Between the start of the 2017/18 season and the end of 2018/19, Manchester City looked unstoppable.
They were, without doubt, the best side in England and won the trophies they deserved with back-to-back Premier League titles, consecutive Carabao Cups and an FA Cup.
However, things haven’t exactly gone to plan in 2019/20. Man City’s quest for a third consecutive league title has been squashed by Liverpool’s wonderful start to the season, but Pep Guardiola’s side have also been their own worst enemies.
Man City have lost five Premier League games so far, one more than they did in the entirety of last season and just one fewer than the previous two campaigns combined.
This all means their only hopes of glory this season lie in the cup competitions, and here Man City are in good stead. They have reached the last-16 of the Champions League where they face Real Madrid, the FA Cup fifth round with Sheffield Wednesday up next and the Carabao Cup semi-finals.
Manchester United are the opponents in the Carabao Cup and Man City take a 3-1 lead into the second leg at the Etihad on Wednesday night. Although the tie appears to be done on paper, there is still excitement surrounding the game and that’s where Football Index* comes in.
*You have to be 18+ and Gamble Aware to sign up to Football Index. Values correct at time of writing – 13:15 29/01/2020.
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The Manchester derby is one of the biggest fixtures in English football right now. It’s the kind of games guaranteed to makes headlines, under which the players involved will hope to see their photos filling up the back pages.
“There are plenty of traders who buy before big matches like this and reap the rewards if that player goes on to score goals or play well,” says Craig Rennie, of Football Index Elite.
“The tricky thing regarding this match is knowing what side Pep will opt for, with the tie as good as wrapped up.”
So, which Man City players should you be looking at ahead of the game?
1. Kevin De Bruyne
Since being knocked out in the fourth round by Man Utd in 2016/17, Guardiola has taken the Carabao Cup fairly seriously, winning the competition the following two seasons. More often than not he picks a team strong enough to win the tie, mixing key men with a smattering of young players who are good enough to play first-team football.
And even with a 3-1 lead, Guardiola is likely to name a strong XI, with the likes of Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne expected to start. Craig believes the Belgian is in for another controlling display but preaches caution about expecting immediate results.
“The obvious pick for me would be Kevin De Bruyne, as he is a player I have much admiration for,” he says.
“He regularly scores and his assists this season have been second to none.
“If he starts the game, I’d expect him to dictate most of the play, but at £5.12 per share, I feel the Belgian would be too big a risk with no guarantees of his inclusion, although he is a solid long-term hold if he can carry on his current form.”
2. Riyad Mahrez
Moving towards players that may be more likely to start than De Bruyne, Craig is expecting big things from Riyad Mahrez (£2.47) after his goal in the first leg, taking his total tally to nine for the season.
“I feel Mahrez will start the match and his form has been strong in recent weeks,” he adds.
“His involvement in the team has been much greater this season and he was a scorer and arguably man of the match in the first leg.
“Mahrez’s pace and finishing could be decisive as Man Utd will have to come out of the blocks and score early.”
The Algerian faces a late fitness test after limping off against Fulham, but should feature if he passes the examination.
3. Bernardo Silva
Next up is another goalscorer from the first leg. With only 14 Premier League starts out of 22 this season, Bernardo Silva has had to use cup competitions to prove his worth this season, despite having been so key in De Bruyne’s absence last year.
But, Craig believes the 25-year-old can rise in value off the back of a good performance in the Carabao Cup, reaching similar heights to last season.
He says: “At £2.20, he sounds like a bargain, although City players have a tendency to be cheaper as the squad rotation is so frequent and there are so many stars in it.
“Silva hit highs of £2.67 last season and with a good run and some goalscoring form, he could easily reach those heights again.”
4. Ilkay Gundogan
For a slightly cheaper option, it could be worth going with midfield general Ilkay Gundogan (£1.20).
The German international is rated highly by Guardiola. Only Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus have made more substitute appearances for City in the league this season. As such, Gundogan is often left to prove himself in the games where Man City’s squad is rotated, including cup competitions. But a good performance against Man Utd could set him up for the remainder of the season ahead of Euro 2020.
Craig says: “Again he is a bit-part player but this could be the type of game he’s involved in and has been taking the penalties of late with a 100% record.
“He’s also a regular with the German squad and could be a good hold with the Euros imminent.”
Who to pick on Football Index?
So, of the four Man City options given, which would be the best player to invest in on Football Index ahead of the game? And, if any, which Man Utd player could be considered?
“The only one I’d perhaps consider would be Anthony Martial, who has been leading the line in recent weeks with the injury to [Marcus] Rashford,” Craig says.
“If anyone is going to shine for United it may well be him. If I had to pick one player from the game I’d be leaning towards Mahrez.”