Bristol City won't be fazed by threat of Premier League leaders
Robins can avoid getting in a flap at Man City
League Cup semi-final first leg
Sky Sports Football & Main Event, 7.45pm Tuesday
Sky Bet Championship outfit Bristol City have beaten more Premier League teams this season than top-flight strugglers West Brom and they have to be hopeful that they won’t get battered by mighty Manchester City in the first leg of their League Cup semi-final.
Four top-flight scalps are hanging in the boardroom at Ashton Gate, with Manchester United the most recent addition to the Robins’ burgeoning collection of high-calibre victims.
So they rightly bristle at the suggestion that this tie represents a bye for Pep Guardiola’s men, who are 1-16 to make it to Wembley and showing few signs of letting up on their merry way towards the quad.
This match is all about team selection, and if it works out as we think, then the visiting City could well represent a decent bet at 43-40 with a 2.25-goal start on the Asian handicap. It's much better value than the home side at 1-6 to win in 90 minutes.
The bet is paid in full if they win, draw or lose by one goal, half-winnings if they lose by two goals and loses if they are beaten by three goals or more.
Guardiola has had two cup ties to consider this week after a hectic festive schedule and made it abundantly clear he would be rotating his side, especially with a massive league game at Liverpool to come on Sunday.
The fact that he played, with one or two tweaks, virtually his first team against Burnley in the FA Cup last Saturday, is revealing. And it makes sense.
Because this semi-final is a two-legged affair, Guardiola can afford to gamble on selection in the first game knowing that if he needs to send out his first-team cavalry in the return (which doesn’t fall immediately before a showdown with Liverpool), he can. He has the players to dig him out of a hole if necessary.
As for Bristol City, Lee Johnson fielded four academy starlets at Watford on Saturday in an FA Cup tie he was more than happy to sacrifice as he prepares instead for his club’s first League cup semi-final for 29 years.
When Guardiola has played his ‘cup team’ before this season, notably against Wolves, Leicester and Shakhtar Donetsk, City failed to win any inside 90 minutes, losing in Ukraine and pinching the other two in shootouts.
Guardiola has said he’ll send out a strong side and pretty much any team sent out by the Spaniard will be decent.
Of Manchester City’s last 19 matches, only four have been won by three goals or more and all four of those were when they were at, or close to, full strength.
A worry for Bristol City would be that they have managed just one clean sheet in 11 though, they have scored in nine of those games. Indeed, both teams have scored in eight of those 11 since a 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday and 6-5 that one or both teams don't score is not a bad option.
Bristol City +2.25 on Asian handicap
2pts 43-40 bet365
Vincent Kompany, Benjamin Mendy, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden are injured.
Striker Cauley Woodrow is cup-tied. Korey Smith is a doubt. Eros Pisano, Famara Diedhiou, Jens Hegeler and Callum O’Dowda are crocked.
Bristol City have scored in their last 11 League Cup ties.
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