Manchester City host West Bromwich Albion at the Etihad Stadium tonight in a match that means precious little as far as the Premier League goes, which suits one of these sides just fine. You don’t have to be a genius to work out which one.
Because as nearly half of the division watch Wigan Athletic’s match with Swansea City from behind the couch and between their fingers, West Brom can go to the newly-dethroned champions knowing that the relegation battle is nothing to do with them, and hasn’t been their concern at any stage of the season.
Ever since a comprehensive 3-0 win over Liverpool on the first day of the season, the Baggies have been in the top eight of the division as rookie boss Steve Clarke continually made a mockery of those pre-season doom-mongers that predicted a year of struggle in his first season as a number one.
Instead, West Brom have played some great stuff, picked up some very impressive results (certainly at the Hawthorns) and the fact they look set to cement a top-eight finish to go with their record points total is testament to what a great season it has been at Albion.
For City, the league campaign has been poor, but this has been reinforced by all and sundry over the last few months (none more so than by yours truly), and going into the last three weeks of the season with nothing to play for tells you everything you need to know.
Nothing to play for in the league, anyhow, as most City eyes will be on the FA Cup final on Saturday, when, all things being equal, Mancini will win the trophy for a second time to secure his third major trophy in his three full seasons in charge of the club.
The Italian has been at pains to stress that three trophies in three years should shield him from criticism, as would a second-placed finish in the Premier League.
With Chelsea playing well, City still need some results to ensure that and they should do enough to get a victory over West Brom at the Etihad.
Odds of 2/5 are giving nothing away, though, considering Mancini may rest some players with Saturday in mind, but I will still look towards a home win rather than the draw at 15/4 or the away win at 6/1.
Even if Mancini does rotate his side, he is still able to put more quality on the pitch than his opposite number and I expect a routine win for City.
You have to remember how good the Citizens’ home record is: 40 wins and just one defeat in 46 games, and that to Manchester United, too, is astonishing, and you just can’t back against them with such a record.
Of those 40 wins, 27 have been achieved without conceding a goal, so the 29/20 that City win to nil looks like the way to get some value here.
Punters registering with bwin today can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on the hosts to prevail without conceding would return £49 if successful.
Nine times in their 17 home league matches this term Mancini’s men have won while keeping a clean sheet, and they have actually won to nil in nine of their last 11 at the Etihad in all competitions.
The Baggies have lost nine times on the road this year, while their away form against the division’s better sides is poor: Clarke’s men have lost six of the eight games where they have travelled to a top-half side, winning just once.
Albion have only managed six goals in those eight games and with City looking miserly at the back, the 29/20 on a home win and a clean sheet looks like the way to go.