For all the ups and downs, the famous wins, the crushing setbacks, the mind games, the eight-point deficits, the Premier League season boils down to this – Manchester City will be crowned champions if they beat Queens Park Rangers at the Etihad on Sunday.
And the reality is that it is case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. Roberto Mancini’s men have been the best side in the Premier League this season and it is inconceivable they will not clinch their first top-flight title since 1968.
Odds of 3/25 tell you how likely that outcome is and there aren’t going to be many takers for the 31/4 on the draw or the 15/1 that QPR can produce a miracle, perhaps other than a few deluded Manchester United fans who are probably still wondering how their side managed to bottle an eight-point lead with just six games left.
Credit must go to City for coming back from the dead and their title will be a deserved one. There have been below-par days, for sure, but there have been no hammerings, no desperate home defeats and no throwing away of two-goal leads like their rivals from across Manchester.
There is something fitting about the fact that with the league set to be won on goal difference, City’s 6-1 win at Old Trafford is the defining match of the title race after all.
City showed their class at Newcastle last Sunday and after doing the hard part in winning 2-0 in the north-east, Sunday is going to be a procession against a QPR side who are going to need Stoke to do them a favour by getting a result at home to Bolton Wanderers in order to avoid an immediate return to the Championship.
Trips to Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton, Sunderland and West Brom hardly rank among the Premier League’s toughest assignments. Rangers have let in 20 goals during those games and they don’t stand a chance of keeping the score down.
It leaves Mark Hughes staring down the barrel of the worst day of his professional life. Sacked by City in December 2009 (and rightly so, despite his and his agent Kia Joorabchian’s continual protestations to the contrary), he faces the prospect of Mancini, with whom there is no love lost, both winning the title and relegating him on the same afternoon. It is fair to say it wasn’t what he expected upon taking over from Neil Warnock in January.
Hughes has been unable to turn around QPR’s away form, which could be their undoing. The Hoops have the worst away record in the division, having picked up only 11 points in 18 games, but all their wins came under Warnock: Hughes has taken one point from 24 and trips to Aston Villa, Blackburn, Bolton, Sunderland and West Brom hardly rank among the Premier League’s toughest assignments.
Rangers have let in 20 goals during those games and they don’t stand a chance of keeping the score down. City have won dropped just two points in 18 home games this season, scoring 52 goals and keeping 11 clean sheets – formidable form that QPR will not be able to contain.
It is just a case of getting value on a City win and I’d suggest the 19/20 on a home win despite giving QPR a two-goal head start is the way to play. Mancini’s men have rattled in 30 goals in nine fixtures at home against the bottom half sides and look good to score at least another three.
The way QPR defended during the 6-1 defeat to Chelsea last time out suggests that if City turn it on this could end up being a mauling, so I would also advise having a little go on the 333/100 that City win 4-0, 5-0 or 6-0, leaving Hughes praying for good news from the Britannia.
Recommended bet: Manchester City to win by three goals or more @ 19/20
Outside punt: Manchester City to win 4-0, 5-0 or 6-0 @ 333/100
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