First-leg cushion means value is in Man City easing off Steaua

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The luxury of a five-goal head start for Manchester City’s Champions League play-off second leg against Steaua Bucharest means the home side can afford to take things easy.

Pep Guardiola confirmed there will be changes to his side in the pre-match press conference, but refused to be drawn on exactly how many.

Suggestions that Joe Hart may be given a farewell appearance before being packed off were also neither confirmed nor denied, but there is sure to be a pedestrian feel to the encounter nevertheless.

With the hosts heavily fancied to saunter to victory against their Romanian visitors at a price of 2/11, finding a betting angle with a dose of value looks to be a challenge.

However, a brief history of coasting from the Spanish tactician’s previous sides in similar situations means backing the Citizens to score less than 1.5 goals against Steaua at 13/5 could turn a profit.

Guardiola teams have twice before earned a significant lead in the first leg of a knockout Champions League tie, which, for all intents and purposes, this battle with the Militarii is.

On both occasions Pep’s side scored exactly one goal in the next match.

The first instance came with Barcelona against, ironically, Bayern Munich in the competition’s 2008/09 quarter finals.

A 4-0 win was secured at home on that occasion and was followed by a stroll in Germany for the second leg in a 1-1 draw.

Two campaigns later, at the same stage and once again with Barca, the former midfield maestro masterminded a 5-1 whacking of Shakhtar Donetsk.

When the Blaugrana travelled to Ukraine a week later for the second encounter, they slipped into neutral and won 1-0.

Although this time City are playing at home for the second leg, a repeat of that scoreline still looks backable at 7/1, in case the odds about the unders aren’t quite lengthy enough.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Matt Wiggins

No idyllic sound comes close to leather on willow for Matt, whose previous experience includes stints with Spin Magazine and Surrey County Cricket Club. It's not just cricket that interests him though, with football, golf, tennis and any American sport not played on ice all high on his list of favourites.