Take Martin Demichelis’ clumsy red-card out of Manchester City’s 2-0 home defeat to Barcelona in the Champions League and the Citizens could well have travelled to Spain for the second leg with the upper hand.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side had their fair share of chances before and after the bumbling Argentine dropped his side in it and with the contest restarting as an even 11-a-side tussle, there’s plenty of reason for optimism for travelling City fans.
Barcelona are the 4/7 favourites to win the match and even stronger 1/50 fancies to qualify, but it’s the 9/2 on City winning that should be taken here with perhaps the 11/1 on them advancing a bet for the most fancy-free of punters.
That’s because there is a glaring weakness in this Barcelona side that even the rag-tag middling sides of La Liga are exposing, giving the might of Man City a strong chance of pummelling it for 90 minutes.
Barca’s failing in defending set pieces has seen them ship 10 of the 21 goals they’ve conceded in the league this season via the opposition’s dead-ball play.
Gerard Pique is the only aerial threat to regularly lineup for the Nou Camp outfit and with the number of Man City players who’ll tower over their would-be markers easier to reel off than the alphabet, capitalising on set-pieces should be City’s number one game plan.
That shouldn’t be too much of a problem either, as the 66/1-shots for Champions League glory are the second most proficient scorers of set-piece goals in the Premier League.
Only Liverpool have scored more goals from their free-kicks and corners than the Citizens’ tally of 14 and with Joleon Lescott set to come in to the side for the banned Demichelis, it can only be seen as a positive.
Of course the former Wolves man, who is 16/1 to score anytime, must defend a set of supremely silky Barca attackers first but he can be a real weapon at the other end of the pitch.
Remember all those headers and pokes home from Everton’s set pieces back in the day? Well it’s high time they return as Lescott fires City to victory. And I bet you didn’t think you’d read those words any time soon.