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NBA Play Offs First Round Picks 2017 (April 15-30)

The NBA Play Offs are here after a long regular season and teams are refocusing and cleaning the slate on how things have gone for them over...

Monday, 24 April 2017

Tennis Picks 2017 (April 24th)

The first Masters tournament on the clay courts is in the books with a familiar name picking up the title as Rafael Nadal cemented his place as the favourite to win the French Open for many people.

There are still some big events to play prior to Roland Garros this season which could see that opinion changing and this week all of the event have some significance before we move into May where the Madrid and Rome Masters are played and the French Open begins.

Monday is usually a quieter day for the tennis picks at the beginning of a new set of tournaments, but this week we have a pretty solid schedule in Barcelona and I am opposing a couple of British players in that tournament.

Jeremy Chardy v Kyle Edmund: I have to say I am a little bit surprised that Kyle Edmund is coming into this First Round match as a fairly strong favourite to beat Jeremy Chardy. I accept that Chardy has yet to really spark consistently in 2017, but he has had a couple of solid weeks on the clay courts and did beat Kyle Edmund in the Davis Cup Quarter Final on this surface at the beginning of the month.

That did come in a dead Rubber so I wouldn't read too much into that, but Edmund is an inconsistent performer as he is trying to work out the best way to put his game together on the court. There are some nice aspects of his game, but I do think Edmund is still capable of throwing in too many errors at key times of a match and I think he may have been over-rated by his performance against Rafael Nadal last week.

Losses to Chardy and Lucas Pouille at the Davis Cup without winning a set is more concerning and Edmund has had inconsistent performances on the clay courts over the last twelve months.

Chardy is hard to trust, but he is the underdog and I am not sure that is the right way this match should be priced up. He hasn't exactly put together a long stretch of wins on any surface in recent weeks nor has Chardy had a deep run in a clay court tournament over the last twelve months, but I think the Frenchman is comfortable on the surface and he can 'upset' Edmund in this First Round match.

Thiago Monteiro - 2.5 games v Daniel Evans: Coming through the Qualifiers will give Thiago Monteiro some confidence, but the Brazilian has not really pushed on in his career as he may have expected. Monteiro has some power and he should feel at home on the clay courts and I do think that can give him the edge against Daniel Evans.

You have to credit Evans for starting to fulfil his potential on the Tour, but the clay court season is not exactly going to be his favoured part of the season. He looked upset on the surface in his loss to compatriot Kyle Edmund in Monte Carlo and playing a specialist like Monteiro could be another troubling experience for Evans.

I do think Evans can be decent on the clay if he played with a bit more belief, but he can be someone who loses his focus and I do wonder if the British player is already thinking about the grass court season and beyond.

Evans has beaten Monteiro once this season, but that was on the hard courts in Sydney and it was a tougher than expected match for the higher Ranked player. Monteiro has had some disappointing losses on the clay courts this season, but winning back to back Qualifiers will give him a boost in confidence that he can take into the First Round.

After a struggle and a number of breaks of serve, I can see Monteiro coming through with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win.

MY PICKS: Jeremy Chardy @ 2.37 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Thiago Monteiro - 2.5 Games @ 1.91 Paddy Power (2 Units)

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Monte Carlo Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (April 23rd)

The Final of the Monte Carlo Masters takes place on Sunday and the organisers will be hoping to avoid the controversy that affected the second Semi Final on Saturday.

David Goffin looked to have moved into a 4-2 lead in the first set against Rafael Nadal after a long service game, but the umpire Cedric Mourier came out of his chair to pick out the wrong mark and force a replay of the point. All that despite the ball being shown to have landed almost six inches out on the hawkeye system seconds later.

The fact Goffin won just one of the next eleven games from the moment that call was made can't completely be blamed on the terrible, terrible call Mourier made, but it did produce the turning point as the Belgian could not get back into the match.

It will lead to more questions as to why hawkeye, which has been a tremendous success on the tennis court, is not used on clay when mistakes are made that can be cleared up in seconds. I don't even mind if it is used for those marks that are being disputed, although opening the door will likely see hawkeye employed the exact same way on the clay as it is on other surfaces.

The fact the ball leaves a mark on the clay courts is why there has been a resistance to using hawkeye which is said to have a very minimal error margin, but at this point I think most players accept what the machine tells them that even a mark on the court may not be enough to change their belief in the system.

The other option is for someone working behind the scenes to check hawkeye when something like the Goffin-Nadal situation comes up and just allow the umpire to know whether the mark being checked is the correct one. Again it would likely open the door for hawkeye to be used in full, but that seems a much better idea than the situation we saw on Saturday.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas + 5.5 games v Rafael Nadal: I have opposed Rafael Nadal twice this week and twice I have paid for going against the best clay court player of all time. In the other two matches he has won, Nadal has struggled a lot more, but I am going to the well for the third time in what has been a solid week for the tennis picks before we head to more big events beginning on Monday.

Opposing Nadal hasn't been good for me, but I can't help feel that Albert Ramos-Vinolas is being under-rated here with his strong clay court player over the last eleven months beginning at the French Open in 2016.

His serve can be a weakness at times and that is the worry here as Ramos-Vinolas could easily drop a set 6-1 or 6-2 which will put him in a very difficult position to cover even with this number of games. However Ramos-Vinolas is capable of playing some very strong tennis of his own and I do think he can trouble Nadal if the latter is perhaps not feeling his very best tennis from the off.

The key for Ramos-Vinolas is to win a few games early to show to himself that he can compete with Nadal. He has won some big matches already this week, but Ramos-Vinolas has to accept there will be times when Nadal is playing to a level he can't compete with. Instead Ramos-Vinolas has to keep playing his steady game and not push to stay with Nadal in those moments but look to play at his own pace and look to take advantage when Nadal does make the slips he didn't used to on the clay courts.

There will be chances for Ramos-Vinolas and he has to capitalise on those if he is going to make this a competitive Final. I can see him doing that and I will take the games in this one.

MY PICKS: Albert Ramos-Vinolas + 5.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 12-5, + 12.56 Units (34 Units Staked, + 36.94% Yield)

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Boxing Picks 2017- Martin Murray vs Gabriel Rosado/Shawn Porter vs Andre Berto

There is just one week to go for one of the truly significant Heavyweight Title fights we have seen for a number of years when Anthony Joshua takes on Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium. While most will be getting ready to make their predictions for that one, we do have some decent boxing fights this week from both the United Kingdom and the United States.

While I will be following a number of fights that are taking place this weekend, the picks come from the following ones.

Rocky Fielding vs John Ryder
The main undercard fight at the Echo Arena on Saturday is going to be between Rocky Fielding and John Ryder and I had Fielding down as a bigger favourite than the oddsmakers seem to think.

While Ryder has had some fights at Super-Middleweight, there looks to be a clear difference between the size of the two boxers coming into the fight. Rocky Fielding does look considerably bigger and he has been a regular at this weight compared with Ryder who has previously campaigned at Middleweight.

Fielding has suggested he will show Ryder the difference between fighting someone who might be blown up to this weight compared to one who is a natural and I am looking for the former to win this one with some style.

The loss to Callum Smith came in devastating fashion, and there might be some questions about how well Fielding can take a punch considering he was also put down by Christophe Rebrasse. He is facing someone who is not exactly known for a big punch at the lower weight and I am not sure Ryder is suddenly going to have enough to take out Fielding who had some big expectations before being derailed by Callum Smith.

Ryder does fight out of the southpaw stance which can be a problem for orthodox fighters and Fielding may take a bit of time working things out. However I think the punch power from the naturally bigger man is going to eventually make all the difference in this fight and that means Rocky Fielding coming through with win inside the distance.

Martin Murray vs Gabriel Rosado
Both Martin Murray and Gabriel Rosado are coming back down to Middleweight having had some recent fights at the Super-Middleweight, and they have a chance to earn the WBA Inter-Continental Middleweight Title which has recently been attached to this fight. The real ambition for both Murray and Rosado is to win this fight and put themselves in a position to win a World Tittle in this Division which is dominated by Gennady Golovkin.

Murray has gotten to the world level before and fallen short, a couple of times controversially, but he is well aware his career goes nowhere if he is beaten on Saturday. My concern for Murray is this change to return to Middleweight after moving up to Super-Middle especially as he did sometimes struggle with the weight drop.

However I think Murray is getting an opponent he should be beating at this stage of his career when Gabriel Rosado comes to town. Rosado has lost five of his last eight fights and one of the exceptions was another loss that was overturned into a No Decision contest and I am not sure how much Rosado has left.

Rosado has been in with some big names as he has campaigned between Light-Middle, Middle and Super-Middleweight over the last few years. I am not a fan of too many weight moves and I think it has taken something from the Rosado tank which has seen him stopped in three of his last five losses.

Someone like Murray is relentless and Rosado is going to come to fight which suggests there is every chance the home favourite can wear down his opponent. He will have to weather a storm that Rosado brings, but I can see Murray earning the stoppage in this one by overwhelming the American in the second half of the fight.

I am not sure either will ever be a World Champion, but Murray can take a step towards another World Title shot by earning a solid win with a late stoppage. Gabriel Rosado is tough enough to stand with some of the top Middleweight names in the world before being stopped and I think Murray is the kind of fighter who wins through sheer accumulation of punches rather than one shot and so looking for a stoppage between 7-12 Rounds is worth backing.

Tommy Langford vs Avtandil Khurtsidze
Both fighters have spoken about facing Billy Joe Saunders for a World Title, but neither Tommy Langford nor Avtandil Khurtsidze should be overlooking the other. The home fighter might be unbeaten, but it is Langford who comes in as a significant underdog against the big hitting Georgian.

Khurtsidze has been described as a 'mini Mike Tyson' and Langford has to know he can't stand and trade with a fighter who has won nine in a row since only the second loss of his career. There are other reasons for Langford to avoid getting involved in a fight other than the fearsome reputation as a big puncher that Khurtsidze has and that is the superior height the British fighter will have in this one.

He has to use his reach to box to a win and it is going to be difficult to stop the rugged Georgian coming forward, but outboxing him and using his youth compared with Khurtsidze has to be the game plan for Langford.

It might work for a while, but this is a big step up for Langford and we will get to know exactly where he can go in his career in this fight. It is a big test and he can come again even if Langford can't quite get the job done, but Khurtsidze has been on a long lay off and that might have taken something out of the veteran.

He destroyed Antoine Douglas in his last fight, but that was over twelve months ago and Langford could potentially be catching Khurtsidze at the right time. Of course the oddsmakers rarely get things wrong and the Georgian is a big favourite and has the punch power to knock out plenty of Middleweight fighters.

Langford is making a huge step up and Khurtsidze is likely to have some really strong moments in the fight. However if Langford can try and box in this one and keep out of range, he might just have enough to earn the decision in a tough fight. A year out for a 37 year old can be tough to recover from and I will back Langford to find a way to win this one on points.

Shawn Porter vs Andre Berto
This looks like the kind of crossroads fight that will leave one of these boxers scrambling as to where to go next in their career, while the other will be savouring the thought of taking on some of the biggest names in a loaded Welterweight Division.

Out of the two fighters, I certainly think Showtime has more left in the tank than Berto both physically and as a name in the Division. That despite what Berto has been saying in the lead up to the fight as he feels Porter might have had some steam taken away from him by some tough fights, but Porter's only two losses have come in close decisions against Kell Brook and Keith Thurman who are right up there when it comes to the best in this Division.

Thurman is arguably Number 1 and Brook Number 2 (ahead of his fight with Errol Spence Jr), while Porter has a draw on his record which he has overcome by beating Julio Diaz in a rematch. Porter is tough, but he has an ability to box as well as hit with power and I do think this is a fighter that will get at least one more shot against someone like Thurman after losing a close decision on the cards.

It was a cracking fight and one the fans will pay to watch again, but all of that will come crashing to a close if he is to lose to Andre Berto. Once upon a time Berto would have been in a position to be considered amongst the elite of any Division he fought in, but his career has not really taken off as it perhaps should have.

Berto has lost four of his last eight fights and at the moment he is perhaps better known for being the forty-ninth name on Floyd Mayweather's record. The Haitian is tough too and has only been stopped in one of his four losses, but Berto has been knocked a few times in his last few fights and I do wonder if he is going to have enough in the body to hold off a relentless fighter like Porter.

There has been a lot of respect in the build up with Porter suggesting he can sense he will knock Berto down, but expects this to go to the judges. He admitted that could be down to the respect he has for Berto and Porter said he will be going for the finish, and I think there is a chance he can get that.

The smart choice is obviously picking Porter to win a comfortable decision on the cards, but I think he has made a solid point that he can wear Berto down in the first half of the fight. I do think Porter can do that and he does have the power to hurt Berto in the second half of the fight and perhaps become the second man to force a stoppage against him.

A classy win like that will increase the clamour for a rematch with either Kell Brook, if he beats Errol Spence, or the more likely choice of Keith Thurman. It is a risky pick, but Porter can use his strength to bully Berto through the first half and chip away at him with a second half of the fight stoppage.

MY PICKS: Rocky Fielding by KO, TKO or Disqualification @ 2.80 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Martin Murray Win Between 7-12 @ 4.33 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Tommy Langford by Decision or Technical Decision @ 4.75 Sporting Bet (1 Unit)
Shawn Porter Win Between 7-12 @ 5.00 Betfair Sportsbook (1 Unit)

Weekend Football Picks 2017 (April 22-23)

The Champions League and Europa League Semi Finals were drawn on Friday after a very entertaining week with the Second Legs of the Quarter Finals completed.

For the fourth season in a row, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid meet in the premier European competition, while the other Semi Final is between Monaco and Juventus as youth, speed and excitement get a chance to take on a veteran Juventus defensive unit with all the knowledge they have obtained over the last few seasons and fresh off preventing Barcelona score in either Quarter Final Leg.

Both Semi Finals should be really intriguing, but my initial thought is we may get to see Atletico Madrid and Juventus compete for the Champions League trophy in Cardiff in early June.

The Europa League draw was also made on Friday after a difficult Thursday night for Manchester United fans who saw the team miss a host of chances to win the tie in regulation time and also saw Marcos Rojo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffer what looks like two long-term injuries.

Numbers are running out for Manchester United who continue to fight in the Premier League and Europa League and I am not of the same belief as a large amount of Manchester United fans who believe the draw against Celta Vigo is a very good one. At this stage none of the three potential opponents would have been 'easy' but Celta Vigo are perhaps being underestimated with a real attacking potential in the squad and with a full focus on trying to win the Europa League.

The other Semi Final is between Ajax and Lyon and the French side will be the favourites. At this time it would be a Lyon vs Manchester United Final that is favoured for Stockholm, but both Semi Finals look very much like one in which the underdog will come in with plenty of confidence of their own.

This weekend we have a few Premier League games as well as the two FA Cup Semi Final ties over Saturday and Sunday. During the week we will have a few make up games in the Premier League including a huge Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium and then there is another big round of Premier League fixtures next weekend which will begin to start deciding a few of the big issues.

Hopefully this can be a strong weekend for the picks after some difficulties during the midweek games and get this month moving back in a positive direction.

Bournemouth v Middlesbrough Pick: Every game at this stage of the season has some meaning attached to it and there is plenty on the line for both Bournemouth and Middlesbrough in the Premier League on Saturday. For Bournemouth a win would put them on the brink of confirming their place in the Premier League for another season, while a win for Middlesbrough will give them a small chance of finding their way out of the bottom three in the table.

The problem for Middlesbrough remains the same issue that has bothered them all season and that is finding the balance between attack and defence. They have struggled for goals and any furthering of their attacking intent has seen the Middlesbrough defence, which has played well, look more vulnerable.

Steve Agnew played an attacking side at Hull City in the Premier League recently and Middlesbrough even took the lead in that game, but that left the backdoor open and they were battered 4-2 in what was a pivotal game for them.

Bournemouth don't have too many issues in front of goal, although their own defensive problems can't be ignored. Eddie Howe will want to rectify things in the summer by improving the defensive personnel, but much depends on Bournemouth securing another season in the Premier League and I think they will take a big step to doing that this weekend.

The goals Bournemouth score should give them a chance to make it 3 wins from 4 home League games having beaten Swansea City and West Ham United at the Vitality Stadium in recent weeks. Middlesbrough did earn a draw at Swansea City recently, but they have lost at the likes of Crystal Palace and Hull City around that result and I am going to back Bournemouth to win this game with the goals they have in the side being too much for Middlesbrough to match.

Hull City v Watford Pick: There has been something of a 'Jekyll and Hyde' scenario when describing Hull City performances under Marco Silva as they have been very good at home, but equally as poor when they head out on their travels. The home form is going to be the key to whether Hull City are still in the Premier League next season or not, but they are playing with confidence here and I think they can put another big three points on the board on Saturday.

The fixture list offers Hull City the chance to host a Watford team who have not played well away from home for much of the season and who have achieved their goal of avoiding relegation. Recent form has suggested Watford are still very focused on finishing as well as they can, but those positive results have mainly come at Vicarage Road.

On their travels Watford have lost 3 away Premier League games in a row since beating Arsenal 1-2 at the Emirates Stadium and the side have not scored in any of those losses. Defeats at Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are forgivable, but Watford have also lost at Crystal Palace in that time, while they have played 6 of the bottom seven and only won 1 of those games.

Defeats at Crystal Palace and Sunderland will give Hull City confidence they can win this one too and the latter have won 5 of their 6 home Premier League games under Silva. It should be noted that 5 of those 6 games have been played against teams who are 13th or lower in the League table, but Watford are not much superior to those in a tight bottom half of the table.

Silva has got his Hull City playing with real confidence and belief at home and they have scored plenty of goals in his time with the club. Only Burnley have prevented Hull City scoring at least twice in their last 6 home Premier League games and Watford's lack of goals of late could be a problem.

Odds on quotes are not the most appealing, but Hull City are the more likely winner and I think they are just tempting enough to do that and put the pressure on Swansea City to get a result on Saturday too.

Swansea City v Stoke City Pick: I hate when you get down to the stage of 'must win' games for teams because the oddsmakers love to shrink those prices. That looks to be the case with this fixture when you compare the Swansea City price with the one Burnley went off at against Stoke City earlier this month, especially as Paul Clement's side have not exactly been in great form themselves.

Being back at home is important for The Swans even if they have failed to win their last 2 Premier League games here. The draw with Middlesbrough was a really poor result, but Swansea City had their chances to win that one, while they were leading against Tottenham Hotspur right up until the end of the match when capitulating for a 1-3 defeat.

Prior to those results Swansea City had won 3 in a row at home and they were much better in a loss at Watford last week than the weekend before when they were beaten at West Ham United. With Fernando Llorente back to lead the line, Swansea City should have their chances to win this one too and at odds against they might just be appealing enough to back.

They are playing a Stoke City side who hadn't been showing a lot of form prior to the 3-1 win over Hull City last weekend, and one who have not been as effective away from home. In fact Stoke City have not scored in their last 5 away Premier League games and they have lost 4 of those including at West Brom, Leicester City and Burnley.

Now I will say that Swansea City have not been playing that well recently, but Burnley had not been in great form when beating Stoke City at home. Paul Clement's team have shown they can score goals here and are back at full health with only Jack Cork missing this weekend.

It is going to be a tight and tense atmosphere for Swansea City to try and excel in, but I do think this is the kind of fixture they will believe they can win. They have played well enough at home and created enough chances to do that, especially against a Stoke City team who have not convinced on their travels in recent weeks.

Stoke City are respected as they have won at Hull City and Sunderland this season, while drawing in Middlesbrough, but I will look for Swansea City to just have enough to take the three points against a team that haven't been scoring goals away from home.

West Ham United v Everton Pick: The four points West Ham United have earned in the last couple of weeks look like being enough to keep them clear of the bottom three in the Premier League, but there are still some questions for the owners this summer. The big decision is whether they stick with Slaven Bilic as manager or make a change, but the West Ham United players can make that decision easier with a strong end to the season.

This has been a year of underachievement for West Ham United after the successes of the 2015/16 campaign. Problems on and off the field have not helped their cause, but maintaining their Premier League status was important for them.

Playing in a new home has been difficult for West Ham United too, but games at the London Stadium have tended to be entertaining affairs. That should be helped by an Everton team who are trying to push for a late top four position and who have been scoring and conceding goals for fun in the last month.

It has been more difficult for Everton away from home compared with their form at Goodison Park, and that makes it tough to trust them as the favourite to win here. No wins in 6 away Premier League games will do that, although Everton have created chances in those away games and have been able to score goals.

The problem has been defensively for the most part and keeping clean sheets and Everton have just 4 clean sheets away from home in the League this season. West Ham United might be missing Andy Carroll, but they have shown they can score goals and fixtures between Everton and West Ham United have tended to be higher-scoring games.

7 of the last 10 at Upton Park ended with at least three goals shared out, while 6 in a row at the London Stadium had ended with that number prior to West Ham United's win over Swansea City. Both teams do play with attacking intentions and neither has been secure defensively which suggests there could be a few goals shared out on Saturday too.

Looking for at least three goals to be shared out is the pick from this Premier League game this weekend.

Burnley v Manchester United Pick: As long as there are two separate ways back into the Champions League, Jose Mourinho has stated he will play his strongest side in both the Europa League and Premier League despite this hectic April Manchester United are involved in. That decision by Mourinho will be tested to the fullest on Sunday in a game at Turf Moor just days after Manchester United were forced to play extra time against Anderlecht and days before the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.

I am anticipating changes to the starting eleven, but Manchester United should still have a strong team on the field as they potentially move to within a point of the top four. That can only happen with a win at Turf Moor, but this has been a tough ground for many to visit this season.

Recent form has not been the best for Burnley, but they have tended to be hard to beat and have had a week to prepare for this fixture. However Burnley were beaten by Tottenham Hotspur here earlier this month and that does mean they have lost to the teams who are currently in 2nd, 4th and 6th place in the Premier League table.

Burnley did beat Liverpool and drew with Chelsea here this season too, but the defeats to the top teams has to be a concern. Couple that with Manchester United's much more impressive away form in the Premier League and I can see why the away team are favoured to win here.

Manchester United have won at Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Swansea City, Hull City, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace already this season and 4 of those wins have come by at least a couple of goals. Of course the players will be feeling some of the extra time period in their legs come Sunday afternoon, but Manchester United are used to the quick turnaround in games and can produce a solid result here.

Anything less than a win ends their top four hopes, and Burnley will feel the defensive injuries gives them a chance to hurt Manchester United when going forward. While this is a difficult place to play, I think the Manchester United pace in the final third could be a key here and they can match the Tottenham Hotspur win at Turf Moor by covering the Asian Handicap.

It won't be easy for Manchester United, but they can continue their successes against those teams in the bottom half when playing them as visitors. It will increase the importance of the Manchester derby on Thursday and I will look for Manchester United to produce the win.

Liverpool v Crystal Palace Pick: This is a big 'Super Sunday' fixture with big implications at the top and bottom of the Premier League and I think it could be one that produces a few goals on Sunday. For Crystal Palace there is a chance to record another big win over one of the top six sides having recently beaten Chelsea and Arsenal, while Liverpool know another three points will put them on the brink of securing a Champions League spot for next season.

On the other hand a loss for Crystal Palace could be devastating, especially if Bournemouth, Hull City and Swansea City all win home games on Saturday. All of a sudden they will be back within touching distance of the bottom three and the absence of Mamadou Sakho is a big blow with him being an integral part of the defensive improvements made by Crystal Palace.

A defeat for Liverpool would also potentially open the door for the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal to close in on a top four spot. However Liverpool will only play one way and that is to get forward, while Sam Allardyce will look for his Crystal Palace team to expose the vulnerabilities Liverpool have defensively by using the speed in the final third on the counter attack and also making sure set pieces are taken advantage of.

The manner of recent Crystal Palace performances suggest they can come to Anfield and cause problems and I fully anticipate both teams will score in this one. That has happened in 6 of the last 7 games Liverpool have played at Anfield including in their last 4, while Crystal Palace have scored in 4 of their last 5 away games and also have conceded in 3 of their last 4.

Without Sakho and Scott Dann, Crystal Palace might find it hard to contain a Liverpool team that have been scoring plenty of goals at home in recent weeks.

The last 9 between Crystal Palace and Liverpool have featured at least three goals shared out and both teams have scored in all of those games. Backing at least three goals to be scored in this fixture is slightly smaller in price than backing both teams to score, but it covers the option of Liverpool scoring the goals to cover the number themselves and I am not sure I am expecting a 1-1 scoreline with the way both teams are playing of late.

I would love to see Allardyce mastermind a Crystal Palace win here, but I think Liverpool are the more likely winners. However I am going to simply back at least three goals to be shared out between them in the last game on Sunday afternoon and that looks a decent price when you think of how they have played in recent weeks and the history of games between them in recent seasons.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur Pick: Both of the FA Cup Semi Final matches to be played this weekend look very good games on paper, but there is potentially more on the line in the first of those than simply which of the teams will be making it through to the FA Cup Final next month.

After the 2-0 loss at Manchester United last Sunday, there are only 4 points between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League title race and the winner of this one will earn a huge mental blow on the other. Chelsea still have a strong lead and the better fixtures remaining, but a 3rd loss in 5 games will dent confidence and put some real pressure on their players to get over the line.

However a Chelsea win this weekend will end a strong run for Tottenham Hotspur and might make it hard for the players to pick themselves up for the games against Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Manchester United to come.

It feels like it is all about momentum for Tottenham Hotspur at the moment and they are winning games with the strong confidence in themselves. The 1-3 win at Swansea City highlighted their belief having trailed 1-0 until the 89th minute of that game and Tottenham Hotspur won't fear Chelsea having beaten them 2-0 in the Premier League this season already.

The performances at Wembley Stadium in the European competitions could be a concern for Tottenham Hotspur fans though and the players have to show there is now lingering mental obstacles to overcome. If they can do that, Tottenham Hotspur certainly have the momentum to kick on and win this Semi Final although I am expecting a reaction from Chelsea to the defeat at Old Trafford.

They followed a recent home loss to Crystal Palace by beating Manchester City 2-1 at Stamford Bridge so these players are capable and I think this could be a decent FA Cup Semi Final to view for the neutrals. Both teams have shown some real attacking intent and I think both will believe they can create chances even though they are faced with statistically strong defences.

Tottenham Hotspur didn't keep a clean sheet in any of 4 games at Wembley Stadium, while Chelsea have conceded at least once in 6 of their last 7 away from Stamford Bridge. 8 of the last 11 between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have ended with at least three goals shared out and recent FA Cup Semi Final matches have seen 8 of the last 12 finish with at least three goals shared out too.

I am anticipating this one ending 2-1 either way and I will back at least three goals to be shared out at odds against.

Arsenal v Manchester City Pick: Everyone has an opinion on what has gone wrong for Arsenal this season and even the 1-2 win at Middlesbrough on Monday night was far from convincing. That has meant the oddsmakers have seen the price on Manchester City shorten throughout the week and they are now strong odds on favourites to win this FA Cup Semi Final.

In all honesty I had tabbed Manchester City as the more likely winner since the draw was made and also fancied them to beat Arsenal in the League at the Emirates Stadium. Better finishing may have resulted in the three points for Manchester City and they will be confident they can create the chances to win the Cup Semi Final on the wide open Wembley Stadium playing surface.

The problem with Manchester City is that Arsenal are more than capable of exposing their own vulnerabilities and that should mean we get an exciting Semi Final where both teams are better going forward and playing against weak defences. Even the return of Vincent Kompany is not enough to think Arsenal won't create chances, but the question remains as to how much belief these Arsenal players have in themselves and in their manager.

If they do let their heads drop, Manchester City have more than enough about them to not only win this Semi Final, but win with some comfort on the day. The likes of Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero are full of goals and this Arsenal team will allow those players to express themselves.

While I expect Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to spark chances for The Gunners too, I think it will be difficult for them to stay with Manchester City who should really have won at the Emirates Stadium. On that day I backed at least four goals to be shared out and was rewarded, but that price has been shortened by the oddsmakers who recognise how poor both Arsenal and Manchester City can be defensively.

This time I still anticipate goals, but I want to back Manchester City to record the win and make it through to the Semi Final. You can back Manchester City to win a high-scoring Semi Final at a very attractive price and I think that is the best way to back Pep Guardiola's men if you do think they can win this game in normal time.

It is a Cup game so there are always the chance of spaces opening up later in the game and Manchester City have shown they can be ruthless when those spaces open up. I expect just a little more from Manchester City on the day and I will look for them to make sure they are taking part in the FA Cup Final next month.

MY PICKS: Bournemouth @ 1.86 Boyle Sports (2 Units)
Hull City @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Swansea City @ 2.20 William Hill (2 Units)
West Ham United-Everton Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.75 Bet Victor (2 Units)

Manchester United - 0.75 Asian Handicap @ 1.90 Bet Victor (2 Units)
Liverpool-Crystal Palace Over 2.5 Goals @ 1.67 Sporting Bet (2 Units)
Chelsea-Tottenham Hotspur Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.15 Betfair Sportsbook (2 Units)
Manchester City & Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.50 Paddy Power (2 Units)

April Update28-24-1, + 7.58 Units (105 Units Staked, + 7.22% Yield)

March Final39-40-3, + 6.64 Units (157 Units Staked, + 4.23% Yield)
February Final31-50, - 29.34 Units (157 Units Staked, - 18.69% Yield)
January Final32-47-1, - 30.88 Units (164 Units Staked, - 18.83% Yield)
December Final38-40, - 7.93 Units (153 Units Staked, - 5.18% Yield)
November Final40-38-3, + 5.76 Units (159 Units Staked, + 3.62% Yield)
October Final29-41-2, - 21.23 Units (139 Units Staked, - 15.27% Yield)
September Final43-28-1, + 35.17 Units (133 Units Staked, + 26.44% Yield)
August Final31-38-2, - 9 Units (124 Units Staked, - 7.26% Yield)
Season 2016/17243-272-9, - 57.45 Units (1029 Units Staked, - 5.58% Yield)

Season 2015/16133-174-2, + 0.89 Units (669 Units Staked, + 0% Yield)
Season 2014/15159-208-5, - 20.22 Units (647 Units Staked, - 3.13% 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)

Monte Carlo Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (April 22nd)

The Quarter Final matches were played at the Monte Carlo Masters on Friday, but I will admit that I had a couple of picks which ultimately didn't convince me to pull the trigger on them. I would have only gone 1-1 if I had picked both matches anyway so it worked out for the best that I ended up taking the side of caution.

In what has been a good week for the tennis picks, I am not keen to give too much back and taking a more cautious approach to the week has been my policy all week. I want to get some momentum behind the picks after an awful Indian Wells tournament when I didn't have any sort of luck and moving onto the events in next week may have been my decision if I hadn't liked anything in the Semi Final matches either.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas v Lucas Pouille: This is an interesting Semi Final and neither Albert Ramos-Vinolas nor Lucas Pouille may have realistically believed they would be competing with one another for a place in the first Masters event on the clay courts this week. However both may think they are amongst the better clay court players out there and Ramos-Vinolas and Pouille will believe they can make it through to the Final on Sunday.

There isn't a lot to separate them and the oddsmakers feel the same way, although the eye-catching wins have been produced by Ramos-Vinolas so far in Monte Carlo. Wins over Andy Murray and Marin Cilic surpass Pouille's win over Pablo Cuevas and the Spaniard is looking like he could produce another big clay court season going into the French Open.

Last year Ramos-Vinolas reached the Quarter Final at Roland Garros and while he didn't have the solid results going into that Grand Slam event, the success there has been carried on in other events. Since that Quarter Final, Ramos-Vinolas has won the clay court event in Bastad and the Spaniard has reached three Quarter Final, two Semi Final, one Final and one title win in his seven tournaments on clay since the French Open.

Now he can add a Semi Final run at a Masters event in Monte Carlo to that run and I am surprised that he is the underdog in this match against Lucas Pouille. The Frenchman has produced some really good clay court results too in the last couple of seasons and he did reach the Semi Final at the Rome Masters last season and that experience could help him at key moments in this Semi Final when you have to expect nerves will play a part.

This is going to be close and I wouldn't be surprised if we have to see a third set to separate the two players. However I think Ramos-Vinolas might just be the superior clay court player who has the confidence of two wins behind him and I am going to take him to narrowly get the better of Pouille in this Semi Final.

David Goffin + 4.5 games v Rafael Nadal: I hope I am not catching Rafael Nadal at the wrong time having opposed him on Thursday and watched him demolish Alexander Zverev before struggling for long periods of his Quarter Final win over Diego Sebastian Schwartzman. I would still 100% think Nadal would have a much easier time against the latter than the young German, while he has also had his difficulties against Kyle Edmund this week.

The defending Champion is a strong favourite to win the title for the second season in a row at Monte Carlo now his main rivals have exited the tournament, but David Goffin is a very good player on his day. It was definitely his day on Friday as he recovered from dropping the second set and then going down an early break in the decided to come back and beat Novak Djokovic.

Now it is clear that Djokovic is not at the same level as he was at around this time in 2016, but beating the former World Number 1 is not an easy feat and not the way Goffin played. He looked good and confident and I imagine the Belgian Number 1 is going to have a lot of belief in his first ever meeting against Rafael Nadal, although he needs to remain mentally strong when taking on the Spaniard on the clay courts.

There should be plenty of breaks both way with the serves of both men relatively vulnerable on the clay courts, but I like the Goffin movement on this surface and I think he is a player capable of making some big time shots. On the faster surface his lack of real punch through the court can be a problem, but he has consistency off the ground, can move wonderfully and the patience to perform on the clay courts which I consider to be Goffin's best surface.

Again I will say beating Nadal on clay is a huge test both physically and mentally, especially as Goffin has not actually played him before. However the performances so far this week have been positive enough to believe this is a huge number of games for Nadal to cover and I will back Goffin with the games to keep this close even if not able to complete the upset.

MY PICKS: Albert Ramos-Vinolas @ 2.10 Bet Fred (2 Units)
David Goffin + 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 11-4, + 12.36 Units (30 Units Staked, + 41.20% Yield)

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Monte Carlo Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (April 20th)

The Monte Carlo Masters will be putting together some big matches as we approach the business end of the week and the majority of the big names are still involved in the Third Round. A couple of them have had to battle through tougher than expected tests, but the majority of the faces we expect to challenge for the French Open title, sans Roger Federer, are still in the Singles draw.

There are some difficult matches to pick on Thursday as we do get to see a couple of players who are more dangerous on the clay courts than they are for much of the season and those are taking on a couple of the big names on the Tour.

Finding a way around these matches and producing some winners from the Third Round won't be easy, but I do think I have shortlisted the right players to back after a strong few days here already.

Lucas Pouille - 4.5 games v Adrian Mannarino: This should have been a huge match between two top French players when the draw was made, but one of their compatriots decided to upset the applecart. Lucas Pouille has made his way through the draw as expected and has put a couple of solid wins on the board, but he might be surprised to see Adrian Mannarino on the other side of the net rather than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Mannarino has won a couple of Qualifiers to get into the main draw, but coming from a set down and beating Tsonga convincingly was an impressive performance. That was the second time in a row that Mannarino has been able to come back from a set down to win the match but he has rarely produced this level on the clay courts in the past.

This is going to be a considerable challenge for Mannarino after seeng Lucas Pouille win his two matches with some comfort and the latter has also been the better clay courter of the two playing in this one. Pouille can still be someone who plays one too many loose games which will give Mannarino a chance of another upset, but I think the latter will have some difficulty in looking after his own serve through the course of the match.

It is a lot of games for Pouille to cover, but he has managed to do that in his two previous wins here this week and looks to be producing some solid tennis. Having the superior clay court background has to help him, while Mannarino has to produce another big effort after upsetting Tsonga in the Second Round.

I do think there will be a couple of tough moments for Pouille to overcome if he is going to make it through to the Quarter Final, but ultimately I believe he can do that. I am looking for Pouille to see off Mannarino with a 7-5, 6-3 win to move forward in the draw.

Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 games v Pablo Cuevas: The clay season should be a part of the year that Pablo Cuevas is able to enjoy and this is clearly the surface he favours more than the others. However it might be something of a surprise to note that Cuevas has not produced too many wins between April and the French Open on the European circuit.

I am not sure I can put my finger on exactly why Cuevas can have some difficulties at this time except for the fact that the draws for these events are usually deeper and loaded with some of the top players on the ATP Tour. While he is a solid clay courter, Cuevas doesn't really have anything outstanding to fall back upon and that can see him struggle when facing the top names.

He has to deal with one of those on Thursday when taking on Stan Wawrinka in the Third Round and Cuevas will know he has to step up his game in this one. Wawrinka is a former winner in Monte Carlo and is also a former French Open Champion while this is the kind of surface on which he gets time to put his big swings together and batter opponents into submission.

Wawrinka has not been at his best in Monte Carlo since winning the title and he has not had too many solid runs in the Masters events on the clay courts since that win in 2014. While that may be the case, Wawrinka has won the French Open and reached the Semi Final at Roland Garros over the last two years and I think he can have the power to overcome what is a stiff test on paper.

I just have a little more belief in the Wawrinka game compared with Cuevas', while the strong win over Jiri Vesely was better than a three set victory may suggest. As long as Wawrinka can remain as focused as he was in his Second Round win after hitting a bit of bad fortune, I think he will be too good and can come through with a tough 7-6, 6-4 win.

Alexander Zverev + 3.5 games v Rafael Nadal: Any time you oppose Rafael Nadal on a clay court you know it is a potential pick that is going to run away from you very easily. That could happen on Thursday in the Third Round after Nadal managed to dodge a potential upset against Kyle Edmund in the Second Round, although I am backing Alexander Zverev to keep this one close.

I am certainly not opposing Nadal because he wasn't at his best on Wednesday, because the defending Monte Carlo Champion has to feel a lot better with his first clay court match under his feet. I am expecting Nadal to be much better when he takes on Zverev, but I have a lot of time for the young German and do think this is a player that is going to be amongst the elite in the years to come.

Zverev has won his two matches here this week impressively and he shouldn't feel overawed taking on Nadal having faced him twice before and pushed him all the way in both matches. Of course playing Nadal on clay is a completely different test to facing him on the hard courts as Zverev has previously, but the youngster is also comfortable on this surface.

He hits the ball hard and will attack the Nadal serve which should mean Zverev has half a chance of stealing a set in this match. The question for Zverev is whether he can stay mentally invested for long enough to stay close with Nadal having dropped a couple of sets to the Spaniard very easily as mental and physical fatigue has worn him down.

This is a huge mental challenge for Zverev, but I do think he has produced the kind of tennis that will give him a shot in this one. Having the games in the pocket is appealing at odds against and I will back the German to at least keep this one close even if ultimately falls short against Nadal again.

MY PICKS: Lucas Pouille - 4.5 Games @ 2.00 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Stan Wawrinka - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Alexander Zverev + 3.5 Games @ 2.20 Coral (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 11-2, + 16.36 Units (26 Units Staked, + 62.92% Yield)

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Monte Carlo Masters Tennis Picks 2017 (April 19th)

The First Round matches were completed on Tuesday in Monte Carlo and that means the majority of the biggest names in the draw will begin on Wednesday having received a bye through to the Second Round.

For many of those big names, this is the first match they will have played on the clay courts in 2017 and we saw the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic struggle considerably on Tuesday. Tsonga could not escape the upset, but Djokovic was able to come through in three sets and it does make a number of the matches on Wednesday a little more difficult to call.

Pablo Carreno Busta - 3.5 games v Karen Khachanov: It was a fairly comfortable win for Karen Khachanov in the First Round against Nicolas Mahut, but that was expected by most and this is a significant tick upwards in terms of a challenge. Instead of facing a player uncomfortable on the clay courts, the young Russian is facing Pablo Carreno Busta who is looking to put a career best year on the board in 2017.

Things have looked good for Carreno Busta so far this season and the improved confidence coupled with the quality he brings has meant the Spaniard has shown mental strength at difficult times. That helped Carreno Busta in coming through against Fabio Fognini in the First Round and is the kind of win that can spark a really strong European clay court season for someone who is very happy on this surface.

There is a real chance that Carreno Busta will be making a significant move in the World Rankings from his current Number 19 spot as he has fewer points to defend over the next few weeks than you may imagine. He won a few matches on the clay at this time of the season in 2016, but he is playing much more confidently now and I think he will have a little too much know-how for Khachanov in this Second Round encounter.

The Russian has some strong results on the clay courts over the last twelve months and he is clearly someone who is comfortable on the surface. However he is still developing his game and I am looking for Carreno Busta to be a little too steady at the important times in this one to earn the edge in the two sets they are likely to compete.

Khachanov has a bright future, but on this day I am looking for Carreno Busta to come through with a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 2.5 games v Carlos Berlocq: Despite coming through the Qualifiers and being accustomed to the conditions in Monte Carlo, Carlos Berlocq made hard work of Lucky Loser Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the First Round. I should say it was initially hard work before Berlocq was able to take control of the match, although he will have to be better when he takes on Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the Second Round.

Both players had a disappointing time in Marrakech last week with relatively early exits and both losses were unexpected. Berlocq winning three matches here will improve his confidence after that loss in Marrakech, but Ramos-Vinolas was a fairly comfortable winner in the First Round too and won't be lacking belief.

There is no doubt that both Berlocq and Ramos-Vinolas are going to be very happy on the clay courts and their seven previous matches have all been played on the surface. While Berlocq has the winning record, it is the Spaniard who has won three of the last four although they will be playing one another for the first time since 2014.

Ramos-Vinolas has improved in that time since they have last met, while Berlocq looks to be on the slide in his career and I think that gives the former the advantage in this Second Round match. He will be given some problems by Berlocq who has the kind of irritating game that can put his opponents off their own and I expect he will have his break point chances.

This could easily take three sets to separate the players, but I think Ramos-Vinolas is able to battle through with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over the course of a couple of hours.

Roberto Bautista Agut - 2.5 games v Diego Sebastian Schwartzman: While it looked to be a little easier for Diego Sebastian Schwartzman in coming through his First Round match compared with Roberto Bautista Agut, I still anticipated the latter to be asked to cover at least one more game than this.

Both players are very comfortable on the clay courts and Schwartzman has shown he can be a dangerous player on the surface. He doesn't have the big game that will impress on the eyeball test, but Schwartzman is consistent and has the movement to extract errors from his opponents.

That might be more difficult in this match up against Bautista Agut who bases his performance on limiting the mistakes he makes. It has all the makings of a long and drawn out match, but I do think Bautista Agut has perhaps a little more pop off the first serve and he has shown he can compete with the very best players on the Tour and should have too much for someone like Schwartzman.

When two players have a similar kind of game, I do favour the player who has shown the tougher mental strength as well as the ability to continue playing that game for the longest time. I expect that will be Bautista Agut in this case and I do think he can grind down Schwartzman over three sets.

Schwartzman has shown he is capable of hurting opponents when they are not at their full level of performance, but I do think the First Round win for Bautista Agut will have just cleared off some of the cobwebs. After a battle, I am looking for the Spaniard to win this one 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 to move through to the next Round.

MY PICKS: Pablo Carreno Busta - 3.5 Games @ 1.91 Bet Fred (2 Units)
Albert Ramos-Vinolas - 2.5 Games @ 1.80 Bet Fred (2 Units)

Roberto Bautista Agut - 2.5 Games @ 1.85 William Hill (2 Units)

Monte Carlo Update: 9-1, + 14.94 Units (20 Units Staked, + 74.70% Yield)