Man City v Wolves: Old Gold can be competitive at The Etihad

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MANCHESTER CITY look to close the gap on Liverpool at the top of the Premier League on Monday night when they welcome Wolves to The Etihad. Tom Love (@TomLove_18) picks out his favourite betting angle. 

Manchester City v Wolves | Monday 14th January 2019, 20:00 | BT Sport

Manchester City come into this clash on the back of a 16-0 aggregate win over their last two games. I’m not taking anything from those cup games against Rotherham and Burton though, City are in a whole different universe compared to the Football League duo.

City now face a proper test on Monday night as Wolves come to howl at the blue moon (doesn’t really work does it? There must be something there)…

Man City’s win against Liverpool a fortnight ago was the biggest result of their season and it’s made the title race a tantalising one. I haven’t seen a game separated by such fine margins for a long time; the John Stones clearance off the line, Sergio Aguero’s dart to the near post and finish from the most acute of angles, not to mention to pinpoint accuracy of Leroy Sane firing the ball past Alison via the inside of the post.

They’ll be hoping for an easier game here but underestimate Wolves at your peril. They’re here to play and here to stay; statistically they’re mixing it with majors and have settled to Premier life with aplomb.

Nuno’s side have picked up a handy habit of discomforting the leagues shining lights. They currently boast a W2-D3-L2 record against the Big Six, and it wouldn’t be unfair to say they could’ve easily turned those draws into wins.

One of those stalemates came in this reverse fixture which showed the league that the Old Gold meant business. They garnered a 1.27 Expected Goals figure in that game and it’s been commonplace for Wanderers to post those kind of numbers against sides with European and league title aspirations.

The Black Country boys have been a team to avoid at short prices against the lesser clubs but they’ve been a team to get with on the handicap markets against sides that see themselves as senior to them. It’s almost as if their players feel more suited to games where they can defend deep and break into the gaps that present themselves to be exploited. The quality the likes of Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves have on the ball gives them confidence and control when re-possessing teams.

Nuno has stayed truthful to his 3-4-3 formation, it’s the modern way it seems. Wing-backs Johnny and Matt Doherty are influential in their offensive game, operating more as wingers than full-backs.

Doherty has been particularly impressive this term, probably the clubs most consistent performer. The Irishman has a trait of arriving late at the back stick and has notched upon thrice occasions so far; he’s averaging 1.3 shots per-game with over half of them managing to hit the target. His 0.7 shots on-target average is bigger than teammates Ruben Neves, Helder Costa and Adama Traore.

It may be the fact opposition defences are pre-occupied with the pace of whoever the right forward is (Costa/Traore) thus leaving space for Doherty to run into. He’s going to be part of my first selection and it’s simply for him to have at least 1 shot on target which is available at 12/5 with Coral. Man City also play with their full-backs as auxiliary wingers so there could be space on the flanks for the visitors to do some damage.

Sticking with that right-hand side I’m plumping for an old favourite of mine; to get on the left back to be booked against Wolves. I’ve mentioned in a previous piece about the extremely high record of left backs picking up cautions against Wolves. Aaron Cresswell (West Ham), Charlie Taylor (Burnley), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Patrick Van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) and Ben Davies (Spurs) have all seen the yellow brandished to them.

Adama Traore is usually the chief instigator of these fouls because of his searing pace, defenders know there’s no catching him so bring him down to prevent him cantering past. Even if Traore doesn’t play others can take the mantle, most of their attacking comes down that wing.

Left-back is a sticking point for the Citizens, with Benjamin Mendy out they lack a natural orthodox left defender. Aymeric Laporte, Oleksander Zinchenko And Fabian Delph have all deputised but it’s remained a slight problem for the Champions. Who Pep will plump for will not be known until an hour before kick-off so I must urge punters to wait until the confirmed teams are out before placing a bet on whoever starts at LB.

Laporte is most likely to slide back across to centre half leaving the vacancy for one of the other two, however he did a solid enough job against Liverpool in that unfamiliar role. Delph is probably the likeliest and he’s a bulbous 13/2 with Betfair. Zinchenko on the other hand is an even bigger 8/1 with SkyBet. Both look great prices and hopefully they’ll hold until closer to kick off.

My main bet here though will be to back Wolves with a +2 start on the Asian Handicap at even-money with BetVictor. Even if City managed a win by two goals then our stakes will be returned, if Wolves can keep it tighter then we have ourselves a winner.

We’ve discussed their good record against the top 6, they’ve gone to Spurs and won as well as gaining points at Old Trafford and The Emirates. In fact, if you’d have placed this bet on all of Wolves’ 21 games this season then you wouldn’t have lost money as they’ve not been beaten by three clear goals so far.

Man City know they’re in a title race and I feel they’ll take a win by a single goal if it was offered to them. Key players Vincent Kompany and Aguero aren’t guaranteed to start either. I feel Nuno as a manager and the majority of the Wolves squad see themselves as more than good enough to compete with the big boys.

Best Bets

Manchester City v Wolves – Wolves +2 Asian Handicap (1/1 BetVictor)

Manchester City v Wolves – Matt Doherty to have 1+ shot on target (12/5 Coral)

*Manchester City v Wolves – Fabien Delph to be carded (13/2 Betfair)

*Manchester City v Wolves – Aymeric Laporte to be carded (13/2 Bet365)

*Manchester City v Wolves – Oleksander Zinchenko (8/1 SkyBet)

*Whoever starts at left Back for Man City

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