Newport v Manchester City: End of miracle man Flynn's FA Cup run
Rodney Parade has witnessed some wonderful FA Cup results for the hosts, but facing the prolific scorers who are the Premier League champions is a step too far, says Ian Lamont...
"When Pep Guardiola feels it necessary to field defenders John Stones and Kyle Walker, and takes the option of naming Kevin de Bruyne and Jesus, in cup starting lineups, he's taking the competitions really seriously - and he has plenty of players he can rest."
Newport County v Manchester City
Saturday February 16, 17:30
Live on BT Sport 2
When assessing cup ties between lower league opposition and Premier League giants, it is always tempting to think that the big guns will win by a decent margin, it's just a case of by how many goals.
Then you start looking for reason that won't happen - especially in a case like Newport at home. They've already beaten Leicester City, after taking Tottenham to a replay last year. AFC Wimbledon are another; rock bottom of League One, beat West Ham at home. But, even when you are assessing Yeovil against Manchester United, as a year ago, you are looking for hope that the hosts might score. Or the visitors might put out such a weakened team as to only win 3-0 or 3-1. They still won 4-0 in the end.
But in Manchester City's case, when a club has the strength in depth to compete genuinely on four fronts - from the Champions League to the League Cup - and they are thrashing even teams in the Premier League's top six 6-0 (like they did Chelsea last weekend), you wonder how low Michael Flynn's men can keep the score.
Flynn has already performed a miracle to put a run of results together to keep the Exiles in League Two last season. Beating City would be a step too far. Competing with them will be difficult enough.
Tough case for the defence up against Jesus
The match odds of [44.0] on the home win and City at [1.08] are reminiscent of prices on Serena Williams to win her singles matches during the first week of a Grand Slam tennis tournament. In the case of a tennis match, only injury can surely prevent her victory. It's not the same with a team.
So how do Dan Butler, Mickey Demetriou and Fraser Franks go about keeping Gabriel Jesus and co under wraps?
The Rodney Parade pitch, which has had 50 games on it already including rugby, might be a bit of a leveller - or at least slow City down - but even so when Leicester visited they underestimated their hosts, not even putting Jamie Vardy on the bench.
Even a draw at [18.0] would seem a miraculous event, because you would expect Riyad Mahrez, formerly of Leicester of course, or whoever starts up front or in an attacking midfield position to find a way through eventually.
If you really think Newport can pull off one of the greatest cup shocks ever and win, it's going to be to nil, so betting on Newport to win 1-0 at [90.0] is even better than the [44.0] on offer in the match odds.
Visitors regularly score multiple times
The visitors have a string of big wins, from 9-0 over Burton in the League Cup, Rotherham 7-0 and Burnley 5-0 in the FA Cup, both at home, to Premier League wins at Cardiff (5-0), over Huddersfield (6-1), Southampton (6-1), Burnley (5-0 again) and Chelsea (6-0). It seems so effortless.
When Pep Guardiola feels it necessary to field defenders John Stones and Kyle Walker, and takes the option of naming Kevin de Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus in cup starting line-ups, he's taking the competitions really seriously - and he has plenty of players he can rest.
Flynn dreams of such a squad. Padraig Amond (11 league goals and four in the FA Cup) and Jamille Matt (nine and three), in contrast, were evidently shattered in the midweek defeat to Milton Keynes, in which the Exiles hit the woodwork multiple times.
They were unable to call on substitute Ade Azeez, who had tweaked a hamstring in the warm-up and, in any case, is cup tied for Saturday as are some loan players. Mark O'Brien and Joss Ladabie should return, however. Robbie Willmott will be raring to go once again, having just signed a new contract after scoring in the last round.
To show you just how many the odds makers think City will score, you're getting to Over 4.5 Goals before even money (or just above) is offered, at [2.4]. Normally, in a League Two match, over 3.5 goals would be offered at about [3.6] - and to get that return here you would need to rely on over 5.5 goals, which is above [4.0].
The price of a Newport consolation goal
The possibility of Newport getting a goal leads to the question of what price is Both Teams To Score? That's [2.3] - which the odds makers thereby think to be on the unlikely side, narrowly. Guardiola's men have only conceded once in domestic cup contests this season, when they must have had an off day at Leicester in the League Cup. They won on penalties.
Can Amond keep up remarkable record?
Given the above odds and stats, it doesn't seem generous enough that Matt at 7/2, and Amond at 7/2, are priced such to score at any time, even if Amond has scored in every round so far, as Opta remind us. Unsurprisingly, the leading candidates for City in this market are odds-on.
If you are looking for a first goalscorer, Raheem Sterling is 4/1 despite being unlikely to play. Mahrez is about the same price and has scored three in cup games, while Sergio Aguero at 12/5 seems unlikely to start. The most likely candidate appears to be cup top scorer Jesus at 5/2. To boot, the Brazilian often scores first - or a hat-trick.
Back Both Teams To Score @ [2.3]
Back Over 4.5 goals @ [2.4]
Back Gabriel Jesus to score first at 5/2 (Betfair Sportsbook)