Manchester City…where to start?
Before 2008, Manchester City were basically Newcastle United, just as likely for a mid-table finish in the Premier League as they were to fight against relegation or for promotion. Seldom putrid, seldom spectacular.
Then Sheikh Mansour buys them in 2008 and turns them into a global juggernaut. They suddenly have non-Oasis fans. It’s like if you picked the most average guy you knew in high school, and at your 10 year reunion you find out he won the lottery, started dating supermodels while popping bottles daily. Basically, he turned into Dan Bilzerian. That’s Manchester City. And here we are, just over 10 campaigns into this facelifted franchise’s reign, and they are favorites to win not one, not two, not three, but four trophies in 2019.
Let’s run them down.
2019 Carabao Cup Final
The crown jewel of European soccer Thai-based Carabao Dang Energy Drink’s sponsorship portfolio, the 2019 Carabao Cup final, takes place on Sunday, February 24th, 2019 at 11:30am ET. City will face a reeling Chelsea.
The match is on a neutral field at Wembley Stadium, so even though Chelsea is the “home” team, there is no home-pitch advantage. Even if there was, it wouldn’t matter. Chelsea is basically the 2019 version of 2018 Manchester United. They’ve quit on their manager, Maurizio Sarri. As such, Chelsea are a big underdog at +475. Manchester City are favored to win the trophy at -182 on BetStars NJ. The only reason City aren’t favored more heavily in this one is “I have literally no idea.”
2019 FA Cup
Just like how City drew the weakest remaining team in the Champions League field with Schalke 04, the Sky Blues have drawn a veritable “who’s…who?” of tier 2 and 3 FA Cup opponents like Rotherham and Newport County.
Oddly, this is the one I think City is most likely to drop. Teams like United, Wolverhampton, and Crystal Palace could view ’18-19 as a successful campaign with some FA Cup hardware. Regardless, the oddsmakers don’t agree.
2019 Champions League
For a moment, there was a glimmer of hope that Schalke 04 was, at a minimum, about to make it really interesting against City in the Champions League Round of 16. But City scored two goals in the final five minutes of regulation and won a hard-fought match on the road (down a man, no less).
It makes sense. Manchester City has mostly rolled through the competition and are rated the top club in Europe on FiveThirtyEight. Barcelona is being challenged by Lyon. Liverpool or Bayern Munich will bow out this round. Juventus are all but eliminated. City keep drawing rec teams in the FA Cup so they can rest their regulars. This one sets up well for them.
Ah, the domestic league title chase.
Despite being tied with Liverpool (although ahead on goal differential), and Liverpool having a game in hand, City are listed as odds-on favorites to win the Premier League at -165. Liverpool follow at +110.
Reds fans are surely frustrated their club didn’t put this race away after City dropped points to Palace, Leicester City, and Newcastle. Since the Newcastle loss, City have gone full-on Keyser Söze, winning their next 5 games across all competition by an 18-4 margin. At least they didn’t burn the Etihad down while doing it.
With the start of the MLS season just 10 days away, some New Jersey sportsbooks have posted week 1 lines.
All odds as of 02/21/19
|Philadelphia Union +105||Draw +260||Toronto FC +245|
|Orlando City SC +220||Draw +270||New York City FC +110|
|Columbus Crew +150||Draw +250||New York Red Bulls +175|
|FC Dallas -111||Draw +270||New England Revolution +290|
|Colorado Rapids +170||Draw +240||Portland Timbers +160|
|Houston Dynamo +105||Draw +275||Real Salt Lake +235|
|Vancouver Whitecaps +110||Draw +240||Minnesota United FC +260|
|Los Angeles Galaxy -125||Draw +280||Chicago Fire +320|
|San Jose Earthquakes +140||Draw +250||Montreal Impact +180|
|Seattle -154||Draw +300||Fc Cincinnati +400|
|DC United +190||Draw +260||Atlanta United FC +135|
|LAFC +105||Draw +275||Sporting Kansas City +245|
Also Read: 2019 MLS Cup Futures
Perhaps it was a little unreasonable to count on Real Madrid sustaining the form that allowed them to earn a Copa del Rey draw at Barcelona followed by road wins over Atlético Madrid (La Liga) and Ajax (Champions League). That stretch could have been a flash in the pan for a talented but flawed team. Or it might have been fatigue that caused Los Blancos to falter in a devastating 2-1 loss to 15th-place Girona last Sunday.
What’s not up for debate – not that it was exactly an open question – is who the heavy favorite should be in La Liga. There was nothing pretty about Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Valladolid last week, but those three points mean Barça (54 points) remains well clear of second-place Atletico (47) and third-place RM (45).
Last weekend was yet another example of Barcelona getting at least a point despite being a long way from its best. Manager Ernesto Valverde’s side have now recorded two draws and an uninspiring win in their last three La Liga contests (five points), but neither Atletico (with three points in their last three) nor Real Madrid (six points in their last three) have fully taken advantage.
Saturday’s trip to face fourth-place Sevilla at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán at 10:15 a.m. Eastern appears to be Barcelona’s toughest La Liga match-up in weeks. That’s as much an indictment of the Catalans’ slate since the winter break – of their seven league foes this calendar year, Getafe is the only one in the top five of the table – as anything.
Sevilla (37 points) is a considerable distance from the top of the table and has struggled since beating Levante 5-0 on Jan. 26. The club has won just one of its last three La Liga matches, including a 3-0 loss to Villarreal last Sunday. But they showed what they’re capable of in big games on Wednesday, beating Lazio 2-0 to advance to the Europa League’s Round of 16.
Barcelona handled these teams’ first match-up of the season, winning 4-2 back in October. Sevilla trailed 2-0 after 12 minutes as Philippe Coutinho and Lionel Messi both found the back of the net in the early going.