Manchester City welcome Blackburn to the Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon aiming to carry on where they left off against FC Porto, their 4-0 mauling against the Portuguese champions proving that Roberto Mancini’s side is in rude health.
Though City will be confident ahead of their tie against Rovers – a side they mauled by the same score at Ewood Park earlier this season – they cannot afford to be complacent, lest they drop the bread-and-butter points which have so far allowed Manchester United to cling to them at the top of the table.
The bread-and-butter theme seems the perfect way of introducing a certain Yakubu Aiyegbeni, a striker who already shocked the Red Devils at Old Trafford with a sensational brace on the way to guaranteeing an unexpected 3-2 win against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.
Having netted 13 goals this season, Yakubu recently rediscovered his scoring touch against QPR, where he opened the scoring. At 5/2 to score at any time, back the Nigerian to prove once more that he is the difference between survival and relegation at Ewood Park, though braver punters might wish to chance their hand at him scoring two goals or more, an eventuality priced at 18/1.
Though Blackburn lack any consistent goalscorers besides the Nigerian, their chances of netting on Saturday look remarkably good for a relegation-threatened team: at 17/20, they are likely to find some way past City’s defence, even if it is only a consolation goal.
That said, they won’t be able to count so easily on set-pieces, one of the weapons frequently used by defensive teams looking to catch their opponents unaware early on in the match.
Dzeko has netted four goals since the start of 2012, including the only goal against Wigan and a strike against Fulham, who had held Mancini’s men to a 2-2 draw earlier in the season.
Chris Samba’s departure to big-spending Dagestan side Anzhi Makachkhala (who are rumoured to have offered Didier Drogba a deal worth £10 million a year in November) will severely handicap a side which even used to deploy him as a striker in the days when Sam Allardyce was pulling the strings.
Quickly scrolling through Blackburn’s other attacking players, however, Mauro Formica’s name seems to provide an interesting option for any punters willing to chance their hand at an outside bet.
The Argentine playmaker’s darting runs have often seen him get into interesting positions either on the edge of the box or, more importantly, on the end of Blackburn’s counter-attacks, and at 5/2 he is good value to net his fourth goal of the season.
The former Newell’s midfielder already has a few important strikes under his belt, namely the goal he scored on debut against Wolves, not to mention the (ultimately futile) volley he netted against Spurs after he’d deftly dodged past a defender to find himself unmarked in the box.
Manchester City’s attacking options have been discussed on countless occasions on this website: form would have us favour Sergio “El Kun” Aguero, who scored in both legs against Porto to see City through to the Europa League last 16, where they will meet another Portuguese side in Sporting Lisbon.
Just as Aguero’s odds (7/10 to net at least once, 5/2 for at least a brace) are too good to ignore, so are those of Edin Dzeko.
Often criticised for going for long periods of time without a goal (the last big break lasted nearly three months, from October to January), the Bosnian has also found form lately and is an interesting option when facing lower-ranked sides, some of whom have forced City to a grinding halt on occasions this season.
Dzeko has netted four goals since the start of 2012, including the only goal against Wigan and a strike against Fulham, who had held Mancini’s men to a 2-2 draw earlier in the season. At 7/10, the Bosnian can be trusted to turn the tide once more.
It might seem strange that I am also choosing to back a reinvigorated Joleon Lescott to score a surprise set-piece header: after all, his recent comments (“if you switch off for a second, he will punish you”) seem to indicate that he’ll have to concentrate all his energies on marking the deadly Yakubu.
That said, the former Everton man has finally found some consistency at the back and also gifted his side three priceless points at Villa Park last time out with a brilliantly-taken acrobatic lunge. At 5/1 to score at any time, he is worth a cheeky punt.
You can read a full betting preview of Man City v Blackburn here.
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