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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, 8 November 2019

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2019 (November 8-10)

The latest European fixtures have been completed, but the Premier League begins on Friday evening this week which is always a hassle for those of us who play Fantasy Football.

The early deadline makes it that much harder to make decisions in terms of transfers needed with injury news perhaps more difficult to take on board. You can see my team going out for GW12 below as I look to have another decent week and keep the green arrows coming.

Before that you can read my Premier League Picks from the fixtures to be played as we get ready for the last international break until March next year. During that break I will have my latest thoughts about Manchester United, while the Fantasy section in the next thread for GW13 will be looking at a few players that I may be adding to the squad in the weeks ahead.

Norwich City v Watford Pick: The Premier League offers a Friday Night Football showing this week and this is a huge game for both Norwich City and Watford who sit inside the bottom two places in the League table.

A gap has already begun to develop between both clubs and those teams in the position of safety and the three points are very important already.

Norwich City will give their manager more time as Daniel Farke works through a poor time where injuries are hurting his squad. Defensively they have looked a mess and I am not sure they have the quality in those positions to really change things unless Farke moves away from his current philosophy.

That is unlikely to happen considering the success Norwich City have largely had over the last twelve months and they are still creating chances at the other end. Ultimately they have not been able to outscore opponents, but Norwich City will believe they can hurt this Watford team.

Quique Sanchez Flores is perhaps more desperate for the win on Friday as the Watford owners have shown they have little patience when the club is sliding in the wrong direction. While picking up some points under the new manager, Flores has not earned a win since replacing Javi Gracia and the pressure is on the manager.

Watford have created some good chances and looked a little better defensively, but the team is short of confidence. The Hornets have only scored two goals in their last 6 Premier League games, but Norwich City are about as weak defensively as any team I have seen in the top flight.

Both teams should have their moments as attacking units and I am not surprised the layers are expecting goals. Picking a winner is as difficult as the odds suggest and I don't think either will settle for a draw until the final ten minutes if that is the score going into that stage of the game.

With that in mind I do think an early goal can open this up to be an entertaining Friday fixture and backing at least three goals to be shared out looks the right play.

Chelsea v Crystal Palace Pick: The first of the live Saturday Premier League games comes from Stamford Bridge and this has been the ground for entertainment for the neutrals this season.

It has perhaps not been the kind of fortress Frank Lampard and the fans would have been hoping it to be, but Chelsea should have some momentum from coming back from 1-4 down to earn a draw with Ajax during the week. Granted the Dutch Champions had to be reduced to ten men before things changed in favour of Chelsea, but it will be seen as a positive result and that will give this young team confidence.

Defensively Chelsea continue to show some real vulnerabilities and you would have to expect even a goal-shy Crystal Palace team to have their moments. On the counter attack Crystal Palace have pace and they should be able to have their successes against a Chelsea team that has struggled for clean sheets all season.

Crystal Palace have scored in 7 of their last 8 visits to Stamford Bridge and I fully expect them to get on the scoreboard here. This season Crystal Palace's counter attacking has seen them score at Old Trafford and the Emirates Stadium and they have earned positive results from both fixtures, although the 4-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur will be a concern.

You have to expect Crystal Palace to sit in and try and catch Chelsea on the break, but I also have to respect the attacking verve with which Frank Lampard has his own team operating. They have created chances and scored plenty of goals just months after selling Eden Hazard and I think Chelsea have a better balance now rather than relying on the talented Belgian to make their plays.

Christian Pulisic and Callum Hudson-Odoi can back up Tammy Abraham for the home team and I think Chelsea will edge this one. I am expecting goals too and backing the home team to edge a game featuring three or more goals is the selection.

Burnley v West Ham United Pick: Teams that are currently occupying spots in the middle section of the Premier League table are not being separated by a lot of points and inconsistent results have been the issue for a number of clubs.

Both Burnley and West Ham United have been the victims of the swings and roundabouts in form and both are in the poorer moments at this stage of the season. Burnley have lost 3 in a row and West Ham United have lost 4 of 6 without winning a fixture in that time and confidence might be something of an issue here.

Neither has been defending as well as they would have liked and I do think Burnley and West Ham United have offered enough going forward to hurt the other. We have seen the two teams creating plenty of chances in recent weeks which might be a surprise to read, but I also think the defensive issues are going to leave both vulnerable.

I really can't pick a winner here but I would not be surprised if both teams score. I am expecting there to be chances at both ends to get into a position to see at least three goals shared out even if there have been lower scoring games that Burnley and West Ham United have played at home/away respectively of late.

The odds for at least three goals to be shared out are surprisingly shorter than I would have thought, but I think it is worth a play in this fixture.

Newcastle United v Bournemouth Pick: The layers are finding it very difficult to separate two teams coming in off big Premier League wins and I am no different.

Newcastle United and Bournemouth have both been struggling for consistent threats in the final third, but the slight edge might be with the visitors who have looked as good defensively as any period during their time in the Premier League.

They had won on two previous visits to St James' Park before losing here last season and I think Eddie Howe's men will cause problems. However I am not anticipating a high-scoring game and it might take a bit of luck to separate them on the day.

A draw might not be a bad option, but I am moving onto other games with options that are more appealing.

Southampton v Everton Pick: The players and fans will return to St Mary's for the first time since Southampton were beaten 0-9 by Leicester City and there will be some wounds that need to heal. They might have lost both games at Manchester City since that defeat to Leicester City, but the performances will have been encouraging for Ralph Hasenhuttl who will be looking for a big performance this weekend.

The Saints might be 3 points from the teams outside the relegation zone, but they can reduce that when they host 17th placed Everton on Saturday.

I am not going to be carried away by the nature of the loss to Leicester City, but Southampton have to defend better than they have been and they could be hurt by Everton. Marco Silva is another manager under immense pressure at the moment, but his team have won 2 of their last 4 games in all competitions and the late equaliser against Tottenham Hotspur last weekend will be a boost.

Everton have not been as strong away from home and have lost 4 away Premier League games in succession. That run includes losses on the south coast at Bournemouth and, more controversially, Brighton where Everton have conceded at least three goals each time. They have also lost on 3 successive visits to this ground and Everton's defence will be vulnerable to a Southampton team who score goals at home.

It might be a cautious game at times with the importance of the points not lost on either manager. However I do think both teams have had issues at the back which makes it hard to believe they can keep a clean sheet in this one and backing goals in yet another Premier League fixture is my pick here.

8 of the last 10 Premier League games at St Mary's have ended with three or more goals shared out. 2 of the last 3 Everton away games have ended that way too and 4 of the last 5 League fixtures between these clubs have also finished with three or more goals shared out including both played last season.

The 1-1 is perhaps the score that will let me down, but I think both teams will have chances to do better than that and I will back at least three goals to be shared out.

Tottenham Hotspur v Sheffield United Pick: If this match had taken place in August and the prices were the same as we see for this weekend then I would have had no hesitation in backing Tottenham Hotspur to win.

However in November it is much harder to trust them to beat Sheffield United who have impressed as much as any team in the Premier League this season. I've had my fingers burned opposing them at Bournemouth, Chelsea and West Ham United and the way The Blades have come from behind in all of those games shows a team that won't lose heart if they fall behind here.

Tottenham Hotspur are off an impressive win in Belgrade, but that is a long journey and Sheffield United won't be as poor defensively as Crvena Zvezda were. It is also hard to trust a Tottenham Hotspur team who have lost to Newcastle United and drawn with Watford in their new Stadium this season, while Spurs only just edged out Southampton.

I think the home team likely win, but I think the Asian Handicap is right on the money here and I will have a watching interest in this fixture.

Leicester City v Arsenal Pick: Go back to last weekend and you would have had a much bigger price on Leicester City to win this game, but the oddsmakers are taking no chances as we approach the weekend.

Even a few months ago when Leicester City hosted Arsenal under Brendan Rodgers the home team were a much bigger price than where you find them now, but it has not tempered my enthusiasm too much.

Leicester City are playing with a lot of momentum and seem to be very much on board with what Brendan Rodgers wants from each individual. That has produced a 4 game winning run and Leicester City were unfortunate to lose at Anfield too, while they have been much stronger at home under Rodgers too.

Now they face an Arsenal team who have not lost many games recently, but who have struggled defensively and failed to hold onto a number of leads. It was more of the same in Portugal on Wednesday in the Europa League and Unai Emery continues to field questions about his future which has to be impacting the players.

I won't read too much into Leicester City beating Arsenal in back to back seasons at home because both times The Gunners have lost a player very early on and then fallen apart. However I do think Leicester City have the pace to exploit a backline that doesn't seem to enjoy defending and I would be very surprised if the home team were to lose this fixture.

Backing Leicester City on the Asian Handicap will return half the stake in the event of a draw- they have already beaten Tottenham Hotspur here as they came from behind to do so and I think Leicester City will have too much attacking verve for Arsenal to cope with. I don't completely want to disregard an Arsenal team who still can attack pretty well, but they have been nothing more than an average away team under Emery and Leicester City look worth getting behind.

Manchester United v Brighton Pick: While most Manchester United fans will accept the inconsistent performances that are coming from a squad that is lacking the kind of quality expected, there will also be another school of thought to suggest these players are better than being a mid-table Premier League team.

The top four positions are already slipping away from Manchester United who find themselves 10 points off those places. Another setback on Sunday might mean all of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's eggs could be in the Europa League basket for a return to the Champions League, but it would be disappointing if Manchester United could not win this fixture.

That is not being disrespectful to Brighton who are above Manchester United in the Premier League table, but this team has been Jekyll and Hyde when it comes to the venue of their fixtures. While being very impressive at home, Brighton have not won any of their last 4 away Premier League games and have scored a single goal in that time.

I am sure Brighton will look to bed in and try and hit Manchester United on the break, while most teams will feel a single goal could be enough to earn a result at Old Trafford these days. With Manchester United likely having two of the regular back five missing there will be chances for Brighton on the counter attack.

Those increase if Scott McTominay is also absent as Manchester United are short of numbers in the middle of the park, but for the most part the home team have not defended too badly this season. Keeping clean sheets has not been a regular occurrence for them, but Manchester United might be looking to place the foundation for success in this fixture on making sure they limit what Brighton are able to do in the final third.

Manchester United's attacking performance on Thursday against Partizan was impressive for the most part. The return of Anthony Martial does give them a different kind of threat in the final third and I do think Manchester United will edge this game.

I would be surprised to see a really high-scoring game, so backing Manchester United to win a game which has fewer than four goals is a good shout at odds against.

Wolves v Aston Villa Pick: One team whose matches I have rarely been involved in is Wolves who have been so hard to read.

They are pretty good to watch, but they don't score a lot of goals and playing in the Europa League on Thursday before a Sunday Premier League game is always a tough spot. At least Wolves were at home on Thursday and that might give them a narrow edge in this one.

However I have been largely impressed with Aston Villa who create chances against the teams they play and that includes in their defeats to Manchester City and Liverpool in the last couple of weeks. They should be able to at least ask some serious questions of Wolves this weekend and I am finding it hard to find a real edge in this fixture.

It is a derby game too so there should be plenty of motivation on both sides too. I will be at Old Trafford so won't be watching this game, but it will be interesting to see how it pans out at the end.

Liverpool v Manchester City Pick: There is no doubt that this is the biggest game of the season so far as Liverpool take on Manchester City in the Premier League with 6 points separating last season's top two in the table.

Like when these teams met at the Etihad Stadium last January, Liverpool are leading the way and have a chance to put some real distance between themselves and Champions Manchester City. If they can win, 9 points will look a huge gap already and playing at Anfield has to give the players real belief they can do that.

Liverpool are a much stronger team at home than they are on their travels and they have had one extra day to prepare for the game. The injury to Joel Matip has actually left them a little more vulnerable defensively than I thought it would though and I think Manchester City have the attacking players to really hurt them here.

Tactically it will be interesting to see how Pep Guardiola approaches the game having been very respectful of the Liverpool front three in the goalless draw last season. This time injuries are really hurting Manchester City at the back and I am not sure Guardiola could trust his team to keep a clean sheet which may suggest attack is the best form of defence.

If Ederson is not fit I would fancy Liverpool to win this game- Claudio Bravo does not just make his fans a little nervous, but the defence looked short of confidence with the Chilean between the sticks so this is a key piece of team news that will come out in the coming days.

I would expect Liverpool to take an approach where they look to make a fast start and catch Manchester City before they can get set into a passing rhythm. They should be more direct and I do think they can expose the Manchester City defensive shortcomings without Aymeric Laporte to lead them.

On the other hand it would be a surprise if Manchester City can't create chances when you think of how Liverpool have been defending for much of the season. They have yet to have a clean sheet at Anfield this season and Manchester City have been scoring plenty of away goals with most factors pointing to a game with goals here.

5 of the last 7 games between these clubs have ended with at least three goals shared out and I think the defensive shortcomings of both will be exposed by very good attacking units. Picking a winner is not easy and I do think team news is going to be key with Liverpool likely a solid favourite if Ederson is missing.

I expect both teams will hit the mark in this one and I am going to back at least three goals to be shared out between them.

MY PICKS: Norwich City-Watford Over 2.5 Goals @ 
Chelsea & Over 2.5 Goals @ 
Burnley-West Ham United Over 2.5 Goals @ 
Southampton-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 
Leicester - 0.25 Asian Handicap @ 
Manchester United & Under 3.5 Goals @ 
Liverpool-Manchester City Over 2.5 Goals @ 

November 2019/20: 3-6, - 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 12
In usual circumstances I would have had this post scheduled to be posted early on Friday morning, but the injury to Ederson on Wednesday night means I wanted to wait a while and make sure all the press conferences have been heard.

Realistically I don't imagine he will miss this game at Anfield anyway, but I could not really go into the GW without a goalkeeper playing so it is where we are. (EDIT- after writing this out on Thursday, I was waiting for team news and it was announced that Ederson is indeed out this weekend and potentially for longer than that too).

The 72 points earned last week was way above the average in the GameWeek again, but I am getting frustrated with my continued misses on the 'Captain' selection. Raheem Sterling earned me a grand total of two points last weekend and my position would be much better if I was not picking the wrong player more often than not.

This week the 'Captain' selection is a fairly easy one considering the fixtures and I am largely happy with the shape of the squad. I also made the mistake of leaving Caglar Soyuncu on my bench last week so to pick up 72 points with a couple of decisions going wrong is a positive, although I also recognise the week could have been much stronger too.

I will have a fuller thread for GameWeek 13 off the back of the international break. You can read my team for GameWeek 12 below.

My only transfer this week has to be used on the goalkeeper Ederson after he was ruled out for the game against Liverpool. I do think he will be back in GW13, but I can't really go without a goalkeeper and I had already been considering bringing in a Manchester United defender for the next three games at the least.

That makes the transfer an easy one as I pick up David De Gea with the knowledge I will be keeping him until at least GW14 now. It does mean going without a guaranteed Manchester City defender for the next three weeks, but I am not sure I would trust them to keep too many clean sheets anyway. Having Benjamin Mendy in the squad means I can use him against any team I want, although even his place at left back is far from assured despite Oleksandr Zinchenko being absent of late.

David De Gea- I've used my Free Transfer to bring in the Manchester United number one in place of Ederson who is out this Sunday. Games against Brighton, Sheffield United and Aston Villa are next on deck for United so I did want a defender brought in anyway with this being the easiest move to make in light of the injury suffered by the Manchester City goalkeeper.

Andrew Robertson- the lack of clean sheets for Liverpool have been surprising and I doubt they earn one this weekend against Manchester City. However the left back has continued offering big attacking points including scoring last weekend.

Caglar Soyuncu- I was not convinced about Leicester City's chances of keeping clean sheets in their last couple of away games so have left 20 points out there with Soyuncu on my bench. It's going to be a tough home game with Arsenal this week, but being at home means he will get the start ahead of John Lundstram playing at Tottenham Hotspur.

Fiyaki Timori- Chelsea have simply not been keeping a lot of clean sheets, but they have managed two at Stamford Bridge against Brighton and Newcastle United. Playing Crystal Palace isn't the best home game to continue that run, but again I pick Timori ahead of Lundstram.

Sadio Mane- Manchester City have been far from convincing defensively and Mane remains in hot form in 2019.

Raheem Sterling- playing at Anfield has been difficult for former Liverpool player Raheem Sterling, but he is going to be an important part of any success Manchester City have here.

Youri Tielemans- scored the opener against Arsenal last season at the King Power Stadium and people are beginning to recognise the importance of his place in the Leicester City starting line up.

Anthony Martial- Manchester United's Number 9 as a midfield option can't be ignored. The Frenchman has been key to the revitalised attacking displays produced by Manchester United in the last couple of weeks.

Callum Hudson-Odoi- I have to admit this player is in danger of being replaced in my Fantasy team. No one will doubt how good Callum Hudson-Odoi is going to be, but at the moment he is not being given a lot of starts with Christian Pulisic and Willian the two preferred options. I will give CHO one more chance this week.

Joshua King- scored the winner against Manchester United and back playing up front for Bournemouth. Scored both goals against Newcastle United at home in the last Premier League meeting between these teams and has scored at St James' Park before too.

Tammy Abraham (C)- the easy choice for Captain is Tammy Abraham in a home game against Crystal Palace. He has been boom or bust this season which is a concern and I have him edging out Anthony Martial for the amount of points expected this week.

Bench- Michael McGovern, Benjamin Mendy (an away game at Liverpool does look a tough place to earn a clean sheet even though Manchester City did that last season. He could offer an attacking return if starting, but the other options in my squad look more appealing), John Lundstram (plays in an attacking position for Sheffield United, but this is a difficult game at Tottenham Hotspur), Xande Silva.

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