Weblog: The football punter

Heavy damage looks  likely to come later on

League Cup semi-final first leg
Sky Sports Football/Main Event, 7.45pm Wednesday

Burton are just one step away from reaching their first major final but are 40-1 underdogs to overcome Manchester City in their League Cup semi-final tie which kicks off with the opening leg at the Etihad Stadium.

The Brewers are ninth in Sky Bet League One - ten points adrift of the playoffs - but have frequently raised the bar on League Cup nights.

They have defeated four clubs from a higher division in the earlier rounds, including Premier League Burnley, who lost 2-1 at the Pirelli Stadium in late September.

However, if they get the better of City over two games, it would rank among the biggest domestic cup upsets of all time.

Nigel Clough's side have been written off by the layers, who make them 70-1 to post a first-leg victory and 100-1 to lift the trophy.

Although Clough and his players may take some inspiration from Wigan, who were a League One side when winning 1-0 at home to City in last season's FA Cup fifth round.

City should have learned from the experience and demonstrated a more ruthless attitude in recent encounters with lower league opposition.

They have faced two sides from divisions below them this season, winning 3-0 at Oxford in League Cup round three (they won the shot count 29 to one) and hammering Rotherham 7-0 in Sunday's FA Cup tie.

Guardiola made eight changes for the Rotherham match and is likely to rotate once again as he looks ahead to Monday's Premier League clash at home to Wolves.

But given the strength of his squad, it is almost impossible to select a significantly weakened line-up.

Burton's challenge is to try to stay in the tie for as long as possible.

They have defended well in the last two games – drawing 0-0 at Bristol Rovers and winning 4-0 at Rochdale – and are likely to adopt a cautious mindset, getting men behind the ball and denying City time and space in and around their penalty box.

But City are accustomed to visiting teams playing on the counter-attack and will back themselves to to make their class count over the course of the game.

Tiredness may become a factor for Burton, increasing the chances of heavier damage being done later in the game.

Against Rotherham, City led 1-0 going into first-half injury-time before the floodgates opened.

Punters should look to benefit from another late show from the Citizens and back the second half to be the higher-scoring half at a shade of odds-on.

Most goals in second half

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Match in Focus

15:00 Sa 25May SKY

Newport Co v Tranmere

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Newport are unbeaten in 12 matches.
Expert verdict
Michael Flynn’s Newport headed into the playoffs as the fourth tier’s form side, securing seventh spot by finishing the season ten games unbeaten. Tranmere will know all too well about County’s disciplined defensive, having failed to score in both league meetings with them and, even with James Norwood leading the line, they look vulnerable.