Crystal Palace v Manchester City, Carling Cup, August 27, 2009
The richest club in the world come up against a club struggling to keep their head above water on Thursday night as Manchester City head to South London to face Crystal Palace in the Carling Cup.
The current fortunes of the two clubs could scarcely be more polar opposite. While Manchester City have been busy spending bundles of cash on some of the world’s most talented footballers this summer, the Eagles have been hamstrung in their recruitment drive after being slapped with a transfer embargo for a series of financial disputes.
The gulf in class between the sides will be evident come kick-off.
Even, as is expected, Mark Hughes rings the changes and leaves out the likes of Robinho, Adebayor (4/1 to score last), Tevez and Barry, Sparky will still be able to select a starting XI packed full of internationals as the likes of Tal Ben Haim, Martin Petrov (11/4 to score), Nigel de Jong, Craig Bellamy (4/1 to score first), Benjani and Shaun Wright-Phillips all take the field.
City’s experienced squad is contrasted by the fresh-faced Palace side whom Neil Warnock will try to cause a major upset with. In particular Palace will likely field four teenagers who will all be looking to make a name for themselves in front of the TV cameras. 19-year-old right-back Nathaniel Clyne is looking like talent with real promise, while up-top the Eagles will be looking for inspiration from their teenage triumvirate of Victor Moses (7/2 to score), Sean Scannell and Freddie Sears (8/1 to score first).
While Palace’s front-three are more than capable of pulling out a bit of magic on the night, one serious tactical problem facing the Eagles will be how to get the ball up to their strikers in the first place. Moses, Scannell and Sears, are all vertically challenged being under six feet tall, and with the likes of Micah Richards and Nedum Onuoha in City’s backline, high balls up to the forwards is a straight-forward no-no. (Manchester City are 8/11 to keep a clean sheet.)
That forces the Eagles to either try and play a passing game through midfield in which Darren Ambrose (5/1 to score), Neil Danns and Sean Derry will have pivotal roles in carrying the ball upfield, or the Championship outfit can attempt to stifle their opposition by defending deep and flooding the midfield with the hope of hitting the Citizens on the counter-attack.
However you spin it though, nothing less than a City victory looks on the cards.
While lofty ambitions of a top four finish in the Premier League remain doubtful, Mark Hughes’ most obvious path for immediate silverware this season looks to be available in the domestic cup competitions. That will ensure that City take this match extremely seriously and, should the Eastlands outfit score in the first 15 minutes of the match, then the result may end up resembling a tennis scoreboard at full time.
101predicts: Crystal Palace 0 - Manchester City 5 (50/1)
Full match odds here.