Barcelona and Atléti hope to continue Spanish dominance of Champions League

 

Ahead of the weekend, Barcelona had won eleven consecutive games in all competitions, and Luis Enrique was on the verge of breaking Pep Guardiola’s best winning streak in his time at the club. Meanwhile, Premier League champions Manchester City had won just once in their last six games, including two comprehensive losses on the way.

However by the time weekend was over, the landscape for their Champions League meeting had taken a rather surprising turn. The Catalans were beaten 1-0 at home by Málaga on Saturday, in what was one of the Blaugrana’s worst performances of the season. Over in Manchester just an hour or so later, Manuel Pellegrini’s team obliterated Newcastle United by five goals, while it could easily have been more.

 

Manchester City v Barcelona Betting Odds:

Manchester City win 9/4

Barcelona win 11/10

Draw 9/5

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

These two teams faced each other in the same round last year, meaning their impending reunion has been met with considerably less enthusiasm than last time. Barcelona won 4-1 on aggregate on that occasion, which came as a surprise to few. And considering the form of both sides coming into the weekend, a similar outcome wouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone.

Luis Enrique’s time in the Barça dugout has been interesting to say the least so far. At times, the magnitude of the job has looked daunting for him. On occasions, almost as if the role was feeling like a chore. But from faltering against the likes of Getafe and Real Sociedad over the turn of the year, Barça had begun to carve the figure of a team capable of winning honours through January and February. The Camp Nou had even begun to sing Luis Enrique’s name on match days – an often-clear sign that things are certainly going well.

The Málaga defeat has drawn flashbacks to a duller time in his tenure, however – a time when the machine was not working as it should. Knowing the furor that can quickly envelope a team with such a spotlight, one loss can rapidly turn into much more. “The losses hurt and it takes effort to get over them. We have a spectacular challenge ahead of us in three days,” said Enrique on Saturday evening.

A flicker of doubt has begun to ember again, and it’s Barça’s job to ensure it doesn’t become a fire. They have more than enough to do so. Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez may very well be the best front three in world football, and not just on paper.

But for Manchester City, it’s their job to add fuel to that Barça ember tomorrow night. If the Catalans’ reaction is half-hearted, Manuel Pellegrini’s side may have enough to ignite it on home soil.

_______

2010 was the last time, and only time, Atlético Madrid (3/2 to win the first leg with AllYouBet.ag) and Bayer Leverkusen (37/20) have met in their history. They faced each other twice in the Europa League group stages that year, playing out 1-1 draws on both occasions. The Germans topped Group B in the competition, while the team from the Spanish capital missed out on qualification behind Greek side Aris Saloniki. Atlético compounded a Europa League exit with a 7th place league finish in the 2010/11 campaign. Over in the Bundesliga, Leverkusen finished 2nd above Bayern Munich.

Cut to present day and the Diego Simeone-led Atlético are a different beast entirely. Only Real Madrid could halt them in Europe last season, and even then, they were less than a minute away from Champions League glory. At this stage last year, they swept past AC Milan by five goals to one on their route to the quarter-final. Leverkusen were hammered 6-1 by Paris St-Germain.

The Germans have quite arguably been handed the most daunting draw of all. Not the most dangerous, but quite certainly the toughest. Getting a result at the BayArena is near imperative for Leverkusen, considering Atlético haven’t lost a Champions League game at home since Simeone arrived. And unfortunately for Schmidt’s side, November was the last time they won at home in any competition.

Many had seen the losses of Thibaut Courtois, Filipe Luis and Diego Costa as the beginning of Atlético’s downfall: the end of their flutter at the helm of European football. But Diego Simeone and co have kept the show rolling at the Calderón, with new stars being impressively embedded. The strike duo of Mario Mandžukić and Antoine Griezmann has been a resounding success so far – with the latter bringing immeasurable ability to the capital, as well as a new-found hunger and work rate. 14 goals in his last 14 games means the diminutive Frenchman is indeed the man to watch in this tie.

“The Champions League is always special. Now we begin the challenging part – it’s a beautiful thing. It’s a game we’ve been waiting for for weeks,” said Atlético goalkeeper Miguel Ángel Moyá over the weekend. Last year’s finalists are back to accomplish what they couldn’t last year, and Leverkusen are in their way.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Atlético Madrid to take a 1-0 lead back to the Spanish capital is 6/1 with Intertops.eu

jamie k avatar JAMIE KEMP is a Freelance Football Writer and the Senior Editor at Inside La Liga. Follow Jamie on Twitter.

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Strikerless Manchester City Look To Boing The Baggies

James Milner looks set to feature as a false nine for a second straight Manchester City game

James Milner looks set to feature as a false nine for a second straight Manchester City game

Manchester City head to the Hawthorns on Boxing Day with six straight league wins under their belt, a run that has seen them return to title contention.

It is a game considered their most difficult in an otherwise favourable Christmas schedule. Indeed it could potentially have been a festive breeze were it not for losing all three of their recognised forwards, one of whom has been so sensational he virtually counts as four.

 

West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City Betting Odds:

West Brom win 19/4

Man City win 1/2

Draw 16/5

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The loss of Sergio Aguero, in addition to Dzeko and Jovetic, has forced Manuel Pellegrini into employing a Barcelona-style 4-6-0 formation that clicked ominously last weekend against Crystal Palace with three goals, 656 completed passes, and 73% of possession. You do wonder though whether in private moments the Engineer rues his decision to offload Alvaro Negredo in the summer now that his striking options consist of rookie teens or the versatile James Milner in the ‘false 9’ role.

The latter will presumably start again on Friday and one would expect him to run his socks off in typical fashion. While ex-Blue Joleon Lescott will certainly be glad of Aguero’s absence, he will struggle with the unfamiliar movement of an interchangeable attack made up of an array of mini-marvels.

The relentless probing for pockets of space from Milner, the rejuventated Nasri and fit-again Silva are integral to this unusual formation’s success but equally so is the forceful runs of Kolorov and Zabaleta out wide.

 

If the Baggies have any hope of enjoying their post-game turkey sarnies their own full-backs must be brave, take risks, and dare to venture forward at every opportunity. All too often when facing the current champions the opposition look to stem the tide and hold out against a constant barrage of tiki-taka magic and driving runs from deep with a breakthrough always imminent. Pinned back inevitably that breakthrough arrives.

So it falls upon Andre Wisdom and Sebastien Pocognoli to offer support and speculative overlaps further afield knowing that should City break there is no killer instinct up front to punish them quickly. More so it puts doubt into Kolorov and Zabaleta’s minds every time they ‘go’.

For this strategy to be employed the home side must show more adventure than they’ve mustered this season. The supporters are growing tired of Alan Irvine’s negativity and baffling team selections and their capitulation to QPR on Saturday after being two goals to the good has meant whispers for his dismissal have noticeably increased in volume. Yet their recent 1-0 triumph over local rivals Aston Villa and an exhilarating opening twenty minutes of attacking intent at Loftus Road hints at a coach willing to loosen his cautious ways. West Brom were largely undone by three poor pieces of defending and each can hopefully be remedied on the training pitch ahead of three extremely tricky fixtures that Irvine would certainly not have requested from Santa. After hosting City they face daunting trips to Stoke and West Ham.

 

As for the visitors the expected return of Vincent Kompany will boost them further and the manner in which they have overcome adversity of late seems to have re-energised the whole squad. Since Aguero pulled up early in the game against Everton – prompting one well-known pundit to prematurely declare Chelsea champions-elect – they have shared out the goalscoring duties admirably with Yaya Toure, Silva, Zabaleta, and Frank Lampard all mucking in. They will go into this encounter full of rediscovered confidence.

No team has ever won the league or avoided the drop at Christmas time but City know the immense value in momentum coming into a new year while Irvine will be acutely aware there are two kinds of sack in December. One contains presents in the form of much-needed points. The other is a P45 some claim is already in the post.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Man City to win both halves is 13/10 with AllYouBet.ag

Ste avatar STEPHEN TUDOR is editor of the Daisy Cutter, the football newspaper that only sometimes lies. He also writes  for  Sabotage Times, When Saturday Comes, Late Tackle and others. Follow him on Twitter.

Southampton to set Manchester City stern test in race for Champions League places

Ronald Koeman has silenced those who tipped his Southampton side for relegation

Ronald Koeman has silenced those who tipped his Southampton side for relegation

Twelve matches into the season and Chelsea’s six-point lead at the top of the table already looks impenetrable, likely handing Jose Mourinho his third Premier League title. Yet if Manchester City want to fulfill their dream of retaining the championship, they will need to start a charge now, toppling second place Southampton on Sunday.

Southampton v Manchester City Betting Odds:

Southampton win 21/10

Manchester City win 6/5

Draw 23/10

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Intermittent form and a blight of injuries to the team’s core has decimated City’s hopes of challenging on two fronts productively. Even after a summer of spending and repointing of gaps identified last season the absence of experienced hands has caused Manuel Pellegrini’s side to slip up too often.

Tuesday’s Champions League outing gave them a lifeline in Europe and while the possibility of success continues their attention to the title race will be mooted. Beating Bayern Munich, City’s first European win of the season, means a score draw when they visit the Olympic Stadium in Rome will be enough for them to pass through to the knockout round.

A daring, ferocious thrill of a win, City achieved it without first-teamers David Silva, Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, albeit against 10 men. The result masks concerns about Pellegrini’s team but their tenacity to score late and a will to persevere is admirable. Indiscretions at home to Stoke and on their travels at Queens Park Rangers will be rued come May, however, with the new found strength following the Bayern victory maybe the corner has been turned.

At the heart of City’s resistance is Sergio Aguero. Casting a diminutive appearance from afar, the pugnacious, muscle-bound striker is in the form of his life. The Argentinean’s midweek display, scoring the crucial winning hat-trick, reinforced his position as one of the world’s greatest strikers. His last-gasp heroics may be required again on Sunday, when City face the tightest defence in England.

Leading the top-scorers chart so far, sitting one goal ahead of Chelsea’s Diego Costa with 12, Aguero’s tenacious approach has seen him score a quarter of his goals in the final 10 minutes of games. Reminiscent, in part, of Luis Suarez’s impact at Liverpool last season, where the Uruguayan almost single-handedly delivered them their first league title in 24 years, Aguero’s sparkling form is keeping City in the hunt.

For Southampton, their position at the crest of the Premier League is unexpected. Losing manager Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham Hotspur and five members of the first team – Rickie Lambert, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovern and Calum Chambers – in wallet-busting moves during the transfer window, the Saints were understandably predicted a torrid time.

How they have dealt with those departures, bringing in a number of replacements and incorporating them so swiftly after a summer of upheaval is outstanding. New boss Ronald Koeman’s ability to introduce a redesigned strike force while maintaining the discipline at the back has deservedly got them up to second. How they fare for the rest of the season, and whether they will be able to maintain their form, is the quandary.

While they face both Manchester sides and an away tie at Arsenal over the next month, Southampton know all three are beatable. If the Saints are to progress for a third season in a row, this tough pre-Christmas fixture list is the perfect opportunity to state their intentions. And this comes after they were defeated just twice through 2013/14 against the three sides.

Now with a team capable of scoring multiple times against table-topping opponents, an issue they were unable to overcome last year, Southampton have created an unyielding squad: defiant in defence, convincing in attack. Importantly, Koeman has galvanized a resolute defence with the additions of Fraser Forster, Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand. By utilising the full-backs fully, encouraging them to plow forward, reward has come by the way of Bertrand and Nathaniel Clyne chipping in with three goals.

Conceding once in five matches, Southampton, are a demanding test for City to face after a zapping European game, if they want the title, this is the opportunity to show it.

Betting Instinct tip – Southampton have shown their mettle this season conceding just six goals, up against a tired Man City side from midweek back fewer than 2.5 goals at 2/1 with intertops.eu

 FRANCIS KELLYfrancis avatar is a sports writer who has contributed to the Independent, the Guardian and The Cricketer magazine. He can be found waxing lyrical about Norwich City on Twitter

Can United blast City’s title hopes into oblivion?

Can Angel di Maria (right) make Aleks Kolarov (left) eat his words this week?

Can Angel di Maria (right) make Aleks Kolarov (left) eat his words this week?

Somewhere hidden deep in the heart of Manchester, Louis van Gaal sharpens his sword, reaches for the war paint and perfects his war cry for the baying media. He’s ready for battle. Manuel Pellegrini, tucked away in his office, clutches his hands together and stares across his blueprints. He’s not ready to give up the pride of his adopted blue half of the city. The two men of mass experience will not leave this battle to chance with the allure of local dominance and vast ego massaging awaiting the victor.

It can only mean one thing: the Manchester Derby is back. And yes, it’s still pretty personal.

 

Manchester City v Manchester United Betting Odds:

City win 4/5

United win 3/1

Draw 13/5

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The two sides head into Sundays encounter with differing objectives for the season. For City, anything less than a serious push for Premier League supremacy will not do, whilst United aim to revive the side blown apart over the last eighteen months and secure a vitally important Champions League qualification spot. There may not be the fierce title competition rivalry between the two that has existed previously but this is still a bitter affair.

City have been dominant in recent history over their neighbours with five out of the last six encounters between the two finishing in favour of the Citizens, scoring at least two goals a game across the previous four meets and achieving a 7-1 aggregate scoreline against their red opponents last season. United will take comfort from their solitude victory over that bleak run though, with a 3-2 victory at the Etihaad in December of 2012 demonstrating their ability to win on the road at even the toughest environments. Much of that same United matchday squad still remains at the club, though age and injury has taken its toll on many.

 

Gauging the recent league form of both sides is difficult, for their propensity to throw away winnable matches has been paramount to the collective failings occurred this season. It was only last week that City were completely outplayed by a resurgent West Ham side brimming with vigour and energy, qualities that last season champions simply failed to match for any sustained period, a trend continued midweek against Newcastle. United will be less disappointed with their home draw to Chelsea, though it remains the case that thirteen points from nine league games is a poor early season start from the Red Devils, especially considering that Chelsea represented the first real top four test they have had to face thus far.

What may stand hugely in United’s favour ahead of this clash is their free diary either side. Whilst United have had a week to prepare solely for this match and are gifted a week afterwards to recover, City fielded a strong side in their League Cup defeat against Newcastle. In addition to that they’ll also have to keep one eye on next weeks showdown with CSKA Moscow in a Champions League match they simply have to win to keep their qualification hopes alive and avoid dropping out of the competition at the group stage yet again.

 

City will be without Frank Lampard for Sunday’s clash, whilst United look set to miss the recently sidelined Phil Jones. Van Gaal will have to make a late fitness decision on Radamel Falcao, Antonio Valencia, Paddy McNair, Wayne Rooney and Jonny Evans, with all five battling to be fit in time for their most important game of the season to date, with Pellegrini awaiting further news on the status of Yaya Toure and David Silva, both injured in the midweek Capital One Cup defeat to Newcastle.

Whether Evans or McNair make it back in time will determine how United set up across the back, though Van Gaal is still yet to work out his favoured centre back pairing, having made more personnel changes than the Sugababes. This could be music to the ears of Sergio Aguero, City’s star man who will wish to continue his fine individual form return from injury and add to his current 9 goal tally (which currently places him atop the Premier League goalscoring charts).

However, Pellegrini will be desperately hoping to see the return to form of another player whose early season struggles have been well documented by the media, undoubtedly fuelled by memories of pre-season cake shenanigans. That man – Yaya Toure, should he return in time – has so far coasted through the start of use season rarely pushing out of first gear and is long overdue a domineering brute force display. Should Toure find his top form, coupled with the space that a fit David Silva may be able to utilise against United’s attacking set up, City could easily find themselves in the goals.

 

Nevertheless, City’s defence showed vulnerabilities against Tottenham, West Ham and Newcastle, teams with less firepower than that available to United. Angel Di Maria may therefore prove pivotal in finding the gaps and unlocking the opportunities for Van Persie and Falcao should the Colombian make it back in time. All the same, it’ll be important for the reds to remain disciplined, particularly on the flanks where City can cause damage with their overlapping full backs confident in supporting attacks.

City full back Aleksandar Kolarov stoked up the fire earlier this week by claiming that City had been superior to their opponents for the last five to six years. Comments like this will only fire up a Manchester United squad growing in confidence and belief week on week as demonstrated by Luke Shaw, who told journalists, “It has been a fight, but we talk in the dressing room and at training and we know we’ve still got the best to come. I don’t think we are playing our best at the moment, although you saw bits against Chelsea.”

 

Sunday will truly show just how far both sides have come and how far they need to go to achieve their respective season goals. A win for City here will place pressure on Chelsea in the title race, whilst victory for United will send out a message to the rest of the league that they are back in business. The stakes are high – how will the dice roll?

 

Betting Instinct tip – with firepower up front for two unconvincing sides, back the score draw at 5.51 with Intertops.eu

 

CONNOR JIPPSconnor avatar  is a young sports writer and student at De Montfort University. His main topics of focus when writing are tennis, rugby and soccer, with a particular focus on Tottenham Hotspur, editing his own blog www.SPURStalk.co.uk. Follow Connor on Twitter.

Arsenal vs Manchester City: Another early test for both sides

nasri-welbeck

We were on a break! And now, finally, we are not. It’s a sad state of affairs that non-tournament international football has become such a chore but a Premier League hiatus so early in the season is an irritation by anyone’s standards. Thankfully, we’ve an absolute cracker of a game to thrust us back into the swing of things.

Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off sees the champions, Manchester City, travel to the Emirates to take on an Arsenal side who have suffered a stuttering start to the season. Despite a comparatively low-key transfer window, City’s is a squad still brimming with talent and although their early-season momentum was disrupted by a home defeat to Stoke, they remain formidable opponents. Arsenal, however, are yet to click into gear. They’ve collected a win and two draws from their league fixtures, and in none of those games have they looked particularly convincing.

 

Arsenal v Manchester City Betting Odds:

Arsenal win – 37/20

Manchester City win – 13/10

Draw – 12/5

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

But early results can be deceptive; Alexis Sánchez has enjoyed a steady start to his Arsenal career and has already begun to repay his £35 million transfer fee with two important goals. One senses he will only get better and better as the season wears on. Even aside from Sánchez, Arsenal possess an abundance of attacking talent. Although they are yet to hit top form, it is unlikely the likes of Mesut Özil, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain will stay silent for long. Add a soon-to-return Theo Walcott to the mix and Arsenal have some of the most potent attacking options in the division. Olivier Giroud is admittedly a big miss for Arsenal, and it is unlikely he will play until the New Year, but Arsène Wenger will hope new signing Danny Welbeck replaces the Frenchman’s goals and provides the Gunners with a suitable line-leader.

Welbeck, fresh from a match winning performance in Basel on Monday, is set to make his debut against the Citizens on Saturday which should provide an interesting sub-plot to the game after his £16 million deadline-day switch from boyhood club Manchester United. While not prolific in his time at Old Trafford, Welbeck is a player who can play in a number of advanced positions and, in Giroud’s absence, is expected to be given the central-striker role he was so often denied at United. His pace in behind makes him a valuable asset in that position and, if he can discover a finishing touch, he could significantly improve his goal-scoring record – especially with such an array of creative talent behind him.

 

However, despite all the potential for fun and games in this Arsenal side, they will have to improve quickly to be able to live with City. Manuel Pellegrini’s squad are looking as invigorated as ever as they set about the task of trying to retain their Premier League crown and, after finally bolstering their occasionally-shaky centre of defence with the capture of Eliaquim Mangala, look in the perfect position to do so. Another new defensive recruit, Bacary Sagna, will expect a frosty reception on his first return to the Emirates since leaving Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer. Those sub-plots just keep on coming don’t they?

It isn’t City’s defence that will have kept them near the top of the league come season’s end though, it is their incredible range of attacking talent, perhaps one that eclipses even Arsenal’s. David Silva, Samir Nasri (human sub-plot) and Jesús Navas are all supreme creators and will provide chances for the returning Sergio Agüero and one of either Edin Džeko or Stevan Jovetić. And then there is the tour de force that is Yaya Touré. It is likely he will never better the sensational form he enjoyed last season, but his superb vision, power and ability to control games mean he is still very much City’s driving force.

 

Touré will be partnered by either Fernandinho or new addition Fernando and whichever central-midfield combination Pellegrini opts for may prove too much for Arsenal. For all their creativity, the London club has failed to strengthen in the only area it desperately needed to. They lack a high-quality holding midfielder who can protect the defence; Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta are not the answers. Once again, it appears it is Wenger’s dogged assertion that no problem, however big or small, can be solved with the addition of another attacking midfielder, that could put the kibosh on Arsenal’s ultimate ambitions.

But in all honesty, Saturday’s game is very hard to read. Both teams are yet to hit their stride and while Arsenal could find themselves vulnerable in midfield, they have more than enough to cause City problems of their own. This is a huge test for two sides with title ambitions and could provide an intriguing assessment about how well equipped they both are to achieve that. Whatever happens, I’m just glad I don’t have to watch England again for a little while.

 

Betting Instinct tip – With two formidable attacks and questions remaining over Arsenal’s defensive solidity, more than 3.5 goals can be backed at 7/4 with AllYouBet.ag.

 

 JACK CHATTERTONJack C avatar is a student and long-suffering Spurs fan, who has written for In Bed With Maradona and  Sabotage Times, among others. You can read his miscellaneous and quite modest blog, or follow him on Twitter  or  Google+.

Man City favoured to grasp the Premier League trophy this evening!

Man City are favourites to lift the Premier League trophy once again after Liverpool's draw with Crystal Palace on Monday night

Man City are favourites to lift the Premier League trophy once again after Liverpool’s draw with Crystal Palace on Monday night

On paper it is a simple task for Manchester City to claim the 2013/14 Premier League trophy and become the champions for the second time in three years as they have to face Aston Villa and West Ham at the Etihad Stadium in their final pair of matches that, if won, will see them crowned kings of England, completing a Capital One Cup and league double. They start by welcoming the Midlanders to the blue half of Manchester this evening knowing that, thanks to Liverpool’s late concession of three goals to draw 3-3 with Crystal Palace on Monday night (something that cost me a winning bet – thanks Liverpool!), victory will see them two points clear going into the final round of matches this weekend. Can they thrive in the pressure where Liverpool failed so miserably?

Manchester City v Aston Villa Match Odds:

Man City Victory – 1.15

Draw – 8.40

Villa Victory – 16.00

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

After 17 home matches this season, City sit second in the home league table second only to Chelsea who have already completed their quota of matches at Stamford Bridge. City have two games in front of the cheering masses at the Etihad Stadium to make up two points on Jose Mourinho’s Londoners and having bagged 57 league goals this season, at an average of more than three a match, they will certainly be confident of victory this evening and to tighten their grasp on the Premier League trophy.

Villa have not had too bad of a season away from Villa Park during the 2013/14 season as they have collected 17 points from four wins and five draws – while also losing eight games – but with them averaging just a single goal per away match this season they could very well be in trouble at the Etihad this evening. They are safe from relegation, with their 3-1 win over FA Cup finalists Hull City at the weekend seeing them edge past the point that they could be reached by Norwich, but how will they react to this? Can they kick onwards or will they cruise through the final two games safe in the knowledge they have pulled it out of the fire?

I personally feel that the Villa players will feel that they have given their all during the season to ensure their safety and with this secured, as well as having lost six games in a row at the Etihad in Premier League action, they may not be as motivated for this game tonight as they may have been if they were not assured of another season in the top flight. City have certainly got more to play for tonight and I see them cruising past the floundering Midlanders on home soil tonight.

Back Manchester City to beat Aston Villa by at least three goals (City -2.5) @ 2.10 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Will Barca or City bounce back best at the Camp Nou tonight?

Sergio Aguero missed the first leg of this tie through injury, but will he make the difference at the Camp Nou tonight?

Sergio Aguero missed the first leg of this tie through injury, but will he make the difference at the Camp Nou tonight?

Although Barcelona lead at the halfway stage of their Barcelona v Man City Champions League last 16 stage tie they come into this match having suffered a loss away at relegation threatened Real Valladolid at the weekend and people are questioning if they have the ability to see of Manchester City at the Camp Nou tonight and book their place in the Quarter Finals. However, City were beaten in the FA Cup Quarter Finals by Championship side Wigan Athletic at home after beating them 5-0 earlier this season, so do they have what it takes to turn this tie around?

Barcelona v Man City Odds:

Barcelona – 1.57

Draw – 4.30

Man City – 4.90

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Things have not gone as smoothly as Barcelona would like recently as they have lost two of their last three matches, away at Real Sociedad and Real Valladolid, since beating their guests at the Camp Nou tonight three weeks ago. They may have dominated possession at The Etihad as they claimed a 2-0 away victory too but Barcelona did not outplay City as they both had a similar amount of shots, both on and off target, and they only made the breakthrough once Martin Demichelis was shown a red card as Lionel Messi score Champions League goal number seven from the penalty spot before Dani Alves doubled scoreline in injury time.

City certainly have the ability to cause trouble at the Camp Nou this evening and with Sergio Aguero back in the starting lineup they are certain to cause more a problem for a leaky Barcelona defence that has conceded five goals in the three games since City failed to breakthrough in Manchester three weeks ago. Despite having the plus of Aguero back in the side, City are missing Demichelis through suspension while centre back Matija Nastasic and striker Stevan Jovetic are out injured. To top this off manager Manuel Pellegrini is also suspended for this criticism of referee Jonas Eriksson from the first leg.

After their toothless performance in front of goal at The Etihad City know that tonight is do or die and they need win by at least two goals if they are to progress, or at least force extra time, and with no side managing to do this since the Champions League Semi Finals last season when Bayern Munich claimed a 3-0 win it will be tough. All that is good up front for City will come through Aguero tonight and I feel that he has the beating of the Barcelona defence tonight and if City can put three past Bayern Munich away from home this season, albeit in a dead rubber match, they can push the Spaniards all the way this evening.

My money is on City to press, and break, the home team defence tonight with Aguero the key man tonight and the Argentine will score goals tonight, upstaging his countryman for Barcelona in Lionel Messi. The big question is can City score enough to progress this evening?

Back Man City to score +1.5 goals at the Camp Nou tonight against Barcelona @ 2.86 with GR88.com.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.

Chelsea and Man City Favourites to Progress in the Capital One Cup Quarter Finals

We'll be losing two sides from the Capital One Cup Quarter Finals tonight, but which two?

We’ll be losing two sides from the Capital One Cup Quarter Finals tonight, but which two?

There are two matches being played in the Capital One Cup Quarter Finals this evening in Sunderland v Chelsea and Leicester v Man City. My thoughts on both matches are as follows.

Sunderland v Chelsea:

This is the second meeting of these two teams at the Stadium of Light in less than two weeks after the thrilling 4-3 win for Chelsea that saw Edin Hazard steal the show with two goals, an assist and a man of the match performance that made the difference between the two sides. While Jose Mourinho is likely to rest players for this match tonight due to him being more concerned with the away game at Arsenal that could see his side go top of the table for Christmas, if other results go his way, but he’ll still want to continue a winning run over Sunderland that sits at six games already.

GR88.com favour the away win this evening and their Sunderland v Chelsea betting odds reflect how they see this match going:

Sunderland to win – 5.30

Draw – 3.70

Chelsea to win – 1.52

Sunderland will too have their eye on the Premier League with them sat bottom of the table and five points away from safety so they are likely to rest players too with a vital match at home to Norwich coming up at the weekend. The difference between the sides is the strength in depth in the teams and I can see this being the thing that separates the teams on the night and with Chelsea having a much better array of talent I am backing the away side to win again and to do so with a few goals scored too.

Back Chelsea to win and +2.5 goals in this Capital One Cup Quarter Finals game @ 2.26 with GR88.com.

Leicester v Man City:

This match has a different feel about it as, just like both Sunderland and Chelsea, Premier League side Man City are likely to rest players for this Capital One Cup Quarter Finals match at the King Power Stadium but the home side will not and will fancy their chances at claiming an upset over one of the title favourites.

GR88.com disagree though and their Leicester v Man City betting odds are as below:

Leicester City to win – 7.40

Draw – 4.50

Manchester City to win – 1.34

City appear to have gotten a handle on their away form with the 3-2 win at the Allianz Arena last week against Bayern Munich one of the high points of the season that has seen them lose at Cardiff, Aston Villa and Sunderland this season. Leicester have impressed at home in front of their fans with just one loss in 12 matches at Championship level and I feel that they will challenge City this evening. City should win the match, but with them resting players and being away from home I cannot see this being a comfortable victory for the visitors this evening.

Back both Leicester and Man City to score in this Capital One Cup Quarter Finals match @ 1.70 in the GR88 Sportsbook!

All odds provided by GR88.com are current as of today but subject to change.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.