going to be missing another couple of games.

My GW14 Fantasy Team
David De Gea- the decision to bring in a Manchester United player was somewhat enforced when Ederson went down with an injury, but it was also a statistical play which hasn't paid off so far. Keeping a home clean sheet against Aston Villa is far from straight-forward.

Andrew Robertson- Liverpool have struggled for clean sheets all season but a home game against Brighton is another good chance. The left back has been very successful at earning assists and goals which means he has continued producing even without the clean sheets.

Trent Alexander-Arnold- I have brought in the other Liverpool full back in place of Benjamin Mendy who I simply don't believe plays both games this week (although he will probably have a clean sheet in the one he does play now I've dropped him for a hit). Trent Alexander-Arnold is a source of assists, but home games against Brighton and Everton followed by a trip to Bournemouth should be a chance for at least one clean sheet to go with potential attacking returns.

Caglar Soyuncu- a home game against an Everton team who likely know manager Marco Silva is about to be sacked. Four clean sheets in a row for Leicester City.

Fikayo Tomori- was rested during the week in the 2-2 draw at Valencia but I expect to be restored to the starting line up.

Sadio Mane (C)- relatively easy choice for Captain in a home game against Brighton.

Raheem Sterling- hasn't been at his best this past week, but a key attacking performer for Manchester City who head to Newcastle United.

Youri Tielemans- doesn't grab the headlines likes Jamie Vardy and James Maddison, but the Belgian is always in and around the attacking areas for Leicester City.

Anthony Martial- Manchester United have scored six goals in their last two at Old Trafford and the Frenchman leads the line.

Andrea Pereira- another risky selection made because of position he tends to be selected in rather than the quality I believe he has.

Danny Ings- the transfer was one I was considering anyway as Southampton continue to create a lot of chances. He has been in form for Ralph Hasenhuttl and Southampton face Watford, Norwich City, Newcastle United, West Ham United and Aston Villa across the next five GWs. I am happy selecting him knowing he will start for my team more often than not.

Bench- Michael McGovern, John Lundstram (difficult away game at Wolves, but I don't mind if I have to bring him into the first eleven), Tammy Abraham (injured), Xande Silva (injured)

1 comment:

  1. Hi man! Thanks a lot for your great work!

    I was wondering how you have so much time and knowledge to write so long analysis? Also if I can ask, what is your day job?