Manchester City will be confident of emerging victorious when they host bottom of the table Reading at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (3pm GMT).
City recovered from their derby defeat to Manchester United to record a 3-1 victory away to Newcastle last weekend, moving them onto 36 points from 17 matches, six shy of United, but seven clear of their next nearest challenger.
That match was the fourth time this season City have scored three or more goals (the first time away from home) compared to 21 last season (six away). It was also one of the first times they have displayed flashes of the attractive yet dominant football that was a hallmark of last season’s title winning campaign.
The forward interchanges between Carlos Tevez, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero were a joy to watch. Yaya Toure performed incisively in the centre of midfield, laying on a sumptuous pass in the build up to the first goal and tapping home the third himself from Pablo Zabaleta’s cut back.
The Citizens have conceded at a greater rate and scored at a lesser rate than last season. With their ill-fated Champions League campaign having put their European season to bed, they now have an opportunity to push on and take the fight to United at the top of the table.
Despite not reaching last season’s heights, City still have the best defensive record in the Premier League with 15 conceded from 17 matches to date, while their record of 33 goals scored is the second-highest in the division. That is a solid base to build on in the second half of the campaign, especially with new signings Javi Garcia and Matija Nastasic starting to bed down.
Coach Roberto Mancini has received some good news ahead of the visit of Reading, with captain Vincent Kompany returning to training and in contention to partner Nastastic in the centre of defence. Nasri is, however, a doubt, while Jack Rodwell, Maicon and Micah Richards all definitely miss out.
Reading are at the foot of the Premier League table coming into Saturday’s fixture. They suffered a 5-2 home defeat against Arsenal on Monday that allowed Queen’s Park Rangers to leapfrog them into 19th.
It was the tenth defeat the Royals have suffered this season, leaving them with just nine points from their 17 matches to date, and was a match that again laid bare the club’s greatest weakness: poor defending. They are now almost unbackable at heavy odds-on in the Premier League relegation betting markets.
Reading have, on average, conceded more than two goals per match. Their total of 36 goals conceded is comfortably the worst defensive record in the division. All five of the goals Arsenal scored on Monday were from inside the penalty area, with hesitancy and a lack of spacial awareness preventing the Reading defence from offering any more than scant resistance.
The Royals’ backline certainly lacks Premier League experience and many of the goals the club have conceded this season can be put down to substandard defending, but the manner in which Brian McDermott’s side play has done little to help the situation.
Reading are a direct team, as evidenced by the fact that a division-high 25.5% of their passes are either crosses or long balls. They hold the least possession in the league (40.9%, on average) and also have the worst pass success rate (69.2%).
In their promotion campaign they could get away with playing directly as they were generally able to outscore opponents. But in the Premier League opposition teams are better at using possession effectively. Reading have lacked the ability to establish a foothold in matches through controlling the ball, thus putting unnecessary pressure on an ill-equipped defence.
The end result is a team who have kept just one clean sheet this season, have conceded three or more goals on seven separate occasions, and have lost six Premier League matches on the bounce, as well as seven of their last nine away from home. Heavy spending and a change of tact will be required if Reading are to have any chance of avoiding the drop.
Manchester City vs Reading Betting Tips Verdict
City may not have reached the heights of last season’s performances on a regular basis this time around but they are still a very good side and are more the capable of racking up a comfortable victory against a vastly inferior Reading side.
- Back Manchester City -2 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds of 8/13 with Paddy Power. If City win by two goals your stake is returned. A win by any greater margin sees the bet pay out.
- Aguero and Tevez are currently City’s two top scorers in the Premier League, but with the hectic Christmas schedule in mind, Mancini may elect to rotate his strikers, meaning one or other may not make the starting eleven. Yaya Toure has scored in both of City’s last two league matches and is attractively priced to do so again on Saturday. Therefore, back Yaya Toure to score at anytime @ 15/8 with Stan James.