Farewell, quadruple. It was nice flirting with you.
Manchester City may yet complete one of the most momentous seasons that the club has ever experienced in 2018-19. But the Sky Blues no longer have a quadruple, or a clean sweep of the Carabao Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Champions League and English Premier League titles.
That dream died at City of Manchester Stadium last Wednesday.
City went down swinging. The Sky Blues needed a rally to save the day after falling behind in the UEFA’s maiden leg against Tottenham, and they got one, as Raheem Sterling led an attack that even double-goal scorer Son Heung-min could not keep up with over the first 50+ minutes.
But it was unheralded Spurs striker Fernando Llorente, not Harry Kane, who scored the goal that broke hearts around the world…except for those of Tottenham fans of course.
Making things worse is that the goal – as you might imagine if seeing it for the first time now – came with its share of controversy. Punters are calling it everything from a “handball” to an “offside.” Tottenham did not win the 90+ minute match, nor did Spurs score more times than the Sky Blues on aggregate. But Tottenham advanced to the semifinals thanks to the UEFA’s away-goals rule.
It was the opening leg at newly-opened Tottenham Hotspur Stadium that put Citizens behind the 8-ball in the first place. An attack which had always connected at just the right moment of low-scoring fixtures finally fell flat against an underappreciated Spurs backline.
There’s no time for tears. Man City still has a domestic “triple” in its grasp. Liverpool is winning and winning in the Premiership, putting pressure on the Sky Blues to close out the season by earning 3 points at every opportunity.
That’s normally no problem for Sergio Agüero’s poised squad. But it gets a little more complicated to promise supporters a win when a match at Old Trafford is calling. Manchester United hosts City on Wednesday afternoon (state-side) with a chance to spoil the domestic triple.
Comparing the Online Betting Odds for MUFC-City
Bovada Sportsbook is the “Denny’s” of sports gambling on the internet, the default choice for browsing a diverse array of markets without a gourmand’s focus on a few. But even “Mom and Pop” exchanges and reduced-juice books are clever enough to put tricky odds on the Premier League.
Let’s look at how Bovada is treating Wednesday’s United-City showdown and compare the Big Bear’s lines with those of the smaller outfits.
The dominant sports betting site thinks Citizens are almost-overwhelming favorites. City’s line-to-win in 90+ minutes is (-220) while Manchester United earns a meek (+600). Bovada’s odds managers do not believe there is much chance of a drawn score at the end of the evening, either, with a hefty (+380) moneyline on equal goals recorded for both clubs.
Bovada’s goal spread favors Citizens by (-1) and the Over/Under total is (3) goals.
MyBookie is paying out a little less if either squad prevails, offering (-248) and (+569) on Citizens and Red Devils respectively. No, the Draw line isn’t substantially different. Perhaps Bovada is the new “reduced juice” market…or MyBookie decided to crank-up the house % on a highly-anticipated match. Meanwhile the O/U seems to be standard everywhere at (3).
Gamblers who want to take Man City on the moneyline can look to BetOnline for the most favorable market. The bookmaker is offering the visitors at (-202) and shares Bovada’s exact 6-to-1 odds on Paul Pogba and Manchester United.
The Best Market Belongs to Denny…Er, Bovada
Circling back to those underdog moneylines, it occurs to me that 6-to-1 is a handicap that takes into account City’s tremendous firepower and quality goalkeeping and coaching, not to mention the premium motivation of going after the triple.
However, at the same time, the (+600) market (especially at Bovada Sportsbook, which has no need to tantalize Premier League gamblers with weird lines) may fail to factor-in the Red Devils’ motivation.
United is playing a blood rival from Manchester. United is in line for another Champions League bid if the club can somehow, someway finish in the top 4.
And after searching all of 2019 for some type of momentous achievement that 2018’s controversies did not render impossible, United can potentially become the most noteworthy spoilers since AFC Wimbledon whipped the EPL in the FA Cup over the winter.
Any questions? There are a lot more Red Devils supporters than Wombles fans. It would be one of the biggest headlines of the year if MUFC can pull off the upset.
City might have more available “quality,” as the English like to say, and more depth than United. But to treat this match as if Sky Blues are the hotter or more-motivated squad is absurd considering what just happened vs Tottenham…and considering how important the 90 minutes will be to the Red Devils.
Manchester United’s Rollercoaster Ride Continues
United’s UEFA campaign ended not with drama against a Premier League side, but with a thud against the best club from Spain.
Messi scored twice on the back leg as Barcelona destroyed MUFC 4-0 on aggregate in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Well, there goes my underdog futures pick to win the whole thing. But it’s not as if United didn’t have a streak of glory in the Round of 16, scoring a comeback win against mighty PSG in Paris.
It helps to keep a wide-view lens when handicapping Manchester United right now, just as with any team that dominates the tabloid headlines. Remember that the media’s mood soars and plummets much more wildly than even the vibe in a club’s dressing room or coach’s office.
Clickbait likely has a lot to do with United’s inflated payoff odds for Wednesday’s match with City. For instance, right now Marcus Rashford is whispered to have an “attitude problem,” giving bettors pause about the one striker who seems poised to do something about City’s status atop the league.
If that’s not enough, bloggers are making noise about David de Gea’s contract negotiations. Handicappers are thus being given bad vibes about arguably the 2 most important cogs in the machine for the Red Devils – the legendary goalkeeper and the hot young attacker.
News flash – there are lots of other really good footballers playing for United. There have to be for the squad to have gotten this far despite a civil war with former skipper Jose Mourinho.
And despite a disappointing 0-4 loss to Toffees on Sunday, the club has been faring well in the Premier League. United won with counterattacks in a 2-1 result over West Ham on 4/13 as Pogba was a nightmare in the Hammer box. March and early April brought a few other grim defeats and red cards, but such outcomes will only make the Red Devils more desperate for a win at home on Wednesday.
The desperation of the hosts is not the best reason to take the (+600) underdog ML.
Blue Sky Falling?
I’m not prepared to de-value Pep Guardiola’s side simply because it lost a Champions League battle. We’ve said all along that while quadruple trophies were far from impossible for Citizens in 2018-19, the historic feat with take a little bit of luck.
Even the best National Hunt Thoroughbreds trip over obstacles sometimes. A single loss in a UEFA tournament threatens to simply underscore Man City’s dominance.
Except it’s the way things went south for the club that has my attention – more so than the fact Tottenham was the team to advance.
The Sky Blues have been in control of matches against elite squads, to the point where Ederson has no problem keeping a clean sheet when necessary. Opponents picked a poison – defend relentlessly and risk not scoring at all, or open up and fall prey to Raheem Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne on counters.
When the battle evened-out at Tottenham, it was the type of scenario in which you wouldn’t expect Man City to lose a grip on set pieces and give up a late goal. Maybe it was a highly-controversial goal…but Citizens’ opponents haven’t often been in position to score flaky tallies to say nothing of beautiful strikes into the net.
Did Spurs hand MUFC manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær a blueprint for beating the Sky Blues? Not exactly, because the circumstances for each respective opponent are so different. The tradition-oriented Red Devils are unlikely to mimic Tottenham’s 2-pronged forward attack which was used to compensate for the loss of Harry Kane.
But which is the bigger story, and which provides the more significant mental edge this Wednesday? Man United struggling in a few contests while remaining firmly in the top 3rd of the Premiership table, or Manchester City finally losing a match to an underdog?
It turns out that Citizens are human beings. Fancy that. It’s got to give City’s 4 remaining EPL foes a shot in the arm to know the team can be beaten.
My Pick for United-City at Old Trafford
I would recommend an ante-up, multi-unit, shoot-the-Moon style wager on Man United’s (+600) moneyline. That’s how strongly I feel that the club is mispriced.
But the good news is you don’t really need to go “all-in” on a 6-to-1 payoff line to get a handsome sum on a winning outcome.
Forget the constant stream of gloom and doom from the UK. Manchester United is still a worthy rival of City and could easily score a supreme spoiler’s upset against long betting odds.