The first reason Manchester City is profoundly favored in Monday’s soccer match is because it is a soccer match, and City is playing in it. The squad does not lose very often, period. The Sky Blues recently suffered a short-lived swoon, losing to Crystal Palace on 12/22 and then to Leicester City on Boxing Day. But both losses were only by a single tally, and a 0-2 loss to Chelsea had prevented the club from going virtually unbeaten in all of autumn leading up to the holidays.
Monday’s hosts are huge favorites to win in 90+ minutes over Wolverhampton’s 9th-place Wanderers, with a (-500) moneyline payoff and Manchester City giving (-2) goals on the spread. Underdog odds for “Wolves” getting some type of positive result comprise a whopping (+1350) on the moneyline with Draw at (+500).
Another reason for these exaggerated-looking lines could be the buzz and hype surrounding the Sky Blues, which was given a fresh kick in the rear when City’s corker with Liverpool last Thursday ended in a 2-1 victory. That is a good way to look upset-proof, especially considering that there has been no hotter team in English soccer than Liverpool though several weeks. If betting lines were tipped toward Manchester City before and during the match, it was because the Citizens were at home, and if Salah and Liverpool managed a comeback win it would have been a very minor shock.
Leroy Sané’s go-ahead tally in the 72nd minute had a feeling of inescapability about it, not like “destiny” or some other cheesy moral, but because of the simple proficiency and stick-to-it determination of the City attack. The hosts’ midfielders and forward line carved-up the Reds and gave Allison little chance to save the day.
Whatever the sky-high ceiling of the favorites, it may not be wise to attach a 4-figure moneyline to a proud underdog, given not one but multiple City losses having occurred within a few weeks of present. Falling to Leicester City and Crystal Palace in the same week is nothing to be embarrassed about, but it shows that the club is vulnerable.
Plus it is not as if Wolves is just scraping by with results against substandard squads. In fact, it’s the Wanderers’ failure to take advantage of the low half of the table that has held the team back from a higher placement.
Wolves Bites Big’uns Only
Against the big shots of the Premier League, Wolverhampton has played as well or better than you could ever anticipate of a freshly-promoted organization.
Casual soccer fans who happened to see Wolverhampton beat Chelsea on TV might be astonished to learn that Wolves had lost to a pair of struggling EPL clubs the previous week. Huddersfield and Cardiff City were the culprits – squads which are in serious danger of relegation to League One.
The Terriers have lost 15 matches and won 2, but posted a clean sheet against Wolves on November 25th. Cardiff City, a club which just lost to Gillingham in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, scored twice in 6 minutes to send the Wanderers home with nary a point just 5 days later.
Twas not an isolated occurrence. Wolves recently lost to Crystal Palace 0-2, a match in which the team out-fouled its opponent (yet again). Palace is a hard club to lull into over-advancing. Nuno fiddled with the forward lines, but it was not enough. CPFC had the far-more skillful offense and slowly closed-in around an overwhelmed Rui Patrício.
But fancy the form Wolves showed at the FA Cup against Liverpool just days later. Patricio did not take a place between the pipes – instead it was Premier League veteran John Ruddy. Ruddy made one of the coolest saves ever, as Wolverhampton knocked Liverpool – Liverpool! – out of the FA Cup.
Someone like Rúben Neves could grow into a key cog in the winding Wanderer attack. If a squad commits to offense everywhere yet is strong up the middle, suddenly only clever passes are coming out from the back and opposing counters are harder to come by. Yet for now, without a feisty and rare effort with the football the club is adrift – unable to out-chance other clubs and unable to out-defend or out-keep them.
Tackle Terror Tilts the Pick
There is no question the Sky Blues are outstanding, even beautiful on the attack. When they’ve needed goals in the big moments they have delivered, and the squad richly deserves its perch over almost all of the Premier League on the current table. But they are not likely to have a walk in the park on Monday.
Wolverhampton will play the same grinding, physical style as ever, and City will have to be ready for it. Patience is the watchword. A club that just scored 7 times in a single match will probably not exhibit perfect patience.
Man City’s 2-legged sparring with Burton is also not certain to provide a fitting training exercise. The squad scored 9 goals in the first 90+ minutes, but things also slow down whenever the Sky Blues want them to slow down against an opponent like that.
If play speeds up against Wolves, it will be up to veteran midfielders like David Silva to make sure City is not too enthusiastic on the attack to the detriment of defending a counter. Balls must be advanced into safe pastures if not controlled altogether. Wolves does not react well to a dose of its own medicine.
All told the underdog’s moneyline is one that I would kick myself for not recommending.
There have been so many surprises in 2018, so many head-scratching losses by clubs that had seemed impregnable. Lift up some couch cushions and give Wolves a chance to score a jackpot in early ’19.
Wolves is also a fine pick ATS in Manchester.
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.