Can City get their season back on track after three straight losses? Jaymes Monte previews this Tuesday night's trip to Kiev...
"First legs can be naturally trappy affairs, but this is one that looks to have all the ingredients to produce goals. I’ll be taking my chances on a high-scorer."
Dynamo Kiev v Man City
Wednesday 24th February, 19:45
Live on BT Sport Europe
Without a competitive game since early December, it's difficult to offer any noteworthy assessment of Dynamo Kiev's current form. The Ukrainian champions did, however, end 2015 in fine fettle, having won each of their last six matches in all competitions. And they have kept themselves busy in the winter months with friendlies of varying degrees of difficulty and intensity.
Sergiy Rebrov's men finished 2nd in Champions League Group G behind Chelsea, but ahead of FC Porto. The Blues were held to a goalless draw in Kiev, but won the reverse fixture at the Bridge 2-1.
Striker Andriy Yarmolenko, who was a reported January transfer target of both Everton and Arsenal, provides the hosts' most potent attacking threat. The Ukraine international scored twice in the group stages of this competition.
Whether it is coincidental or not, Manchester City's form has tapered off significantly since the announcement that Pep Guardiola would be replacing Manuel Pellegrini as manager in the summer. There was a scratchy 1-0 win at Sunderland, subsequent back-to-back losses against title rivals Leicester and Tottenham, then an exit from the FA Cup at the hands of Chelsea at the weekend.
Of course we can't read too much into Sunday's defeat at the Bridge due to the personnel deployed in the starting XI, but previous performances against Sunderland, Leicester and Spurs were flat and lacklustre.
Pellegrini's decision to rest his best players in protest to their FA Cup game being played on Sunday could well backfire if they don't get the desired result in Kiev this Wednesday.
One positive throughout all of City's recent troubles has been the form of striker Sergio Aguero. The Argentine now has eight goals in his last eight appearances for the club.
It's difficult to make a strong case for backing City on current form, and particularly so at a favourites price of 2.3211/8 and away from home. Dynamo Kiev's lack of competitive football of late is a factor but, as we saw with Man Utd and FC Midtjylland last week, it's not as simple as to just assume that this will be a negative influence on the result. Make no mistake that Kiev will be physically ready for this game, and perhaps even more significantly, they'll also be mentally refreshed.
With the hosts priced at odds of 3.55 and the draw around 3.412/5, my money would be going on this tie being level after the first leg. After all, a draw is generally a decent result for any away side in the first leg of a two-legged affair, and with City not firing all cylinders I believe they'd be particularly content to settle this one at the Etihad.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Unlike the match result, the goals market is one where I am confident of nailing my colours to the mast. City have goals in them, but can't defend. So I've no concern that the visitors will play their part. Then we look at Kiev's record in the group stages where they scored eight goals in six matches and see that they should also contribute to making Over 2.5 Goals a very good value bet at odds of around 2.166/5.
First legs can be naturally trappy affairs, but this is one that looks to have all the ingredients to produce goals. I'll be taking my chances on a high-scorer.
I like the look of the draw, and I'm also expecting goals, so it makes sense to have a small-stakes play on a high-scoring draw in the Correct Score market.
2-2 is available to back at odds of around 18.017/1 and is one of those that could well trade considerably shorter in-play. Likewise it may be worth a very speculative punt on the 3-3 selection at odds of 85.084/1 for very small stakes.
3pts Back Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.166/5
Jaymes Monte 2015/16 Season P/L
Staked: 126 pts
Returned: 121.21 pts
P/L: -4.79 pts