Man City v Bournemouth
Saturday 23 December, 15:00 GMT
Title Race Over?
We aren't even at the halfway mark of the Premier League season yet many commentators have concluded that the title race is over. Man City have been in truly irresistible form, dropping just two points in their opening 18 fixtures.
Pep Guardiola's side also sailed their way into the last 16 of the Champions League and on Tuesday evening they booked their place in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup. The manager rested most of his top stars for that game and they should be nicely primed for the hectic Christmas schedule.
David Silva has sat out their last two matches due to a personal issue, but the feeling is that the Spaniard will return against Bournemouth and he's scored four in his last three league starts. In the forward positions, Sergio Aguero is likely to get the nod given that Gabriel Jesus played all 120 minutes versus Leicester, and he will surely be flanked by Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane.
Cherries Going Out Of Season?
It's been a strange campaign thus far for Bournemouth as they started terribly by losing their opening four matches, but they then rallied to win four of their next eight, however since their 4-0 victory over Huddersfield they have gone six without a win - three draws and three defeats.
Their latest league outing saw them convincingly beaten at home by Liverpool, as The Reds demolished them 4-0 - leading 3-0 by half time. Eddie Howe's men were in action in the cup in midweek and they played much better at Stamford Bridge, however they ultimately lost 2-1 and they must now concentrate on pulling themselves further clear of the relegation zone.
As far as the team news goes, the manager has a number of injury concerns as Jermain Defoe is out, and Josh King is a doubt. That leaves Callum Wilson to lead the line, and back in midfield, Harry Arter, is also on the injured list. Add in the fact that Charlie Daniels is doubtful and Eddie Howe has his hands full when it comes to fielding a strong XI.
Focus On A Correct Score
It will come as no surprise that the hosts are the red-hot favourites to win this game. They are trading at around the 1.132/15 mark, which is not far off 1/8 in old money.
Now clearly you didn't come here to read me tipping a 1.132/15 shot, so while I see no reason to even mention that The Draw is [12.0} and a Cherries win is 30.029/1, I have to conclude that this is a no bet market.
Although I certainly believe that City will take the three points, I don't think that they will rack up a huge amount of goals. Of their last five at The Etihad, only the Spurs fixture saw them score more than three times.
They netted exactly three against Burnley and Arsenal, while they only managed two against Southampton and West Ham. This is the first match of a busy festive schedule and I can certainly see Guardiola taking some of his top players off after an hour or so if they are ahead.
Bournemouth's away results are also worth a look as their 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford last time was their first in five Premier League away games, as prior to that they had won at Stoke and Newcastle, before drawing at Swansea and Crystal Palace. Even in the four defeats on the road earlier in the campaign, they didn't concede more than three times in any of them.
Those kind of stats for both teams bring me to the Correct Score Market as 'Any Other Home Win' can currently be opposed at 2.26/5. That basically means we would win as long as City didn't score four or more and win the game. It's certainly worth a punt, and I imagine it could well shorten in the run-up to kick off - which would make the liability even smaller.
Going Against The Grain In The Goal Markets
We have another heavy favourite in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals Market as the former is 4.3100/30, with the latter at 1.282/7. It is clearly more likely that there will be at least three goals than not, but I'm all about the value. But first, a stats check.
The hosts are seeing their games average 3.78 goals each time - the highest in the entire division - and only four of their 18 have gone under. It's also worth noting that we have to go all the way back to their first home fixture of the season for their only league match on this ground to have three goals or less.
The stats are more appealing for the visitors as their games are averaging a mere 2.17 goals per 90 minutes, and nine of their 18 have seen Under 2.5 backers collect - including three of their last four on their travels.
I can't resist the 4.3100/30 though as City haven't been as free-scoring as they were earlier in the year and it's quite clear that The Cherries will be heading up north to defend.
I do like the idea of a small saver however and I would also back Under 3.5 Goals at 2.47/5. That would have landed in three of City's last five at home and eight of Bournemouth's nine away games this term. If we back that to equal stakes as the Under 2.5, we have a profit even if the net bulges three times.
Mike Jones has been appointed to officiate this fixture and a quick glance at his stats this season shows that he likes to keep his cards in his pocket if he can.
He has dished out 52 yellows across 14 matches, which is an average of 3.7 per game. He has only sent one player off - in a Championship fixture - and he failed to produce a single booking in the Burnley v Stoke game earlier this month.
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