Manchester City’s season could be on the brink of an implosion unless they can find their form in the Champions League this week. Following an explosive loss to Chelsea in the Premier League, during which Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho were sent off for City, Pep Guardiola’s side looks to be in trouble.
Fourth in the Premier League after 14 games thanks to two losses and three draws, the Sly Blues are starting to look like long shots for domestic success. With that reality starting to set in, the pressure will now be on in the Champions League. Up until this point in the season, City’s fans were able to forgive a lacklustre European campaign because Premier League glory was a distinct possibility.
However, with the tide turning against the Manchester side, expectations in the Champions League will now be heightened. Under normal circumstances, a showdown with Scottish outfit Celtic would be the perfect way for Manchester City to rally and get back on track. But, through a combination of current pressure and previous performances, things might not be so simple when the two sides meet on December 6.
Last time out it was the Scottish champions who pressed the action inside Celtic Park. Within three minutes the home site went ahead through Moussa Dembele and by halftime the match was poised at 2-2. Although City was able to re-find their form in the second half, the game finished 3-3. Naturally, a point in Group C means different things to different teams, and while Celtic fans went home smiling, the same couldn’t be said for City’s faithful.
Although Guardiola has managed to fire a rocket up his team’s proverbial in subsequent Champions League matches, the fact remains that City are second in the group and in danger of being overtaken by Borussia Mönchengladbach. Whichever way you slice it, City are under pressure and that could tell when the two teams meet this week. Although the latest betting line at Sun Bets would suggest otherwise, this game could actually be closer than many expect.
Indeed, a £10 bet on Man City with Sun Bets would currently return you a relatively meagre profit of £3.33 (1/3 odds). In contrast, £10 the opposite way would net you an infinitely more impressive £85 return (15/2). In fact, when you look out across the rest of the betting world, you’ll see a similar story. Ladbrokes also have Manchester City as the 1/3 and Celtic at 8/1, while Sky Bet will give you identical odds on the Sky Blues but 7/1 on Scotland’s finest.
Of course, as we all know, the odds only tell half the story. We already know that City is a team on the back foot. The recent 3-1 defeat to Chelsea could obviously generate one of two reactions. Either City will come out against Celtic with their heads down, or they’ll be hungry to bounce back and fight for some success this season.
In contrast, Celtic recently came through a similarly explosive match at Motherwell with a 4-3 victory. Although it wasn’t the prettiest of performances, Brendan Rogers’ side did manage to clinch all three points and that could be extremely important on December 6. If we compare City’s and Celtic’s Champions League stats this season, the former’s are far superior. City’s five games, two wins, two draws and one loss is backed up by 11 scored and nine conceded. For Celtic, no wins and 15 goals against are signs of a side struggling to match the firepower of Europe’s top clubs.
Unsurprisingly, it’s these stats which have helped to make Man City the heavy betting favourites. But, if we look beyond the numbers, there could be a glint of optimism for Celtic fans. Unlike City who seemed to falter under the pressure, Celtic came through a heated game with a win. Being able to handle the pressure of a tempestuous game is a sign of a team that knows how to grind out a win in a dogfight.
If Celtic can travel to Manchester and drag their opponents into the trenches, they could easily cause an upset. A few crunching tackles, a goal against the run of play or even a refusal to roll over and play dead would really put the pressure on City. In short, any chinks in City’s armour could easily be exposed if things get heated. Now, that’s not to say Celtic will romp home if the home side lose the plot, but it does mean they have a chance.
9/2 on a draw with Sun Bets looks to be a solid bet, but if you really fancy Celtic to rattle an increasingly frail-looking City, 2-1 at 20/1 could be a great shout. Yes, it’s a long shot and no you shouldn’t wager too much on it. However, if you’re looking to add some extra spice to what could be an extremely entertaining game, this could be the way to go.
When all is said and done, Manchester City should come away with a comfortable win on December 6. But, if Celtic can stick the boot in and expose the obvious pressure Guardiola’s men are feeling at the moment, we might well see an upset in the Champions League.
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