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Defence to blame for Pep's City slump

Claudio Bravo has had a nightmare at Man City
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Aaron Ashley Racing Post Sport

What’s your best bet for the weekend?
Chesterfield draw no bet against AFC Wimbledon. The Spireites are unbeaten in four matches at the Proact Stadium, including victories against promotion-chasing duo Bolton and Bristol Rovers, while the Wombles haven’t won on their travels since October. The lack of recovery time since their midweek FA Cup upset by Sutton is another concern.

Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
Bolton look too short at Southend. Despite sitting third, Wanderers have won just one of their last five matches on the road and have had only four days to pick themselves up from their 2-1 midweek defeat at Crystal Palace. The Shrimpers have lost just once in 13 home Sky Bet League One games and bounced back to form with victory against Rochdale.

What’s gone wrong for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City?
Defensive problems have been blamed for Man City’s slump in form but discipline and pressure have played a big part, too. Suspensions are mounting up for City and hampering Guardiola’s planning. Sergio Aguero has missed seven games for disciplinary reasons, while Fernandinho has had three red cards this season and City have had seven in total.

Who will finish bottom of the Premier League?
Any three from Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, Hull, Sunderland and Swansea could still face the drop. The Tigers have improved under the guidance of Marco Silva but it’s difficult to see them picking up many points away from the KCom and if Robert Snodgrass makes an expected exit then they can fill the bottom spot.

Which manager will be next out in the Premier League?
The betting suggests Walter Mazzarri and it’s fair to say managers have been given the axe for less. The Hornets are winless in the top flight since their 3-2 triumph against Everton and have picked up just eight points since October. Their dismal run is a concern and with trips to Arsenal and Manchester United looming, his position looks in serious danger.

Give us a winner on the midweek coupon?
Leeds to win to nil against Nottingham Forest. Garry Monk’s men have thrived at Elland Road, winning their last five games without conceding and the visit of Forest could bolster that run. The visitors are winless in five away outings, failing to notch in three of those, and have been dealt a huge blow by the departure of Henri Lansbury to Villa.


 

Tai Beck 188Bet trading manager

What’s your best bet for the weekend?
Leeds to win at Barnsley. The Whites are playing the most progressive football in the Championship and they face a Barnsley side who look tired and demoralised following Tuesday’s extra-time defeat to Blackpool in the FA Cup. Leeds could be odds-on by kick-off.

Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
Manchester United at Stoke. United’s recent performances have been far from convincing. Their deficiencies in defending
set-pieces were highlighted last weekend against Liverpool. That will not be lost on a Stoke side more than capable of taking advantage and the odds-on has to be laid.

What’s gone wrong for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City?
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the decision to ditch Joe Hart and replace him with Claudio Bravo stands out as his worst decision. Bravo seems incapable of stopping any shot on target at the moment, which has led to a loss of confidence at the back.

Who will finish bottom of the Premier League?
Swansea. Quite how the Swans’ hierarchy thought that Franceso Guidolin or Bob Bradley would do a better job than Garry Monk is beyond belief. Now they are paying the price for those decisions. It must be doubly frustrating for Swansea supporters to see the Leeds results each week.

Which manager will be next out in the Premier League?
Walter Mazzarri’s Watford have gained just two points from their last five Premier League games, scoring only twice. The club’s owners are renowned for making swift managerial changes and relegation remains a distinct possibility. The bet may pay out as early as next week if defeat is not avoided at Bournemouth.

Give us a winner on the midweek coupon?
Under 2.5 total goals in the Liverpool v Southampton EFL Cup semi-final second leg. Saints’ manager Claude Puel is the master negative tactician. Setting up his side to defend a 1-0 advantage is the Frenchman’s forte and goals could be hard to come by for the Reds on Wednesday.


Michael Cox Tactics expert

What’s your best bet for the weekend?
Dele Alli to open the scoring for Tottenham at Manchester City. He’s scored seven in his last five games, and will be making runs in behind the somewhat peculiar midfield duo of Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta.

Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
The fact Southampton have lost their last four league matches hasn’t received much attention, and I certainly wouldn’t back them at odds-on against the – albeit struggling – champions Leicester.

What’s gone wrong for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City?
Almost everything defensively has been wrong. Poor goalkeeping, individual mistakes from centre-backs, Fernandinho being suspended so much, a lack of compactness and little pressing. They’re far too open.

Who will finish bottom of the Premier League?
I think Sunderland are doomed. They don’t have enough quality in their side, particularly in midfield, and they’re too dependent upon Jermain Defoe’s goals up front.

Which manager will be next out in the Premier League?
Slaven Bilic seems likely, but I don’t think 20-1 for Claudio Ranieri is a bad shout. There have been murmurings about him losing the dressing room.

Give us a winner on the midweek coupon?
Liverpool to qualify for the League Cup final. The Reds are trailing 1-0 from the first leg, but at a shade of odds-on look a decent price to overturn the deficit.


Didi Hamann Liverpool legend

What’s your best bet for the weekend?
I fancy West Ham to pull off something special at Middlesbrough. I know Boro are tough to beat but I’m convinced the Dimitri Payet saga is working in West Ham’s favour. I got the impression last week that with Payet on strike, the rest of the team stood together, behind their manager, and that’s a positive. And we know they’ve got the players able to win away games.

Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
Southampton look too short at home to Leicester tomorrow. These are worrying times for Saints, who have lost four in a row in the Premier League and made hard work of beating Norwich in the FA Cup. In Charlie Austin’s absence they lack a centre-forward’s presence and I wouldn’t take a short price about a team struggling to score.

What’s gone wrong for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City?
The defence is the base of any side and Guardiola has got it wrong at the back. John Stones escapes too much criticism because he’s got a bright future but he needs a leader alongside him. Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandr Kolarov, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna have all been tried at centre-back and the keeper is a liability. Bravo’s days have got to be numbered.

Who will finish bottom of the Premier League?
Swansea look a big price considering the trouble they are in. I’m not convinced Paul Clement is the man to save them, and they show no sign of picking up. Hull and Sunderland have got obvious issues, but I still think Sunderland could escape danger altogether. Palace under Sam Allardyce should avoid any danger as well.

Which manager will be next out in the Premier League?
Based on Swansea’s plight and the fancy price about him, I’d say Paul Clement is a runner. So what that he’s only just been appointed – his predecessor Bob Bradley got just 85 days, and if there’s a chance of Swansea being cut adrift at the bottom (and their next few games aren’t appetising) then the board may have to act. They look a club in serious trouble.

Give us a winner on the midweek coupon?
Under 2.5 goals in Liverpool v Southampton. Saints may be losing their way but the one thing we know about them is that they are defensively strong and I don’t see them being blown away. Equally, Liverpool have lost some of their zip without Sadio Mane and they’ll be wary of throwing the tie away having lost the first leg.


James Milton Racing Post Sport

What’s your best bet for the weekend?
Brentford to win at Wigan in the Sky Bet Championship. The Bees have lost only twice in their last seven league games and those were narrow defeats to high-flying Leeds and Newcastle. They were excellent against the title-chasing Magpies last weekend and could be too slick for a Wigan side who have lost their last six home Championship matches.

Which favourites look the most vulnerable?
Norwich at home to Wolves. The Canaries ended their rotten run with a 3-0 home win against Derby but followed up by losing at lowly Rotherham, where key striker Nelson Oliveira was sent off. Wolves have won at Newcastle and kept clean sheets against Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa in their last two outings.

What’s gone wrong for Pep Guardiola at Manchester City?
Some of the individual errors have been ludicrously bad with John Stones the most regular culprit. Claudio Bravo is clearly struggling but I doubt it would be better with the overrated Joe Hart between the sticks. The defence isn’t helped by the lack of stability in midfield where Ilkay Gundogan’s injury and Fernandinho’s ill-discipline have hit City hard.

Who will finish bottom of the Premier League?
Swansea make far more appeal than Hull or Sunderland. They seem to have abandoned the ethos that brought them so much success during their rise through the divisions and the players must have been unsettled by the chopping and changing of managers. They made things very easy for Arsenal in last weekend’s 4-0 defeat.   

Which manager will be next out in the Premier League?
David Moyes sounds as though he’s losing patience with Sunderland’s owners, claiming that the club’s transfer budget is “limited with a big L”. The same could probably be said of Moyes’s managerial ability so 6-1 that he either jumps or is pushed doesn’t look a bad price. 

Give us a winner on the midweek coupon?
Fulham to win at Reading in the Sky Bet Championship. Reading lost 5-0 at Craven Cottage on December 3 and they are unlikely to avenge that defeat on Tuesday. The Royals have made hard work of beating out-of-form teams recently and lost to struggling QPR in their last home game, while Fulham are in fantastic fettle.

 

 

 

 

Bravo seems incapable of stopping any shot on target at the moment, which has led to a loss of confidence at the back
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