Manchester City host Sheffield United tomorrow, less than 46 hours after losing 3-2 to Wolves at Molineux and Steve Rawlings looks ahead to the clash here...
"The disappointment at the final whistle was tangible and Pep will have his work cut out to lift them so quickly."
Manchester City v Sheffield United
Sunday December 29, 18:00
Live on BT Sports
Can Pep lift deflated City so soon?
Manchester City host Sheffield United less than 48 hours after losing 3-2 to Wolves away and even Liverpool boss, Jurgen Klopp, thinks it's unfair.
"It is absolutely not ok," Klopp said. "None of the managers have a problem playing on Boxing Day but playing on the 27th and 29th is a crime."
The amenable relationship between City boss, Pep Guardiola, and his Liverpool counterpart is extremely refreshing and a far cry from the toxic hatred between rival fans on social media so it's no surprise to hear Klopp stating the truth here but nobody ever listens.
There'll be plenty of football fans that think the pros get paid more than enough to play every other day but it's been scientifically proven that two days is just not enough time for a full recovery so it'll be interesting to see how many changes Pep will make from the team that lost to Wolves.
Playing so soon is bad enough but the fact that City struggled so hard for 80 minutes with ten men after goalkeeper, Ederson, was sent off is even more damaging for the Citizens. The reigning champions will be criticized for losing a 2-0 lead in the second half but they were ten minutes and a crazy Benjamin Mendy mistake away from pulling off a remarkable away win at one of the division's strongest sides. The disappointment at the final whistle was tangible and Pep will have his work cut out to lift them so quickly.
That was City's fifth Premier League defeat of the season and their third in eight games.
Brilliant Blades continue to confound
With Tottenham fighting back from 1-0 down to beat Brighton on Boxing Day, and Wolves coming from behind last night, Sheffield United have slipped to seventh after they were held to a 1-1 draw at home to a rejuvenated Watford on Boxing Day but they've enjoyed a fabulous season so far.
The Blades spent Christmas Day in fifth place in the Premier League and the last promoted club to occupy such a lofty place at Christmas was Ipswich Town 19 years ago and they went on to finish fifth. Talk of European football at Bramall Lane next season isn't as ludicrous as their manager, Chris Wilder, claimed after they'd beaten Brighton 1-0 last weekend to equal the Premier League away record for a newly promoted team of nine games.
'It is ludicrous because the season isn't over after 18 games. It's an accumulation of points: on to the next one, can we keep it going?'
Following their draw with Watford, United have now lost just one of their last 12 in the Premier League and they're still yet to be beaten on the road. In their nine away games so far, they've won three and drawn six and following victories at Norwich and Brighton, they're in search of their third away win in-a-row. That's some start given they were matched at just 1.625/8 to be relegated before a ball was kicked. They're now available to back at 65.064/1 to go down.
Leaky City set to concede again
City have bounced back brilliantly after all of their previous Premier League defeats this season, beating Watford 8-0 after they'd lost to Norwich, Crystal Palace away 2-0 after their first loss to Wolves back in October, Chelsea were beaten 2-1 after they'd lost 3-1 at Anfield, and they comfortably beat Arsenal away (3-0) after Manchester United beat them 2-1 at the Etihad at the start of the month.
Although they've drifted after the Wolves defeat, the outright market still suggests that City should be far too strong for Sheffield United but given the Blades are unbeaten away from home, the 1.261/4 available about the hosts still looks short enough to me and it's only for the bravest of big hitters.
Laying City at such short odds is tempting and so too is the 4.77/2 available about Draw or Away in the Double Chance market but given City's propensity to bounce back after a defeat, I've reluctantly left both markets alone.
Man City/Man City is odds-on in the HT/FT market too but that makes no appeal. City have only won six of their nine home games to date this season and only four of the six victories occurred when they were leading at the break. They came from 1-0 down to beat Southampton and Aston Villa shut them out until the second half despite eventually losing 3-0.
In Sheffield United's nine away games to date, we've seen an equal spread, with the Blades leading in three, drawing in three and losing in three at halftime and I'm quite happy to play a couple of leftfield picks in this market for tiny stakes. I can see Pep rousing his troops before the off and them starting brightly but could they run out of steam after Friday night's exertions? There are some huge odds available about City leading at the break but failing to secure the three points and I'm happy to take a tiny chance on Man City/Draw and even Man City/Sheffield United.
The City team was physically and emotionally shattered after their defeat to Wolves and if they go in 1-0 up at the Etihad on Sunday evening, I wouldn't be utterly convinced that they'd press on and get the win, especially given United have a habit of scoring away from home...
Odds-against for Yes in the Both Teams to Score market looks more than fair and the best bet given City have scored in all bar one of their home games and Sheffield United have found the net in eight of their nine away and given that in each of the last four Premier League games at the Etihad, both teams have bagged. In fact, following last night's defeat, Arsenal are the only team not to score against City in their last 14 games home and away in all competitions.
Staked: 35.5 pts
Returned: 45.7 pts
P/L: +10.2 pts
2 pts Yes – Both Teams to Score @ 2.021/1
¼ pt Man City – Draw @ 32.031/1
¼ pt Man City – Sheffield United @ 110.0109/1