Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Tennis Picks 2014 (April 23rd)

A poor final day at the Monte Carlo Masters meant I had my first real losing week on the Tour for a couple of months and that is pretty good going. It also means the picks are in a decent place for the season as we continue on the clay court part of the year, which is also my favourite time for making picks with the better players being able to wear down their opponents.

This week the tournaments in Barcelona and Bucharest are shorn of most of the top players on the Tour who are getting ready for a big May that has two Masters tournaments in Madrid and Rome and also the French Open, the second Grand Slam event of the season.

Alexandr Dolgopolov - 2.5 games v Albert Montanes: The key to really being a good clay court player is learning to deal with the patience that you need to construct points on the slower surface and that is something I am not convinced that Alexandr Dolgopolov has mastered just yet.

The Ukrainian is having a strong 2014 season, but he was out-thought by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in Monte Carlo, a Spaniard that is very comfortable on the red dirt.

Now he faces Albert Montanes, another Spaniard who saves his best tennis for the clay courts, in front of the Barcelona crowd that will attempt to offer him plenty of support. However, Montanes is not the same player of a few years ago and his serve can be attacked, while Dolgopolov has been protecting his own serve pretty well in the last couple of months.

Dolgopolov has to keep his head straight in what can be a frustrating match on a clay court against a defensive player like Montanes, but he has had a lot of success on the surface already in 2014 and I like him to win 75, 63.

Fabio Fognini - 3.5 games v Santiago Giraldo: These are two players very comfortable on the clay courts, but I would expect the Italian Fabio Fognini to prove a little too good over the course of the match.

Fognini has won 3 of their 4 previous matches and leads 2-1 on the clay courts, while there is no doubt that Fognini has shown far more form on the surface than Giraldo.

He was a little disappointing in his matches in Monte Carlo which were made more difficult than they should have been for Fognini, but the belief still has to be high when he is on the red dirt.

There have been times that I have seen Giraldo play some exceptional tennis, but I imagine Fognini frustrating him too much with his defence and coming through 75, 64.

Rafael Nadal - 6.5 games v Albert Ramos: It was a disappointing tournament in Monte Carlo for Rafael Nadal, but I don't think he will be worrying too much about his chances of dominating most clay court tournaments just yet.

It is important that Nadal wins in Barcelona just to make sure there are no nerves heading into a big month of tennis for him and I expect him to get off to a dominating start against Albert Ramos in this match.

I like the way Ramos plays on the clay courts, but he is going to sit in Nadal's comfort zone and the fact that he is left-handed means he will give the World Number 1 the rhythm he should enjoy. It was no surprise that Nadal won comfortably when they met last year at the same tournament and I like him to do the same this year.

Marin Cilic - 4.5 games v Andrey Kuznetsov: To say I was disappointed with the way Marin Cilic performed in his hammering at the hands of Stanislas Wawrinka is an under-statement, but I still am backing the Croatian to come through this match.

He didn't serve well and missed his limited chances against Wawrinka in Monte Carlo, but Cilic can at least point to the fact that his conquerer went on and won the tournament. He should have a more comfortable time against Andrey Kuznetsov who has already won three matches in Barcelona this week.

However, the clay courts have not seen Kuznetsov produce enough to think he can beat someone as talented as Cilic if the latter is on his game.

That is the key to the match, but Cilic should prove to be too good for the Russian in this match and come through 64, 63.

MY PICKS: Alexandr Dolgopolov - 2.5 Games @ 1.67 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Fabio Fognini - 3.5 Games @ 1.85 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 6.5 Games @ 1.73 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Marin Cilic - 4.5 Games @ 2.20 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Final: 6-7, - 2.04 Units (26 Units Staked, - 7.85% Yield)

Season 2014+ 36.01 Units (545 Units Staked, + 6.61% 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

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Midweek Football Picks 2014 (April 22-24)

The Champions League and Europa League Semi Finals may take centre stage in the grand scheme of European football this week, but there is no doubt the news that David Moyes has been sacked as Manchester United manager is the biggest story out there for us United fans.

It had begun to circulate on Easter Monday that the manager was going to be removed imminently, perhaps coming about from the money the owner could save now the club was officially unable to finish in the top four.

The range of emotions have been mixed, but it does seem more and more United fans are of the belief that Moyes had to go now, although I am not convinced it is the right move simply because of the lack of options to take over.

Anyway, I will do my best to put something down in time for the games to be played on Saturday, but in the meantime will just use this post for my picks from the Semi Finals of both European competitions.

The last couple of weeks have been tough for the picks I have made with a lot of them going wrong, but the season is still in a decent shape and April can be turned around with a strong final eight days.

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea Pick: Both managers would probably have been targeting the chance to play the other's team when the draw for the European Champions League was made earlier this month and both have been given a very good chance to reach the Final in Lisbon next month.

The odds have begun to shorten, but I think the price for the Atletico Madrid win has been set at a disrespectful level before that at odds against and I would imagine that the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona would have been much shorter if they were playing Chelsea at home.

However, it is Atletico Madrid who are leading the Spanish title race and it has to be motivating the players that no one seems to believe in them, even at this late stage of the season. Diego Simeone has made them very tough to beat, yet they have players in Koke, David Villa and Diego Costa that can create and score chances and that blend has helped them get to where they are.

Atletico Madrid have been strong at home and in Europe in front of their own fans and they may take advantage of a Chelsea team that have really missed not having a top centre forward all season. Jose Mourinho doesn't really trust any of his forward players and Chelsea have really struggled to impose themselves away from home with any consistency.

Three straight losses on their travels before beating a ten man Swansea team, as well as 2 losses in their last 3 Champions League away games has to be a concern when heading into this intimidating atmosphere. Chelsea have players that have played in such atmospheres before, but I think Atletico Madrid are playing at a level that should give them an edge to take to London next week.

As I said, Barcelona or Real Madrid would be much shorter to win this game if they were involved as the leaders of Spain's top flight and I think Atletico Madrid have to be backed to take a lead into the second leg.

Real Madrid v Bayern Munich Pick: When the draw was made, I couldn't help but expect plenty of goals between these two teams who will want to get forward and score goals and attack through the game. I can't imagine either team really taking a back step, although Real Madrid will be desperate that the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale are available for selection.

Real Madrid have already played two German sides at home this season in the Champions League and scored three goals against both Schalke and Borussia Dortmund, which should give them confidence against this Bayern Munich too.

On the other hand, Bayern Munich have scored in their last 13 away games in the Champions League so will also expect that they can have an away goal or two to take back to Bavaria next week.

Their Semi Final in 2012 produced plenty of attacking football and I believe this tie is going to go the same way with both teams looking to get forward and cause problems for the opposition. As good as Bayern Munich have been this season, they have looked vulnerable at the back and I expect Real Madrid can create chances against them.

It should be a very fun Semi Final over the two legs and I will look for the first leg to produce at least three goals.

MY PICKS: Atletico Madrid @ 1.85 Ladbrokes (2 Units)
Real Madrid-Bayern Munich Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.70 Bet Victor (2 Units)

April Update10-11, - 3.54 Units (38 Units Staked, - 9.32% Yield)

March Final26-22, + 13.94 Units (83 Units Staked, + 16.80% Yield)
February Final12-28, - 16.74 Units (61 Units Staked, - 27.44% Yield)
January Final17-24, - 3.18 Units (62 Units Staked, - 5.13% Yield)
December Final19-16-2, + 13.34 Units (66 Units Staked, + 20.21% Yield)
November Final17-19-1, + 0.50 Units (56 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
October Final20-16-1, + 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, + 25.37% Yield)
September Final13-12, + 1.24 Units (39 Units Staked, + 3.18% Yield)
August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

Season 2013/14137-153-3, + 9.91 Units (472 Units Staked, + 2.10% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

NBA First Round Play Off Picks 2014

This has been a really tough season when it comes to my picks as I have had bad luck, but also made some ridiculously poor picks (any time you pick Milwaukee/Philadelphia to cover, it shouldn't feel good no matter how many points you get on your side).

That happens once in a while, even through the course of a season, but hopefully the Play Offs will prove to be a 'different season' for the picks and get back to winning ways.

There is no doubt that there is plenty of exciting times ahead, particularly if you're a fan of the Western Conference which looks loaded with strong games from the very First Round. It isn't the case so much for the Eastern Conference, but both Miami and Indiana haven't looked themselves which makes it a more intriguing First Round than I would have perhaps expected when the season was drawing to a close.

The NBA Play Offs will be starting on Saturday 19th April and the next couple of months should be a lot of fun. I will be adding daily picks from the Play Off First Round on this thread, let's hope for some luck on and off the court.

Saturday 19th April
Brooklyn Nets @ Toronto Raptors Game One Pick: Experience against Youth, Athleticism against Veterans, are the kind of things we will be hearing during this series as the Toronto Raptors look to make home court advantage count as they open the Play Offs.

The lack of experience could be the biggest factor for Toronto to overcome against the Brooklyn Nets, but they have played with a freedom in recent weeks that should help them in this first game.

Nerves are always hard to judge, but Toronto are talented and can certainly give Brooklyn all they can handle. The Nets are also very happy with the series as they looked like they had been picking the Raptors as their First Round match up, but the excitement of the home crowd could carry Toronto to take the opening game.

As Brooklyn have rested players down the stretch, they may not have the full chemistry that they would need to immediately steal home court, and I am backing Toronto to win and cover the opening game of the series.

Golden State Warriors @ LA Clippers Game One Pick: If Andrew Bogut was available for the Golden State Warriors, I would see this being a much tighter series, but I like the LA Clippers to come through it. They will need to set the tone in this match from the first game and have proved too good for the Warriors when playing them at the Staples Center recently.

Both teams can get hot shooting the ball that always makes spreads like these look dangerous, but the Clippers have been comfortable winners at home in the two games previously this season and I think they have less adjustments to make. Without Bogut, Mark Jackson may still not be entirely sure how he wants the series to be played and I think the Clippers give him more to think about ahead of game two.

Atlanta Hawks @ Indiana Pacers Game One Pick: When the Atlanta Hawks are on, they have plenty of three point shooters that can put the pressure on their opponents, but the Indiana Pacers have a very good defence. The Pacers won all 3 home games against the Hawks in the Play Offs last season in their First Round series, all comfortably too, but the form down the stretch wasn't very good.

The Hawks won't have anything to lose and I think they can make the points look a little high in this first game.

Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder Game One Pick: The Memphis Grizzlies have been in Play Off mode for a couple of weeks as they have needed to push the Phoenix Suns out of contention, but they may just take a breath in this first game of a seven game series.

As inconsistent as the Oklahoma City Thunder have been in recent games, Kevin Durant will want to get this series of to a better start than last season to show the Thunder mean business this time around.

Sunday 20th April
Dallas Mavericks @ San Antonio Spurs Game One Pick: Game One of the NBA Play Offs were dominated by the underdog on Saturday, but I think this one could go more in the fashion of the Oklahoma City Thunder win over Memphis. Dallas put in a huge effort on days ago to avoid playing the San Antonio Spurs and that may adversely affect them in this game.

There is plenty of experience in both squads, but I think the Spurs will do enough defensively to secure a double digit win in the first game.

Charlotte Bobcats @ Miami Heat Game One Pick: Miami have been going through the motions towards the end of the regular season, but I expect them to turn up the defensive intensity now the Play Offs have begun. It hasn't been easy to see off the Bobcats despite the sweep of the regular season series, but the Heat covered in three of those games and I like them to begin this First Round series in a very positive manner.

The lack of Play Off experience in the Charlotte roster may bring up some nerves in this first game of the series too.

Washington Wizards @ Chicago Bulls Pick: There haven't been too many close games to this point of the NBA Play Offs and I think this game could reverse that trend with Washington capable of scoring enough points to make Chicago have to think. The Bulls are the right favourites to win the series, but games between the teams have been dominated by the underdog.

In recent games, the underdog is 7-1 against the spread and I am taking the points with Washington in game one.

Portland Trail Blazers @ Houston Rockets Game One Pick: This should be a really fun series to watch and I expect both teams will reach triple digits on a number of occasions- Houston have the experience and the slightly better all around team and I think they will back up their success from the regular season by beating Portland in this First Round series too.

With the three pointers on display, leads will quickly be evaporated throughout these games, but I like Houston to find a way to win this first game of the series and cover the spread.

Monday 21st April
You know when you should have had a winning pick when you see a tweet like this.

Give the Portland Police a lot of credit for the humorous nature of the tweet, but I think the Houston Rockets should be incredibly disappointed they didn't cover the spread let alone win the game.

Memphis Grizzlies @ Oklahoma City Thunder Game Two PickThis series was always going to be about which team can impose their style on the other and I don't suppose any game will be decided by anything more than those margins.

I am interested to see how Memphis would have recovered mentally and physically after the second half efforts on Saturday, particularly with 48 hours between Game One and Game Two. If they can replicate the Third Quarter on Saturday for 48 minutes, the Grizzlies could cause a surprise.

However, I think the Thunder have a little too much scoring for them and I will back them to win and cover for the second time in the series.

Golden State Warriors @ LA Clippers Pick: The zig-zag theory hasn't been working as well as it used to in recent seasons, but these teams are so closely matched that I think it is worth backing the LA Clippers to win and cover in Game Two.

If the referees don't take the same stance as Game One, the likes of Blake Griffin should have a much bigger impact in this game and I can imagine him leading the Clippers on the scoring to level up the series before heading to Golden State for Games Three and Four.

Tuesday 22nd April
Atlanta Hawks @ Indiana Pacers Game Two Pick: The zig-zag theory produced two winners on Monday night in the first of the Game Two match ups, but I won't be backing the Indiana Pacers to make it three out of three. It is hard to imagine the Pacers losing again at home, especially with the adjustments they will make between games, but the Hawks are playing better than them at this moment.

That momentum can be hard to stop and Atlanta might feel this is their best chance to get a real grip on the series while the Indiana Pacers second guess themselves. Atlanta have won on their last 2 visits to Indiana and they should be able to keep this close even in a losing effort.

Brooklyn Nets @ Toronto Raptors Game Two Pick: Games between Toronto and Brooklyn have been very tight all season which is highlighted by the fact that the 7 point win for the Nets on Saturday was the second largest margin in 5 games between the teams.

The Raptors are going to be the more desperate team in this one and I expect they will be getting to the foul line with more regularity than they produced in Game One. As experienced as Brooklyn are in their ranks, it is tough to win back to back games on the road against the same team and I think they are already satisfied with taking home court advantage in the series.

I wouldn't expect the Nets to roll over, but I do think Toronto win this game by at least five points and cover the spread.

Washington Wizards @ Chicago Bulls Game Two Pick: With the way Chicago have rallied through injuries to Derrick Rose and the trading of Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers, I absolutely expect the Bulls to have a big response to losing Game One on Tuesday evening.

They can play much better defensively than they did on Sunday, but Chicago now have to pick their poison and decide whether they want to keep the big men of Marcin Gortat and Nene quiet, or continue to harry and nag the likes of Bradley Beal and John Wall.

The Bulls have to show more consistent offense too if they are to win this game, but I do believe Tom Thibodeau will rally the troops and make a couple of adjustments to help them turnaround the result from Sunday.

Either way, the total points look a touch on the low side as three of their four games this season would have surpassed the number. If the referees continue playing the fouls as tight as they did a couple of days ago, both teams should get to 90 points in this one which means very likely going over the 181.5 total points line posted.

Wednesday 23rd April
Charlotte Bobcats @ Miami Heat Game Two Pick: The Miami Heat have dominated the Charlotte Bobcats in recent games and a hobbled Al Jefferson would make it that much more difficult for the Bobcats to spring a surprise.

There are stretches where Charlotte really give Miami all they can handle, but the Heat always seem to have an extra gear and I expect them to kick on and ensure a 2-0 lead in the First Round series with the second cover in the series.

Dallas Mavericks @ San Antonio Spurs Game Two Pick: It was a really strange Game One of the series where San Antonio started off so well, but then disappointed for two and half Quarters, while Dallas had a big lead without Dirk Nowitzki playing well at all.

Gregg Popovich would not have been happy with the way his veteran and experienced team took to the court on Sunday and I expect him to make a couple of adjustments to the first game. Those should help the Spurs play a more solid 48 minutes and I expect them to be more focused after being given a real scare in Game One.

It was also about as well as Dallas can play against the Spurs and there has to be a lingering disappointment with the way the game ended and I think San Antonio could take advantage of any doubts in the Mavericks minds.

Portland Trail Blazers @ Houston Rockets Game Two Pick: It has to be the most disappointing losses of the first round of games in the NBA Play Offs when Houston continually blew a lead to end up gifting Portland Game One of this series.

The interesting factor is how Portland approach Game Two- will they look to up the ante and really push for another win to take a 0-2 lead in the First Round series or are they happy with the guaranteed split of the first two games?

With the way that both teams attack and score points, I do think Portland will put in the necessary effort to try and win the game, but I think Kevin McHale makes the adjustments to earn the split of the first two games. I expect bigger games from Dwight Howard and James Harden, although the 'Hack-A-Howard' strategy has every chance of helping the Trail Blazers extend the game and keep things close.

Still, I don't expect the Rockets to lose focus as they did in Game One and I like them to cover.

MY PICKS: 19/04 Toronto Raptors - 3 Points @ 1.92 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
19/04 LA Clippers - 7 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
19/04 Atlanta Hawks + 7.5 Points @ 2.00 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
19/04 Oklahoma City Thunder - 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
20/04 San Antonio Spurs - 9.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
20/04 Miami Heat - 9.5 Points @ 1.92 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
20/04 Washington Wizards + 4.5 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
20/04 Houston Rockets - 5.5 Points @ 1.92 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
21/04 Oklahoma City Thunder - 7 Points @ 1.92 Coral (1 Unit)
21/04 LA Clippers - 8 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
22/04 Atlanta Hawks + 7.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
22/04 Toronto Raptors - 4.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
22/04 Chicago Bulls-Washington Wizards Over 181.5 Total Points @ 1.95 Ladbrokes (1 Unit)
23/04 Miami Heat - 10.5 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
23/04 San Antonio Spurs - 8 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)
23/04 Houston Rockets - 6 Points @ 1.95 Pinnacle (1 Unit)

First Round Update: 7-6, +0.64 Units

Friday, 18 April 2014

Weekend Football Picks 2014 (April 19-21)

The Premier League title race and the relegation battle always has a number of twists and turns when we get into the final furlong, but at the moment all the signs are pointing to one team winning the Premier League.

It took a late goal to see off Manchester City last weekend, but even that wasn't enough to put Liverpool in the driving seat for the title... However, the failure to beat Sunderland at the Etihad Stadium has certainly given Liverpool the edge over Manchester City and now it looks like being a two horse race to the finish between the Reds and Chelsea.

The game next weekend between those two teams looks to be the one that determines who will be taking home the trophy next month, but that is assuming things go to plan this weekend as both Chelsea and Liverpool play relegation threatened teams in games they will be expected to win.

Nothing usually comes easy at this stage of the season, especially not with the pressure and playing opponents fighting for their lives, but April 27th looks to be the date to circle in terms of where the title is going.

Norwich City entertain Liverpool and have their own issues after three consecutive losses which has them on the brink of the relegation zone. Fulham have a much more sympathetic fixture list to deal with and Cardiff City also won last weekend so the pressure is on Norwich to get something from the game against Liverpool which is then followed by a trip to Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge before hosting Champions League chasing Arsenal on the final day.

I thought Norwich had enough in their locker to escape the drop once they beat Sunderland, but losing to Swansea, West Brom and Fulham has put the cat amongst the, errr, Canaries and it is hard to see where they will earn the points to escape relegation as I don't see 32 points cutting it.

April has always been described as the pivotal month in terms of relegation and winning titles and I do think we will have a pretty good picture of things by the end of next weekend.

Tottenham Hotspur v Fulham Pick: There will be a lot of fans out there that may be hoping that Tottenham Hotspur fail to finish in the top six in the Premier League so the club doesn't have the Europa League to bother them next season. Those feelings would have been increased after seeing how Liverpool have dealt with the Premier League without the distraction the Europa League offers, but Tim Sherwood won't want to finish this season with a whimper.

It won't be doing his chances of getting the job any favours every time Spurs drop points, but I also think he will be aware that the board are looking for someone else to take over this summer regardless of how the season ends.

Sherwood can at least credit the players for believing in him as shown in recent games where they have come from two goals down to beat Southampton, a goal down to beat Sunderland and three goals down to draw with West Brom.

There is little doubt that Sherwood has got the old attacking policy of Tottenham Hotspur back to the fore, but tactically he can be a ropy and that is where Fulham will look to take advantage.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Fulham are back in real contention to avoid relegation from the Premier League thanks to back to back League wins, but they may already be focused on their remaining two games from which to get the points to move out of the bottom three. Felix Magath won't allow his side to come here without expectation, but it is only natural for that feeling to come when looking at games against Hull City and Crystal Palace compared to this one.

I expect Fulham to try and make life difficult for Spurs, but the attacking intent shown by Tim Sherwood should be enough to see the home side come through with a win and I expect that to come by a couple of goals.

Aston Villa v Southampton Pick: There is going to be an issue with motivation in this game as both teams might already be looking ahead to the summer break and the changes that may be made by the managers.

Aston Villa are the more desperate for the points as they are only 4 points clear of Fulham, but I have a feeling they may already have enough in the bag to avoid relegation, while Southampton are not going to be able to finish higher than 8th.

The Saints also have a couple of players that will be wanting to represent England at the World Cup and they may just be taking it slightly easier after seeing team-mate Jay Rodriguez injure himself to the extent that he will be missing a few months of action.

With the lack of real tension in the game, barring some of the unfortunate goings on at Villa Park, it should lead to a free-flowing game where both sides can look to score goals. Aston Villa have only failed to score in 1 of their last 9 home games in all competitions and are facing a Southampton defence that has conceded at least 2 goals in 3 of their last 4 away games.

On the other hand, Southampton should create chances against a Villa side that have only kept 1 clean sheet in 11 home games in all competitions and it does look like the chance of seeing goals has been under-estimated.

Chelsea v Sunderland Pick: Jose Mourinho has been surprisingly quiet at the beginning of what could be a critical ten days in his first season back as manager of Chelsea- that should give us all an indication of how important these next four games are for the manager as he looks to win a piece of silverware in either the Premier League or Champions League.

We all know the feelings of the manager regarding the lack of help with the scheduling, but the TV companies have moved the Chelsea game from the original Sunday slot to Saturday afternoon so the Blues can have an extra day of rest between this game and the Champions League Semi Final.

Chelsea need to win this game to at least put some pressure on Liverpool ahead of the latter's trip to Norwich City on Sunday and also to stay in touch ahead of the big game at Anfield next weekend. They have been winning plenty of games at home in recent weeks and much of that is down to a solid defence that has not conceded at Stamford Bridge since Manchester United scored in the middle of January.

Mourinho will be looking for his side to control a Sunderland team that put in a huge effort at Manchester City during the week but ultimately came up short in their bid for a vital three points. He will also be making his side aware not to take the win for granted after Sunderland forced City to drop two points and also put a lot of pressure on Liverpool in a recent 2-1 loss at Anfield.

Even in the absence of Steven Fletcher, Sunderland have found goals in their recent away games, scoring at Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, but Chelsea will feel their defence is the best of all those teams. I expect Mourinho to set his team up to make sure they don't give anything away from Sunderland and control the game to enough of an extent to win, but not over exert themselves for the trip to Atletico Madrid.

They have simply not been conceding goals here of late and I expect Chelsea to continue that defensive dominance and win this game to nil which looks a generous price.

Norwich City v Liverpool Pick: Pressure can do a funny thing to teams at this stage of the season and that is the only reason I have for giving Norwich City any chance of surprising Liverpool and earning a point or three from this game.

Chelsea should have moved to the top of the Premier League on Saturday evening and this is an incredibly early kick off, but it would still be a huge surprise if Liverpool were to see their 10 game Premier League winning run end at Carrow Road.

Liverpool have simply been far too good for Norwich in their recent meetings and scored five goals against them for the third League game in a row. Luis Suarez has been a particular thorn in the side for the Canaries in those games and the expectation could fall on his shoulders if Daniel Sturridge misses out as it looks like he will.

There are goals in the Liverpool team and Norwich City have been in really poor form in recent games- they created so many chances last weekend against Fulham but couldn't score and confidence has to be shattered with the four games left to play looking as difficult as they could be.

Maybe Norwich can surprise with the early kick off, but I can't see anything but another comfortable win for Liverpool against a team they have dominated. I would dearly love to be wrong and not because Liverpool snuck another three points with a one goal win, but because Norwich City did earn something from the game.

However, the pick has to be Liverpool winning this game easily enough.

Hull City v Arsenal Pick: Arsenal are now in the driving seat when it comes to Champions League qualification via the top four and you have to think they are going to come to Hull City with plenty of confidence and will be expected to win.

The layers agree with short odds for Arsenal to win at the KC Stadium, but that is seriously under-estimating a Hull City team who have caused problems for some of the top teams this season. Whether the players are completely focused after reaching the FA Cup Final may be up for debate, but Steve Bruce should have kept the players in tune with how the bottom of the Premier League did last weekend and that there is no safety guaranteed just yet.

Hull are defensively sound for the most part and they don't concede a lot of goals at home, especially if you consider almost half the goals they have conceded came in two games against Manchester United and Newcastle United.

With the likes of Shane Long and Nikica Jelavic up front, Hull City can score goals too and they may give Arsenal another jolt despite the decent win over West Ham United the Gunners had on Tuesday night.

I just don't feel Arsenal should be odds on to win this game away from home though and I will back Hull City with the half goal start to earn something from the game.

Everton v Manchester United Pick: This is a fascinating game on Sunday afternoon, not simply because of the importance for Everton to win the game and remain in a challenge for a top four place, but for the reaction David Moyes gets in his first game back at Goodison Park.

Moyes should absolutely get a warm reception from the Everton fans, but short memories and a successful season may just see a disappointing response for a man who did so much for the club.

It would be ironic if Moyes masterminds a win for Manchester United that puts Everton in a very difficult position to get into the top four as you know the headline writers are itching to get on the Scot's back.

For all the troubles Moyes has had at Old Trafford this season, Manchester United have been very successful away from home although it should also be noted that only 1 of their 10 away wins has come against a team from the top half of the table. Even with that in mind, you can't deny the last couple of League performances from United and I don't imagine they roll over for an Everton side that may have had their confidence burst with the loss on Wednesday night.

However, under-estimate this Everton team at your peril as they have been very good at home for the most part and blew away Arsenal a couple of weeks ago with attacking football. Roberto Martinez won't put the brakes on the team going forward and I can see them causing Manchester United problems too in a game that should feature goals.

With that in mind, I was surprised the layers are offering such a decent price on there being at least three goals in the game and I will be backing that to happen. I can't see either manager deciding to play this game cautiously with what is at stake and the attacking football should produce chances and hopefully goals.

MY PICKS: Tottenham Hotspur - 1 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Aston Villa-Southampton Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Chelsea Win to Nil @ 1.92 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Hull City + 0.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.05 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Everton-Manchester United Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.83 Sky Bet (2 Units)

April Update9-6, + 4.66 Units (26 Units Staked, + 17.92% Yield)

March Final26-22, + 13.94 Units (83 Units Staked, + 16.80% Yield)
February Final12-28, - 16.74 Units (61 Units Staked, - 27.44% Yield)
January Final17-24, - 3.18 Units (62 Units Staked, - 5.13% Yield)
December Final19-16-2, + 13.34 Units (66 Units Staked, + 20.21% Yield)
November Final17-19-1, + 0.50 Units (56 Units Staked, + 0.09% Yield)
October Final20-16-1, + 12.94 Units (51 Units Staked, + 25.37% Yield)
September Final13-12, + 1.24 Units (39 Units Staked, + 3.18% Yield)
August Final13-26, - 12.13 Units (54 Units Staked, - 22.46% Yield)

Season 2013/14137-153-3, + 9.91 Units (472 Units Staked, + 2.10% Yield)
Season 2012/13+ 4.42 Units (415 Units Staked, + 1.07% Yield)

Monte Carlo Tennis Picks 2014 (April 18th)

The Monte Carlo Masters has reached the Quarter Final stage, but the Third round didn't pass without another surprise result as Tomas Berdych was beaten by Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. There is no doubt in my mind that the key moment came in the second set with Berdych leading 3-2 and the game at 30-30 on the Garcia-Lopez serve.

The higher Ranked player missed a simple ball to bring up break point and seemed to lose all momentum at that point as he was then broken in 4 of the next 5 service games and was comfortably seen off in three sets.

The two underdogs I picked to win both also came up trumps on Thursday and that means there are four fairly large favourites in the Quarter Finals on Friday.

Milos Raonic + 3.5 games v Stanislas Wawrinka: I was very impressed with Stanislas Wawrinka in his crushing win over Marin Cilic in the Second Round and he has had a walkover in the Third Round to reach this Quarter Final.

There is little doubt that Wawrinka is a strong favourite to beat Milos Raonic on the clay courts having already beaten him twice on the faster hard courts that should suit the latter's big serving game more than these.

You have to also give Raonic some real credit for winning his first two matches in the manner he has and he will need to play aggressively in this one to cause a surprise. The big serve should set up some cheaper points, but the Canadian has to get on the front foot and get the forehand into play as soon as possible as any lengthy backhand battle will only be won by Wawrinka.

If Raonic is serving well, he should at least make this competitive and he could even steal a set if Wawrinka is not completely focused on a player he would be expecting to beat. It should keep the match competitive and even a 76, 64 loss for Raonic would be another for the big man to cover the spread.

Rafael Nadal - 5.5 games v David Ferrer: I was not surprised by the number of games Rafael Nadal is being asked to cover against his compatriot David Ferrer, but I was surprised by the price on offer for him to do so and believe the 'King of Clay' should be backed in this one.

There won't be much going on during this Quarter Final that will surprise either player and they have so much experience playing one another that neither player will have a poor gameplan in place to win the match.

David Ferrer has caused some problems for Nadal, even on the clay courts, but generally Nadal finds a way to wear down a terrific competitor and come through fairly routinely.

If Nadal plays as he did against Andreas Seppi, he will have a few chances to break serve and I expect he will come through this match 64, 62 as long as the World Number 1 also focuses fully behind his own serve.

Roger Federer - 3.5 games v Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: It was his 29th birthday yesterday and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga gave himself a perfect present by coming from a set down to beat Fabio Fognini. I expect this will be an even bigger challenge for him against the Roger Federer of 2014 who has been in very strong form.

Last year, Tsonga stunned Federer in the Quarter Final of the French Open as he recorded a straight sets win to oust the 17 time Grand Slam Champion, but the form of both players is much changed from twelve months ago.

Federer has also recorded a comfortable win over Tsonga at the Australian Open and is playing very aggressively which should prove too good for the Frenchman. For the most part, Federer has been serving well this week, although he can't have the lapses he did against Lukas Rosol in the Third Round.

You know what you are going to get from Tsonga who is an under-rated player on the clay courts considering he does have the time to sit on his shots, but the backhand wing is really hit or miss and I expect Federer to break that down. There might be a few more breaks of serve than you would imagine in a match between players who serve as well as Federer and Tsonga do, but I like the Swiss man to come through 64, 64.

MY PICKS: Milos Raonic + 3.5 Games @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Rafael Nadal - 5.5 Games @ 2.40 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 3.5 Games @ 1.73 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 6-4, + 3.96 Units (20 Units Staked, + 19.8% Yield)

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Monte Carlo Tennis Picks 2014 (April 17th)

There weren't too many surprise results on Tuesday and that means the Third Round action in Monte Carlo has a number of intriguing matches, although I do think it is set for a very strong Quarter Final at the first major clay court event of the season.

As I said though, that doesn't mean there aren't some fascinating matches to view on Thursday and I do believe anyone lucky enough to watch the tennis live will certainly be enjoying themselves during the day.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga v Fabio Fognini: With one of the most improved performances on the clay courts in recent months, it is no surprise that Fabio Fognini is considered the favourite to win this Third Round match. However, I do think Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has the tools to bring in the upset and move through to the Quarter Final.

He may not have had a strong start to 2014, but Tsonga showed some guts to come through his match against Philipp Kohlschreiber in the last Round and some of the attributes he has should give him a great chance to win this match.

Tsonga's serve and heavy shots should pay dividends at times, while he will also get a good chance to see the Fognini serve and really try and earn breaks of serve. The Italian has been playing some brilliant tennis on the clay courts, but he will offer chances to Tsonga, who also has the benefit of knowing he has beaten Fognini on the clay courts before.

There is no doubt that Tsonga has to serve well and try and keep Fognini on the back foot if he is to win the game, but I do think the Frenchman can do so in three sets as the underdog.

Milos Raonic v Tommy Robredo: Another favourite that could be upset on Thursday is Tommy Robredo who faces the big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic in the Third Round.

The experience and comfort of the clay courts will certainly fall in favour of Robredo, but Raonic has the heavy shots that can see him hit through his opponent and also has the benefit of beating the Spaniard in Barcelona on the surface last season.

Raonic was actually favoured to win that match and he has the big game that can see him keep Robredo under pressure. He is also playing a little more aggressively when returning serve and Robredo's serve is not one that will pick up too many cheap points like Raonic's serve will during this match.

There is every chance this will go into a deciding set, but I like Raonic to frank last season's win and move through to the Quarter Final.

Stanislas Wawrinka - 3.5 games v Nicolas Almagro: There is a famous line from the film Anchorman that summed up Stanislas Wawrinka's win over Marin Cilic on Tuesday night- 'well, that escalated quickly'.

It was a stunning display from Wawrinka and one that surprised me very much considering how well Marin Cilic usually performs on the clay courts.

The win and the manner in which it came would make Wawrinka a strong favourite against Nicolas Almagro, even though the latter is one of the better clay court players out there. However, Almagro is coming off a tough week in Houston, has had to travel back to Europe and is now playing his third match in consecutive days and that can catch up with any player.

Stanislas Wawrinka will have to play as aggressively as he did yesterday and he also has a strong record against Almagro. He beat him twice last season, once on the clay, and also crushed the Spaniard 63, 63 back in 2012 in Monte Carlo and I like Wawrinka to win this match 64, 64.

Tomas Berdych - 4.5 games v Guillermo Garcia-Lopez: There has to be a lot of confidence on Guillermo Garcia-Lopez' side of the court having won in Casablanca last week and winning a couple of matches here in Monte Carlo, but the run could very much come to an end on Thursday.

As impressive as the win over Alexandr Dolgopolov was, Garcia-Lopez hasn't played anyone of the quality of Tomas Berdych over the last couple of weeks.

Berdych has the serve and the aggressive brand of tennis that will make Garcia-Lopez' serve really feel the pressure and I think he is going to be too good in most areas in this match.

You have to respect the run Garcia-Lopez has had on the clay courts though, especially with this being Berdych's second match of the clay court season, but I still believe the higher Ranked player comes through 63, 64.

MY PICKS: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga @ 2.20 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Milos Raonic @ 2.30 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Stanislas Wawrinka - 3.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Tomas Berdych - 4.5 Games @ 1.80 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 4-3, + 0.96 Units (14 Units Staked, + 6.86% Yield)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Monte Carlo Tennis Picks 2014 (April 16th)

Tuesday proved to be a better day for the picks as they went 2-1, although that still means the week is slightly on the negative side of things.

With another full day of tennis on Wednesday where the Second Round will be completed, the big names are opening their clay court season following Novak Djokovic yesterday. Today the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will take to the courts as well as the Australian Open Champion Stanislas Wawrinka and there will be a lot of good tennis for the locals to enjoy.

Fabio Fognini - 2.5 games v Roberto Bautista-Agut: With the way he approaches tennis, Fabio Fognini is always liable to throwing in the kind of up and down performance he had in the First Round. That is usually enough to dissuade me from backing the Italian to win too many matches, but his form on the clay courts over the last nine months is enough to keep me on his side in this Second Round match.

His opponent, Roberto Bautista-Agut, also looks one that should match up well for Fognini- while most Spaniards would favour the clay courts over other surfaces, I think Bautista-Agut is someone who isn't as comfortable on the slower surfaces.

Bautista-Agut doesn't have a big serve, but looks to wear down opponents with his defensive skills... That shouldn't be an issue for Fognini who has more clay court pedigree than his opponent and who has dominated the head to head between them.

The Italian has won 4 of the 5 previous matches between the players and beat Bautista-Agut in Miami last month and also won their sole meeting on a clay court last season. Fognini should be too good and move through to the Third Round on Wednesday with a 63, 46, 64 win.

Roger Federer - 5.5 games v Radek Stepanek: The first match on a new surface can be a troubling time for even the very best players on the Tour, but Roger Federer has the benefit of playing someone he will be very familiar with.

The style that Radek Stepanek brings to the court is awkward, especially if you haven't played him before, but he doesn't really ruffle the Federer feathers too often these days. In fact, he has lost 9 in a row since surprising Federer on the clay courts of Rome back in 2008 and Stepanek has been dismissed fairly comfortably more often than not.

Take away Rafael Nadal and Federer could have gone down as one of the best clay court players of all time so this should be a surface he is comfortable on. I also think Federer has taken a Wild Card spot here with the expectation of having a big week and I believe he will prove to be too good for Stepanek when it is all said and done.

The aggressive play should help Federer, although he has the experience to show more patience on the slower courts, but he has been serving well for the most part in 2014 and that should lead to a 64, 62 win.

Marin Cilic + 2.5 games v Stanislas Wawrinka: I was very tempted in picking Marin Cilic to win this Second Round match outright, but I have decided to take the games on offer in what looks a much closer match than the layers may think.

Cilic had to come through a tough First Round match where a Lucky Loser was placed in the draw and those struggles in the middle of the match could be down to it being his first match on clay this season. That is where the Croatian could take advantage of Stanislas Wawrinka who has admitted some of the mental issues of winning his first Grand Slam title of his career in Australia to open the season.

While Wawrinka has played well at times since then, he has suffered three surprising losses including in the Davis Cup two weeks ago and he may be caught cold by Cilic in this one. Cilic has a decent serve and can cause problems with his aggressive return.

Even if Wawrinka wins the match, it could be very close as their previous matches have tended to be, while the fact he is playing his first clay court match of the season may see Cilic take at least one set comfortably. That would make the games given to Cilic look too high and I will back a player that could potentially win this match outright to at least keep it competitive.

MY PICKS: Fabio Fognini - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Roger Federer - 5.5 Games @ 2.10 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Marin Cilic + 2.5 Games @ 2.00 Pinnacle (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 2-2, - 0.84 Units (8 Units Staked, - 10.5% Yield)