City go into Saturday’s early kick-off after defeats to Burnley and Barcelona – can the Baggies heap more misery on under-fire Manuel Pellegrini? Joe Dyer doesn’t think City are in for an easy ride…
Manchester City v West Bromwich Albion
Saturday March 21, KO 12:45
Live on BT Sport 1
Interesting times at the Etihad. There was little shame in going out of the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona (though a Joe Hart wonder show kept the scoreline hugely respectable), but recent performances in the Premier League have been well below-par and the pressure is building on Manuel Pellegrini. Ten top-flight games in 2015 have brought four wins, three draws and three draws – hardly the form of a title-chasing team.
Recent matches have seen City lose their attacking spark, most recently failing to score at Burnley last weekend. Apart from a pair of high-scoring victories over Stoke and Newcastle in February, City have only once scored more than one goal in a Premier League match this year (2-0 v Leicester earlier this month).
Far from chasing Chelsea for the title, the current champions are in danger of getting sucked into a fight to finish in the top four with Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool all within four points of City.
Pellegrini has a fully fit squad to choose from.
After being knocked off track by a pair of Midlands derby defeats at the hands of Tim Sherwood’s Aston Villa, normal service was resumed last weekend with a home win accompanied by a clean sheet (the eighth of Tony Pulis’ reign).
Low-scoring, yes, but defensively sound with it – Pulis has installed a rigid system on the Baggies and he is getting results. With four wins, four draws and just two defeats in 2015, they have picked up one more point than City in the calendar year.
The absence of first-choice keeper Ben Foster is a problem for Pulis, but he has expressed faith in stand-in, Boaz Myhill. If anything it might encourage a more negative set-up from the former Stoke manager as he attempts to protect his no.2 keeper.
At 1.331/3 to back, City are prohibitively short to defeat such a gritty opponent as West Brom. The Baggies rarely win on the road – just two victories away from the Hawthorns – and even odds of 11.010/1 don’t really tempt. They do draw though (six out of 14), and odds of 5.95/1 on the stalemate have trading potential.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Just three of WBA’s last ten Premier League games have breached the Overs line, with five dipping Under 1.5. Even without Foster I’m happy to risk a bet on Under 2.5 at 2.447/5.
City obviously remain a dangerous opponent but in their current form we shouldn’t expect fireworks, and Wednesday night’s toils at the Nou Camp will have drained them. Extra encouragement for Unders backers comes from Albion’s scoring record on the road – they are Premier League’s second lowest scorers away from home with just nine goals.
When it comes to football betting I’m probably too much of a contrarian too often, but the market looks to have this one wrong.
If you wanted to get behind the home win but balk at the skinny odds on offer you could play the HT/FT market by backing City/City at 1.8910/11 or, if you are convinced by my argument that this will be a tough, low-scoring match, be a bit more daring with a back of Draw/City at around 4.84/1.
2pts Back Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.447/5
Joe Dyer’s Premier League P&L
Staked: 29.5 pts
Returned: 16.24 pts
P/L: -13.26 pts