Alan Dudman previews Manchester City's fixture with Fulham this Saturday, and he feels there is only one bet to be had with Riyad Mahrez...
"He has four goals this term and his last eight have all been at the Etihad, and I like the fact he was rested for the Porto game."
Manchester City v Fulham
Saturday 5th December, kick-off 15:00
Live on BT Sport 1
Burnley win masks a few City problems
Manchester City haven't quite been at their imperious best this season, a fact highlighted rather alarmingly ahead of this Saturday as they go in search of back-to-back Premier League wins for the first time this season. Last weekend's 5-0 rout against Burnley saw them net as many goals as they had in their previous six matches, but they have been nowhere near their best. Their league position in 12th tells us so.
Indeed, their points total of 15 is their worst start to a Premier League campaign since 2010.
For much of the season, Pep Guardiola's team have struggled in the final third. Teams have also found more confidence in playing through their press - which has become more disorganised. The lack of game-time for club record-scorer Sergio Ageuro has also become an issue, as he has made only three starts this season and the knee injury sustained in July is still problematic.
Guardiola rested Riyad Mahrez, Kevin De Bruyne and Kyle Walker in the dull 0-0 with Porto on Tuesday, so I expect all three of those to return.
Fulham won't be adding another shock win to their record
The Cottagers were 6.611/2 at Leicester last Monday, and I probably would have priced them up a bit bigger. That was a 1-2 victory I didn't envisage, but it's the season that consistently provides upset after upset.
Success at the King Power snapped a record of just one win on the road in 25 PL games and lifted them out of the relegation zone up two places to 17th. They are still 1.594/7 to go down, though, and currently possess a terrible defensive record with 19 goals conceded. Although there are signs that some of the slapstick defending from earlier in the campaign is not so prevalent. Fulham played well in the 1-0 defeat to West Ham, and they had to defend with resilience in the second-half in the face of plenty of Leicester ball on Monday.
Fulham haven't won consecutive matches in the Premier League since August 2013, and they'll have to wait again considering the match betting for this. Their upcoming fixture list isn't exactly kind either; with five of the 'big six' due to meet the west London club in the next nine games.
With the hosts at 1.121/8 and Fulham at 27.026/1, this is almost as one-sided as the match-up in one of the boat race qualifiers when my old alma mater North London Polytechnic faced Cambridge. Even those with more positive minds than me, even the most Panglossian of outlooks won't be giving Fulham even a whiff of a chance. In a season of shocks thus far, a Fulham victory would really be something.
However, in terms of a bet, this market is a complete no-no. City were a slightly bigger price last week against Burnley at 1.182/11, and I suspect they might have been nearer that had it not been for those five goals.
Even the Opta stats give the thumbs down to the visitors as the Citizens have won each of their last nine against Fulham in all competitions - netting 27 goals and conceding just three in that run. Indeed, they have only failed to score once in 26 of their top flight fixtures against Fulham.
Exploring other avenues, the best I could come up with was backing Manchester City at Half-Time at 1.444/9. There are far worse bets around at that sort of price in my opinion and Fulham have conceded a goal inside the first 10 minutes this season in five of their Premier League matches.
It doesn't quite make bet material for me, though. I would rather take the Evens on Riyad Mahrez in the Anytime Goalscorer market on the Sportsbook. The Algerian meant business from the very first minute last weekend against Burnley, and there is no better player than Mahrez when cutting in from the right. As a defender you know he is going that way, but you just cannot stop him.
He has four goals this term and his last eight have all been at the Etihad, and I like the fact he was rested for the Porto game.
The market is well and truly expecting a shellacking here to mirror the Burnley scoreline from last weekend, although that goes slightly against City's record in the xG table this term - as they were only 12th prior to that 5-0 success.
Guardiola's men covered the -2.5 on 14 occasions last season however, so I am going to go a step further and suggest the Over 3.5 Goals and Man City at 4/11 in the Half Time market. We can get 2.14 on the Same Game Multi via the Sportsbook, and that looks a fair price.
Alan Dudman's 2020 Premier League P&L