While the Sky Blues of Manchester City had an easy (and eye-popping) road to the Carabao Cup, or English Football League Cup final, the opposing hopefuls from Chelsea had to overcome a controversial maiden leg and ultimately a penalty shoot-out to survive against Tottenham.
Now Maurizio Sarri’s side finds itself in a whole new battle…a struggle for simple respect.
The proud clubs will meet on February 24th to decide the initial tournament cup of the season. It’s City’s amazing 6-0 win over the Blues last weekend that has cast the betting public shy of picking the underdog this time.
Sportsbetting.ag marks Chelsea as a (+350) underdog to win in regulation and (+240) to lift the trophy, while favored Man City is (-159) and (-300) in the 2 respective lines.
Las Vegas is also offering (+280) payoff on a Draw result, and the goal total is (2 ½) with a high “Under” payoff or (3) with a high “Over” payoff.
Praise be to the Brave Souls
There is a profoundly deep stock of talent in English football, which is how AFC Wimbledon was able to clobber a strong West Ham lineup in the FA Cup last month. The enduring moral is never to take anyone lightly…including legendary top-level teams going through a rough patch.
Bettors appear to have gotten the memo. We know this because Vegas lines for the Carabao Cup final haven’t tilted massively toward the favorites…yet.
City annihilated Chelsea in historic fashion a few days ago, running-up a 4-0 lead in the 25th minute and saddling Sarri with the worst optics of his managing career to date. Striker Sergio Agüero tallied 3 times to earn a “hat trick,” one of the few slang terms shared by soccer and ice hockey in the birthplace of both sports.
Manager “Pep” Guardiola brilliantly used the “half-spaces” left open when Chelsea’s forwards pressed against the backfield of City. The Citizens are so versatile at every position that any subtle advantage can lead to on-target shots, and Sarri stubbornly urged his midfield forward while Kevin de Bruyne and Bernardo Silva turned ordinary possessions into wide-open attacks. Raheem Sterling was allowed to prance into the box and score almost immediately.
That didn’t take long!
Raheem Sterling fires Man City in front against Chelsea inside four minutes. pic.twitter.com/Mgs8NMXAYo
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 10, 2019
I’m as impressed with the Citizens’ backline as all of the scoring. It’s not always easy protecting the box for clubs with mega-millionaire forwards and strikers who can tally 4 goals in 25 minutes. The experience of Kyle Walker and John Stones next to younger backs like Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko (who played the entire fixture vs Chelsea in only his 4th appearance of the season) is extremely crucial because it is hard for a young squad to handle overflowing success.
The perils of success are probably why Wimbledon isn’t winning more matches outside of the FA Cup despite the Wombles’ obvious gifts on the attack. City’s experience at every position gives the team a murderer’s cold stare when things are going well.
Agüero is having his shining hour, Ederson has kept clean sheets in 3 of his last 5 appearances, and City could be poised for a stupendous streak of success in all competitions. The Sky Blues could conceivably win the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Carabao Cup and the UEFA Champions League in ’19.
Guess That’s Why They Call it Them the Blues
Central midfielder Jorginho is under pressure from supporters, but perhaps Chelsea’s woes in midfield aren’t the Brazilian’s fault or the head coach’s fault. It’s simply that the player and the system aren’t mixing well.
Jorginho had dazzled in Serie A with his passing ability, but he played in a much different system there, one which suited his style of threading balls from deeper areas of the field to forwards who wanted to run beyond defensive lines.
The methodical Chelsea attack isn’t taking full advantage of his skills despite the obvious gifts of Eden Hazard and Gonzalo Higuaín.
But don’t expect Sarri’s tactics to change all that much in the next battle with City. Regardless of any adjustments made to counter the brilliant plans of Pep, the manager will stick to his 4-3-3 shape which he has been so loyal to and built a reputation with over many years.
As for the pressing up the middle? Chelsea must not become Southampton in its bid to vanquish the Citizens.
Handicapping the Final
Each squad has a busy week and a half ahead.
The Blues will play 2 legs of a Europa League match and an FA Cup fixture with Manchester United before February 24th rolls around, and City begins play in the Champions League Round of 16 on the Wednesday before the Carabao Cup showdown.
Bettors will probably appear more comfortable sticking with City after any potential slip-ups on the way to Wembley, while if Chelsea has another terrible outing, the Blues’ odds will lengthen like a yo-yo.
Maybe it makes sense to wait and try to snag Chelsea as a huge underdog. But I’m seeing an even better bet in the immediate odds.
I’m loving the Over (2 ½) goals, since a general analysis reveals that City’s attack isn’t likely to be tamed for 90 minutes or more given its current form.
City has shown that it will hold nothing back even if having scored the first 1 or 2 goals against Chelsea. Meanwhile, suppose Sarri finds an antidote in midfield and the Blues successfully counter-attack in the early going. Does anyone think it wouldn’t become a high-tempo match under those circumstances?
Bookies know the Over is a more likely outcome, and Sportsbetting.ag is taking 28% on all wagers in the market. But there’s about a 70% chance it’ll be a winning bet slip.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.