League football has taken a back seat for the last week. After the carnage of the festive period, the calendar year begins with the excitement of the FA Cup Third Round, and less historic, but equally intriguing, League Cup semi-finals.
Two matches over Tuesday and Wednesday this week could go a long way to deciding who meets at Wembley. Will it be all over by Thursday? Will we see a shock? Well, that’s what we are here to chat about…
Manchester City vs Bristol City
When the pair of Cities were drawn together, it was met with a collective ‘oooh’. In part, because Championship Bristol City were drawn with the unstoppable Premier League leaders. In part, too, because of the what could have been had Manchester United squeaked past the west country side.
Bristol City were magnificent as they broke the hearts of Jose Mourinho’s men, just as they have been for much of this season. Lee Johnson’s side reside a mere two points off the automatic promotion places.
Their FA Cup tie with Watford was played under the shadow of this upcoming blockbuster trip to the Etihad Stadium. The 3-0 defeat gives no indication of the performance we will see on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, Manchester City were giving Burnley a sniff before crushing their optimism. City were not themselves for the first 45. Then they reminded everyone that they’re the best side in Europe this season with a rampant second half performance.
It’s of no surprise that the hosts are the strong favourite – at 2/15 in fact – but there’s still value to be found in this one.
I don’t see Bristol City making it through over the two legs. I do, though, think they can frustrate City. Pep Guardiola’s side have found a way more often than not this season, but I think Johnson’s men can evade a thrashing.
TIP: Under 3.5 goals @ 5/6
Chelsea vs Arsenal
Much like Lee Johnson, Antonio Conte and Arsene Wenger named line-ups at the weekend with their heads clearly turned to the midweek Carabao Cup action.
Conte saw his Chelsea side slip to a disappointing 0-0 draw with Norwich. Arsenal were the subjects of the ‘cupset’ of the weekend, though, as they lost 4-2 to Nottingham Forest on Sunday evening. Both performances were poor, and hardly set them up for League Cup success at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
In their last league outing, the Blues and Gunners faced off at the Emirates. It developed into a thrilling match, ending 2-2 thanks to a stunning late Hector Bellerin strike. The failings of both teams were clear that evening. I’d be surprised to see such an open match at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
That was their second encounter of 2017/18, having played out a drab 0-0 in west London back in September. Fitting of the highly competitive top six (excluding Manchester City) this season, there’s little to split these two, particularly having rested many of their stars at the weekend.
It is the attacking players that will have all the attention. And, on this occasion, rightly so. Neither team’s defence looks certain of shutting the other out, this will be as much about limiting the damage the other can inflict.
The Blues sit seven points clear of their capital rivals in the Premier League. Arsenal will be desperate to bounce back from the disastrous result in Nottingham on Sunday, but Arsene Wenger is again a man under pressure. It’ll be a close run thing – and I expect this to go down to the wire in the second leg – but the hosts should have enough to take a slim advantage to the Emirates.
TIP: Chelsea to win @ 4/5
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*