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Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other s...

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2021 (May 10th)

We move onto the second day in Rome in the final Masters tournament before the French Open and while there are plenty of matches set to be played, I haven't found too many that I think are appealing enough to place a marker on.

More Picks should be made as the tournament progresses, but there are some tight matches being played on Monday.

Aslan Karatsev - 3.5 games v Miomir Kecmanovic: A pretty remarkable run at the Australian Open back in February coupled with some strong performances in Challenger events in the second half of 2020 has pushed Aslan Karatsev into a career high World Number 27 position. To sum up the rise, the Russian is set to be a Seed at the French Open and he is clearly someone the layers have a keen eye on getting on their side.

That means Aslan Karatsev could find himself a little over-rated in the weeks and months ahead and his clay court performances over the last several weeks have been a little better than average. While reaching the Final in Belgrade and holding a win over Novak Djokovic, Aslan Karatsev has suffered relatively early losses in Monte Carlo and Madrid and his numbers are someway short of the kind of marker he had been setting in the hard court matches played.

So far in 2021, Aslan Karatsev has won 62% of his service points played on the clay courts and he has won 38% of return points which means he could be someone we can look to oppose with the right opponent. Being over-rated means Karatsev can be asked to cover big numbers, bigger than he should, but that may not be the case in the First Round in Rome.

The draw has thrown up a match against Miomir Kecmanovic and the Serb has produced a 2-3 record on the clay courts since the European clay court swing has begun. Like Aslan Karatsev, Miomir Kecmanovic reached a career best World Ranking earlier in 2021, but he has been struggling for consistency with his tennis.

Miomir Kecmanovic has struggled behind serve and on return in his clay court matches in 2021, but those numbers take a pretty big hit when only considering matches against top 100 Ranked opponents. In those matches, Kecmanovic is winning just 58% of points behind serve and he has held just 65% of service games played and that has put considerable pressure on his return game which has seen the Serb break in 19% of return games played.

I expect there ie enough consistency in the Aslan Karatsev game to expose Miomir Kecmanovic's struggles and I think that will lead to a solid win for the Russian player. There is a confidence about the Karatsev game which has seen him largely dominate those opponents Ranked outside the top 20 that he has faced on the clay courts over the last few weeks and I think he can come through with a cover in this victory.

MY PICKS: Aslan Karatsev - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Rome Masters Tennis Picks 2021 (May 9th)

The last Masters tournament before the French Open begins on Sunday in Rome and the ATP side of the event will have four First Round matches to be played on the day with the majority of the matches the final Qualifiers before a large chunk of the First Round gets going on Monday.

I have not had a very good season and I seem to be hitting too many really poor patches of form even within a week that changes a positive into a big negative.

It has been difficult at times and perhaps I am overthinking some aspects of my selections, but this is an important week to try and build some momentum and try and bring in some positive vibes before the French Open gets underway later this month. Some better luck would help, but I have to look inwards and demand better from my Picks which have simply not been good enough at identifying the matches that are fitting the criteria I demand.

Some adjustments are being made, but I hope to see them begin to pay dividends this week and moving through the French Open and into the grass court part of the Tour.

Filip Krajinovic v Felix Auger-Aliassime: Both of these players have had a difficult time on the clay courts over the last few weeks and they don't have much time to turn things around before the French Open begins at the end of the month. The more disappointed of the two players has to be Filip Krajinovic who has played well on the clay courts in the past, but struggled to get over the line in his matches more often than not this season.

He is playing against Felix Auger-Aliassime who has employed the services of Toni Nadal, Rafael's uncle, to help improve what has been a poor early career on the clay courts. Like many North American players, the clay courts are far from the kind of courts they would have grown up on and the Canadian has not really had much success over the last few weeks.

However, it should be noted that Auger-Aliassime has been beaten by Cristian Garin, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud and all three are very solid clay courters who have been playing at a higher level than Filip Krajinovic. The defeats will still have dented some of the confidence and the main problem that Felix Auger-Aliassime has had on this surface is finding a way to get his return game going.

Felix Auger-Aliassime has broken in just 20% of return games played on the clay courts in 2021 and it is not much of an improvement on the 2020 level in the few clay events played at the end of the season. The problem for the Canadian is that it is difficult for him to back up his serve on this surface and try and build scoreboard pressure in the same way he can on the faster surfaces and I do think this is another tough match for him.

Filip Krajinovic has had a couple of disappointing losses over the last couple of weeks and he has lost three matches in a row which will have knocked some of his confidence. The return game is where Krajinovic has the edge between these players on this surface and I think that is where the difference can be made in this First Round match.

It was the difference when these two met in the same tournament last year, although the Rome Masters was held in the Autumn rather than the Spring in 2020. Filip Krajinovic created more than three times the number of break points than Felix Auger-Aliassime in his straight sets win over the Canadian and on that day it was the Krajinovic returning numbers which catch the eye.

This one may be closer because of the lack of confidence both players could head to the court with, but it is a surprise to see Felix Auger-Aliassime as the favourite on the clay against this opponent. The underdog Filip Krajinovic should still be the superior returner and I think that will end up helping him through to the Second Round.

Pablo Carreno Busta - 3.5 games v Laslo Djere: He reached the Final of a clay tournament played in Cagliari, but Laslo Djere did not win the title in a close defeat to Lorenzo Sonego. There is no doubt that Djere was unfortunate to lose that day, but it has sparked a poor run and he has lost his last four clay court matches as he heads into the Rome Masters.

The real concern for Laslo Djere is that he has struggling to be competitive in his last three losses despite playing against opponents he would expect to beat. Now the Serb is going to have to step up his level when taking on Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta who has had a good clay court season to this point, despite losing in the First Round in Madrid last week.

Pablo Carreno Busta won the title in Marbella and has had a couple of solid runs since then before the early defeat in Madrid. That won't be a major concern for Carreno Busta, but he will be looking for some momentum to take into the next Grand Slam of the season and that means trying to put some wins on the board here in Rome.

The Spaniard has been serving well in his clay court matches over the last month and that is key for Pablo Carreno Busta- it really increases the pressure on opponents when it comes to their own service games because Carreno Busta is a decent returner on this surface and you would expect him to cause problems for Laslo Djere.

That isn't to say that Laslo Djere would be brushed off because his numbers have been strong on the clay courts and this has been his favoured surface so far in his career. He has some similar kinds of numbers to Pablo Carreno Busta over the last several months on the clay courts and so this may be a match that is decided by very little between them, although I do think Pablo Carreno Busta is the superior player and eventually should be able to show that in this First Round match.

Laslo Djere should at least challenge Pablo Carreno Busta, even with his poor run of form heading into the Rome Masters, but the small margins may break in favour of the latter. There should be a lot of rallies and that is where the Carreno Busta tennis can begin to break Laslo Djere down and he can come through with a win and a cover of what is a relatively big spread.

MY PICKS: Filip Krajinovic @ 2.10 Bet365 (2 Units)
Pablo Carreno Busta - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Bet365 (2 Units)

Boxing Picks 2021- Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders (May 8th)

There have been some solid cards over the last several months, but the largely absent fans has been a big miss for Boxing as much as other sports.

That all changes on Saturday.

In Dallas, Texas a new record for an indoor attendance has been announced as Canelo Alvarez looks to pick up another Super Middleweight World Title and move a step closer to Unification. It is a shame that the British fans can't really travel in the numbers they have been used to in support of Billy Joe Saunders, but the atmosphere should still be electric for a fight that has some real needle attached to it.

The undercard could have perhaps done with some beefing up, but the main event is what has been the trigger for the sales and I think this will be a good one on Saturday evening.

Canelo Alvarez vs Billy Joe Saunders
Three of the four main Super Middleweight World Titles are going to be on the line in Dallas when Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders meet in a big Unification fight.

The fans are back, and rightly so for an event like this, and I think there is plenty of intrigue about the fight which makes it one that shouldn't be missed.

Much depends on how Billy Joe Saunders has prepared for this fight- there is no doubting his skills, but he has never been in at the level he will be operating at on Saturday. He looks to be in great shape and Saunders has fought up and down to the level of his opponent, while the skills and style is one that Canelo Alvarez has struggled with in the past.

However, the loss to Floyd Mayweather and the controversial win over Erislandy Lara were in bouts that took place in 2013 and 2014 respectively and there is no doubting how much Canelo has improved in the time since then.

Even then you do have to think that Saunders will be difficult to tie down early in the fight and Canelo is going to have to focus on the body work to slow down his opponent. The feet are much better at cutting off the ring these days than they were in 2014 and I do think Billy Joe Saunders can sometimes look like he is tiring towards the end of a fight which is where I have a nagging feeling that Canelo will catch up with him.

The power remains at 168 pounds and Canelo looks really good on the scales too, but only three of the last eight fights have ended with a stoppage for him. A late stoppage against Sergey Kovalev springs to mind when thinking about this fight, but I think Billy Joe Saunders has the length and the heart to find a way to hear the final bell.

Beating Canelo Alvarez on the cards anywhere is a huge task though and I think the more eye-catching shots will be landed by the Mexican great. I think Billy Joe Saunders may even do enough to call for a rematch, but I think it will be a clear enough Decision for Canelo to move on towards the big fight with Caleb Plant later in the year, while the Brit can come back with his head held high.

MY PICKS: Canelo Alvarez to Win by Decision/Technical Decision @ 2.62 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Elwin Soto to Win Between 7-12 @ 3.00 William Hill (2 Units)
Souleymane Cissokho to Win by Decision/Technical Decision @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Frank Sanchez to Win Between 6-10 @ 4.50 Sky Bet (1 Unit)

Boxing 2021: 15-36, - 28.12 Units (99 Units Staked, - 28.40% Yield)

Friday, 7 May 2021

Madrid Masters Tennis Picks 2021 (May 8th)

The last couple of days have been very poor for the Tennis Picks, but I am a touch frustrated with my selections and also with a couple of matches barely dropping on the wrong side of the fence.

With two days left in Madrid before the Tours move to Rome, I do want some positive momentum to carry me into the last Masters tournament before the French Open begins later this month.

Ashleigh Barty - 1.5 games v Aryna Sabalenka: This is the second red clay Final which features Ashleigh Barty and Aryna Sabalenka already in 2021 and the two players may be heading towards the French Open as two of the four or five favourites to win the next Grand Slam of the season.

The two players met in the Final in Stuttgart a couple of weeks ago and it was Ashleigh Barty who came from a set behind to eventually get the better of Aryna Sabalenka. The Australian was a deserving winner on the day once she figured out the big hitting game that Sabalenka brings to the court, although the conditions in Madrid may be a little tougher for Ashleigh Barty when it comes to defending and turning rallies in her favour.

Over the week in Madrid, Aryna Sabalenka has been playing the better tennis than Ashleigh Barty, although some of the numbers are down to the fact that she has not faced the same level of competition as Barty. That has to be factored into the match and both players will be confident they can get enough out of their serves to at least give them a chance to play first strike tennis on a clay court which is quicker than most others on the European clay court swing.

Aryna Sabalenka has the edge in the returning numbers, but again it is partly down to the fact that she has not faced servers like Paula Badosa and Petra Kvitova like Ashleigh Barty has had to do. It is clear that Sabalenka is plenty confident and really finding her feet on the clay where the ball just sits up for her heavy groundstrokes, but I expect Ashleigh Barty to make life awkward with her ability to hit through the court.

In their match in Stuttgart, Ashleigh Barty created break points in seven return games compared with Aryna Sabalenka's four return games and she also won 47% of return points compared with 35% for the Belarusian. The faster conditions in Madrid should mean those return numbers are knocked back somewhat, but I do think Ashleigh Barty remains the more consistent player on the clay courts of the two playing in the Final in Madrid.

The 'x' factor also favours Ashleigh Barty as one of the smarter players on the Tour who is willing to move to her second or third game plan if the first one is not working as well as she would like. The ability to make adjustments within a match can't be underestimated and I think Ashleigh Barty will work her way past Aryna Sabalenka to underline her status as perhaps the favourite to win the French Open where she will be playing for the first time since winning the Grand Slam title in 2019.

Alexander Zverev - 1.5 games v Dominic Thiem: There will be some painful memories for Alexander Zverev to deal with when he faces Dominic Thiem in this Madrid Masters Semi Final and thoughts won't be too far away from the US Open Final these two competed in last year.

On that occasion Alexander Zverev won the first two sets and also served for the Championship in the fifth set, but it was Dominic Thiem who recovered and eventually won the final set tie-breaker to become a first time Grand Slam Champion. He also improved his head to head against Alexander Zverev to 8-2, while Thiem has long been considered one of the top three clay courters on the ATP side of the Tour.

Unsurprisingly that has led to Dominic Thiem winning four of their five previous matches on the clay courts, although the last time they have met came in 2018 at the French Open. And one memory that will give Alexander Zverev confidence is the fact that the sole win on clay over Dominic Thiem has occurred here in Madrid where the conditions should suit the aggressive style of the German player.

Alexander Zverev won't be short of confidence having beaten Rafael Nadal in the Quarter Final on Friday and deserving his victory. The German has been serving very well in this tournament and he has faced just seven break points in total in his three wins in Madrid, while Alexander Zverev's return has been very effective throughout the tournament.

I do expect him to be tested by Dominic Thiem who has only made his return to the Tour at this tournament having not previously played since mid-March in Dubai. Despite the lack of time playing competitive tennis, Dominic Thiem has shown off his clay court experience to win his three matches here, although he has been pushed pretty far by both Alex De Minaur and John Isner in the last two Rounds.

The numbers from those two wins shows that Thiem is serving pretty efficiently, but the timing on the return has not really reached the level he can and I do think that is where Alexander Zverev has a big edge in this Semi Final. Take away the big win over Marcos Giron in the Second Round and Dominic Thiem is winning 36% of return points played in this tournament compared with Alexander Zverev's 42% mark and that is a considerable difference.

It has shown up in the percentage of return games in which a break has been secured by the two players with Thiem running at 20% in the last two matches compared with Zverev's 32% mark, although you can't ignore the fact that Dominic Thiem did face the huge-serving Isner in the Quarter Final.

Even then I think the conditions here in Madrid look to be suiting Alexander Zverev a bit more than Dominic Thiem and the former should also be more ready to play competitive tennis day after day rather than Thiem who is building fitness towards the French Open. There are going to be some key moments and much will depend on how much focus Alexander Zverev has as he tries to back up the big win over Rafael Nadal, but if he continues serving at the level he has been in this tournament I think the return game will earn the chances to break down Dominic Thiem.

MY PICKS: Ashleigh Barty - 1.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 1.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Casper Ruud - 1.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Madrid Masters Update: 17-18, - 5 Units (70 Units Staked, - 7.14% Yield)

Weekend Football Picks and Fantasy Football 2021 (May 7-13)

The protests had been planned ever since the European Super League collapsed and anyone who has any dealings with fellow Manchester United fans will know what the plan was for last Sunday.

Disruption and hopefully forcing a postponement of the Manchester United vs Liverpool game that was due to kick off on Sunday afternoon.

I'd say the plan worked.

For anyone who hasn't even done a slight bit of research into the Manchester United fans frustration with the owners of the club it would have been easy to suggest this all came about because the club have struggled ever since Sir Alex Ferguson retired at the end of the 2013 season.

Easy and lazy to simply believe that is the case.

We have heard many 'expert pundits' state this over the last week, but the likes of Graeme Souness, Alan Shearer and Jermaine Jenas are not exactly the most knowledgable about the sport they claim to be 'experts' in so it is perhaps no surprise that they were the leading three moving with the 'lack of success' reason for the protests.

Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have been much more informed and it actually surprises me how so many have forgotten the big displays against the Glazer family that were organised in 2005 and 2010.

2010 in particular came in the season after United had played back to back Champions League Finals (pretty successful period wouldn't you say?!!) and it was the season before they would be back in the Final of that competition.

With that in mind how could anyone possibly solely link the reason down to the Super League and the lack of success?

The Glazer family have been a rotten set of owners with little care about the club outside of how much money they can make from it and anyone who has read the financials of their time in charge at Old Trafford will know what they have done. Manchester United should be a club with the best Stadium and the best training facilities in the world, but instead Old Trafford has been largely left untouched since the owners took charge of this institution and the training ground is nothing on what the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City have put together.

But as long as the Glazers can pay themselves a lovely dividend (only owners in the Premier League who do that by the way) and also pay themselves for consultation fees (what on earth?!!) then they couldn't care less about the success of the club, the fans or the history.

And so there is only one way the fans can remind those at the top about how important they are and how much Manchester United mean to them.

The protests were largely peaceful and I expect further demonstrations to be made before this season reaches a conclusion.

The re-arrangement of the United vs Liverpool game has been set for next Thursday, but I would not hold my breath they kick off on time, if at all, and the hope is that those lot sitting in Tampa Bay will be at least be feeling some of the heat from their actions and inactions over the last sixteen years.

We are into the final month of the season and that also means the final four rounds of the Fantasy Premier League game. I actually had a half decent week, even with the United game being postponed, but I will have more thoughts on GW35 below.

First you can read my views on the Premier League games being played this weekend and those to come during the week when some re-arranged fixtures will be taking place.

Leicester City v Newcastle United Pick: The opening Premier League game of the weekend is a really important one for Leicester City who finish the season by playing Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur.

A 5 point gap to West Ham United in 5th place may look a decent one with just 12 points left to play for, but those fixtures for Leicester City are dangerous and they cannot afford to drop points here. That was the frustration of only earning a 1-1 draw at Southampton last week, especially as the home team had been reduced to ten men very early on in that fixture, and Leicester City have to be very focused.

A big week is coming up for Leicester City with a trip to Old Trafford moved to Tuesday before the FA Cup Final against Chelsea, but Brendan Rodgers will be urging his team to focus.

Leicester City should certainly have some success against this Newcastle United defence which has been struggling to earn clean sheets and have been offering up some big chances in recent games. The home team have also won 3 of their last 4 Premier League games at the King Power Stadium and I do think Leicester City have the attacking players who can hurt their visitors.

However, Leicester City have to be well aware of their defensive responsibilities and will expect Newcastle United to approach this in a similar way that Crystal Palace did in a recent visit to this part of the Midlands. Players like Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson have the pace and quality to hurt Leicester City as Wilfred Zaha did for Crystal Palace and that has to be an area that Brendan Rodgers is going to be focused on controlling.

Ultimately he has to look for his team to get on the front foot and I think Leicester City will be able to do that. Newcastle United's attitude in the 0-2 defeat to Arsenal suggested the squad do feel they are safe from relegation, while they were very fortunate to not take a hammering at Anfield considering the opportunities Liverpool carved out.

A first half sending off helped Leicester City crush Newcastle United here last season, but I expect this one to be tighter. Even then I think they are playing well enough to get past their visitors who might be looking forward to the end of the season and Leicester City can cover the Asian Handicap in a victory on Friday evening.

Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: The early kick off on Saturday looks like it could produce plenty of entertainment with neither Leeds United nor Tottenham Hotspur looking that secure defensively, but carrying attacking threats across their front lines.

With games running down, Tottenham Hotspur need to win their remaining four League games and hope their rivals ahead of them in the Premier League table feel the pressure and slip up. A win on Saturday would leave them just 2 points off the top four places and knowing Chelsea are visiting Manchester City later in the day so I expect Ryan Mason to select plenty of attackers to try and get the job done here.

They were impressive winners over relegated Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur may benefit from some key injuries in the Leeds United squad. The absence of Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha would be huge ones for the home team and certainly make it feel like they will lose some impetus at both ends of the field.

Kalvin Phillips offers strong protection in front of the backline, but without the England international the feeling is that Spurs will be able to exploit some spaces. Gareth Bale, Heung-Min Son and Harry Kane are capable of doing that and Leeds United have allowed Manchester United and Brighton to create some solid chances against them.

And at the same time Leeds United have struggled to create a lot of chances without Raphinha which should give the visitors a chance of earning a vital win here.

Leeds United don't have the best home record, but they have played the bigger sides really well at Elland Road even without the fans. Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United have all had to settle for draws here, but West Ham United, Leicester City and Everton have found a way to win and I think Tottenham Hotspur will be willing to take the risks to secure the three points.

With their attacking players looking pretty sharp last weekend, Tottenham Hotspur can pick up from where they left off and earn a narrow win in the early Saturday fixture.

Tottenham Hotspur have been struggling defensively which makes it hard to trust them, but they have been creating plenty in recent away Premier League games and have scored two goals in each of their last 3 on their travels. Doing that here should be enough to secure all three points as they look to pile the pressure on Leicester City, Chelsea and West Ham United in the top four race.

Sheffield United v Crystal Palace Pick: This may not be a fixture that will be appealing to the neutrals on Saturday afternoon, but both Sheffield United and Crystal Palace can play with relative freedom and that may open the game up.

Neither team has been able to rely on their defensive efforts in recent weeks and that has meant opponents have been able to create some very big chances against them. With that in mind we could see some goals on Saturday afternoon, although the criticism of both Sheffield United and Crystal Palace has to be the lack of consistency they have shown in the final third.

Both teams have been putting in a real effort down the stretch and even the distraction of the end of the season has yet to have an affect on the player's mentalities.

However, it is the lack of quality in the Sheffield United team that has largely seen them exposed and even in winning efforts at Bramall Lane they have needed to ride their luck.

Wilfred Zaha's potential absence would be a big blow for Crystal Palace, but they have pace and power in the final third that should pose enough problems for Sheffield United and work a way to break down their hosts.

Sheffield United simply do not create as many big chances as other teams in the Premier League and the first goal is likely to be a key one in the contest. My feeling is that Crystal Palace can get that here and they have scored in 5 of their last 6 away Premier League games which makes it difficult to imagine them losing this fixture.

The more consistent threats are expected to come from the visitors in this fixture and Crystal Palace may be able to earn a narrow win.

Manchester City v Chelsea Pick: The narrative around this Premier League fixture will be that it is a dress rehearsal for the Champions League Final to be played later this month, but that will fail to appreciate the importance of this game.

Manchester City can win the title with a victory on Saturday, while Chelsea are still in for a fight to earn a spot in the Premier League top four and can't afford to drop points to open the door for West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool piling up behind them.

In saying that, I would expect Chelsea to pick the stronger team all in all with Thomas Tuchel likely to select a similar line up to the one that beat Manchester City in the FA Cup Semi Final last month. That game was played days after a Champions League Quarter Final First Leg and Chelsea made fewer changes than Manchester City, although the situation may have dictated that.

One factor was that Manchester City were only leading Borussia Dortmund 2-1 from their Champions League Quarter Final First Leg and had to visit Germany, while Chelsea had won the 'away' game against Porto 2-0 and looked good to progress.

Pep Guardiola perhaps trusts more of his squad than Thomas Tuchel too which helped him decide to ring the changes, but this fixture is different with no midweek game to prepare for.

That is not the case for Chelsea who have a much busier end to the season than Manchester City, although I don't think Guardiola will want to give too much away as to how he may set up for the Champions League Final.

It certainly makes it harder to pick a winner, but what has been evident in recent weeks is how much focus both Manchester City and Chelsea have had on being hard to break down. I don't think either manager will want to give too much away and this may be a real tactical battle unless an early goal sparks the entire occasion.

A point might not actually be a bad result for Chelsea with this being the most difficult game remaining on their schedule and they have only conceded three goals in 8 away Premier League games under Thomas Tuchel.

Manchester City have lost 2 of their last 3 games at home in the League, but they have kept 3 clean sheets in their last 4 overall.

My feeling is that this game may follow the FA Cup Semi Final road and be a tight and competitive affair where the teams are separated by very little. One goal may be enough to secure a victory either way and this may be a fixture where there is plenty of intrigue attached, but not a lot of goals.

Liverpool v Southampton Pick: The late evening kick off on Saturday may be Liverpool's last chance to push towards the Champions League places even though they are going to need some help from the teams above them in the final weeks of the 2020/21 season.

At this stage the 7 points to 4th placed Chelsea look too much to overturn, but the West London club and Leicester City both have some difficult fixtures to play and Liverpool have to try and get close to take advantage of any slips.

If Chelsea have failed to win at Manchester City earlier in the day, Liverpool have a big chance to move right in behind them over the next seven days, although this is a squad that have struggled for consistency. Missed opportunities have largely been punished at Anfield and there was more of the same for Liverpool two weeks ago when conceding late into injury time in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle United.

Jurgen Klopp would have been frustrated on the day as Liverpool created enough chances to win two or three Premier League games. A lack of clinical finishing proved costly, but I expect Liverpool to create plenty of opportunities for themselves in this one against a Southampton team who have been struggling defensively.

The style that Southampton use does leave them a little open when playing some of the better teams in the Premier League and Liverpool should be well rested ahead of this fixture. The key will be showing better composure in the final third to secure the three points, but you can't imagine Liverpool being as wasteful in front of goal again as they were in the draw with Newcastle United.

Southampton have the ability to cause some problems of their own and have to be respected. They scored twice in their defeat at Manchester City and will not want to sit back, but instead Southampton will look to challenge what has been a vulnerable Liverpool defence.

The neutrals may enjoy the game, but my feeling is that Liverpool will get the better of a high-scoring game. In recent seasons they found life pretty comfortable when playing Southampton at Anfield and 7 losses in the last 8 away Premier League games for The Saints makes it unlikely that Liverpool will drop more home points this weekend.

Wolves v Brighton Pick: It is a little strange to see Wolves as a home underdog, but they have proven to be a difficult team to trust.

In saying that, you wouldn't be that excited about backing Brighton as an away favourite considering their inconsistencies in front of goal.

Could you really predict goals or a lack of goals with any confidence? Much will depend on the first twenty minutes and whether something can spark this fixture or whether both Wolves and Brighton will largely coast as little is left to motivate them over the remaining four League games.

Two unpredictable teams in an early kick off the night after Canelo vs Billy Joe Saunders? Yeah, I'll not be watching and you can toss a coin as to what the outcome will be.

Aston Villa v Manchester United PickThe last time Manchester United won a trophy came in the Europa League in 2017 and they have a chance to end what is a relatively long wait for silverware when they compete in the Final of that competition in late May.

For now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking to find the best way to balance his starting eleven for three games in five days, although the manager was upset with the Premier League for scheduling fixtures in the way they have.

The first of the three fixtures looks the 'easiest' on paper, but Aston Villa are coming in off an important 1-2 win at Everton and will be looking to take advantage of any fatigue in the visiting ranks. While Aston Villa were preparing, Manchester United were playing in Rome on a Thursday night and they have had to travel back for this fixture on Sunday afternoon.

Even without Jack Grealish, Aston Villa have posed a real attacking threat in their last couple of games and they have the players that can test this Manchester United team. Set pieces will be important and there is some real pace in the Aston Villa final third that will be an issue for Manchester United, although the visitors can create plenty of their own chances.

Manchester United have scored at least two goals in 3 of their last 4 away games in all competitions and the defensive numbers for Aston Villa have regressed. For much of the season Aston Villa were out-performing their underlying numbers on that side of the field, but over the last few weeks they have allowed teams to not only create big chances, but have been conceding plenty of goals.

I expect that to be the difference between the teams on the day with Manchester United more likely to show a clinical edge to their game than Aston Villa.

I would not be surprised if Aston Villa played their part in an entertaining game, but Manchester United should have a bit too much as they earn a narrow win here.

West Ham United v Everton PickA point will do nothing for either West Ham United or Everton on Sunday afternoon when they meet at the London Stadium and that should mean we get to see a really good, attacking game of football.

There has been plenty of entertainment on offer in recent West Ham United games as they have posed a huge attacking threat, but defensively there is a vulnerability that has been exploited by teams. More evidence of that was on display on Monday evening in West Ham United's 1-2 win at Burnley and David Moyes is willing to take the risks of putting plenty of attacking players on the field to make sure his team are on the front foot.

The manager won't want to take unnecessary risks, but there is a feeling that West Ham United are better off taking the approach of out-scoring opponents rather than trying to keep the backdoor shut. West Ham United have not only failed to keep a clean sheet in 7 games, but they have conceded at least twice in 5 of those but have still managed to earn plenty of points thanks to the attacking displays they have put together.

Michail Antonio is a big positive for West Ham United and he showed how important he can be for them down the stretch with two goals at Turf Moor.

He will be a key figure here as West Ham United look to take the game to an Everton team that have been much more disciplined away from home than they have been at Goodison Park. In fact, Everton have conceded 12 goals fewer on their travels than they have at home and this is a team that can be very dangerous on their day as shown with 5 wins from their last 7 away Premier League games.

Everton should be able to pose some problems for West Ham United, with or without James Rodriguez, but they have struggled defensively in recent weeks. Michael Keane could be available for selection, but I expect Everton to be tested by the pace and quality West Ham United produce and the feeling is that this could be a pretty entertaining game.

My lean is that West Ham United may nick the points, but it should be an attacking game right until the final whistle with the importance of the game lost on neither manager. Historically it is a fixture between two clubs that can produce fireworks and it would be no surprise if there are at least three goals shared out on Sunday.

Arsenal v West Brom PickThe aggregate defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League is a devastating blow for Arsenal and the feeling is that Mikel Arteta could pay for the unsuccessful season at the end of the campaign.

He needs a really strong finish to the season to have any hope of being retained as manager, but picking the players up after the poor performance against Villarreal will not be easy.

At least Arsenal have the chance to host this fixture against a team that is effectively relegated, although West Brom have been in good form over the last month. Arsenal have not won any of their last 6 at the Emirates Stadium, and they have been struggling for goals, but The Gunners should be able to create chances against a West Brom team that have put in a big effort over the last month but who have yet to find the defensive consistency that is usually associated with Sam Allardyce.

It is actually up the other end where West Brom have begun to fire and they have been creating a lot of chances since the March international break. They have not always been consistent at converting those, but West Brom have scored 11 goals in their last 5 Premier League games and will certainly feel they can hurt the Arsenal backline.

Much of this fixture will depend on how much motivation the Arsenal players have after being dumped out of the Europa League, but the layers seem to have taken that on board.

You couldn't really back Arsenal with much confidence considering their home form, but West Brom have been inconsistent too and I think the most likely outcome is that we will see goals scored. The Baggies have to attack and Arsenal do have some talent in the final third that will be looking to bounce back after the sub-par efforts against Villarreal.

One concern has to be the lack of goals being scored by Arsenal, but that is where the West Brom defence will help and I feel there will be at least three goals scored in this one.

Fulham v Burnley PickThis may have been a much bigger Premier League game if Fulham had not earned just a single point from the last 18 available which means they are 9 points from safety and with just 12 points left to play for.

If results go against Fulham this weekend they could be relegated on Monday evening, but avoiding defeat will mean they live to fight another weekend.

However, it does feel like relegation is inevitable now after the poor run since beating Liverpool at Anfield and the big problem for Fulham has been the lack of goals. They might have more joy against this Burnley team, but Fulham have not been short of chances and it has been the lack of a clinical striker that has ultimately seen them return to the Premier League for a sole season.

Scoring goals has not been a major problem for Burnley over the last month, although they will be sweating on the fitness of Chris Wood. The New Zealander has been bang in form and could be the difference maker on the day with Burnley looking like they can create chances against this Fulham team who have to be struggling for confidence.

Burnley have shown they have found a consistent way to create chances and I do think all the pressure is on the hosts. If Fulham begin to chase, Burnley could hurt them on the counter attack and I think they are a surprising underdog in this one.

We might get one final stand from Fulham, but they are hard to trust to win games when they have struggled as much as they have in front of goal. Clean sheets have not been easy to find either and Burnley may just have enough to avoid defeat and virtually secure Premier League Football for another season.

Manchester United v Leicester City Pick

Southampton v Crystal Palace Pick

Chelsea v Arsenal Pick

Aston Villa v Everton Pick

Manchester United v Liverpool Pick

MY PICKS: Leicester City - 1.25 Asian Handicap
Tottenham Hotspur - 0.25 Asian Handicap
Crystal Palace 0 Asian Handicap
Manchester City-Chelsea Under 2.5 Goals
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap
Manchester United & Over 1.5 Goals
West Ham United-Everton Over 2.5 Goals
Arsenal-West Brom Over 2.5 Goals
Burnley + 0.25 Asian Handicap

Fantasy Football GameWeek 35
The final four rounds of the Fantasy Premier League game for the 2020/21 season are now in front of us with the dates and times all confirmed for the remaining fixtures.

The decision to bring in Heung-Min Son and then Captain him turned out to be the right one, although it was Gareth Bale who was the star of the show for Tottenham Hotspur last weekend.

As we felt, the Doubles have been confirmed this week and my entire eleven are set to play twice, but it is the decision of the Premier League to force Manchester United to play a Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday schedule which has raised eyebrows for the manager, but also for Fantasy players as we have the extremely rare Triple GameWeek coming up.

However, some enthusiasm has been tempered from the latest Ole Gunnar Solskjaer press conference who has admitted he is not going to be able to do anything but use the entirety of his squad to get the team through what is a remarkably harsh decision from the Premier League to have three games squeezed into a short space of time.

Edinson Cavani may be in form, but he is almost certainly one of the players that will be playing a maximum of two games (I think he could be involved against Aston Villa and Liverpool), while the manager has even suggested Harry Maguire is due a rest at some point.

Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford may be the players that are most likely to be involved in all three games, but it is hard to predict what will happen.

I was thinking about holding a transfer through this week, but that was before the Triple GameWeek was announced and before the injury to James Rodriguez which looks to rule him out of at least one, and possibly both, game Everton are playing this week.

The problem is that Manchester United have a blank in GW36 and I already have a number of players that won't be playing in the following weekend with Leicester City due to play in the FA Cup Final.

My lean is I will have to negotiate the next two GWs with some hits, but I am looking to see if there is a way to bring in Bruno Fernandes and Captain him for this week as the player most likely to play every game (or minutes in every game).

If it feels too costly, the likelihood is making the simple decision to bring in and Captain Marcus Rashford instead or picking up Paul Pogba and then handing the armband to Mason Greenwood.

Madrid Masters Tennis Picks 2021 (May 7th)

The Men's Quarter Final matches are set to be played on Friday at the Madrid Masters, but the late finish to those Third Round matches on Thursday means there has been little time to write out my full reasons for my selections.

Thursday was a difficult day for the Tennis selections with a couple of late matches barely missing the cover, but ultimately coming close and not crossing the line is not good enough.

Matches will be played back to back through the day as I look for a bounce back day.

MY PICKS: Dominic Thiem - 2.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Casper Ruud - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Madrid Masters Tennis Picks 2021 (May 6th)

I've had a couple of long days and the late markets being put together for the Thursday's Tennis at the Madrid Masters means I will only be playing my selections from the day here without writing out an analysis of those selections.

The last two days have been positives one for the Tennis Picks and Wednesday would have been a really strong day if Elise Mertens was able to play out the final two games as it looked like she was heading to an inevitable defeat to Aryna Sabalenka. However, I am just glad to put some wins together after a tough last month and hopefully the momentum can continue when the ATP Third Round matches and WTA Semi Finals are played on Thursday.

MY PICKS: Dominic Thiem - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stefanos Tsitsipas - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Matteo Berrettini - 3.5 Games @ 1.72 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Madrid Masters Update: 16-12, + 5.18 Units (56 Units Staked, + 9.25% Yield)