Both sides are desperate for points in the Saturday evening kick-off and Andrew Atherley believes City can make their class tell with a clear-cut victory at Turf Moor…
Burnley v Man City
Saturday March 14, 17:30
Live on Sky Sports 1
The situation is looking ever more dire for Burnley, who are on the current longest winless streak in the Premier League of seven matches at the same time as fellow strugglers Aston Villa, Sunderland and Hull have started to pick up a few points.
The Clarets are now three points from safety and the gap could widen over the next month as this is the first of four consecutive games against teams in the top seven.
Sean Dyche has the most settled team in the Premier League, not necessarily through choice, and it is possible that the exertions of the season are beginning to take their toll, although the 10-day break since the 2-0 defeat at Liverpool may have freshened them up.
City are five points behind where they were with 10 games to go last season, when they were ‘virtual’ leaders with their games in hand, and even a perfect run-in might not be enough to overhaul Chelsea. But they must go for three points at every opportunity and this is a must-win.
Manuel Pellegrini shook up his squad after the shattering defeats against Barcelona and Liverpool, dropping Vincent Kompany to the bench for the last game against Leicester and leaving out Samir Nasri and Fernandinho altogether.
It will be interesting to see what Pellegrini does now with that trio and, assuming he sticks with the much-criticised 4-4-2, his other big dilemma is whether to keep Wilfried Bony as the forward partner for Sergio Aguero or switch back to Edin Dzeko.
Burnley drew 2-2 in the reverse fixture at the Etihad on December 28, coming back from 2-0 down at half-time, and their recent 1-1 at Chelsea (albeit influenced by refereeing decisions) was another sign of their spirit and continuing threat to any team that does not take them seriously.
Clearly, however, there is a big class gap overall and Burnley’s record against the big six teams is W0 D3 L6. They have scored only six goals in those nine matches and have conceded two or more in six of the nine games, which illustrates how difficult it is for them even to stay on level terms.
On the flipside is City’s W6 D3 L0 record against teams in the bottom six. That’s pretty good but the three bad results were the draws at home to Burnley and Hull (1-1) and away to QPR (2-2) – if they could have turned those into wins, they would be top of the table now.
Even so, it is a positive that City have scored in all of those nine games against bottom-six teams. That makes an upset defeat unlikely (Burnley have won only two out of 23 when conceding, against Stoke and QPR), although another draw cannot be ruled out so easily (Burnley have drawn seven of those games – 30% of the total games when they have conceded).
City’s overall win rate when scoring is 65%, rising to 73% against teams in the bottom half. Those form lines indicate City’s win odds are about right at 1.454/9.
With City difficult to oppose on form, it is worth looking for a longer-odds alternative to the straight win and backing City off -1 on the Asian Handicap at around 1.84/5 is one of the best options.
The good thing with this bet is that it is a no-lose situation as long as City win, with stakes returned in the event of a one-goal victory for Pellegrini’s team.
That makes it a fairly solid bet, with the main question being how capable City are of winning by two goals or more. The answer is that they are pretty good at it, with eight of their 11 wins against bottom-half teams having been achieved by that sort of margin.
Only one of their six away wins in that category (the 1-0 at Leicester in December) was not achieved by at least two goals.
On the other side, four of Burnley’s six defeats by big-six teams were by two goals or more. As stated already, a point for Burnley cannot be ruled out and at 5.14/1 the draw is probably the best option for those wanting to oppose City, but there is a good chance that the probable away win can be achieved by a clear-cut margin.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
The main issue is that Burnley know their best chance is to keep things tight, given their low scoring rate in this type of match-up. That has led to a near even split of over/under 2.5 goals in their nine matches against big-six teams (overs just ahead with five) and this is a difficult market to call.
Although Over 2.5 Goals is strong favourite at 1.684/6 it is a concern that City might have to do all of the scoring themselves to achieve that figure. Six of the nine Premier League matches in which they have kept a clean sheet have been under 2.5 goals and there has to be a doubt over Burnley’s ability to score (two home blanks out of three against big-six teams).
Back Man City off -1 on Asian Handicap v Burnley at 1.84/5 (1pt)
Staked: 64 pts
Returned: 66.62 pts
P/L: +2.62 pts