Man City v Barnsley
FA Cup QF - Saturday 17:30
Live on ESPN
They won't admit it, but everyone at Manchester City knows that the FA Cup is their only chance of silverware this season, and they couldn't have wished for a better tie than a home quarter-final against Championship strugglers Barnsley.
In almost a replica scenario to the previous round, City haven't played for a week, and it's another seven days before they are back in league action so there is absolutely no reason why Roberto Mancini won't play the strongest team available to him. However, it is expected that Mancini won't risk either Vincent Kompany or Sergio Aguero following recent injuries.
Barnsley boss David Flitcroft - whose brother Garry made over 140 appearances for Man City - has midfielder Stephen Dawson back from injury meaning he has virtually a full strength squad to choose from.
Two draws and a surprising loss to Southampton last month effectively took City out of the title race. They've recovered in good fashion however to win their last two league games over Chelsea and Aston Villa without conceding a goal. And it's a similar story in the FA Cup. The Citizens have won all three ties in this year's competition without conceding, two of which were at home to Championship outfits.
I referred to Barnsley as Championship strugglers in my opening paragraph, and simply looking at the league table then that is what they most certainly are. But it was only a few weeks ago that I was referring to The Tykes as one of the country's most in-form clubs. The Yorkshire outfit were unbeaten in nine a few weeks ago, but it's no wins in three currently, possibly because of having one eye on this competition.
Match Odds & Half Time markets
You won't get rich at all backing the home side at just 1.152/13, and I'm sure there's been bigger shocks in the FA Cup than the one Barnsley - 26.025/1 to win on the day - would have to produce at the Etihad, but everything being equal it is absolutely impossible to envisage anything than a comfortable win for City.
Perhaps a better way to profit is to back Man City in the Half Time market at 1.42/5, collect your winnings, and re-assess the game during the interval. Alternatively you could simply back Man City/Man City at 1.4840/85 in the Half Time/Full Time market.
Reasons for the above recommendations are simply. Other than the obvious gulf in class between the two sides, Barnsley have trailed at half time in each of their last four games since their good run of form came to an end, whereas City were two goals to the good by half time in both their FA Cup victories over Championship clubs this season.
You can never be overly confident about a side scoring a plethora of goals, especially with the possibility of players taking their foot of the gas once a game is won. Having said that, I don't think we should be too worried on that score here.
City will almost certainly be at full strength, which in itself should make them too hot to handle for Barnsley, and they'll want to build as much confidence as possible as they aim to send out a warning to Manchester United that they're not giving up on the title just yet.
If City can make an early breakthrough - just as they did against Leeds in the previous round - then I fully expect them to go on and score four or five. The Any Unquoted option can be backed at 2.56/4 in this market.
With Aguero a major doubt, and Carlos Tevez having more 'off-field' problems the last few days, a chance is taken on Edin Dzeko to get the first goal of the game. The tall Bosnian has started eight of City's last 11 games, scoring a total of six goals, three of which rewarded First Goalscorer punters.
Dzeko is available to back at around 1.910/11 in the To Score market, which isn't a bad alternative, but if he starts then he has every chance of notching first at 4.47/2.
Back Any Unquoted Correct Score @ 2.56/4
Back Man City in Half Time market @ 1.42/5
Back Edin Dzeko First Goalscorer @ 4.47/2