When Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan bought Manchester City Football Club in September 2008, he probably envisaged summer tours like the one the Citizens are currently undergoing.
Travelling to Asia for a pre-season jolly as Premier League champions, City have enjoyed a productive trip, benefiting from the kind of exposure and welcome that only comes with being a successful football club.
It would have been unthinkable just five years ago, but City now have the pulling power to be big players on the world scene and the reception the club has been given on their travels shows that even if they still have some way to go before rivalling the clubs that are traditionally popular overseas – such as Manchester United and Liverpool – City are well on their way to becoming a genuine global force.
Of course, it would be stupid to believe the influx of cash from Sheikh Mansour isn’t the primary reason for City’s popularity, but the club are going about maximising their position in the most profitable way: their stay in China was a huge success and upon arrival in Malaysia, hordes of fans have mobbed the team everywhere they have gone, with an open training session in Kuala Lumpur filling the stadium.
It all means City have been giving off the feel of a genuinely massive club and as long as the Shiekh is around to splash the cash and keep the team competitive, City are going to continue to ‘enhance their brand’ – that horrible phrase that is uppermost in the minds of the money men at all the top clubs in modern football.
The final match in their Asian stay comes on Monday, when they face a Malaysia XI in Kuala Lumpur. Understandably, City are incredibly strong favourites at 1/10, with the Malaysians priced up as huge 15/1 outsiders. The draw is quoted at 25/4, and from a betting point of view there are slim pickings to be had.
With the exception of captain Vincent Kompany, who has travelled back to the UK as a precaution after a picking up a slight calf strain in the 2-0 win over Arsenal on Friday, manager Roberto Mancini has a full squad to choose from and the champions of England will obviously have too much for Malaysia XI, who were beaten 2-1 by the Gunners last week.
Malaysia put up a decent fight in that match, leading 1-0 until the 87th minute, but that was Arsenal’s first pre-season outing and rustiness was evident. The hosts just don’t possess the quality to trouble City unduly or the defensive solidity to keep Mancini’s team at bay.
City are going to win comfortably, so it is just a case of trying to find a betting angle. All the markets on a high-scoring City victory are just too short for you to bother with (over 2.5 goals is an incredibly miserly 7/25, for example), so it may be worth having a small go – and I’d advise to keep the stake on the small side – on the evens that there are under 3.5 goals.
Only twice in their last 22 away trips in all competitions (cups and friendlies included) has a City match produced more than three goals – 11 of those have actually featured one goal or less – so it may be worth gambling that City, still concentrating on fitness ahead of the new season, don’t have the inclination to go for the throat and rack up a big score.
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