The Longshot: City are poised to disarm Gunners in showdown

The Longshot: City are poised to disarm Gunners in showdown

Manchester City’s Erling Haaland tackled by by Arsenal’s Rob Holding during the FA Cup fourth round match at the Etihad.

APRIL 26. A date that will have been marked on the calendar of all Arsenal fans since before Christmas.

A visit to the Etihad and the crunch match to decide who will win the Premier League.

Very few Gunners fans would have thought the title would be decided before tomorrow night. Wildest dreams and all that.

But surely only the most pessimistic would have imagined we would reach the date with almost everyone accepting City have the title wrapped up.

City are now 1/4 to lift the trophy and do a three-in-a-row while capturing their ninth title.

And after beating Sheffield United to set up an all-Manchester FA Cup final, they are just 17/10 to emulate their cross-town rivals’ 1999 achievement and do the treble.

Arsenal are out to 10/3 to end a 19-year wait for domestic glory.

Coming from two goals down has been the Gunners’ downfall. They managed it against basement club Southampton on Friday evening but the damage was done in the two previous ties when Liverpool and West Ham did the same trick on them.

All the while City have been chipping away at a lead that looked like it was stretching out of reach not so long ago. The gap is currently five points so the visitors will remain at the top whatever happens tomorrow night. But Pep Guardiola’s side have two games in hand too and look to have the easier run-in with games to come against the likes of Fulham, West Ham, Leeds and Everton ahead. Arsenal have to go to Newcastle, who hammered Spurs over the weekend at St James’ Park.

City’s FA Cup semi success over Sheffield United was their 11th win in 12 games, with a draw at Bayern Munich when they had almost certainly already qualified the only bump.

We have seen City go into overdrive so many times at this stage of the season in recent years that bar something otherworldly happening it is impossible to see them faltering.

City’s strength in depth is the main reason they lengthen their stride down the stretch. Bukayo Saka has to play every minute available for Arsenal when a game is in the mix, whereas City can chop and change with barely any impact on the quality of their creative play.

The only thing Arsenal can do to keep their slim hopes alive is to nick a win. They are 5/1 to manage that. The draw is 18/5, but that surely won’t be enough for them.

A home win is 4/7. City have been dominant in the fixture and have won twice this season (at the Emirates just two months ago) and seven in a row.

Arsenal’s last win at the Etihad was in 2015 and they haven’t even scored during their last four visits.

Current form notwithstanding, historic results shouldn’t matter a whole pile.

The opportunity to stay in the title race they have led for nearly the whole season remains for Mikel Arteta’s men. And their performances this season before their most recent blips should ensure they are no pushovers. If you can’t perform when it’s all on the line, then when can you do it? And City might be under that bit more pressure now that their fate is firmly in their own hands.

Still, it’s hard to make an argument for Arsenal. They have no clean sheets in six and face a free-scoring machine. And Erling Haaland.

The Norwegian is 4/6 to net tonight. So Arsenal will probably need to net a couple of times at least to win. Gabriel Jesus makes a return to his former side and he has scored four goals in his last four and the Brazilian is 18/5 to score.

Both teams to score is 21/10, which looks decent odds. City to hit three or more is 17/10.

Woodland can be back pulling up trees again

IT’S not been since the days of Tiger Woods ruling the fairways that we have seen a player enter a golf tournament at odds of 3/1.

But we find ourselves here again as Masters maestro John Rahm attempts to defend the Mexico Open this week — and win a fifth PGA Tour event of the still early season.

The reason for that short price is because most of the bigger names are taking this week off with eyes to more lucrative events in the weeks ahead (including the PGA Championship taking place in three weeks at Oak Hill — where Rahm is the 9/1 favourite).

The repercussions of the new “designated event” PGA schedule now falls on ’in-between’ events, which star players are far less likely to travel out of their way for, even to lovely Mexico.

On paper, Rahm’s main opposition this weekend is Tony Finau, who finished as a runner-up to him by a single shot on the same course last year.

This year’s Arnold Palmer winner Kurt Kitayama tied second with Finau then but doesn’t participate this year, leaving Finau at 8/1 the likeliest contender to stop the Spaniard.

We prefer better value than all that of course and the lack of star performers mean that if the top two do falter, a bigger-priced contender has a chance, i.e. Gary Woodland is 30/1.

The course is long and hasn’t got much in the way of rough and the 2019 US Open winner is in the top 10 on the tour in average driving distance, ahead of even a boomer like Rahm. The 38-year-old hasn’t won since that Major, but has found better form this season and is also a dinger with long irons that will come into play on this track (he is second only to Rahm in proximity from 200 yards or further out over their last 50 rounds).

He was a creditable tied-14th at Augusta and it will be a surprise if he is not in contention. He finished 24th last year when he carried much poorer form into the event. Here he is looking to make his fifth straight cut.

With most firms offering 1/4 on each-way terms he is certainly good value.

Left down by the Dubs

OUR Asian picks last week didn’t go down too well.

The South Korean Kims did make the top 10 in the Zurich Classic, but never really threatened the outright lead. The less said about Ding Junhui’s efforts at the Crucible the better.

Closer to home things were a bit nearer to clicking as five selections from our GAA six-timer for the weekend came up, only for the 30/1 accumulator to come unstuck when 1/4 shots Dublin only managed a draw against Antrim in the Leinster Hurling Championships. As a famous caveman once said, “Ugh!”

Rocket in right frame for title

OUR shout for Ding success in Sheffield definitely fitted into the ‘longshot’ category. We did mention two other decent bets however, suggesting not to let 4/1 put you off eight-chasing Ronnie O’Sullivan “as he has won one in three Crucibles he has appeared in since the turn of the century”.

He is 7/4 to capture the record amount of titles before entering today’s quarter-final with Belgian Luca Brecel.

His match with Hossein Vafaei was a 13-2 rout (helped by the Iranian’s smashing break antics). This should be much tougher with Brecel racking up four centuries in a 13-11 defeat of multiple winner Mark Williams, who looked in decent form himself. It is 5/2 he beats Ronnie and 16/1 he becomes the first player from continental Europe to lift the title.

Jak's high

THE other player we mentioned was Mark Allen, whose recent form suggested he could be in contention at 14/1, yet poor Crucible performances put us off.

The Northern Irishman is now in to 11/2 and faces event debutant Jak Jones in the quarters today. The man from Wales has thus far seen off Ali Carter, Neil Robertson, and Barry Hawkins in qualifying and is a decent price to win this meeting at 3/1.

The Bet

WE narrowly missed out on a six-timer at the weekend, so we’ll attempt one less for the midweek Premier action. Villa can continue to push for Europe by beating Fulham tonight. City will more or less wrap up the title tomorrow with a win. Liverpool should win at West Ham. Southampton to win a Southcoast derby against Bournemouth and give themselves a chance of avoiding relegation. And United to put an end to Spurs Champions League hope will net you just shy of 30/1.

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