If the difficulty of predicting what is going to happen in pre-season friendlies ever needed emphasising, you only need to look at what happened at Boundary Park on Tuesday evening.
Manchester City, they of unlimited funds and a plethora of world-class talent, were beaten by Oldham Athletic. Yes, the mighty Premier League champions really were felled by their local rivals from the middle of the table in League One and despite the presence of Roque Santa Cruz, it wasn’t a reserve side that faced the Latics, either.
Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott, James Milner, Gael Clichy, Nigel de Jong and Samir Nasri all started for City, who lost 2-1 after briefly levelling through Santa Cruz (no, really).
Granted, those players mentioned were all just returning from their Euro 2012 exploits, but it was still a team that should be beating Paul Dickov’s side and it was a great result for Oldham, not to mention the bookies (if anyone had bothered to take the short odds-on about City).
It just goes to show how these pre-season matches can throw up results you would never expect. Even when players are fully fit and raring to go, football provides outcomes you can’t explain. Of course, that is why we love the sport (and betting on it!), but it underlines the fact that pre-season is not the time to be throwing big stakes around. You have the rest of the season to lose your money, hang on to it for a bit longer, at least.
But having said all that, City are going to beat Wolfsburg in their next friendly, aren’t they? I don’t see how they could come unstuck and the odds compilers at bwin obviously agree, making the Citizens the 31/50 favourites to bounce back from their midweek defeat. The German side are 29/10 to hand out a second straight defeat to Roberto Mancini’s side, with the draw at 12/5.
Before that loss to Oldham, City had been cruising through pre-season and even without their Euro 2012 contingent, Mancini has still been able to call upon Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Yaya Toure and other world-class stars as victories have been racked up with ease.
Four wins (one against Arsenal) and a draw, with just one goal conceded, is fine pre-season form and City should have no issue in beating Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena.
The German side finished eighth in the Bundesliga last season but things haven’t been straightforward for coach Felix Magath since. The former Bayern Munich coach has seen his former side steal Mario Mandzukic, the Croatia international who finished joint-top scorer at this summer’s European Championships with three goals. To make matters worse, the Croatian has already scored against Wolfsburg in a friendly defeat to Bayern last week – while the club also still has issues with Brazilian playmaker Diego.
The former Juventus star was on loan at Atletico Madrid last year and has returned to Germany seemingly against his will, with Magath critical of the player’s fitness levels amid uncertainty about his future.
Wolfsburg have let in nine goals in five friendly matches this summer, losing three of them, and don’t look equipped to deal with City’s attacking prowess.
For that reason, the 9/5 on Manchester City to be leading at half time and full time looks good to me.
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