It’s a tale of two cities – or at least two clubs within a city – on Tuesday night as the red and blue half of Manchester tackle Match Day Two in the Champions League.
City’s season has continued from where they left off last season – imperiously brushing aside what the Premier League throws at them before getting a knee in the nuts from Europe’s best.
United in contrast seem in perpetual crisis, like some turgid TV reality show where manager Jose Mourinho will be voted out as soon as a break in their schedule allows.
Despite all the madness – there’s always money to be made.
Manchester City crave the Champions League more than Piers Morgan hogs the limelight, but things haven’t quite gone to plan.
A home defeat by Lyon in their European opener, rocked Pep Guardiola’s team back on their heels after a gentle romp to the top of the Premier League.
Unlike United, City have returned to business as usual in their domestic competitions – scoring 10 goals and conceding none against Cardiff, Oxford United and Brighton. So far, so predictable.
But a couple of stats have emerged in the Citizens’ last four Champions League game that might just help us to turn the odds in our favour on Tuesday night.
The first is that five of City’s last six Champions League games have produced exactly three goals.
And from that five, four of them ended in 2-1 defeats for City. The other stat that shouldn’t have you rushing to back the away side at 4/11 is that City have lost their last four Champions League games.
Aguero & Co. cannot afford another defeat so early in Group F – particularly if Lyon capitalise on home advantage against Shakhtar Donetsk, so they may well keep it tight if they go a goal up.
We’re going to dodge calling the winner and plump instead for under 3.5 goals in the game at 8/11 as the first leg of our Manchester double.
It seems a long time ago now that this United side ran out comfortable 3-0 winners in Switzerland against Young Boys before the schizophrenic displays returned with defeats at home to Derby and away to West Ham to leave Jose Mourinho tottering on the edge.
Given those performances and the poisonous atmosphere that surrounds the club, the 4/6 gamble on them beating a well-drilled Valencia side has almost zero appeal.
While The Red Devils have reasonably strong home form in the competition winning their three games at Old Trafford in last year’s group phase 3-0, 2-0 & 2-1 (v Basel, Benfica & CSKA Moscow respectively), they were eliminated 1-2 at home by Sevilla last season, having failed to score in the first leg.
United are there for the taking it seems.
Valencia had their own problems to contend with at home to a 10-man Juventus after Ronaldo was given his marching orders, conceding two penalties in a 2-0 home defeat.
They can’t afford that on Tuesday, but if they can keep Jose’s men scoreless before the inevitable hoofing to Marouane Fellaini begins, the home support will get very restless given the recent run of results.
One goal could sink United, but the draw looks a play at 11/4 to heap more misery on Mourinho.
The double on Under 3.5 goals in Man City v Hoffenheim & Man Utd v Valencia to draw at 11/4 pays about 11/2.
*Prices correct at publication.