League Two Cheltenham Town are hoping to shock six-time winners Manchester City in the FA Cup on Saturday. Joe Rindl has a preview and best bets.
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We’ve had plenty of upsets in the Cup already in 2020-21, but I just don’t see Cheltenham pulling off one of the shocks of the season - or any season, for that matter - at Whaddon Road on Saturday teatime.
Since losing to Wigan in February 2018, Manchester City have won their last seven ties against sides from a lower division by an aggregate score of 26-4. They cruised past Championship side Birmingham in the previous round, winning 3-0 despite rarely leaving first gear.
Pep Guardiola’s side have always targeted this competition, having reached at least the semi-finals in three of the past four campaigns. They may be away from home on a pitch unlikely to suit their style of play, but I fully expect City to name a strong starting line-up and blow Cheltenham away.
I like the 21/10 on offer with several firms on City to win with a -3 handicap, meaning they need to triumph by four goals, something they are easily capable of. If you fancy an outright scoreline, Guardiola's men are 7/1 to grab a 4-0 victory.
I also like the look of William Hill’s 12/5 on the visitors to be leading after 15 minutes.
The stats may at first seem against them, as City have only netted inside the opening quarter-hour three times in their past nine, but openers in the 16th, 18th and 26th minutes against Chelsea, Southampton and Crystal Palace are hiding the fact they’re very quick starters.
In their last ten matches, only against Manchester United and Aston Villa have City had to wait until the second half to net their opener, while they’ve been in front inside 15 minutes in both of their past two cup games. Cheltenham have conceded in the opening 15 minutes in two of their last three matches, including a freak goal to Newport's goalkeeper from a goal-kick.
Expect City to start fast. At 12/5 those odds could be a steal.
Cheltenham have lost their past eight EFL and FA Cup meetings with Premier League opponents and have not advanced to the fifth round since 2001-02. Despite sitting sixth in League Two and being unbeaten in their last five matches, the Robins have only scored more than once in one of their last nine games.
Alfie May has netted two of Cheltenham’s last four goals and he’s 20/1 to score first with Boylesports. But if you’re looking for an individual player to make an impact, I would take a punt on City's England ace Phil Foden.
Foden has been involved in eight goals in his eight FA Cup appearances, averaging a goal or an assist every 64 minutes in the competition. He started up top in City’s win over Birmingham in the last round and in their midweek victory over Aston Villa, his five shots and six chances created were the most he’s had in a single game in his Premier League career.
The 20-year-old is 5/1 to be first goalscorer generally and around evens to score anytime. At 5/1, those odds are criminally long. Only Raheem Sterling (eight) has scored as many goals as Foden has for City this season. If he starts, I’d say that number nine will be the opener on Saturday.
Score Prediction: Cheltenham 0-4 Manchester City (Sky Bet odds: 7/1)
1pt Man City to win -3 handicap at 21/10 (General)
1pt Man City to be ahead after 15 minutes at 12/5 (William Hill)
0.5pt Phil Foden to score first at 5/1 (General)
Odds correct at 1400 GMT (21/01/21)
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