The FA Cup returns this weekend at the quarter-finals stage and the 7/4 favourites to lift the famous trophy in May are Manchester City, who must overcome lower-league opposition in the form of Barnsley.
This has been a season of frustration for Roberto Mancini’s world-class squad as they are 12 points off the pace of Manchester United in the league and performed woefully in the Champions League and Capital One Cup, making early exits in both.
As a result, the FA Cup is the one and only trophy left which City have genuine hopes of winning, so unfortunately for Barnsley it is expected that the home side will name a near full-strength side for the match.
This will more than likely mean a combination of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez will lead the line at the Etihad Stadium, which is a worrying thought for the Yorkshire visitors as they have scored a combined 30 goals between them in the Premier League and are responsible for half of the eight goals City have notched in the FA Cup so far against Watford, Stoke City and Leeds United.
It is no surprise, then, to see the trio lead the goalscoring markets, with Argentine pair Aguero and Tevez both priced at 1/2 by bwin to score at any time, with Dzeko the third favourite to grab a goal at 3/5.
If you think those odds are short, that’s nothing compared to the 7/50 that says Man City will win the game in 90 minutes.
This is in stark contrast to the 16/1 on Barnsley stealing an unlikely victory or even a draw, which is priced at 13/2 in bwin’s 3-way betting market, and in truth, any kind of result for a Tykes side that sit 22nd in the Championship really would be one of the shocks of the season.
If the game was being played a few weeks ago, then David Flitcroft’s side might have stood more of a chance as they recently went on a nine-match unbeaten run, but a return of one point from three subsequent games has dragged them back into the relegation fight.
Perhaps the most worrying feature about these past three matches is the nine goals which they have conceded, as the last thing you need against a City side who have struck 51 times this term is a porous defence.
The omens, then, do not bode well for Barnsley as they make their way across the Pennines and their previous trip to the Etihad Stadium won’t give them any encouragement either.
In 2004, City trounced the Tykes 7-1 in the League Cup and when they last met in the league in 2002, City won 5-1 at Maine Road.
So judging by history, Saturday could be more of an exercise in saving face for the Championship side than anything else as a demoralising defeat will do no good for their fight to stay in England’s second tier.
With the above in mind, the top bet for this match is City to score three or more times, which they have done on both previous occasions when facing lower-league opposition in the FA Cup this term (a 3-0 win over Watford and a 4-0 thumping of Leeds).
This selection is surely lump-on material at 3/5, but if you want a slightly longer price, Barnsley failing to score against the Premier League’s meanest defence is a 3/4 chance and should also bring home the bacon.