Manchester United host rivals Manchester City in the EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday in a 7:45pm kick-off at Old Trafford.
Both sides come into the meeting in excellent form, with United unbeaten in 11 domestic matches and City unbeaten in their last 11 matches overall.
Despite being at home, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are 5/2 to underdogs to win the tie, with City evens. The draw and ensuing extra-time (and potentially penalties) is considered a 11/4 shot.
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City have failed to beat United in four of the last five meetings between the sides, but did overcome their city rivals in last season’s two-legged EFL Cup semi-final 3-2 on aggregate after a barn-storming 3-1 win at Old Trafford in the first leg.
Pep Guardiola’s side looked in tremendous form at Chelsea on Sunday, too, so I think they are right to be favourites and it’s actually a mild surprise to see them as an odds-against shot once again.
Despite the fact they have failed to score against United in the last three meetings, I do expect that run to end tonight against a United defence which never really convinces me.
Eric Bailly’s pace does make Solskjaer’s side harder to score against, but he could be rested tonight with Victor Lindelof back in training this week. Either way, with Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling seemingly finding form once again, I’d be surprised to see a United clean sheet.
However, I’ll back Over 1 Goal for Both Teams Combined instead just in case United take the lead and prove a tough nut to crack, as I would certainly expect City to be in the opposite scenario given their increasing solidity in defence and long-standing ability to take the sting out of games. Either way, it’s difficult to see the game ending 1-0, with either the side chasing likely to find an equaliser or find themselves all but out of the game once they leave a few too many gaps in defence.
All 11 meetings between these sides since Guardiola took charge in 2016, meanwhile, have seen both teams receive at least one card each, so I will also back this despite Martin Atkinson officiating the clash.
The 49-year-old is only averaging 2.30 cards per game across his 13 Premier League games this season, but encouragingly more than half (seven) of those games have seen both sides receive a card each, while the fact this is a winner-takes-all derby cup match increases the likelihood of a high card count (as we saw with Tottenham versus Brentford last night).
With this in mind, I’ll also back Over 2 Cards for Both Teams Combined, especially as Atkinson showed nine (!) the last time he refereed this clash in April 2018, to give us a 4/5 shot:
If you want a couple of odds-against shots I like the look of, Kevin De Bruyne, Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes each to have a shot on target each has been boosted to 4/1 with Sky Bet. Fernandes and De Bruyne both take free-kicks and penalties for their respective sides while possessing a threat from range in open play, with Fernandes and Rashford both testing the opposition goalkeeper at least once in eight of their last nine league starts, and De Bruyne in six of his last seven. The Belgian was deployed up front against Chelsea and could be again, making this even better value.
If you’re less sure about Rashford, De Bruyne and Fernandes 1+ each is 6/4 (Betfair).
Another bet I like the look of is BTTS & 2+ cards each team at 10/3 (bet365). Six of the last 11 meetings have seen both teams receive two or more cards each (including both League Cup ties last season), with six also seeing both teams to score landing.
In terms of player cards, Harry Maguire has frequently been carded against City throughout his career, including in the 0-0 last month, so I’m surprised to see him at 7/2 (Betfair). Rodri was booked in both League Cup ties last year, meanwhile, and is 10/3 (Betfair), with the double paying 20/1. The pair have seven bookings in the Premier League between them this season.
Should Fernandinho start, I think he would also have to be backed given he has been booked more than any other player in this meeting since Guardiola took charge (including last month). Fred and Luke Shaw are other options depending on team news.