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EPL Betting Preview: Manchester City vs. Manchester United

Soccer

Although Manchester City are a ways off the top of the table, trailing leaders Liverpool by 11 points through 15 games, and Manchester United are off to a stuttering start, this remains one of the biggest game’s on the English soccer calendar. Let’s take a look at the two teams and try to get an idea of what we can expect on Saturday afternoon.

Manchester City are listed as a heavy -365 home favorite on the money line, and despite a worse-than-expected start to the season, there’s good reason why. In seven home games, Manchester City have gone 5-1-1, outscoring opponents 19-5. After a blip in form that saw City draw both Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League and lowly Newcastle United in the EPL, the team reasserted itself in midweek, with a 4-1 thrashing of BurnleyAlthough, it looks a tough ask to recover from an 11-point deficit to a magnificent Liverpool team, City will still have belief. Although they do have to travel to face Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions league the following Wednesday, City have already qualified for the knockout stages of that tournament, and should be fully focused for this rivalry game.

Manchester United, meanwhile, delivered its first quality win since a 4-0 victory over Chelsea on opening day, by beating former manager Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham side 2-1. United looked as good as they have in months in that match, and the pace of its frontline caused serious problems. Marcus Rashford, in particular, was brilliant. Manchester City have already conceded 17 goals this season, and have shown some weakness dealing with the speed of the likes of Liverpool’s Sadie Mane. Rashford’s ability to stretch the field is one attacking area where Manchester United could have some success. United, too, play midweek, against AZ Alkmaar in the Europa league, but look comfortable in that competition so far, and will be desperate to put up a top performance in this one. 

That said, there are some serious gaps in quality that could see United, a massive +950 underdog, struggle against its rival. Since September 2016, Manchester United have only beaten City once in six EPL matches, and that only win came as a result of a brilliant comeback performance led by Paul Pogba, who has been ruled out through injury. City are perfectly built to exacerbate Manchester United’s weaknesses. At the full-back position, especially if Ashley Young has to start, United just do not have the personnel to cope with City’s awesomely quick interchanging possession style of play. In midfield, City star Kevin De Bruyne is miles ahead of anyone United can throw at him, and his ability to play through the lines could be devastating against United. Against Tottenham, United played basically a two-man midfield, with Scott McTominay and Fred. Jesse Lingard operated in a primarily advanced position for most of the game. It’s difficult to imagine a system like that will work against De Bruyne and the City midfield, particularly with City playing at home. United have an enormously tough decision to make. Either it can try to attack, and leave themselves exposed on the counter-attack, or it can sit back and let City go to work.  

While Manchester United’s season has been a disappointment in many ways, the underlying numbers suggest the two teams might actually be a little closer, performance-wise. United have the largest negative gap between its expected point total and its actual point total. Sitting on 21 points through 15 games, Manchester United have an expected point total of 28.36. City have taken 32 points from its first 15, and have an expected points total of 35.52. A substantial gap still, to be sure, but it is something United bettors can hold onto here. One possibility to consider is to look to United on the spread. Bettors can currently get even money on +1.5 in this matchup. Keeping in mind the size and importance of this matchup, it could play a little cagier than most Manchester City games. In the last six games played between these two teams, City have gone 4-1-1, but have only won by two goals twice. There may also be the possibility to play on United at +1.5, while taking the over on the total of 3 goals. It’s a very conservative play, but Manchester City have not recorded a shutout in its last seven games. If United can keep this trend going, you could not lose both bets. However, United’s bad start does give one pause in this spot. After all, the team is simply desperate for points. United are already eight points back of Chelsea for the final Champions League spot. Should City get in front, as the oddsmakers clearly think it will, United could be forced to attack, and could leave themselves open to a convincing defeat. It’s never easy to bet over a total of three goals, but United have also struggled to keep a clean sheet, giving up at least one goal in the last ten games.