The Capital One Cup might have its detractors among the bigger clubs, but there is every chance that both Manchester City and Aston Villa might view Tuesday’s third-round tie at the Etihad Stadium as a welcome distraction from their relative troubles in the Premier League.
Although their goals may have been very different, optimism and confidence was high at both clubs over the summer months – obviously so in City’s case as they went into a season as top-flight champions for the first time since 1968, but also at Villa, where Paul Lambert had replaced the universally unpopular and out-of-his-depth Alex McLeish to the joy of Villans fans everywhere.
But things haven’t gone exactly to plan at either club so far. Admittedly, that may be stretching it a little where City are concerned, especially when you look at the table and see they are yet to lose a game this season, but there is no doubt that manager Roberto Mancini is unhappy with the start of his side’s title defence.
Two wins and three draws from five matches tells its own story and there have been occasions – particularly in a 2-2 draw away at Liverpool and Sunday’s 1-1 stalemate with Arsenal – when results have flattered Mancini’s men and so far City have not found any of the panache that characterised much of last season.
The Italian has pointed out that the late nature of the transfer activity hasn’t helped (neither has the fact the late transfer activity doesn’t seem to have been so astute) and Sergio Aguero’s injury was also a blow. But City need to step it up both at home and (lest we forget the calamitous late defeat to Real Madrid) abroad, so they can ill afford a home defeat to Aston Villa, even if the Capital One Cup is bottom of Mancini’s priority list.
Not that a defeat looks likely, judging by the odds. A home win is 7/25, with the draw at 17/4 and an away victory priced at 9/1, and there is little to suggest that the visitors can cause an upset here.
If he didn’t already know it, Lambert has a job on his hands at Villa, a club who have been in slow decline for a number of reasons for the last two-and-a-half years and the former Norwich boss is not going to turn it around over night. There have been some encouraging displays, but the bad has far outweighed the good and as Villa go to the Etihad on the back of a 4-1 thumping at Southampton, you have to fear for their chances.
Both teams are sure to make a raft of changes (probably 11 in City’s case) but the Citizens took this competition seriously last season, losing in the semi-final to Liverpool, and the depth of Mancini’s squad means that Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez, Jack Rodwell, Gareth Barry and others could come back into the side and no matter what team they go with, it will be too strong for the Midlanders.
City have won five of the last six fixtures between the two clubs and have beaten Villa 11 times out of the last 12 meetings in all competitions in Manchester by an aggregate score of 30-6. With this in mind, the 3/4 that City are leading at half-time as well as the final whistle has to be the bet and a little punt on the 3-1 correct score is worth the smallest of plays. City are yet to keep a clean sheet this term and a much-changed side may concede once again.
Recommended bet: Man City/Man City @ 3/4
Outside punt: Manchester City to win 3-1 @ 35/4
New customers can register here to claim a free £20 bet or click here to see all our Capital One Cup odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwin