The Longshot: Is this finally to be City’s year in Europe?

The Longshot: Is this finally to be City’s year in Europe?

Inter Milan are third favourites at 7/1 to win the Champions League despite being probably the poorest team left in the competition.

AFTER 12 successive if not successful seasons in the Champions League, is it finally Man City’s year?

Following last week’s dismantling of Bayern Munich at home they have been installed as 10/11 favourites to lift the European crown.

They will have no trouble getting through their second leg in Bavaria but, despite their current blazing form, it might still worth being a bit cautious about them at money-on.

The first half of the Bayern game was the highest standard of football played in the competition for years (the 2015 Barca-Juve final probably being the apex).

It was fast and furious but also insanely intricate from both sides. While some may be critical of Thomas Tuchel’s tactics, Dayot Upamecano’s mistakes contributed greatly to the heavy defeat.

The Germans had more possession than City (56%-44%) over the 90 minutes, something that happens very rarely against a Pep team. There have been dramatic turnarounds in the knockout stages in the past few years with rarely the quarter or semis slipping by without some sort of major drama, however it is unlikely to happen at the Allianz arena tomorrow.

Bayern had a 1-1 draw at home against Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga at the weekend, with all their key players starting except for Jamal Musiala. Sadio Mane was suspended for that after his dressing room altercation with Leroy Sane.

It’s probably best to avoid this one for an accumulator as, although City look too good for Bayern, they have no major incentive to win the game beyond simply progressing.

Waiting in the next round for City will presumably be reigning champs Real Madrid. Frank Lampard has now led Chelsea to three successive defeats since taking over as interim boss and is out to 6/1 to take over permanently. Goals from Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio on either side of half-time helped Madrid establish a foothold in the tie, with the Blues reduced to ten men when Ben Chilwell was sent off.

Chelsea have progressed from five of their last seven Champions League ties when losing the first leg away from home, but the daunting task of knocking out the 14-time champions with Lampard in charge looks impossible. If they do they would become only the third team to reach the semi-final after overcoming first-leg deficits in both the last 16 and quarter-final.

The only quarter-final that looks to be competitive is tonight’s clash in Naples between Napoli and AC Milan. The Serie A leaders are 6/5 to progress at home. They were as short as 4/1 to lift the trophy before the game at the San Siro but have drifted out to 8/1.

Their one-goal deficit shouldn’t be a major obstacle to overcome at home. If their finishing had been better they would have brought something into the second leg, but with number one star striker Victor Osimhen absent through injury, their attack failed to step up.

The Nigerian will return tonight, but does have to find a way past Mike Maignan, denier of Nathan Collins in the Ireland v France game, and someone who looks like the best shot-stopper out there at the moment. Osimhen hadn’t played for Napoli since the last international break before making an appearance in Saturday’s goalless draw with Verona which cut his side’s imposing Serie A lead to 14 points. He only played the final 17 minutes of that frustrating stalemate but the match came alive once he was on. He caused havoc in the Verona defence and came close to snatching the points when he smashed a first-time rocket off the bar with eight minutes remaining.

The likeliest tie to see a deficit overturned is the admittedly difficult task Benfica face in the San Siro. Inter’s 2-0 win in Lisbon was creditable, albeit lucky. Benfica ran rings around PSG in the group stage but haven’t been as good since Enzo Fernandez’s departure to Chelsea. Nicolas Otamendi was suspended last week and, although sometimes prone to mistakes (he almost cost Argentina a World Cup), he has been a rock for Benfica this season. Inter have one win in the last eight games and with Qatar flops Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku up top, they could slip up tomorrow evening.

South Korean duo worth punt for partnered event

OUR golf tips haven’t been going well of late but as luck would have it we have the opportunity of making two wrong predictions this week.

The Zurich Classic beginning on Thursday on the PGA has been played as a two-man team event in its last five renewals.

The format will be fourball and foursomes in alternate rounds, like the Ryder Cup with 80 pairs taking part. Our pick for the Masters and third-placed last week at the Heritage Patrick Cantlay teams up once again with his pal Xander Schauffele and they return as defending champions and are 3/1. This duo have performed excellently in Presidents and Ryder Cups and a top-10 finish is almost a certainty for them. The winners the year before were Aussies Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith, but both are on the LIV Tour now. Smith is the 10/1 favourite to win on that tour next weekend at 10/1 on home soil in Adelaide. In 2020 the event didn’t take place because of covid.

Another formidable pair will be Californians Collin Morikawa and Max Homa (6/1), while Heritage playoff winner Matt Fitzpatrick will team up with his less talented brother Alex at 50/1.

Ryder Cup captains present and past Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker will also form a team and are a big price at 125/1.

Recent World Matchplay winner and local college graduate Sam Burns and Billy Horschel (multiple T10 finishes at this event in Louisiana — Horschel triumphed in 2018 with Scott Piercy and also won individually in 2013) and Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell (6/1) will also be high-profile partners in with a chance of topping the leaderboard.

The betterball format is likely to be the most important in terms of scoring. Last year Cantlay and Schauffele shot -25 across their two rounds of the fourball (combining for rounds of 59 and 60) and just -4 across their two rounds of foursomes.

We’ll opt for South Korean duo Tom Kim and Si Woo Kim, who beat Cantlay and Schauffele in the President’s Cup last September the only time they were paired together on the final afternoon fourball.

Burns and Horschel are probably the best value at 22/1 but we’ll opt for the Korean duo at 14/1.

Game of the championship

MONAGHAN’S last-gasp win over Tyrone is potentially the game of the championship at this early stage. The Farney men are serial survivors in Divsion One of the league and could capture an Ulster Championship in what is likely to be the last season for ace marksman Conor McManus.

They are 4/1 to capture the Ulster title. Derry are 11/10 favourites after their win over Fermanagh.

Second favourites Armagh (7/2) meet Cavan at Breffni Park, but the home side have been causing surprises in the competition during the past few years and should not be written off at 9/4.

Connacht hits semi stages

NEW York play their first ever game on away soil when they face Sligo this weekend.

They had their first win in Connact over Leitrim a fortnight ago and are 13/2 to overcome their hosts on Saturday afternoon.

The Connacht champs will come from Sunday’s clash between Galway and Roscommon.

Padraic Joyce’s All-Ireland finalists are 1/2 to win at Dr Hyde Park. They beat them in last year’s decider but lost by a single point in the league clash.

Both are already ensured a place in the race for Sam, whoever wins the provincial championship will have the benefit of being seeded in the last 16.

The Bet

THE Munster Senior Hurling championship gets underway this weekend with the Rebels sitting out the opening set of fixtures.

Limerick will likely make short work of Waterford at home, but Clare and Tipp cannot be separated by the bookies and could produce a real humdinger.

We’ll settle on a three-timer on the midweek football action however, and take Benfica to win in Milan (though maybe not advance), Napoli to win at home and Real to draw in London at 12/1.

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