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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...

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Midweek Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2020 (January 21-23)

This is the last really short turnaround in the Premier League this season and that limited gap between two rounds of Fantasy Football rounds can be massively unhelpful.

More on that later, but beforehand you can see my Picks from the latest round of games to be played.


Aston Villa v Watford Pick: When teams separated by a relegation side are meeting in any League it is going to be a big game and it is no different in the Premier League when Aston Villa in 18th place host Watford in 17th place. Games are beginning to run down now and so both teams will understand the importance of the fixture and a tense evening could be in the offing at Villa Park.

Tense is one thing, but neither Aston Villa nor Watford have to have a lot of belief in the way they have been defending to think they can sit in and perhaps play for a point. In all honesty a point is not the greatest result for either club who will see games like this one as very important to earn the three points that can begin to build a significant gap to the bottom three.

Aston Villa have been decent enough going forward even without Wesley to lead the line and they will feel they can get something from this Watford defence that has offered up one or two big chances per game.

However Watford have also looked a lot better going forward since Nigel Pearson took over as manager and an in-form Troy Deeney will feel he can bully Aston Villa much like he did in the home win over them at the end of December. It was Deeney's missed penalty that cost Watford the three points in the goalless draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, but the overall performance was very good and keeping those levels up will make them hard to beat.

The visitors are actually the slight favourites here, but Aston Villa have won 5 of their last 9 games here in all competitions and played well enough at Brighton to deserve respect. It does feel like a fixture that could easily end up 2-1 either way and the chances that both teams have been creating and allowing in recent games makes backing over 2.5 goals look the play.


Bournemouth v Brighton Pick: All the signs are pointing to Bournemouth being a prime relegation contender, but one win on Tuesday will shift the entire mindset of this club. That is what makes this a difficult fixture to predict and especially more so when you think of how poorly Brighton have travelled for much of the season.

The Seagulls are also coming off a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa and they are very much in the relegation dogfight too.

So while I can understand why Brighton are favourites, I don't think their away form makes them a team I would want to back. On the other hand Bournemouth look short of confidence and have been decimated by injuries which makes them unappealing and I do think there are better options out there this midweek.


Crystal Palace v Southampton Pick: Both Crystal Palace and Southampton have to be pretty happy with the way their seasons are shaping up in the Premier League and both will believe they can win a fixture like this one.

Both put in big efforts on Saturday as Crystal Palace fought back for a point at Manchester City at the same time as Southampton were blowing a 2-0 lead over Wolves in an eventual 2-3 home defeat.

The short turnaround is a concern and both managers have accepted this is the last really difficult moment of the seasons for them when the fixtures come thick and fast. Crystal Palace will have ten days off after this game and then will soon join the first ever Winter Break in the English top flight, but the injury list is a long one and Crystal Palace have been struggling to turn draws into wins.

At the same time they have been very difficult to beat so there is a challenge for the in-form Southampton team who had won 5 of 6 before their 2-3 loss to Wolves. The Saints have won 3 in a row away from home and they have been scoring plenty of goals in recent games on their travels which makes them an interesting favourite here.

Add in the fact that Southampton have won on their last 2 visits to Selhurst Park and I think the visitors will have their backers, but Crystal Palace won't roll over for them. Roy Hodgson's team are well set up, and they have found goals even through their injury crisis and 4 of their last 5 Premier League games have ended with both teams finding the net.

That happened the first time these teams met this season and I can see that being the outcome of this one too.


Everton v Newcastle United Pick: The 1-1 draw at West Ham United might not have been the perfect result for Everton, but this is a team that continues to create chances and produce a lot of shots on goal under Carlo Ancelotti. Some will point out back to back 1-0 home wins as a sign that Everton are doing things in a different way, but they have created a lot of chances in both games against Burnley and Brighton and only a lack of composure in the final third has prevented Everton from winning by wider margins.

They should continue to create chances against a Newcastle United team that put in a huge effort to see off Chelsea on Saturday. Steve Bruce is finally being respected by the fans and this is a team that has proven they can be a stubborn one to face whether you visit them or host them.

Wolves found that out as they had to settle for a 1-1 home draw with Newcastle United despite having the majority of chances on the day. A stubborn team like The Magpies can't be allowed to hang around and build confidence one they dig in so the onus is on Everton to take the game to them.

I do think Newcastle United can cause one or two problems of their own, but the short turn from Saturday to Tuesday does work against them. They put in a big effort against Chelsea and the squad is already plenty stretched and I think Everton can take advantage even if both Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson are absent again.

Everton have a good recent home history against Newcastle United and I think they can beat them here. They've created enough chances to believe they can win in a game featuring two or more goals and that is the play even if the last two games here have both ended 1-0.


Sheffield United v Manchester City Pick: The Premier League title race might be over if we are being realistic, but Manchester City can't allow malaise to set in if they are going to have a big season over the next several months. Pep Guardiola has made it clear that he expects his team to keep performing and putting points on the board, and I do think there are going to be one or two players who are going to have to prove to the manager that they can be a part of the long-term project here.

This is far from an easy game for Manchester City who beat Sheffield United 2-0 at home last month, but in a fixture where the visitors had plenty of good chances of their own.

Sheffield United have bounced back in their last 3 games during which time they have won twice and they are a team who will look to play their football against this vulnerable Manchester City defence.

On the other hand it will be difficult to contain Manchester City too considering they have scored two or more goals in 8 away games in a row. This is a team who create a lot of chances, but who have been let down by their poor defensive record and I think that may show up in this one too.

Manchester City have only had 2 clean sheets in their last 12 away games and that should give the home team an opportunity. It is almost impossible to imagine Manchester City failing to score so backing both teams to score looks the way to go with this one.


Chelsea v Arsenal Pick: The big Premier League game on Tuesday evening comes from West London as two clubs who will still be hoping to finish in the Champions League places meet for the second time this season.

Arsenal will be looking for revenge having blown a 1-0 lead against Chelsea in the eventual 1-2 defeat last month at the Emirates Stadium. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's absence is a bitter blow for Arsenal who have created chances under Mikel Arteta, but who have continued to struggle defensively.

Those issues at the back can be exploited by Chelsea even if they have perhaps struggled for consistency in the final third. Frank Lampard has been frustrated by the missed chances his team have had in recent games and there is talk of reinforcements being brought in to aid what is a very young squad of players.

Tammy Abraham has shown he can lead the line for Chelsea, but he is being asked to play a lot of minutes and I think it would help if Lampard was convinced by his other options. Christian Pulisic is injured which means Chelsea are relying on players to find some consistency that have yet to show they are there yet.

However Chelsea do create chances and I think they will be able to do that against this Arsenal team. The first goal will be key for Chelsea to prevent them from being bogged down as has been the case in some games at Stamford Bridge this season.

Chelsea have won their last couple of games here and Arsenal have struggled to turn draws into wins away from home. The Gunners haven't lost too many games of late, but they have not been at their best as they are getting used to a new manager and system. Being without their biggest goal-threat is a real blow too and so backing Chelsea to win a game featuring two or more goals looks an appealing play.


Leicester City v West Ham United Pick: It is one thing for Leicester City to have lost a bit of form after what was a tremendous run a couple of months ago, but even then it is hard to believe they would lose games to Southampton and Burnley once they took the lead.

In both of those Premier League games Leicester City have scored the first goal, but both times they have been on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat. The defeat at Turf Moor was largely down to the Jamie Vardy missed penalty while the teams were level at 1-1 in the second half, but the manager has to be frustrated with the slight loss of confidence which is leading to bad decisions.

Leicester City were the better team on Sunday, but failures in the final third coupled with some defensive mistakes means they have suffered consecutive losses. At least the teams below them have not really been able to take advantage so Leicester City remain firmly in control of one of the Champions League places on offer in the Premier League, but Brendan Rodgers will want to get the Premier League back on track before heading into two important Cup ties away from home.

They have struggled in recent home games with a single win in their last 5 at the King Power Stadium, but facing West Ham United should give Leicester City a chance to bounce back. The Foxes don't have a very good recent record against their visitors at home, but Leicester City will have noted the amount of chances West Ham United have continued to give up and I think they can exploit those.

David Moyes will accept his team are just short at the moment with key injuries hurting them, while he also will want to put a stamp on this squad during the upcoming Winter Break. The really busy period of the season is behind them which means Moyes can work on the system in training, but this game might come at the wrong time for that.

West Ham United have been in decent form under David Moyes, but this is a tough place to play. They might cause one or two problems for Leicester City considering the lack of confidence in the home ranks, but I believe Brendan Rodgers will get a reaction from his team who can't continue to be as loose in the final third as they have been in recent games.

The home team will likely need to score at least twice to win this fixture on current form and I think they can do that.


Tottenham Hotspur v Norwich City Pick: There has been some good play from Tottenham Hotspur in the final third in recent games, but the lack of clinical finishing has been hurting them in the last couple of fixtures.

A home loss to Liverpool and a goalless draw at Watford means Tottenham Hotspur have yet to score a League game since Harry Kane was ruled out until April. It will be a major concern for Jose Mourinho, although I am sure he is going to be pleased with the clean sheet earned against Watford thanks to a Troy Deeney penalty miss.

Jose Mourinho will be looking for his team to build on the point at Watford when they face bottom club Norwich City who have looked like a team destined for a return to the Championship. Daniel Farke's men did beat Bournemouth on Saturday which will give them a huge boost in confidence, but even then they are 6 points from safety and looking like a very weak away team.

Norwich City are one of the poorest teams I have seen visiting Old Trafford in some time and they were beaten 4-0 by Manchester United. They have lost 3 of their last 4 away games in the Premier League and I do think Tottenham Hotspur can get back to winning ways in the League for the first time since Boxing Day.

Backing the home team to cover the Asian Handicap is a little dangerous considering their lack of form, but I think Tottenham Hotspur should have too much for this Norwich City team. Defensively Spurs are struggling, but I think they will make better use of the chances they create in this one and I will back them to secure the three points with a relatively comfortable win.


Manchester United v Burnley Pick: This is a big moment for Manchester United as the tension builds around the club with the fans unhappy with the continued abuse of the way things are run. It is clear that this is a commercial juggernaut rather than one that is focused on winning on the field and the likes of the Glazer family and Ed Woodward are going to continue to hear voices of dissension.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants the fans to get behind the team and not to become divided with the owners again, but the manager has some questions to answer especially after the injury suffered by Marcus Rashford. The decision to play him against Wolves looks negligent at best and it is going to cost Rashford the majority of the remainder of the campaign which should also hit Solskjaer hard.

Failing to get back into the Champions League will be a massive blow to the current manager and others have found their time ended at Old Trafford when missing what looks the most basic of asks.

Being without Rashford looks like it could prevent Manchester United doing that, but they have to bounce back on Wednesday when hosting Burnley who are off a big win on Sunday. Sean Dyche's men had a big second half reaction to come from behind and beat Leicester City, although they did need a Jamie Vardy missed penalty to edge to the important three points.

There are still concerns defensively and Burnley have allowed teams to create too many chances against them which can be exposed by Manchester United who have won 4 of their last 5 at Old Trafford. Again losing Rashford hurts, but there is enough attacking talent to get on top of a Burnley team who have been hammered at Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea over the last few weeks.

Burnley do have a decent record at Old Trafford in recent seasons with 3 draws in a row here- in fact Burnley have been leading 0-2 in each of their last two visits and Manchester United have scored injury time levellers on both occasions.

Manchester United will be vulnerable having had confidence dented in the defeat to Liverpool, but I think they can bounce back at home. They should create enough chances to win the game and it should be enough to cover the Asian Handicap as long as Manchester United can get their noses in front in this one.


Wolves v Liverpool Pick: The Premier League title race is all but over, although Jurgen Klopp will be looking for his side to try and secure that trophy in record time which will then give Liverpool a chance to attack the other Cup competitions they are involved in.

I hate to say it, but Liverpool can cement their place in history if they can defend their Champions League title in a season where they can match Manchester United's stunning efforts in 1999 when winning the real treble.

That has to be a focus of this group of players and Liverpool are showing little mercy to their floundering title challengers by continuing to rack up the wins. At times they have rode their luck, but earlier this season they were showing a sign of Champions by winning games when things were not breaking for them.

Both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur did have some glaring openings against Liverpool without troubling the scoreboard and that has to be a slight concern for Jurgen Klopp. Wolves did the same when these teams met at Anfield last month and this is a team off a confidence boosting 2-3 win at Southampton as they recovered from 2-0 down.

Of course Nuno Espirito Santo will know this is a much tougher game for his Wolves team, but they are also about to enter a ten day break and that should mean all of the players give their all. Motivation won't be lacking as they look to become the first team to beat Liverpool this season and I do think the performance at Anfield is encouraging enough to believe Wolves can cause problems.

Keeping Liverpool out looks a long-shot though and the best play may be backing both teams to hit the back of the net in this one. If Anthony Martial showed more composure when through on goal, Manchester United would have done that and Tottenham Hotspur had at least two gilt-edged chances to score in their own loss to Liverpool earlier this month.

The 6 clean sheets in a row will be a boost for Liverpool, but both teams should have the chances to hit the back of the net on Thursday.

MY PICKS: Aston Villa-Watford Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.95 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Crystal Palace-Southampton Both Teams to Score @ 1.95 Bet365 (2 Units)
Everton & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.95 Coral (2 Units)
Sheffield United-Manchester City Both Teams to Score @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Chelsea & Over 1.5 Goals @ 2.15 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Leicester City & Over 1.5 Goals @ 1.70 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.94 Bet365 (2 Units)
Manchester United - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 2.06 Bet365 (2 Units)
Wolves-Liverpool Both Teams to Score @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

January 2019/20: 2-6, - 8.78 Units (16 Units Staked, - 54.88% Yield)
December 2019/2016-14, - 0.58 Units (60 Units Staked, - 1% Yield)
November 2019/209-16, - 12.66 Units (50 Units Staked, - 25.32% 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 24
The first Double GameWeek of the season is ready to go for those of us who play Fantasy Football and the two teams who will be involved are Liverpool and West Ham United.

I had already begun preparation for that by bringing in Roberto Firmino to join Sadio Mane, and there will be plenty ready to use their Triple Captain card this week. I am not one of those with the week between games meaning there could be some rotations in the squad especially with a FA Cup game sandwiched in-between, although I do expect two largely strong teams to be picked.

Players like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Andrew Robertson and the front three will all be well backed I am sure, but I do think those could be rotated which makes the Triple Captain chip one I am going to keep in hand.

Unsurprisingly one of my two transfers this week are going to be used to bring in a third Liverpool player. The injury to Marcus Rashford means I can't bring in a second West Ham United player (I don't want a striker from their team considering the fixtures), but I had to change Rashford at the high value he is.

The player I have targeted for Rashford is Troy Deeney who has been in hot form for Watford, a team scoring plenty of goals for Nigel Pearson. He is on Penalties for his team and the next three games are favourable for the English striker and means I can shore up other areas of the squad in February.

The second choice might surprise as I have gone with Alisson to replace Paulo Gazzaniga- my thinking here is that I am going to have to spend a transfer to replace him by the time the next GameWeek rolls around and I want to make changes to the midfield options by then, while I also believe the Liverpool goalkeeper is about as secure a choice you can have along with Virgil Van Dijk in the backline for both Premier League games to be played.

Of course I am not overlooking how well the two full backs have played and how much of an attacking return they can offer as well as defensive points, but for the long-term health of my squad the replacement of Tottenham Hotspur's goalkeeper seems better especially with Hugo Lloris likely to return soon. It is a decision that leaves plenty in the bank to upgrade the likes of Pablo Fornals in the next GameWeek too.

My GameWeek 24 Team
Alisson- plays twice within this GW.

Serge Aurier- home game against Norwich City.

Harry Maguire- home game against Burnley, although potential of being partnered by Phil Jones is not very encouraging.

Caglar Soyuncu- another team playing at home as Leicester City host West Ham United.

Sadio Mane (C)- easy choice with two games to be played, although I held off activating the Triple Captain chip.

Kevin De Bruyne- a huge influence in the Manchester City midfield.

Jack Grealish- continues to be single handedly trying to pull Aston Villa out of the bottom three.

Pablo Fornals- doesn't seem to be in David Moyes' plans, but plays twice this GW.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin- home game against Newcastle United and scored twice against them earlier this season.

Troy Deeney- in form and also the Watford penalty taker.

Roberto Firmino- brought in a couple of weeks ago for this DGW.

Bench- Michael McGovern, James Ward-Prowse, John Lundstram, Federico Fernandez

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