BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Guardiola can’t give
De Bruyne a wide berth

1 De Bruyne should be central to City's plans
In gaining more control of possession in the second half, Manchester City actually became a less dangerous attacking beast during the 2-2 draw with Arsenal at the Emirates.

Pep Guardiola's decision to swap Raheem Sterling for Yaya Toure at the break saw Kevin De Bruyne shifted out wide which nullified the brilliant Belgian for most of the second period.

De Bruyne, involved in the incidents that saw City hit both posts in the first half, was moved back to a central position late on and it was no coincidence that Guardiola's men started to threaten once more.

2 New boss but same problems for Boro
Interim manager Steve Agnew has made all the right noises regarding Middlesbrough becoming a more attacking team under his tenure but it did not look like too much had changed from the Aitor Karanka days during the goalless stalemate at Swansea.

Boro barely create any chances and when those opportunities arrive players such as Rudy Gestede rarely have the ability to take advantage.

Boro's situation is desperate and draws just won't do in these relegation six-pointers, particularly they still have to play Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. Boro had eight shots at the Liberty Stadium and only one of those was on target.

3 Top two can start planning for Premier League
Those weirdos like myself who spend hours looking for little quirks in the league tables may have noticed the bizarre goings-on in the Sky Bet Championship where third-placed Huddersfield and fourth-placed Reading have a goal difference of plus three.

That's only eight better than relegation threatened Bristol City and worse than 12th-placed Brentford (plus five) but Newcastle's plus 39 and Brighton's 31 give a clear indication of the balance of power.

Both teams scrapped out home wins this weekend, while Huddersfield were turned over at home by Burton and Rafa Benitez and Chris Hughton should probably already start planning for life in the Premier League after moving ten and nine points clear of Town.

4 Gills in serious danger of the drop
December 17 was the last time Gillingham kept a clean sheet and their poor defending was once again to blame as they lost a dramatic game 3-2 at MK Dons, the second time in consecutive weeks they were defeated by an injury-time goal.

First-team coach Steve Lovell was happy to the blame the squad, which is always a risky strategy, saying afterwards: "It's the same old things, the players have to look at themselves."

Relegation rivals Port Vale have a harder run-in with games against Rochdale, Sheffield United, Oxford, Bolton and Fleetwood among their final seven games but they are at least showing fight for their boss Michael Brown.

Vale have kept successive clean sheets following a 0-0 draw with MK Dons and a 2-0 success over AFC Wimbledon. Gillingham have not managed that feat all season.

5 Add Accy to the notebook for next season
The betting markets have great respect for 13th-placed Accrington - they were only slight underdogs for Saturday's 1-0 win at second-placed Plymouth - and Stanley are worth considering ante-post for next season in Sky Bet League Two.

John Coleman's men made a shocking start which was understandable after a disruptive summer of losing key players combined with the disappointment of just missing out on promotion but there was also some horrid luck in many of Accy's results.

They have maintained excellent performance levels and Accrington are unbeaten in 12 matches, a run which includes wins at Exeter and Plymouth as well as a draw at champions-elect Doncaster.

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Match in Focus

19:45 TODAY SS1

Real Madrid v Barcelona

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Real Madrid have scored in their last 55 matches
Expert verdict
Barcelona really need to win this El Classico meeting to stand any chance of winning La Liga but they could come up short at the Bernabeu. Barca have lost their way this season, particularly on the road where they have suffered heavy defeats to Paris St-Germain (4-0) and Juventus (3-0).