Tuesday, April 22, 2014

April 23, 2014

Here are today's picks, be sure to check out Charlie's MLB Picks as well. Good luck all...

ATP Barcelona - 2nd Rd (#1 Rafael Nadal v. Albert Ramos): How many GAMES will Nadal LOSE?

4 Games or Fewer vs 5 Games or More

This match will feature two Spanish tennis players competing in the second round of the Barcelona Open BancSabadell, which means they will both be in front of their home crowd. According to the way this prop is chosen, the "likely" result will be that Nadal, the clear favorite, will manage to pull off two or more breaks in both sets, resulting in an easy two set win. As this match will be on the clay court, he will get even more of an edge, as Rafael Nadal is often nicknamed the "King of Clay" due to his reputed versatility on the red surface. He has rarely been defeated on clay, but the #1 seed is peculiarly coming off a Monte Carlo Masters loss to a lesser David Ferrer in straight sets. This match held a great deal of breaks and it was really anyone's game before the underdog managed to win the tiebreaker. Nadal is yet to play a single match at Barcelona due to the first-round bye, which should make this prop quite tough. Looking at his previous visits, Rafa has been a stunning 40-1 in his lifetime, winning the tournament eight times.

Rafael Nadal has been an incredibly mobile tennis player, with an instinct for drilling winners off even the most awkward shots in the game. His return game has been one of his greatest strengths, winning the 3rd most return points, converting the 4th most break points, and winning the 3rd most return games this year among all ATP players.

On the other hand, Albert Ramos has entered this second-round duel with similar success against weaker competition. The underdog has managed to win four of his last five matches (all on clay), only very recently falling to #16 Grigor Dimitrov in the Round of 16 of the Monte Carlo Masters tournament. Ramos is coming into this one with a first-round victory over Nikolay Davydenko, who has really been a wreck as of late. The Russian has won just three of his last twelve matches on the clay, yet he managed to keep the match tight, winning eight games by the end. Looking at Albert Ramos, he has been decent when returning the serve, but his service game has been unacceptable in comparison to his opposition.

Nadal cruised past his current opponent in his last meeting 6-3 6-0 only one year ago, and I feel like he will want to grab a big win to get off his recent loss to Ferrer. Against Ramos, who hasn't looked very good as of late, I think he'll make a statement.

Pick: 4 Games or Fewer (Cold/Cool)

French Ligue 1: What will be the match result?

Evian TG: Win, Draw or Lose By 1 @ Paris Saint-Germain: Wins By 2+ Goals

The French giants, Paris Saint-Germain, will take on a struggling Evian TG squad in an attempt to extend their home winning streak to seven. They've easily been on top of the French Ligue 1 thanks to one of the solid defenses in the association football world. The Parisians have outscored their opponents 45-5 at the Parc des Princes, which means that they won each match by an average of 2.5 goals. Some of their recent opponents have included #8 Reims, the EPL's Chelsea, Europa League-bound #4 St. Etienne, and another talented #6 Marseille squad. PSG has kept six straight clean sheets at home in Ligue 1 play, coming off a Coup de France title win over Lyon, one of the top contenders in the league at the 3rd spot.

Unfortunately the Parisians haven't seen some of their better players, temporarily losing a decent midfielder Thiago Motta to a suspension, and the French Ligue 1's top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic sidelined. Without Ibrahimovic, PSG has recently fallen to league rivals Lyon, but they have looked good otherwise. In the Swedish striker's absence, much of the scoring pressure will move onto a lesser Edinson Cavani, who has scored one goal in two straight of his team's victories.

Evian TG comes into this one with found momentum, only recently toppling #2 Monaco after blockading their opponents with tremendous defense. They've also been notorious for their 2-0 victory over the French giants last year, what became PSG's first league loss of the season. Another advantage for the club is that they won't have any injury worries other than that of striker Tulio de Melo, who hasn't scored a single goal for the club this season.

Looking at Evian's recent form, they haven't had any decent away wins or draws as of late, their last meeting against a squad I would consider "good"... Lyon, resulted in a 3-0 loss. Even with a mostly healthy lineup, I feel like they won't be able to handle Edinson Cavani and the strong opposition. PSG should be able to grab another easy win at home, even without their top scorer, against a feeble club like Evian TG.

Key Facts:

- Lower confidence, because Ibrahimovic is sidelined for PSG
- PSG has kept six straight clean sheets at home in league play
- PSG has outscored their opponents 45-5 on home field
- Evian TG's most recent away meeting with a decent squad resulted in a 3-0 loss vs Lyon

Pick: Paris Saint-Germain W/2+ (Cool)
Euroleague - Quarterfinals (CSKA leads 2-1): Who will WIN this matchup?

CSKA Moscow  @ Panathinaikos

This Euroleague playoff game will be considered the quarterfinals of the tournament, which is played in a "best-of-five" format. That means that CSKA Moscow, who currently leads the series, 2-1, will only need another victory to advance to the next round. They will be taking on Panathinaikos, a team that has been exceptional on home floor.

CSKA Moscow has really been a talented team, even away from home, their only recent road losses being handed by some of the better clubs like Real Madrid and Panathinaikos. I would disclude the game against Real Madrid, who has been one of the hottest Euroleague teams at home in the history. CSKA has been led by former 2nd round NBA draft pick Sonny Weems, who has led the team is both index rating and points. Weems and fellow teammate Viktor Khryapa have combined to form one of the better front courts in the Euroleague, helping the team average the 3rd most rebounds this season among all teams in the playoffs. The Red Army has also had aptitude from beyond the arc, shooting 40,6% on three-pointers, the 2nd highest percentage in the Euroleague. But unfortunately for CSKA, they should not be seeing 2010 Euroleague MVP Milos Teodosic to a muscle injury. Although his return is possible, as he has underwent surgery, I'm sure he won't be 100% healthy in his first game. Teodosic has averaged over 12.0 points for CSKA Moscow this season and has recorded one of the highest index ratings on the team, and his absence on the road should not give them any sort of edge.

At home court, Panathinaikos has been absolutely solid, winning 10 of their last 11 at O.A.C.A. Olympic Indoor Hall. The Greens own some of the greatest defenders in the Euroleague's history, such as big man Stephen Lasma, who has been a superb shot-blocker, and 2011 Euroleague MVP
Dimitris Diamantidis up front as well. Panathinaikos is placed in the Greek Basket League, where they have dropped just one game in almost thirty played. Their tremendous defense hasn't allowed over 70 points in four straight home games, completely shutting down CSKA Moscow with 59 points conceded in the 3rd leg. Historically, the Greens have been very decent in the postseason, losing just two postseason games in 2014.

With a defense like theirs, I really like Panathinaikos to triumph over a banged-up CSKA Moscow team that has been lackluster on the road. Diamantidis has been tough to contain for almost any Euroleague team, and at home, his team should prevail and make this series a tight one.

Key Facts:

- CSKA Moscow has been a bad road team all season
- CSKA Moscow will not be seeing a healthy Milos Teodosic (2010 MVP) to an injury
- Panathinaikos has one of the strongest defenses in the Euroleague, allowed under 70 in four straight home games
- Panathinaikos has won 10 of their last 11 games at home

Pick: Panathinaikos (Warm)

Monday, April 21, 2014

April 22, 2014

Here are today's picks, including a soccer-filled morning. GL all!

Finnish Veikkausliiga: What will be the match result?

FC Honka: Win, Draw or Lose By 1 @ HJK: Wins By 2+ Goals

This match will feature two decent squads from the Finnish Veikkausliiga— HJK, the big favorites to grab the win here, and FC Honka, another club that has started at the bottom of the standings. Because of the fact that the Veikkausliiga season has very recently seen a start, each club has played only two or three matches leading up to this one here. This one in particular should be quite interesting noting that both these clubs finished in the 1st and 2nd place prior to this season. HJK, the league champions managed to be eligibe for the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League's second qualifying round. Honka, on the other hand, reached the lesser 2014-15 Europa League first round qualifiers after finishing in second-place. 

HJK is entering this match with strong momentum at home, recording their only two wins at Sonera Stadium this season. They've been doing a decent job at defending their title with three straight home wins over league opponents, the most recent matches being won by a margin of over two goals. HJK is coming off a Suomen Cup victory over Rovaniemi, a club that just avoided relegation to Ykkonen in the 2013 Veikkausliiga season. The Helsinkian squad has also seen a 2+ goal victory over Kuopion Palloseura, another weaker club that managed to finish 7th last season. Their first home match was a 1-0 win over a very feeble FF Jaro squad that also came quite close to relegation. In my opinion, HJK has not really had any competent opponents to begin the season, and a strong FC Honka club should really be a abrupt jump in comparison. 

FC Honka has recently sacked their manager, Mika Lehkosuo, who left the club in early February. The Finnish manager led the Yellowblacks to the 2nd place spot in his most recent season, as I previously mentioned. Honka has been 1-0-1 away from home this season, their opponents being last year's #8 TPS and #6 MYPA, who handed them their only away loss this season. TPS, in my opinion, owns a terrible recent form, dropping three straight matches, and a 1-0 win isn't an accomplishment. Against MYPA, possibly the Yellowblacks' only decent opponent, FC Honka allowed four goals, pointing to a lesser defense.

As this is the start of a shifty Finnish Veikkausliiga season, I wouldn't put any decent streak on this match. I'll have to go with Honka, as they're easily one of the best opponents that HJK has faced so far and the 2+ goals margin should be too much for the favorites.

Key Facts:

- Low confidence, because HJK has been 3-0-0 at home this season (including Finnish Cup)
- HJK has had weaker competition, their home opponents being clubs like Rovaniemi and FF Jaro
- Low confidence, because FC Honka has recently sacked a successful manager, Mika Lehkosuo
- FC Honka hasn't yet lost a match by over a single goal

Pick: FC Honka W/D/L1 (Freezing/Cold)

UEFA Champions League - Semifinals (1st Leg): What will be the match result?

Chelsea: Win or Draw @ Atletico Madrid: Win

Here we have the 1st leg of the Champions League semifinals, this one being between the English Premier League giants, Chelsea, and the Spanish Primera Division leaders, Atletico Madrid. The Spanish club is coming into this one with momentum, winning/drawing 12 straight overall matches. They're seeing Diego Costa, who only recently suffered a great knee injury that kept him sidelined for a while, back in their starting lineup. Costa will likely be alongside teammate and a successful stiker David Villa for his next few matches with Atletico. But surprisingly, the Mattress Makers' attackers have really just been a minor detail, as their menacing defense has been the major headline for the club's opposition. Atletico has kept four straight clean sheets, including a statement 1-0 win over F.C. Barcelona, dethroning the La Liga kings in a Champions League clash. At home, they've been even better, winning six straight matches and keeping five straight clean sheets. Some of the competition they have come up against during the run includes #2 Barcelona and #7 Villareal, who Atletico beat for a combined score of 2-0. And with Diego Costa back in their squad, healthy, I feel like their offense, which has been the main source of worry for the club, will survive in this match vs Chelsea.

Looking at Atletico's opponents, Chelsea, they've been a wreck away from their home field. The Blue Lions have really shown to be a strong squad overall, but their recent losses have proven otherwise. I have always liked picking Chelsea at home, but I often don't trust them away from Stamford Bridge. A shifty recent victory over a weaker Swansea City club put an end to a losing run that consisted of three consecutive away losses. The collapses included shocking finished against Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, both sub-par clubs that fail to rank very high in the Premier League. In their last four away from home course, Chelsea hasn't managed to net over a single goal, and I wouldn't be shocked if they're completely outplayed by a tremendous Atletico Madrid defense for the entirety of this one.  Even worse for the English giants, one of their top defencemen, Branislav Ivanovic, has recently been suspended according to UEFA. Also, the absence of Nemanja Matic due to ineligibility issues puts much of the pressure solely on Ashley Cole in the back-field. 

I like a successful Atletico Madrid defense that has shut down nearly all opposition they've faced as of late, in front of a raucous home crowd that makes for a tremendous atmosphere, to get the early win here in the 1st leg match against Chelsea. They aren't facing much serious injury concerns and with Diego Costa back in their squad, I wouldn't be very worried if this offense can get anything done against a banged up Chelsea back-field. Atletico is notorious for surging early in the match and if they can hold on for the remainder of the game, I would expect green for those who predict the win.

Key Facts:

- Atletico Madrid hasn't lost in 12 straight matches overall
- Atletico Madrid is seeing Diego Costa back in their lineup after he suffered a brutal knee injury
- Atletico Madrid has kept five straight clean sheets at home... opponents such as Barca and Villareal
- Chelsea is likely missing both Ivanovic and Matic from their back-field
- Chelsea hasn't scored over a single goal in four straight away matches

Pick: Atletico Madrid: Win (Cool)  

NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs - 1st Rd (Hawks lead 1-0): Which side will record a HIGHER TOTAL?

Hawks: 3-Pointers Made or Tie @ Pacers: Winning Margin

This will be the second game of an intriguing Hawks-Pacers playoff series, their first postseason meeting a shocker after Atlanta managed to grab the road win against a menacing Indiana team, who haven't lost very much at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Game 2 will likely hold far more curiosity, as a majority of these NBA playoff series have been tied in the following game, and I would like to see how Indiana manages to take revenge from their unexpected loss. 

In the regular season, the Indiana Pacers were one of the most intimidating home teams that the NBA had seen in a while, dropping only 6 of 41 games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. This trend has helped them own the East and the conference's top seed, but the fact that Roy Hibbert has been cooling off hasn't done them good. The Pacers big man has been shooting just 13-for-42 against the Hawks this season, failing to function against his assignments Pero Antic and Paul Millsap. His opposition's shooting has sent him downwards as well, often being humiliated by Antic, who has been shooting almost .700 from the field against the Pacers. Indiana will not be seeing Andrew Bynum either, who has been marked as out indefinitely to a knee injury, increasing worries at the center position.

On the other hand, Atlanta's shooting has been the driving force of some of their very recent quality wins. Looking behind their statement postseason victory, the Hawks managed to topple some of the elite teams with excellence from the field. This includes a 13-point win over the #2 Miami Heat, a triumph at Brooklyn against a team that has recently won about 14 straight at home, and a road win at Indiana. The Hawks have not allowed a renowned Indiana defense to contain some of their stars, like Paul Millsap and Jeff Teague, coming up big in the second half. I love the frontcourt match-up in favor of Atlanta, with a cold Roy Hibbert and a struggling Luis Scola up against red-hot Paul Millsap and Pero Antic, and Jeff Teague also provides them with depth on backcourt. With three-point shooting king Kyle Korver and an accurate shooter in center Pero Antic, I would definitely like the Hawks when it involves three-point shooting.

Although most of my information supports the Atlanta Hawks for this prop, I would probably stay away with a valid streak on the line. Looking at all the "revenge" on Game 2s this season, this pick definitely looks to be evasive, but the sensible pick is the Hawks.

Key Facts:

- Roy Hibbert (IND) has been shooting 13 for 42 against the Hawks this season
- Pero Antic (ATL) has been shooting .722 against the Pacers this season, will be up against Hibbert
- Atlanta has been surging, winning 7 of their last 9 games, including a great deal of quality wins
- Indiana was a complete disaster in Game 1, allowing Atlanta to shoot at a really high field goal percentage

Pick: Hawks 3PM/Tie (Cool/Warm)