Bristol City v Man Utd: Highflying Robins to put up a spirited fight

Bristol City boss Lee Johnson can claim a famous victory against Manchester United
Bristol City boss Lee Johnson can claim a famous victory against Manchester United
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Mike Norman enjoyed another successful live TV preview on Monday night with both his recommended bets obliging in the Everton v Swansea game, so our man is back on duty as he previews the EFL Cup quarter-final tie at Ashton Gate...

"The visit of Man United will obviously be Bristol City's biggest test to date, but unless Mourinho's men are fully on their game - and I just don't sense that they are currently - then I don't think a cup shock is completely out of the question."

Bristol City v Manchester United
Wednesday, 20:00
Live on Sky Sports Main Event

Highflying Robins won't lack for confidence

Bristol City will go into arguably the club's biggest cup tie in history in fine fettle and full of confidence.

True, the Robins reached a FA Cup final over 100 years ago, and they have been beaten semi-finalists in this competition on two occasions, but cup ties in the modern era don't come much bigger than hosting a star-studded Manchester United in front of your own fans, especially at this stage of the competition.

But don't think for one second that Lee Johnson's men will be overawed. The club has been a breath of fresh air in 2017, starting with the board giving Johnson their full backing when the team lost a club record eight consecutive league games.

That backing reaped immediate rewards. Johnson's men went on a superb run towards the end of last season to climb away from the relegation places, and they've carried that form into this season, currently sitting third in the Championship table after winning seven of their last nine league games.

Rather eye-catching is the impressive results Bristol City have achieved against the big boys, both in the league and the EFL Cup. Johnson's men have defeated the likes of Derby, Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Sheffield United in the Championship this season, while in this competition they already have three Premier League scalps to their name, winning at Watford before comfortably beating Stoke and Crystal Palace at Ashton Gate.

They may not have any big stars in their side, but this is a group of players with a great team spirit - go and take a look at their goal celebrations on Twitter for evidence of that - and one that is playing with incredible self belief.

Johnson will surely start with his strongest XI, which means United will have to be fully aware of the goalscoring threat of defender Aden Flint, and attacking midfielder Bobby Reid who is the team's leading goalscorer with 10 league goals to his name.


Boring maybe, but United know how to win

Louis van Gaal was right, Manchester United are boring to watch. Not all the time, but certainly a lot of times in recent months.

United's wins away at Watford and Arsenal were great games to watch, but those were hot on the heels of a poor defeat in Basel and a lacklustre 1-0 win over Brighton. And more recently they've had three single-goal wins over CSKA Moscow, Bournemouth, and West Brom, while they offered little threat in a home defeat in the Manchester derby.

But boring doesn't mean not good. United are quite the opposite in fact, they are very good at their best, and when not quite at the peak of their powers they usually get the job done. They're second in the Premier League after all, topped their Champions League group, and are in the quarter-final of this competition.

Jose Mourinho's men go into Wednesday night's tie in Bristol in almost identical form to their hosts - seven wins from their last nine games in all competitions - but you just sense that while the Robins are delighted with the way things are going, United are the complete opposite, already resigned to seeing their City rivals run away with the Premier League title.

With a trip to in-form Leicester at the weekend we can expect Mourinho to make wholesale changes for the trip to Ashton Gate, but with players like Sergio Romero, Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Anthony Martial, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all waiting in the wings and needing game time, United's starting XI can hardly be described as weak.


Hosts capable of producing a shock

Despite both clubs having a similar win percentage during the last six weeks or so there's no denying that there's a huge gulf in class between the level United are playing at, and that in which Bristol City are excelling.

It's understandable then that the visitors are strong favourites in the Match Odds market at 1.454/9, while the Robins can be backed at 8.415/2 with the Draw available at 5.24/1.

I honestly don't think this is a market to get too seriously involved in at this stage, but for a small stakes wager I'm definitely keen on Bristol City.

I think when it coems to these type of cup ties - a David v Goliath type of clash if you like - then you need everything in your favour for the underdog to prevail. Johnson's men have that. They are in fine form, they have home advantage, they have a terrific team spirit, and they've also shown they can mix it with the big boys.

The visit of Man United will obviously be their biggest test to date, but unless Mourinho's men are fully on their game - and I just don't sense that they are currently - then I don't think a cup shock is completely out of the question.


Robins on the handicap the best bet

United have dished out plenty of hidings already this season, but quite noticeable is the fact that seven of their eight victories by a three-goal margin or more came before the end of September. In the last three months they've either failed to win or won by just a single-goal margin on no fewer than 11 occasions.

Some of the teams included in those 11 games are the likes of Brighton, Huddersfield, Bournemouth, and West Brom, so you'd have to give Bristol City a serious chance of avoiding a heavy defeat on Wednesday night given their big-game mentality.

The Robins put three past Watford away from home earlier in the season, comfortably beat Stoke 2-0, and put four past improving Crystal Palace in the last round. And two of their most eye-catching results in the Championship were when they went to runaway leaders Wolves and scored three, and followed it up the next week by thrashing highflying Derby 4-1 at Ashton Gate.

This is a team that rises to the occasion, and I just don't envisage United running away with this. Backing Bristol City with a two-goal start at 1.84/5 allows for a home win, a draw, or any away win by a single-goal margin.


Goals should flow but the market reflects that

Over 2.5 Goals should be available to back at around the 1.75/7 mark come kick-off, which I can't argue with, but the Yes option in the Both Teams to Score market is currently trading at 1.865/6, and should be available at around the 1.910/11 mark come tomorrow night.

What those two prices suggest is that - with United being odds-on favourites to win - at least three goals being scored is more likely than Bristol City getting on the scoresheet. I don't agree with that at all.

The Robins are a bit like the Man City of the Championship when it comes to scoring goals; they have a five, fours, and plenty of threes to their name already this term and they've averaged over two goals scored in their last 10 matches.

I expect the game to have goals, but I also expect the home side to net, so backing Both Teams to Score at 1.910/11 (getting the 1-1 outcome on side also) makes a lot more sense than backing Over 2.5 Goals at 1.75/7.


Mike's Individual Match Preview P/L (all competitions)

Staked: 27 pts
Returned: 45.52 pts
P/L: +18.52 pts

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