LEAGUE ONE outfit Oxford welcome defending champions Manchester City to the Kassam Stadium on Wednesday night for an EFL Cup quarter-final showdown. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.
Oxford v Manchester City | Wednesday 18th December 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Manchester City will be keen to build on their weekend stroll in the park at the Emirates when they make another trip south to play League One side Oxford for a place in the EFL Cup semi-finals.
Pep Guardiola’s men hardly broke sweat in Sunday’s victory, cruising to a comfortable 3-0 lead and then putting in a professional second half performance to see the game out with the minimum of fuss. Although the line-up from that match could change significantly in this cup tie, City will be keen to avoid a repeat of that 1-0 defeat at Wigan nearly two years ago so too much rotation could, although unlikely, prove costly.
City like all teams have a hectic Christmas and New Year fixture schedule so will need to use their squad wisely and with a crucial match against Leicester to come on Saturday, the likes of Ederson, Benjamin Mendy, Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling all certain to drop out and be replaced by the likes of Claudio Bravo, Oleksandr Zinchenko, Eric Garcia and Riyad Mahrez who will all be eager for more game time.
A player I like to get on the scoresheet is Mahrez, scoring in City’s trip to Oxfordshire last season in the third round of this competition and causing all sorts of problems for the United backline.
On a per-90 minutes basis, the Algerian is averaging a goal every other game in the Premier League against far superior teams and I’d expect him, if starting on the right wing, to really get at Oxford’s left-back Josh Ruffels on cut inside to get several efforts on goal away with his stronger left foot.
Ruffels had a poor game in the weekend defeat to MK Dons and will know he’s in for much tougher time during this game so the 5/4 with Coral on Mahrez to score anytime is one selection I’ll be taking up.
This is the biggest game for many a year for Karl Robinson’s Oxford, playing in front of a sell-out crowd at the Kassam Stadium knowing that a two-legged semi-final is just 90 minutes away if they can pull off some heroics in this tie.
The Liverpudlian’s side’s only defeat in the three months since the 4-0 win over West Ham in round three came this past weekend in Milton Keynes, a performance and result which could well be put down to the United players having more than one eye on Wednesday’s cup tie and their chance to impress on a national stage.
The biggest concern from Robinson’s perspective will surely be the recent lack of goals, just one in the past four games after such a prolific run which preceded that.
The Citizens have won their last five League Cup ties against lower league opposition without conceding and given that they are likely to have over 70% possession here and the fact that Oxford only registered a single shot in the 3-0 defeat to Wednesday’s opponents back in September 2018, I think City to win ‘to nil' at 21/20 with Betway should come into play, which is a shortening price.
Oxford play a keep-ball game under Robinson, recording the highest percentage possession at home of any side in League One (56.7% on average) but should they play City at their own game here, they will be ruthlessly punished.
The signs do not point to another giant-killing which would more than trump the defeats of West Ham, Newcastle and Millwall in recent years despite the Manchester club looking less imperious than last season and should the away side score early, a 3 or 4 goal winning margin is not out of the question.
A repeat of the 3-0 scoreline the last time these two teams met, the same score City won by at Arsenal and at Preston in round three, is 15/2 with BetVictor but for a bit more coverage should the sky blues go one better, 4-0 is 17/2 with Betfair so I will look to back both.