City squad has six appeal
It's a competition overloaded with caveats, a trophy teams only pursue under certain provisos and a graveyard for punters who underestimate how much objectives can shift overnight. And yet, despite all that, we still reckon there's value to be found in the 6/1 available on Manchester City to win the Capital One Cup.
Last season, the Sky Blues were bang on course for their fourth visit to Wembley in less than 12 months when they ousted Arsenal in a quarter-final at the Emirates. But then fate tested the resolve of Roberto Mancini and the Italian left the door open, just wide enough for eventual-winners Liverpool to take advantage.
That's not intended as a slight on the latest addition to the ever-bulging Anfield honours list. Most punters only remember the abject nature of their penalty shoot-out win against Championship opposition in the final, but we know Liverpool deserved to lift the trophy for the impressive manner with which they approached the competition throughout.
The Reds were involved from August, drawn away in every round and overcame unfair scheduling to beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge barely 48 hours after a frenetic Premier League clash against City. But there's no denying they were in the right place at the right time when they seized the initiative against the champions-elect in the first leg of their semi-final at Eastlands.
City were odds-on to lift the trophy after they dispatched the Gunners amid high hopes of a semi-final against either Crystal Palace or Cardiff. Instead, they were handed the toughest of six possibilities with a second-leg decider at Anfield. Worse still, the very next day, they pulled out bitter rivals Manchester United in the FA Cup, the only one of 63 possible ties that could have detracted from their Carling Cup preparations.
Suddenly, on the back of a busy festive period, the month of January lurked ominously with five Premier League fixtures and a Manchester derby (or two) demanding some sense of forward planning. In the end, Mancini made it abundantly clear that the league was his priority, and neither United nor Liverpool were going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Given City's resources, it hardly warrants sympathy but that bears little relevance to us, we're putting the matter into context to illustrate why they offer value in occupying less than 15 per cent of the outright book. With all teams taking risks in the early rounds, City possess by far the greatest peripheral options and they are the one true powerhouse that needs to be stopped.
Indeed, you could argue that this is where the champions stand to profit most from their summer transfer business. The departure of Adam Johnson can be considered a blow to their aspirations in this competition, but it's more than compensated for by the arrivals of Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, Matija Nastasic and Maicon, all of whom can expect game time, while Carlos Tevez also bolsters the options in comparison to last term.
So what of the alternatives? In truth, once you look beyond City, you could make a case for almost anyone and it generally goes by the order of the market, although we'd be inclined to strike a line through Liverpool as they look to implement a new philosophy under Brendan Rodgers, a manager who has been scalped by inferior opposition in knockout competition on more than one occasion.
Meanwhile, Everton have the distinct advantage of no European commitments and they appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the Premier League contingent to whom that same rationale applies, although Sunderland also merit a mention in light of Martin O'Neill's record in this particular competition. Those two clubs can be backed at 12/1 and 20/1 respectively.
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