While most of us will still be struggling with the previous day’s excesses, Manchester City will be busy working off their Christmas turkey with a tough trip to Sunderland.
Having only just squeezed past bottom club Reading at the weekend, Roberto Mancini will need his team to be sharper than Santa Claus if they are to avoid a Boxing Day hangover against a team who’ve finally begun to deliver themselves.
Martin O’Neill received a pre-Christmas boost from his team with their 1-0 win at Southampton, which was only their second road success of the season and their third victory in seven games.
City still remain overwhelming favourites in the 3Way football betting market at 6/4, while the home side could prove a potentially generous gift from the bwin oddsmakers at 11/2, with the draw at 4/1.
As ever, Sunderland’s hopes of pulling off the upset seem to rest with leading scorer Steven Fletcher. His weekend winner at St Mary’s was his eighth of the campaign and Sunderland are yet to win a game this season in which the Scotsman hasn’t scored.
Odds of 13/4 Fletcher to score at any time look good value, but whether that will be enough against the second most-potent attack in the division is another question.
Before cutting it fine with their late 1-0 win over Reading, City had averaged just under two goals per game this season and another two-goal show or better for the visitors is 57/100.
But while City have been getting it done in front of goal, they are yet to find a consistent source of finishing this campaign, with Mancini recently lamenting he has “four strikers who can’t score”.
Out-of-favour Mario Balotelli seems to offer the least value at 5/2 to score at any time, while Argentine duo Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero are 2/1 and 19/20 respectively, but personally I think Eden Dzeko is the best bet at 6/5.
So many times over the past two seasons Dzeko has bailed out City with late goals that he has earned the (somewhat unwelcome) title of ‘supersub’ and another final strike of a game from the Bosnian is 17/4.
Given the potential tightness of the game from two teams desperate for points, those looking for extra value should back Dzeko to provide the only strike of another 1-0 City triumph at 21/1.
New customers using the free £20 bet they receive when registering with bwin would win an incredible £420 should Dzeko prove the difference maker for the seventh time in 2012.
Regardless of who gets the goals for City, with points so important in pursuit of their table-topping neighbours, I’m backing Mancini’s men to keep it tight and pull off the victory in a game of under 2.5 goals at 14/5.