Weblog: The football punter

City can make fast start in booking last-eight spot

BT Sport 2, 8pm Tuesday

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola reckons his side are still "teenagers" when it comes to competing against the Champions League veterans but the Premier League champions have been given a golden chance to come of age in Europe's elite competition this season.

Holders Real Madrid are gone, along with moneybags Paris St-Germain, and two more of Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Liverpool will also have bitten the dust before the quarter-final stage.

City, with the Carabao Cup in the bag, are top of the Premier League, through to the FA Cup quarter-finals and favourites for the Champions League, and bet365 quote only 6-1 that Guardiola's side complete the quadruple.

Schalke are unlikely to put up much resistance against City in the Champions League last-16 tie and the red-hot favourites are fully expected to build on their 3-2 first-leg success in Gelsenkirchen.

There were a couple of dozy moments from City in the first game. They conceded two first-half penalties and had Nicolas Otamendi sent off, but they still came back to win with 21 shots to Schalke's seven and had 67 per cent possession.

In normal circumstances Guardiola may have been tempted to rest a few key players had City been involved in a crunch Premier League clash this week, but it's Sky Bet Championship side Swansea in the FA Cup on Saturday and their minds should be focused following last week's amazing results.

Manchester United and Ajax upset the odds in Paris and Madrid respectively, as pointed out by Guardiola in his pre-match press conference.

However, it would be the biggest surprise of the lot if Schalke came back and a more sensible bet could be to take City, with all of their attacking weapons, to hit the front by the half-hour mark.

City have needed patience in recent home matches against Watford and West Ham when their first goals came in the second period, but Schalke, who have been dragged into a relegation fight in the Bundesliga, lack the defensive discipline to stay in the hunt.

Schalke conceded four at Bremen on Friday, just days after doing the same at home to Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Coach Domenico Tedesco, to the surprise of some, has managed to keep his job and attempted drastic action, dropping a number of players in recent weeks including Mark Uth, Salif Sane, Amine Harit and goalkeeping captain Ralf Fahrmann. 

Tedesco may be forced to ditch his three-man defence for the trip to Manchester with no natural right wing-back available - Daniel Caligiuri and Alessandro Schopf are injured and Sascha Riether is not in the Champions League squad despite travelling to England - but whatever system they use it will still likely be the same outcome.

Man City to be leading after 30 minutes

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Match in Focus

15:00 Mo 27May SKY

Aston Villa v Derby

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Tammy Abraham has scored in five of his last seven starts for Aston Villa.
Expert verdict
Aston Villa have lost just two of their last 15 matches and valid excuses can be made for both defeats. Dean Smith made wholesale changes with the playoffs in mind for their 2-1 loss to champions Norwich on the final day, while they lost the second leg of semi-final at West Brom despite having 73 per cent possession and winning the shot count 24 to ten. They are full of confidence and should be more determined than ever after last season’s playoff final heartbreak.