It’s no wonder that Premier League managers despise the international break. One minute you’re delivering arguably your best performance of the season and the next thing you know, your players are whisked off to all corners of the globe, not to be seen again for almost a fortnight.
It must also be pretty perturbing when, during that hiatus, your midfield schemer pulls his hamstring and your best striker and current first-choice right-back have to haul themselves back from South America, while your goalkeeper, right-winger and the bloke that’s going to replace your midfield schemer are stuck in Poland because some clown forgot to close the stadium roof.
All of which comes before a testing seven-day return to club duties with a trip to a side with a 100% home record and a must-win away game in the Champions League. If it is tough getting to the top of English football, then Roberto Mancini and Manchester City are finding out how hard it is to stay there.
There won’t be much sympathy for a club that has outspent the rest on achieving that status and this sentiment will presumably be shared by West Bromwich Albion, who host the champions on Saturday. There are games you don’t want following an international break and ahead of a crucial Champions League tie, and in both regards, a trip to the Hawthorns most definitely falls into this category for City.
Four home wins on the bounce – including comprehensive victories over Liverpool and Everton – have put the Baggies in sixth spot, just a point adrift of City, and bwin’s 3way football betting market has Steve Clarke’s men at a lengthy 4/1 to be above them by the final whistle.
A price of 7/10 for the away win won’t make you rich, although the Citizens’ away form isn’t as bad as has been made out in some quarters. They have picked up 14 points from 18 stretching back to the end of last season but over the past 12 months, it’s only been six wins from 16 and few games will be played under the duress of this weekend’s clash.
If you fancy West Brom, then my advice is to get on it sharpish as those odds may tumble in the coming days, depending on the side Mancini looks set to send out. The likes of Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell could be needed to show their worth in trying conditions and you can make good money on West Brom to avoid defeat at 23/20.
There’s no denying City are a class act when they get going, but with split intentions and glitches post-internationals, I think the Baggies will have enough boing in them for a draw and 1-1 stands out at 11/2. If you bang your free £20 bet after registering with bwin on the 1-1 draw, you’ll land yourself £250 if that particular result comes in.
Last time they were on the road, the Sky Blues were strong, if not stylish, in coming from a goal down to beat Fulham and prior to that they were also rocky at Stoke and Liverpool. With no shut-outs in away games all season, City might need to score at least twice to claim the spoils, with a 2-1 victory at 29/4 worth a look.
However, I will be having a dabble on the Baggies to secure at least a draw, plus a small additional play on a 1-1 result which would represent another triumph in the encouraging early stages of Clarke’s tenure at the Hawthorns.