Weblog: The football punter

United happy to progress with minimum of fuss

League Cup quarter-final
Sky Sports Football & Main Event, 8pm Wednesday

Ten of Manchester United’s last 15 matches have been decided by one goal and that could well be the bet at Ashton Gate as the League Cup holders endeavour to see off Sky Bet Championship highflyers Bristol City.

Lee Johnson’s men have already eliminated a trio of Premier League outfits in Watford, Stoke and Crystal Palace and are full of confidence after four straight league wins have sent them soaring up to third in the table.

Their impact in the league is such that Johnson has even said that, given the choice, he’d rather take three points off QPR at the weekend than upset United in a cup tie that has excited the red half of the city.

His players, of course, will simply want to give United as good a performance as they possibly can and they are carrying decent form into the contest.

The chances are this will be a tight match. United aren’t exactly flying, though results remain excellent. Most of their triumphs – indeed each of their last three – have been by a single goal, an illustration of their inability to beat up sides and of boss Jose Mourinho’s happiness with putting up the barricades when necessary.

Winning without playing overly well is a Mourinho trait of old, and with five away wins in the league, plus cup successes at CSKA Moscow, Benfica and Swansea, he is the master of getting his tactics right on the road.

The size of the task facing City is daunting and while Mourinho rightly proclaims the Championship is a far superior division to what it was a decade back, there is still a sizeable gulf between third in that section and second place in the Premier League.

That’s illustrated by odds of 4-9 about the Red Devils, even though Mourinho will make a handful of changes to his team with Axel Tuanzebe and Victor Lindelof set to come in to defence. The United chief may, however, recall Paul Pogba after a three-match rest while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the obvious candidate to step in for Romelu Lukaku.

United will still be strong and Mourinho’s lust for silverware means the Manchester giants won’t be taking the game lightly.

Ordinarily goals might be expected given that there tend to be a few whenever Bristol City are in action.

City have lost only one of their last ten, with triumphs over Middlesbrough and Sheffield United the pick of their recent winning streak, and the hugely popular Johnson has got his side believing. They beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 on Saturday, a scoreline that completely flattered Forest.

And the goal threats come from everywhere – gone are the days of 25-1 first-scorer quotes about free-scoring centre-back Aden Flint.

But City will doubtless be more circumspect in this clash, wary of United on the break and if there’s a bet to be had on goals, then under 2.5 at 11-8 is perhaps better value than odds-on about overs.

The feeling is a United win to nil, or a United win by one goal but just in case City can sneak it, the one-goal winning margin is preferred. United haven’t drawn a game, incidentally, since mid-October.

One-goal winning margin

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Match in Focus


Espanyol v Sevilla

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Sevilla have lost their last three La Liga away fixtures
Expert verdict
Espanyol will be feeling good about themselves after winning 1-0 at home to rivals Barcelona in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals and they can follow up with a home win over Sevilla, who are not to be trusted on the road. Sevilla are sixth but they have lost seven of their ten La Liga away games this season.