Friday, 22 August 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (August 23-25)

This is an important weekend for me with a first cousin getting married which means this post is shortened between the drinking, recovering, and getting back to the drinking.

Thankfully there is also the time between the wedding ceremony and settling down to watch Manchester United so everyone is a winner.

Hopefully the August of last season is going to be replicated when I had a hard time getting on board with the picks, but it hasn't been a good start to the new season for me personally and I will be looking for a bounce back weekend.

Aston Villa v Newcastle United Pick: Both Paul Lambert and Alan Pardew will have been very happy with the performances their Aston Villa and Newcastle United sides put out on the opening weekend of the new season. While Villa were rewarded with the three points, Newcastle were very unfortunate to lose to the Champions Manchester City.

I am sure both managers will have been telling their players all week that similar levels of performances will result in more wins than losses and I think both sets of players will come into the game with confidence.

It will be interesting to see how much Aston Villa have improved at home considering they have been a counter-attacking team for some time and struggle with the onus on them to move forward. However, they will feel they can create chances against Newcastle and I do think they will score.

On the other hand, Newcastle United created a few opportunities against Manchester City and will feel a touch more composure in the final third will result in better chances to score. Picking the right pass in that area of the pitch is just as important as a strong finish and there were a few rash moments from the new faces who are eager to impress.

Still, it would be a surprise if Newcastle didn't trouble Brad Guzan and I do believe both teams can get on the scoreboard in this one.

Chelsea v Leicester City Pick: There were some awkward moments for Chelsea in the visit to Burnley on Monday night, but I think a lot of teams will find Turf Moor a tough place to play. I was impressed with how well Chelsea played after falling behind early in that game and they have a potential Player of the Year candidate in Cesc Fabregas. The Spanish international played like he had never been away from the Premier League and I expect he will settle very quickly back in London, albeit West not North.

I am expecting Chelsea to be very difficult to beat at Stamford Bridge again this season and they finished with the joint best home defence last season. With Jose Mourinho at the helm, I would expect Chelsea to be in the top two in that category again this season and I expect they can make life difficult for a Leicester City team that has a few injury problems in a small squad.

Nigel Pearson's men are unlikely to roll over for any team in the Premier League, but I think they will have to get through an awful lot of defending if they are to earn a result at Chelsea this weekend.

Set pieces could be their best avenue to score, but I expect Chelsea will have worked on that this weekend after the problems Burnley posed for them and I think the home side win this with a clean sheet to boot.

Southampton v West Brom Pick: The first weekend of the season was a strange one and I do wonder how many of the big teams were affected by the limited time between the World Cup ending and the Premier League beginning.

That is the only reason I don't know whether to think Southampton will be better than expected or whether they ran into a game with Liverpool at the right time while teams were still getting the fitness just right.

Southampton were impressive, particularly in the second half when they created two or three great chances to score and earn something from the game at Anfield. Better composure/finishing and I think the Saints may have won the game and I do think they will create chances against this West Brom defence that was punctured twice by Sunderland at The Hawthornes.

Defensive injury problems means Alan Irvine can't make a lot of changes at the back for this second game of the season and the Baggies struggled away from home at the back end of last season. If Southampton come close to the level of last Sunday, I think they can win their first Premier League game under Ronald Koeman and take the three points on Saturday.

Everton v Arsenal Pick: Everton look a big price to beat Arsenal at Goodison Park this weekend, although I wouldn't have more than a small interest in that happening considering the defensive problems that Everton had in coping with Leicester City.

Everton are strong under Roberto Martinez and play the kind of football that makes them a threat to beat any team in the Premier League, especially in front of their own fans. They beat 2 of the top four here last season, including a crushing win over the Gunners and won 13 of their 19 home games in the Premier League.

Of course Arsenal look improved with the return of Aaron Ramsey and the signing of Alexis Sanchez, but they rode their luck against Besiktas in the Champions League and they might just be caught by Everton off the back of that game and before the second leg.

This should be a very interesting game on Saturday afternoon, but I do think Everton can take the three points at a big price.

Tottenham Hotspur v Queens Park Rangers Pick: I like the impact that Mauricio Pochettino has made in the short term at White Hart Lane and I do think he will get the best out of an under-performing squad from last season.

His Southampton side were well organised and used their creativity to ensure they win games and that kind of tactic should work well for Tottenham Hotspur and I think they prove to be too good for Queens Park Rangers and former manager Harry Redknapp.

There is a lack of pace in the QPR defence that can be exposed by the balls played behind the lines and I think Spurs are going to find the goals to win this game. I do think Rangers will show more than in the loss to Hull City going forward, but it might not start this week and Spurs to win by more than a goal is the call.

Sunderland v Manchester United Pick: When the fixture list came out for Louis Van Gaal, many believed the computer had done the Dutchman a favour that it did not afford David Moyes from twelve months ago. However, the 1-2 home loss to Swansea has shown that there isn't a team in the Premier League that Manchester United can expect to beat 'easy' and I expect Sunday's live showing won't be any different.

There isn't a doubt that Sunderland have improved under Gus Poyet, although the Uruguayan didn't quite figure out how to find the consistency at the Stadium of Light that he seemingly got from the team on their travels.

Sunderland were rarely outclassed at home by the best teams in the Premier League, but they couldn't find a way to avoid the mistakes that costs teams at this level. The Black Cats have a brilliant record against Manchester City at home, which was extended, but they lost to the other top teams and generally by a single goal.

As poor as Manchester United played for much of the game against Swansea, I don't believe Sunderland have the same pace in forward positions as the Swansea squad does and that might give United a little more breathing room to perform. They have to find a way to get the best out of Juan Mata who was such an influential figure at Chelsea prior to Jose Mourinho's appointment, while there are few more regular faces back in training.

Manchester United have a very strong League record at the Stadium of Light in recent years and I do think they have maintained form away from home where they do have more spaces to exploit than at Old Trafford. It was a bad result to open the new season, but I can see Manchester United recovering this weekend and winning this game, although it might come by a single goal margin.

Manchester City v Liverpool Pick: Before last weekend, Manchester City looked a massive price to beat Liverpool at odds against, but results over the last week have changed perceptions of what is to be expected in this game.

In the Premier League, Manchester City shouldn't be odds against to beat anyone other than Chelsea as far as I am concerned and I still don't believe the layers have got the price right for this game. Manchester City look a team that is healthy, got the main players back in contention and one that should be able to pose a vulnerable Liverpool defence some real questions.

I don't believe City have the best defence in the world, but I do think they are capable of containing Liverpool more effectively than the other way around and so it does point to a home win as far as I am concerned.

Manchester City have won 3 of their last 4 at home against Liverpool in the Premier League and I like them to win this one too.

MY PICKS: Aston Villa-Newcastle United Both To Score @ 1.92 Coral (2 Units)
Chelsea Win to Nil @ 2.00 Sky Bet (2 Units)
Southampton @ 1.92 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Everton @ 2.80 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Tottenham Hotspur - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester United to Win by One Goal @ 3.75 Stan James (1 Unit)
Manchester City @ 1.85 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (August 19-21)

That was a troubled opening weekend of the new football season for the picks and one that escalated quickly with the poor results. If it wasn't for an injury-time goal from Sergio Aguero, it really would have been a torrid start for the picks.

Some of the blame has to be taken by me, but there were some real surprising results, none more so than the terrible display put forth by Manchester United after all the promise of pre-season. There were a number of injuries to contend with, but that would be a big excuse for Louis Van Gaal and not one he is likely to employ as United started with players that had been performing in pre-season games.

Stoke City's home loss to Aston Villa was another disappointing result, the second season in a row that Villa have started with an upset on their travels in the Premier League. And then both Arsenal and Liverpool scored late winners, but edged over the line in games against Crystal Palace and Southampton respectively.

A portion of the poor performances could be played on the tiredness that some players may have felt from the World Cup and I do think there was a real argument to put the League campaign back one more weekend as they have done in Spain and Italy. I think that was partially the reason that Arsenal and Liverpool laboured as much as they did, although the first day/month of the season can be a little stop-start for the players as they regain their form and fitness.

In a weekend where Manchester United disappointed so greatly, I was casting some envious glances at Chelsea where Cesc Fabregas returned to the Premier League as if he had never been away. Fabregas is suited so well to the Premier League and was in fantastic form against Burnley as he pulled the strings from the middle of the park, an area where United need improvement.

Why they didn't pursue the Spanish international as they did last summer is beyond me? If I had to put my finger on a reason though, I would hazard a guess that Fabregas told United he isn't interested in coming to the club and thus the statements made to the media are more of a face-saving exercise than a genuine 'we didn't want him'.

The next two weeks are going to be critical for Manchester United as they look to bring in reinforcements that were supposed to be wrapped up weeks before the start of the season. Unfortunately, this window is beginning to look more and more like last summer which should mean fingers are pointed at Ed Woodward and the Glaziers even in light of their grand declarations that we can spend whatever we like.

Anyone with a semblance of knowledge of how the Glaziers have run United over the last ten years will be more than a little dubious about those claims and they have two weeks to prove us all wrong and bring in the faces that will ensure a bid for a top four place. Failure to do that could be catastrophic for a team and a quick look down the M62 will show United fans how difficult it is to return to the elite in the Premier League in the face of financial restraints and a poor squad that needs an injection of new blood to get them moving in the right direction again.

This week is another Champions League/Europa League qualifying week and it is the final one before the Group Stage begins in both of those competitions. There are some big teams in action and some big Play Off matches that will be played over the next eight days as the likes of Arsenal, Napoli, Inter Milan and Tottenham Hotspur all play this week.

Hopefully this August month will pick up and not follow the trend of twelve months ago when I really struggled early in the season with my picks before turning the season around for a profitable one.

Besiktas v Arsenal Pick: As much as I believe that Arsenal are a big favourite to beat Besiktas over two legs to move back into the Champions League Group Stage, I can't help but feel they are very short to win the first leg in Turkey.

I do think Arsenal are a much better team than Besiktas, even with the latter signing Demba Ba this summer, and I think the pressure is on the Turkish side to get something out of this game. Previous matches in England have ended badly for Besiktas more often than not so anything other than having something to defend next week could be curtains for them already.

Arsenal also have the benefit of the experience of winning in the Play Off Rounds and also beat Fenerbache of Turkey last season in the first leg- that came after a disappointing performance at home in the Premier League so there isn't a lot for the fans to worry about as they head to Turkey.

The Gunners have won all 12 games played at this stage of the Champions League and I do think they are capable of winning this one too. However, they may have to ride out an early Besiktas storm and Arsenal might have to wait until after the break before they take control.

Their last 3 away wins in the Champions League have all come after Arsenal have gone into the break level, while Arsenal also haven't been ahead in 3 of their last 4 away Play Off games in the Champions League, but have won all of those. That means the value may be in backing Arsenal to win a game after it goes in level at the break.

Napoli v Athletic Bilbao Pick: Out of all the ties that are to be played in the Champions League this week, Napoli versus Athletic Bilbao looks to be the most exciting one, although I do think the experience of the Italians may win the day.

Napoli have performed very well in the Champions League in their appearances over the last three seasons and they were very unlucky not to split Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund in the top two places of their Group last season. That follows their campaign in 2011/12 where they did help knock out Manchester City and it is the home games that have provided the winning platform.

The side have won 6 of their 7 home games in the Champions League, including the last 5 in a row and that means they should be plenty confident of beating Athletic Bilbao. In Rafa Benitez, Napoli also have a manager that has had a lot of success in European games, particularly knock out ties and I believe the former Liverpool manager will have the team tactically and mentally ready for this one.

One factor going against Napoli is that they have had a lot more players coming back from the World Cup than Athletic Bilbao and we have seen teams struggle with that aspect in the Premier League. However, Athletic Bilbao's Ernesto Valverde admitted that shows that Napoli have the higher quality and his team need to use their work ethic to win this game.

It'll be tough for Athletic Bilbao who haven't had the best recent away record in European competition to get a result here and I do believe Napoli can have a lead to take to Spain next week. I expect to see some very good football over the next 180 minutes played by these teams, but this is a game that I think Napoli can win and give themselves a platform to move back into the Group Stage.

Lille v Porto Pick: This looks like a tight European Champions League Play Off and the layers clearly are feeling the same about this first leg with both teams at big prices to earn the advantage ahead of the second leg in Portugal.

I am much the same in trying to separate the teams and their chances to win this game and I think the draw is a major player in this first leg where both teams would believe that gives them a real chance to progress.

Lille have been tough to beat at home, but they draw plenty of games as they can sometimes struggle against stubborn teams. Their home record in the Champions League at the highest level is not the best in recent season, but on the other hand Porto have struggled to win games on their travels too.

With just 1 win from their last 9 away games in all competitions and just 1 win from their last 9 away games in Europe, Porto might be quite content to take this tie back home to complete the job. Porto did struggle at home last season in the Group Stage, but prior to that had won 6 of 8 home games in the Champions League and were unbeaten in those games, while the team also won their last 2 home games in the Europa League last season.

Everything seems to be pointing to a tight battle on Wednesday too and I think the draw is the most pleasing result for both managers with all to play for next week in Portugal.

Maribor v Celtic Pick: After the controversy of the last round, Celtic will be looking to take full advantage of their reprieve in the Champions League. However, the defeat to Legia Warsaw at least highlighted to the fans that Celtic are not a guarantee to beat the Slovenian Champions Maribor who will also be familiar of breaking Glaswegian hearts.

Maribor knocked Rangers out of the Europa League three years ago in a Play Off, while they have also beaten Hibernian from Scotland the year before that. This is a side that has generally found the Champions League a happy hunting ground until they have reached this stage, but Maribor won't look at Celtic as a team that has earned their place at this stage through their performances on the field.

That isn't to say that they will take Celtic lightly, but Maribor do look a big price to win the first leg- it was only twelve months ago that Shakhter Karagandy surprised Celtic with a 2-0 home win in Kazakhstan and Maribor have been very strong at home in recent Champions League home ties.

The concern is that Maribor have lost their last 2 home games in the Champions League Play Offs, but I don't believe Celtic are better than Dinamo Zagreb and Viktoria Plzen, especially with the players that have departed this summer.

I actually think Celtic would accept a draw and try to complete the win at Celtic Park next week, but that may give Maribor enough of an incentive to push on and earn a first leg advantage. The price just looks out of sync from what we have seen from Celtic so far this season and Maribor have won their last 2 home games when Scottish teams have visited them.

Add in the strong home form in the European competitions, over the last three seasons and Maribor may just become the latest European team that surprises the Scottish Champions.

MY PICKS: Draw HT-Arsenal FT @ 5.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Napoli @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Lille-Porto Draw @ 3.30 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Maribor @ 3.00 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

August Update: 1-6, - 8.8 Units (13 Units Staked, - 67.69% Yield)

Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Friday, 15 August 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (August 16-18)

It's been a long three months but, as the Rock may say, FINALLY the Premier League has come back to save us... I have put together a short post detailing where I believe teams are going to finish this season in the English Premier League which can be read here.

The Premier League have immediately, it seems, taken the head in the sand approach to some of the issues that still gets under the fans noses at the start of this new season. The first weekend is supposed to be one where the fans are getting together to protest the ticket prices at the top clubs, which is beginning to spiral out of control (there are plenty out there who will say this is too late and the horse has already bolted from the stable, but the fans have to make this stand because it is reaching ridiculous levels).

Instead of perhaps making a statement in that regards, the Premier League is instead warning fans about Vines and GIFs made of goals that has become prominent over the last couple of years. Imagine that, they are already rinsing the pockets of fans through the television coverage and the price to get into a match, but seeing a little Vine is apparently detrimental to the business model of the Premier League.

Yes, it is intellectual property, but do the Premier League seriously believe that stops people watching the highlights shows or signing up to places like The Sun and The Times to watch 'proper' videos of the goal? It's maddening from an organisation that continues to make billions of pounds from a game where the fans are considered second rate.

Last season proved to be a good on and an improvement on the previous season, and a winning record in back to back years is good enough for me. I would hope to avoid the horrible months I had last season, including starting last August terribly, but it is what it is and finishing the season with a plus would be a success.

Manchester United v Swansea Pick: It is the start of yet another new dawn for Manchester United as Louis Van Gaal takes charge of his first competitive game as manager of the club. The formation won't be something that the fans at Old Trafford are used to, but the pragmatic Dutchman believes it will make the best of a squad that he described as 'unbalanced' when arriving at Old Trafford.

After the disappointing campaign under David Moyes, Manchester United fans will be desperate for the team to get off to a strong start and the fixture list has certainly been kind to them on that front. A home game against Swansea should be one that sits well with United, especially as the away side have had a few changes to the squad from last season.

As much as Manchester United struggled at Old Trafford last season, they did win 7 of their home games against those sides that finished in the bottom half and that is something I project for Swansea. They also have had success with the formation that Louis Van Gaal will be using during the pre-season with a little more success going forward, although Manchester United are still going to have a few issues defensively.

In games like this, I would expect those defensive problems won't be as highlighted as in games against the better teams in the Premier League and I can see United making a strong start to the new season. Last season, 7 of their 9 home wins at Old Trafford came by more than a single goal and they have had success against Swansea in recent games here including winning 2 of their last 3 in the League by at least two goals since the Swans returned to the top flight.

United fans would do well to remember twelve months ago and not to get overly carried away by a strong win over Swansea to open the season, but I do think they can win this game by at least two goals.

Stoke City v Aston Villa Pick: The brand new season means there is plenty of optimism up and down the country as fans get ready for the next nine months, but I do think that may not be the case for Aston Villa fans. There is a lot of uncertainty with the quality of the squad and whether they have made the necessary signings to avoid relegation and another battle at the bottom of the table looks to be in the offing.

The return of Christian Benteke can't come fast enough for Paul Lambert who has to be feeling some pressure from the presence of Roy Keane, a former Sunderland and Ipswich Town manager that some believe is ready to take over as manager at Villa Park.

On the other hand, Stoke City seem to be in a much better place after their best season in almost forty years last year when they finished in the top half of the Premier League. Mark Hughes has the team playing in a fashion that the fans appreciate and Stoke City remained strong at the Brittania Stadium even without Tony Pulis at the helm.

Only the top six teams won more home games than Stoke City last season and only three teams managed to come to the Brittania Stadium and left with three points. There seems to be more of a positive vibe coming from the home team and I believe they are capable of winning their third straight League game against Aston Villa.

Paul Lambert will immediately be under pressure if Villa do lose their opening game and this has proved to be a difficult ground to visit. Stoke should have enough possession to hurt Aston Villa and should be solid enough at the back to ensure the three points remain here on Saturday afternoon.

Arsenal v Crystal Palace Pick: The feeling has changed around the Emirates Stadium and the Arsenal fans will be turning up for this live Saturday afternoon game with a huge expectation for the season ahead. They do have an important Champions League qualifier just days away in Turkey, but the concentration will be on the Premier League for now as Arsenal will feel they have a real chance to win the title this season.

Arsene Wenger and Tony Pulis haven't seen eye-to-eye ever since the latter was at Stoke City and the Frenchman will be certain of what to expect from Crystal Palace in this game.

He'll figure that Crystal Palace will look to defend deep and will be tackling hard to try and break the rhythm of the Arsenal attack, especially focusing on players like Alexis Sanchez that might not be aware of what to expect from the Premier League. However, Arsenal have mainly struggled when having to visit a Pulis managed team and it hasn't been the same case when they host those teams.

Arsenal won all 5 home games against Stoke City when they were managed by Pulis and they also recorded the 2-0 home win over Crystal Palace with the latter in charge. There should be too much quality in the home side again in this one, especially with the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud showing form last weekend at Wembley Stadium.

Even without the three German internationals in the starting eleven, I expect Arsenal show their quality on Saturday and win this one by a couple of goals at least.

EDIT: Since I wrote this piece, Tony Pulis has left Crystal Palace and that might make it even more difficult for the players to rally and try to keep a rampant Arsenal at bay.

Liverpool v Southampton Pick: There might be a big change at Liverpool with the sale of Luis Suarez who has been a real figurehead for this side, but they are still in a far better shape than Southampton who come into the season having lost vast amounts of talent this summer.

They also have a new manager in the dugout and this may be a more difficult season for Southampton fans than they have had to endure for some time. Graziano Pelle has to fire immediately up front, but it will be tough at Anfield in this Super Sunday game considering all the information that Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert can give their new teammates.

Even without Suarez, Brendan Rodgers will be sending out his Liverpool team to play with the passing style that impressed so many last season and they still have match winners in the squad. Daniel Sturridge will lead the line and Anfield has become something of a fortress over the last twelve months with plenty of wins being racked up here.

The first day of the season can see surprises with teams still trying to find their fitness, but Liverpool are unlikely to suffer one with the losses in the Southampton squad. Rodgers will have his team set up to attack from the first minute and Liverpool scored plenty of goals at home last season and I think they have made signings that have kept the squad strong.

It will be interesting to see how Liverpool balance the Champions League ties with the Premier League later this season, but for now they can concentrate solely on the League and I expect them to make a very positive start to the season. Liverpool should create plenty of chances and I believe they win this by a couple of goals at least.

Newcastle United v Manchester City Pick: The first day of the Premier League season is always tough to predict as teams are at different stages of their fitness and it will be interesting to see how the Manchester City World Cup players have recovered. We saw last weekend that their squad needs the likes of Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero involved as they make Manchester City that much stronger and I would be surprised if both of those players are not in the squad in some capacity on Sunday.

The fear for the Manchester City title challenge is the fact that teams around them have improved while their own squad has 'stood still' to some extent. However, their first eleven is arguably the best in the Premier League and they will be very hard to knock off top spot if they can maintain some form of health this season after Aguero and Kompany missed chunks of last season.

A game at Newcastle United is a tough one, but this is now a Newcastle team that seems happy to finish in mid-table and who finished last season in terrible form. Newcastle have some new faces that need to settle in quickly if the side is to finish in the top half of the table again this season, but that does seem to be the limit of their achievements for the coming season.

They were also beaten by five of the top seven in front of their own fans last season and the disappointment for Newcastle must be some of the hammerings they took from those sides last season. Manchester City won 0-2 here thanks to a late second goal, but Everton (0-3), Tottenham Hotspur (0-4) and Manchester United (0-4) had comfortable games here.

Manchester City have particularly enjoyed recent League games against Newcastle United and their last 7 League wins have all come by at least two goals. In fact, Manchester City's last 4 League wins at St James' Park have all come by at least two goals and 5 of the last 6 Premier League games here have seen that margin of victory.

With the returning members of the squad, I would imagine Manchester City can consign the loss to Arsenal in the Community Shield to the back of their minds and they can win another game against Newcastle United by a couple of goals at least.

Rotherham United v Wolves Pick: This could be one of the more exciting games of the weekend in the Championship as you would imagine both Steve Evans and Kenny Jackett will be very keen to target the three points on offer.

Both Rotherham United and Wolves will be looking to play attacking football and their games last season showed that both teams can create chances against the other.

6 of the last 8 games played between the teams at Rotherham have seen the over 2.5 goals come flying in and these two teams were the leading scorers in League One last season.

It would surprise me if we don't see another game with chances created and there is a real chance that both teams can score at least once and help this game surpass three goals.

Sheffield Wednesday v Derby County Pick: Both Sheffield Wednesday and Derby County have made 100% starts to the new campaign with one League win and one Cup win, but something will have to give when the teams meet one another at Hillsborough on Saturday.

If the experts are to be believed, Sheffield Wednesday and Derby will be competing at different ends of the table at the end of the campaign with the home team looking to avoid the drop and Derby most certainly aiming for promotion.

They came so close a season ago and Derby are very comfortable playing away from home as that allows them to use their counter-attacking ability to hurt teams who are expected to push forward.

Derby have had recent success at Hillsborough with three wins in their last six visits including last season and I do think they have the higher quality available to them. The Rams also won 7 of their 9 games against the sides that finished 16th or lower in the table last season and they will be looking to get off to another strong showing against those sides this time around.

I expect Sheffield Wednesday to be a side that finishes in one of those positions and I expect Derby County to win this game.

MY PICKS: Manchester United - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Stoke City @ 1.95 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Arsenal - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Manchester City - 1 Asian Handicap @ 2.10 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Rotherham United-Wolves Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Derby County @ 2.45 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Season 2013/14164-185-3, + 15.84 Units (577 Units Staked, + 2.75% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Premier League 2014/15 Preview (August 2014)

Even with the World Cup this summer, it has felt like a long time since the end of the Premier League season and the start of another new season. Maybe that wasn't helped by the fact that Manchester United have so much room to improve from what was a terrible season, the worst they have suffered in twenty-five years.

Whenever United lose a game, I just want the next one to come along as soon as possible to rectify the situation, so it has felt like a three month wait to get things back in order. In that time, Louis Van Gaal has been appointed and come into the club with a new philosophy on the field although the lack of signings has to be a concern considering the gap there is to make up.

Of course, there is the 'benefit' of being out of European competition altogether this season and United can very much replicate Liverpool from last season and certainly get back into the top four. The loss of Luis Suarez will affect Liverpool, as will the addition of Champions League football, and their fans will be hoping Brendan Rodgers can integrate the new signings much better than Andre Villas-Boas did at Tottenham Hotspur last season after they splurged the Gareth Bale money.

There are plenty of intriguing questions that need to be answered over the next nine months both at the top and bottom of the Premier League and below you will see the table that I am predicting at this stage. There is still plenty of time for teams to make signings and improve their chances with the transfer window still a little over two weeks from closing, so this prediction is simply on the shape of the squads as we get set for the first week of the new season.

1. Chelsea: It is certainly not the most out of the box pick for the Premier League title, but Chelsea look to have improved to the point of being able to overturn Manchester City. Apart from a couple of late lapses in concentration last season, Chelsea may have been able to win the Premier League with both Manchester City and Liverpool opening the door in the final weeks of the season.

The recall of Thibaut Courtois from Atletico Madrid and the signing of Diego Costa means Chelsea have two of the main four spine of a team that beat Real Madrid and Barcelona to the La Liga title and also reached the Champions League Final.

Both improve Chelsea and the arrival of Cesc Fabregas looks a great piece of business from Jose Mourinho. I would have loved to have seen the Spaniard walk through the doors of Old Trafford and he should take little time to settle in with his previous experience at Arsenal.

The key may be keeping Costa fit after his injuries towards the end of Atletico's season almost cost them the title and certainly didn't help in the Champions League Final. Having to rely on Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba for long periods would be tough for Chelsea as both are not the same players that were once so effective in the Premier League.

2. Manchester City: On a pure starting XI, I would fancy Manchester City to win the Premier League, but I think their depth of squad is still a concern and Sergio Aguero's injury-proneness would be a concern.

Can Yaya Toure really produce as much from midfield as he did last season? Can a defence integrating new faces provide the platform for success? These are two questions that may decide whether Manchester City can win the title for a second year in succession, but they have shown nerves down the stretch last season and I think they may find Chelsea a little too capable of winning games at key times to overcome.

3. Arsenal: After snapping their run without a trophy, Arsenal will have a new found belief in their ability to win trophies and that could make them a dangerous team through this Premier League season. The signing of Alexis Sanchez gives them another world class operator to pair with Mesut Ozil and I can see Arsenal improving once Theo Walcott returns.

If they can stay fit, Arsenal may be the surprise team of the season, although the issues remain in defensive areas and whether they are good enough against the very best.

However, Liverpool showed last season that being able to win the matches against the 'weaker' teams with consistency will provide the platform for a title challenge and this Arsenal teams looks capable of beating most teams in this Premier League. There is a small part of me that believes Arsenal are good enough to surprise the two teams I have placed above them, but I have settled for them here simply because of the lack of depth in key areas in defence and defensive midfield that may cost them in a long thirty-eight game season.

Also, in the history of the Premier League since it's inception, no team has won the title when they have finished outside the top three the previous season and that is another factor going against the Gunners.

4. Manchester United: The additions of Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera were supposed to be backed up by others, but it looks like Louis Van Gaal will be going into the season with a similar squad to last season. The losses of Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic means Van Gaal has opted for a different formation to get the best out of his squad, although United do look short at the back.

I'd be more than a little surprised if there are no more additions to the squad before September swings around, but even the current squad may be good enough to get back into the top four.

Van Gaal will give the team a different confidence going into matches compared with how David Moyes approached things and the team have looked happier in pre-season. It's tough for teams to bounce from seventh all the way up into the top four, but Liverpool proved that playing one game a week is possible to do just that and I think that will help this United squad prepare fully for the Premier League and see them get back into the elite of Europe after a one year absence.

5. Liverpool: On the same path as above, I think the additional games of the Champions League was always going to give Brendan Rodgers a few more issues to negotiate and that was before they lost Luis Suarez to Barcelona.

It is a huge blow to the squad and I have not been convinced with the arrivals in the Uruguayan's place- they look over reliant on Daniel Sturridge up front and losing him for a prolonged period would give Liverpool a lot of problems in my opinion.

The extra games that come with Europe will sap energy and not allow Liverpool to focus on Premier League matters alone and I do believe they have missed their best chance to win the Premier League title that they will have in the foreseeable future. Getting back into the top four would be an achievement for the club, but it may prove to be a step too far for Liverpool this season.

6. Tottenham Hotspur: There are some major issues in defence that need resolving, but Mauricio Pochettino arrives at the club with the ability to get the best out of his squad of players and I think there is certainly some talent in the squad.

If Pochettino can get the best out of the likes of Erik Lamela and Roberto Soldado, Spurs may be able to get a little closer to the top four, although the defensive problems means they are unlikely to prevent dropping a position this season.

I do think they will play much more attractive football this season than they were producing under Andre Villas-Boas, but I also think Spurs won't be as naive as they were when they played for Tim Sherwood. That balance may help the club get back into Europe, but they are still a season away from tackling a top four berth unless there are more arrivals before the transfer window closes.

7. Everton: There were a lot of plaudits for Roberto Martinez and his performances as manager of Everton in his first season here at Goodison Park and he deserved most of it.

The side were close to a top four berth and the signing of Romelu Lukaku for £28 million suggests the board are firmly behind the Spaniard and his belief that Everton are a top four club in the making. My issues are that the defence is a year older and doesn't have a lot of depth behind Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin despite how well John Stones did last season.

I also believe Everton surprised teams last season and their squad is going to be pushed to the limit with the Europa League to negotiate as well as the Premier League. It will be interesting to see how Martinez gets the balance right between the competitions and they may just slip a little this time around.

8. Newcastle United: Alan Pardew is not the choice of the fans at St James' Park and his Newcastle United team were very inconsistent a year ago, but I can see them finishing with another top half position in the League table.

Newcastle United won 7 of their 19 away games which is good enough form to move them up the League table from their 10th place finish last season as long as they can improve at home where they lost 8 of 19 games.

Much depends on whether the new signings can blend with the current squad and I do almost have them here by default of them being better than the majority of the teams in the League, at least on paper. One of my best friends is a Newcastle fan so he might be a lot more pessimistic than I am, but I see the Magpies being the best of the rest in a League where the top seven look head and shoulders above the rest.

9. Stoke City: This is another team where I have almost had to end up with them here simply because I can't find any of the teams below them as being capable of finishing above Stoke City. That should be the method no matter where you place a team, but some teams are higher/lower based on potential pressure against them and new faces either in the manager's office or on the field.

Stoke City seem to be very settled with Mark Hughes getting the best out of the squad from last season. Adding in the likes of Bojan from Barcelona may give them a spark of creativity to finish in the top half again at the exact same position of last season.

10. Sunderland: Gus Poyet produced a wonderful finish for Sunderland last season and I think they can ride that momentum to the point of finishing way up the table this time around. Losing Fabio Borini back to Liverpool is a concern, although they could revive that transfer if Liverpool bring in more players to push the Italian down the order.

Signing Jordi Gomez gives them more creativity and Poyet clearly had the team listening to what he wanted as shown by their draw at Manchester City and win at Chelsea towards the end of last season.

That belief can see Sunderland finishing much clearer of relegation this season and perhaps even challenge Newcastle United for the 'best team in the North East' title. It wouldn't surprise me to see Sunderland sign a couple more players before the transfer window closes, but they can ride the momentum of last season to finish in the top half of the Premier League.

11. West Ham United: Andy Carroll is injured again, Sam Allardyce is seemingly always sitting on a warm seat and the fans are demanding much more from West Ham United this season. The board know the importance of avoiding a relegation with the move to the Olympic Stadium fast approaching so I believe they will stick with Allardyce who can help the Hammers push on up the table.

They are expected to be more attacking this season and I do think the signing of Enner Valencia will pay off for the manager after his performances at the World Cup. He looks to have the pace and power that should suit the Premier League and I believe this is a solid squad that can avoid the relegation battle as long as they can steer clear of the injuries that hurt the squad last season.

I really think Allardyce is a little disrespected as a manager as he usually does what is says on the tin- the manager will keep West Ham in the Premier League and perhaps finish far higher than the fans believe possible.

12. Southampton: Losing players of the calibre of Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert will have a negative effect on Southampton, as well as the new voice they will be hearing in the dressing room.

I have picked Southampton here because they still have enough quality in the team to beat those I have listed below them, but that also depends on keeping Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez as losing those players may be too much to overcome.

They also need Graziano Pelle to settle in immediately and provide the goals to keep the Saints afloat, but this may be a team to keep an eye on if they make a poor start to the season. Thankfully for the fans, there are teams in this Division that look really short of quality and I think Ronald Koeman will get enough out of the squad to prevent a really dramatic fall down the table.

13. SwanseaMy initial thought about Swansea was that they were going to struggle this season after losing more key pieces of their squad in Michel Vorm, Ben Davies and Michu. However, Michu was oft-injured last season and Vorm has been replaced by Lukasz Fabianski who is a former Arsenal Number 1.

The biggest benefit for Swansea may be the fact they have kept Wilfried Bony to this point and that has me placing them a little higher in the table than I originally intended. If they lose Bony before the transfer window closes, Swansea may struggle for the goals to keep them in the Premier League, particularly as they are not as good defensively these days.

Last season the Europa League played havoc with a smaller squad and being out of that competition should help them get into a similar position as last season. Again though, I will reiterate that losing someone like Bony may see them slip into another relegation fight that they experienced last season.

14. Leicester City: It has been tough for Nigel Pearson to add to the squad in the manner he would have liked this summer, but Leicester City have been preparing for life in the Premier League for a couple of years now.

They had near misses when it came to promotion and Leicester should be very confident after winning the Championship last season. Pearson has made some interesting signings and I believe the squad are aware of what each other have to offer and can do enough to steer clear of the bottom three.

They do have investment funds, but I think Pearson is still looking to improve the squad and I can see more signings coming in over the next two weeks. They will likely play the loan market too and the Foxes can survive their first season back in the top flight.

15. Queens Park Rangers: Harry Redknapp is very capable of getting the best out of a squad at this level, but he will have to dig deep into his knowledge as Queens Park Rangers return to the top flight. The signing of Rio Ferdinand gives them experience, but there does look to be a lack of pace at the back and the question will be whether Charlie Austin can score enough goals at the higher level to keep QPR above water.

There is Premier League experience in the squad, but the key will be to make a better start than the last time they played at this level- they were behind the black ball by Christmas and even the arrival couldn't prevent QPR from being relegated.

Loftus Road form will be very important, but I think this Rangers team can find enough quality performances on their travels to just about maintain their place in the top flight.

16. Aston Villa: If there is one team that looks in huge danger, it would be Aston Villa on first glance- they are a team that has had little investment with an owner looking to sell the club, the manager is under pressure before a ball has been kicked and the best player is out with an injury.

Christian Benteke can't come back quick enough and there could be a real problem if the players annoy Roy Keane to the extent that there is disharmony in the squad.

I am not surprised that so many have tipped Aston Villa for relegation, but I think they can just about survive as long as they don't suffer huge injury problems. Joe Cole, Gabby Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann can fill in for Benteke until the Belgian returns and I do think he will give Villa enough goals to just about see off relegation for another season.

17. Hull City: Second season syndrome may be a huge concern for Hull City this season after a very successful last campaign. Survival was the key, but Hull had the bonus of an FA Cup run to the Final which means they do have to negotiate the Europa League, another hindrance on this year's survival battle.

Those extra games and travelling may put Hull City in a dangerous place in the Premier League and their form over the second half of last season was the third worst in the Premier League.

However, I think Bruce has made some good signings in Tom Ince and Robert Snodgrass that can help create more goals which may prove to be the difference when May comes around.

The defence can be very effective and the quality from Ince, Snodgrass, Jake Livermore and Tom Huddlestone may be enough to provide Nikica Jelavic the ammunition to keep the Tigers in the top flight.

18. Crystal PalaceAnother manager that may not get the plaudits of those that love watching free-flowing football, but is very capable at this level is Tony Pulis.

He produced a wonderful performance to help Crystal Palace out of the relegation woods last season and I think he will make Palace difficult to beat again this year. That will help Palace avoid another relegation battle earlier this time around and Pulis can maintain his record as never suffered a relegation as a manager.

I expect Palace will be able to produce enough wins at Selhurst Park against those teams around them to finish comfortably clear of the bottom three.

EDIT: I had Crystal Palace in a much higher position prior to Thursday's stunning news that Tony Pulis has left the club- depending on the next appointment, Palace may be rife for a relegation battle and may not survive the drop this season.

19. West Brom: A team that was fortunate that the likes of Norwich City, Fulham and Cardiff City had such poor ends to last season was West Brom and I am not sure they have the quality to avoid the drop this season.

They have an inexperienced manager at the helm and the squad is going to need Brown Ideye to fit into the Premier League immediately if the Baggies are to find the goals to stay in the top flight.

West Brom just about found form last season to avoid relegation, but their last five games remind me of the Norwich City fixture list from last season and I think they are going to be in big trouble if they go into those games needing points to survive.

20. Burnley: Every where I have looked, Burnley look to be the big favourites to finish bottom of the Premier League, but Sean Dyche already exceeded expectations once by bringing Burnley into the top flight.

Avoiding the drop would be a remarkable achievement for the manager considering the lack of investment being made this summer, but this is a team that will work hard for one another and believe they can beat anyone at Turf Moor.

Making up the difference in quality from the Championship to the Premier League over thirty-eight games is incredibly tough though and this could be another one season stay in the top flight for Burnley as happened in the 2009/10 season.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Cincinnati Tennis Picks 2014 (August 13th)

I would love to know whose black cat I've run over, how many ladders I've walked under, how many mirrors I've cracked and whether I am living 'Groundhog Day' on a Friday the 13th because I can simply not get away from what feels like a terrible run of bad luck.

Just off the top of my head, I have picked players who have blown huge tie-break leads, players who have managed to lose sets from double break advantages, other players that seemingly created a thousand chances but can't break serve, but invariably will be broken in their next service game, and I am just about fed up to my back teeth.

Don't misunderstand- there have been some glaring bad picks too... I should never have picked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to win on Tuesday when I had voiced as many doubts about him as I had, but Stan Wawrinka's inability to finish the match in the second set despite having three match points at 53, another one at 54, and the chance to break serve again at 55, only to then take the first match point that came along in the tie-breaker had the steam coming out of my ears.

This came after Sabine Lisicki faced three break points (saved all three) in the first and third set COMBINED against Roberta Vinci, but somehow managed to be broken EVERY TIME (four games)  in the second set and the missed the cover by half a game.

How do you cap that? How can anyone possibly imagine a pick going down in that manner when Lisicki consistently had Vinci under pressure on her own serve but can suddenly completely collapse like that?

This has got to the point where I am taking some heavy hits, but am literally feeling like I am even a slight change of fortune away from moving back in the positive direction. The last seven days have cut the season totals by over 50% and that is simply down to the poor luck which would have covered the poor picks if players had finished what they had started.

So where will the picks go from here? That is a tough question to answer because I am now second guessing my own thoughts and that is not a good place to be. I do honestly believe that the majority of picks have been sound and if the chances had been taken, or players simply maintained any kind of level, they would have definitely helped produce more winning picks.

A disappointing end to last week coupled with an atrocious start to this one has put me in a foul mood, but hopefully Wednesday is the start of the fight back.

Tomas Berdych - 4.5 games v Yen-Hsun Lu: This is the second consecutive week that these two players will be meeting one another and I expect that will help Tomas Berdych know what he is facing.

Berdych was the better player last week, but an ill-timed loss of serve allowed Lu to come back and take the first set before the Czech player managed a break more in the last two sets to come through. The big man had more chances to break serve and won plenty more points against the Lu serve and something similar should make this a more routine win.

It wasn't the perfect serving display from Berdych last week, so there are room for improvement there and if he can manage that I would expect him to make this a more routine day in the office.

The last two meetings between the players have been tight affairs, but their only other meeting in Cincinnati ended with a 63, 64 win for Berdych and I will look for a repeat of that scoreline today.

Andreas Seppi + 2.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: I do think Mikhail Youzhny, despite his strong head to head record against Andreas Seppi, is perhaps being over-rated for this match based on his win over a tired Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Tuesday.

As good as that win looks on paper, the fatigue Tsonga was feeling played a huge part and Youzhny has struggled mightily in 2014. He can win this match, but I have little doubt that he would need at least three sets to do that and that makes this number of games attractive to take in hand.

You can't forget that Seppi is not having the best of 2014 seasons himself, nor the fact that he has played some sloppy sets of tennis, but he did win the only match with Youzhny that has been played in this current campaign.

I have mentioned I can see this match being tightly contested and perhaps going three sets which could make these games very handy at the end of the day.

Marinko Matosevic + 2.5 games v John Isner: Backing a player against John Isner in front of his own supporters is always tough as being back on home soil seems to inspire the big American. He should have the ability to see off Marinko Matosevic, but their previous two matches have been very competitive and this one could go the same way.

When they met in Atlanta earlier this summer, it was another close first set that Matosevic perhaps should have won, before one poor service game cost the Australian the second set. That is the biggest problem for 'Mad Dog' as he can play erratic games on serve which would see this number of games mean nothing in the match.

However, he has a big serve and Matosevic should be able to use that to good effect as long as he keeps the first serve percentage above 60. We know Isner is going to ease his way through more service games than Matosevic, but the latter showed he can push the American on that aspect of his game when they met in Atlanta.

It wouldn't be a huge surprise to see two tie-breaks needed to separate these players, but I also think Matosevic is capable of taking at least one set and that could be enough to at least cover the games even in a losing effort.

Fernando Verdasco + 3.5 games v Marin Cilic: Even though Marin Cilic is one of my more favourite players on the Tour, I am going to go against him for a second time this week with another big serving left handed Spaniard.

Fernando Verdasco should have the game that transfers seamlessly onto the hard courts with the heavy groundstrokes flying through the hard courts, but he is far more erratic than back in 2009-11 when he had his best years on the Tour.

That isn't to say he can't find vintage form at any time and I think Verdasco will definitely have more success against the Cilic second serve than his compatriot Feliciano Lopez did. Verdasco will have to serve well against an aggressive returner like Cilic, but I can see the first two sets being split and that should give Verdasco the chance to at least cover the games even in a losing effort.

My issue with Verdasco is that he can sometimes crumble in sets, but he would be able to get his eye in if this goes to three sets and I can see these games in hand being enough at odds against.

MY PICKS: Tomas Berdych - 4.5 Games @ 2.14 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Andreas Seppi + 2.5 Games @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Marinko Matosevic + 2.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Fernando Verdasco + 3.5 Games @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Cincinnati Update: 1-7, - 12.10 Units (16 Units Staked, - 75.63% Yield)

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Cincinnati Tennis Picks 2014 (August 12th)

I don't know whether it is because I have been doing some long hours of late, or whether I am just not quite thinking straight, but it has been an incredibly poor last seven days of picks. That poor run continued with the first day at the Cincinnati Masters/Premier Event and has been an irritating part of the season.

At least from Canada I could say there was two surprise winners and at least four surprise Semi Finalists in the two tournaments, but that doesn't mean I am enjoying 'missing' on so many picks.

The second day of action in Cincinnati means some of the big names on both Tours are beginning their tournaments and it is going to be a big week for the likes of Maria Sharapova, Stan Wawrinka and Serena Williams who need to set a marker down for the US Open. Wawrinka might be a strange name to include, but he hasn't been at his best over the last few weeks and is a Grand Slam Champion this season, something the likes of Roger Federer and Andy Murray haven't done in 2014.

Both Sharapova and Williams have had disappointing tournaments in Montreal with Serena struggling through to the Semi Final before being beaten comfortably by older sister Venus.

Feliciano Lopez + 2.5 games v Marin Cilic: After a strong showing in Toronto last week, it can be tough for players to back up a successful week and it will be interesting to see if Feliciano Lopez can do that against Marin Cilic.

It is one of the toughest First Round matches in Cincinnati this week with both players capable of playing well on the hard courts, although the edge in the match may go down in favour of Marin Cilic.

Both players have decent serves, but Cilic certainly has the better return game, although Lopez may be able to have some success by extracting errors off the Cilic forehand with Lopez' backhand slice.

The Spaniard will also look to close on the net and keep the pressure on Cilic and their previous four matches have mostly been very competitive. Tiredness is a concern for Lopez, but I think he can make this competitive and make this small number of games very telling.

Vasek Pospisil v Radek Stepanek: This match has been set as a pick 'em contest in the First Round, but I think Vasek Pospisil has been in the better form in recent weeks and can make up for his early exit in his home tournament last week.

Pospisil can say he reached the Final of the tournament in Washington the week before and so may have been a little fatigued, but Radek Stepanek has lost three matches in a row and hasn't been in great form since his run to the Final at Queens.

The last couple of years has seen Stepanek struggle on the hard courts and he was dismissed by Pospisil in Montreal twelve months ago. While the veteran has the know-how to make life awkward for any opponent and can get under the skin of the player on the other side of the net, Pospisil should be able to use his serve to good effect in the contest.

It might be tighter than their previous meeting, but Pospisil should come through even if it takes three sets.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 games v Mikhail Youzhny: It was by far the biggest title that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has won his career as far as I am concerned and the manner of his victory in Toronto should inspire him ahead of the US Open.

My only question in this match is whether Tsonga has had enough time to come off the high of the performance he put in last week where he recorded wins over Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer to take the title home. That Final was played on Sunday and that doesn't leave a lot of time to celebrate and travel to Cincinnati to get used to the conditions here.

Mikhail Youzhny has won half of the six previous matches between these players, but two of those wins came in Tsonga retirements and he is having a terrible 2014 which hasn't produced the tennis it would take to beat Tsonga in the form he displayed last week.

The tiredness is hard to factor in, but I expect Tsonga can win this one 64, 64 and continue the form he has been displaying last week.

Stan Wawrinka - 4.5 games v Benjamin Becker: Since the Australian Open win, Stanislas Wawrinka has won the Monte Carlo Masters, but he has struggled for consistency since January. Where he has a Quarter Final appearance in Wimbledon, Wawrinka has a First Round loss at the French Open, and he was beaten early in Toronto last week.

The Second Round match with Benjamin Becker won't be easy considering the German has been in decent form through the summer on the hard courts.

Becker has a powerful serve that is perhaps under-rated and if that part of his game is in form, he will make it difficult for Wawrinka. However, anything extended off the ground should give the Swiss player the opportunity to dictate the points although he has to remove some of the unforced errors that can blight his game.

Earlier this year, Wawrinka crushed Becker for the loss of four games- I expect this to be much closer but the higher Ranked player to come through 75, 63.

Sabine Lisicki - 3.5 games v Roberta Vinci: Last week in Montreal, Sabine Lisicki crushed Sara Errani and I do feel she can do something similar to the Italian's Doubles partner Roberta Vinci in this First Round match.

A good summer for Vinci was not enough to see her come through her first match in Montreal last week and this year has seen more and more players get the better of her. Players recognise what is generally coming off the backhand and the power of the likes of Lisicki should prove to be the difference between the players.

Lisicki also had a couple of decent wins last week and was only beaten by the eventual winner of the tournament and even that match took three sets to separate them.

As long as she doesn't push too much and make too many errors, Lisicki should be able to record a similar kind of win as she had against Errani and come through fairly comfortably.

MY PICKS: Feliciano Lopez + 2.5 Games @ 2.20 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Vasek Pospisil @ 1.95 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - 3.5 Games @ 1.83 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 4.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Sabine Lisicki - 3.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Cincinnati Update: 0-3, - 6 Units (6 Units Staked, - 100% Yield)

Monday, 11 August 2014

Cincinnati Tennis Picks 2014 (August 11th)

Sometimes you have to take a step back from the tennis picks that you are making and try to figure where things are not quite going right- that was the situation at the end of the tournaments in Canada last week when I seemed to get things so wrong after a very positive start to the week.

It meant the picks ended the week with a losing record despite the early positives and I decided to take that step back.

There were some strange results through the week that didn't help, none more so than the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga winning the tournament in Toronto. It was an impressive title win with victories over Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer during the tournament and it will be interesting to see if Tsonga has turned a corner after an average 2014 to this point.

Tsonga was serving huge in Toronto, but his return of serve had been just as impressive and I am looking forward to seeing how he backs that up in Cincinnati this week.

It wasn't just the men's tournament that saw some surprising results- Maria Sharapova was beaten in Montreal by Carla Suarez Navarro, while both Petra Kvitova and Serena Williams lost matches that most would have expected them to win.

All of these results in Toronto may have muddied the waters for the likely winners of the final Grand Slam of the season at the US Open which is now only two weeks away, but that could all change again if the event in Cincinnati is more 'predictable'.

After the struggles of last week, I really hope I can bounce back this week after making some very poor picks to be brutally honest.

With the layers catching up with the tennis markets, I will have picks up from the first day of the tournament very soon.

Jeremy Chardy v Philipp Kohlschreiber: Both of  these players have decent serves and heavy groundstrokes, but both can also be too inconsistent to really challenge the very best players consistently.

Of the two, Jeremy Chardy might be in a good position as the underdog to surprise Philipp Kohlschreiber as he has never lost to the German on the professional circuit and was in decent nick last week in Toronto even if he was beaten in the Second Round.

The loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga doesn't look that bad considering how well Tsonga did the rest of the week and it is arguable that Chardy was the player who pushed him the most in a week where Tsonga beat Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Roger Federer.

That kind of form may prove a little too good for Kohlschreiber who has lost the last three matches he has played and I like the Frenchman in an underdog spot here.

Gael Monfils - 4.5 games v Federico Delbonis: Federico Delbonis has had a decent season on the clay courts in 2014, but he has yet to transfer that form onto the hard courts where he has lost all five matches he has played on the main Tour.

That includes another First Round loss last week in Toronto and he may find himself on the wrong end of another defeat by Gael Monfils if the latter can bring in the form he displayed in Toronto. Monfils pushed Novak Djokovic all the way last week and has the athleticism to really give Delbonis plenty of problems, while the weight of shot can also keep the Argentinian on the back foot.

It will be the key to the match for Monfils to remain aggressive- the Frenchman can be guilty of becoming comfortable in rallies and believing in his own ability to get plenty of balls back in court, but that might play into Delbonis' hands.

Delbonis might be able to settle into the match if that happens, but he has generally been beaten comfortably on this surface this season and I do believe Monfils can come through 63, 64.

Dominika Cibulkova - 2.5 games v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: The last few weeks on the Tour haven't been the best for Dominika Cibulkova, but she has generally produced her best tennis on the hard courts and can come through this tough First Round encounter with Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

The Russian has been in better form of the two players, but her movement may be exposed by Cibulkova in this one, especially if the latter can bring in the aggression she is capable of showing.

However, it does have to be remembered that Cibulkova has lost three of her last four matches on the Tour, including a surprise defeat to Heather Watson last week in Montreal. That would be a concern if she is not quite to form because Pavlyuchenkova can certainly produce tough tennis which makes her difficult to beat.

Their last two matches have been won by Cibulkova, but neither came easily and this may need three sets again. However, I think the diminutive Slovakian can come through 63, 46, 64.

MY PICKS: Jeremy Chardy @ 2.20 Coral (2 Units)
Gael Monfils - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Dominika Cibulkova - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet365 (2 Units)

Weekly Final10-13, - 6.40 Units (46 Units Staked, - 13.91% Yield)

Season 2014+ 30.08 Units (1271.5 Units Staked, + 2.37% Yield)

Season 2013+ 21.74 Units (1251.5 Units Staked, + 1.73% Yield)
Season 2012+ 49.21 Units (855 Units Staked, + 5.76% Yield)
Season 2011+ 82.02 Units