EPL Week 14: Pick the Under in Sunderland vs. Manchester City

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 8:39 PM GMT

Second-place Manchester City heads to Sunderland to run with the Black Cats in a series which has proven to be tough for the Citizens lately. But in this mid-week match, the Under actually looks like the best bet.

Odds Overview
Sunderland vs. Manchester City, Wednesday 19:45, (NBC Sports Live Extra, Directv, Premier League Extra Time (US) 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT): This is one of those matchups which looks deceiving on paper and on the computer and in the soccer odds, but a little research shows that host Sunderland (2-8-3, 12 GF-19 GA, -7 GD, 14 points) is actually pretty tough of late against defending English Premier League champions Manchester City (8-3-2, 27 GF-13 GA, +14 GD, 27 points) whom it locks horns with in this Wednesday affair at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear. The Sky Blues symmetrically opposed record (8-2-3 vs. 2-8-3) to the Black Cats is simple proof of witchcraft or something so please keep your eyes open. We want no 8-2 or 8-3 scores here, Your Honor.

Odds makers have made visitors Manchester City robust -200 Favorites with host Sunderland massive +650 Underdogs and the Draw priced at +350 (bet365) in the Three-Way (Winner) marketplace while the Total Goals is at 2½ Over -150 (Under +110; Skybet). A random prop bet worth a glance you ask? The Total Goals Exact 0-2 is lined at +105 (Sportingbet).

 

Manchester City FC
Manchester City (4-2-1 Away, 16 GF-8 GA, +8 GD) is now lurking behind Premier League leaders Chelsea in second place and may be the one club which  roster- and talent-wise, physically, mathematically and emotionally can make a run at the Blues who too many people deemed league champions before eating their first bite of Thanksgiving turkey. It’s early, early, early December for Pete’s sake. There’s much soccer to be played, bubba. So simmer down is what you need to do. And Saturday’s 3-0 win for the Sky Blues against Southampton (8-2-3, 25 points) at St. Mary’s Stadium helped the Citizens gain 2 valuable points on Chelsea—who drew with Sunderland 0-0—in the standings and gave City, which rallied to beat Bayern Munich 3-2 last week at the Etihad Stadium in UEFA Champions League action, some more valuable confidence to make that run to try to defend its Premier League crown and capture its third championship in the last four seasons and Mancunia’s potential fifth straight. And with the prolific Sergio Agüero (EPL-leading 12 goals) on your side, anything is possible.

In the Anytime Scorer marketplace Agüero is the only player sporting a minus in front of his odds (-120, bet365) and the 26-year-old Argentinian striker is followed in price order by a number of manager Manuel Pellegrini’s talented cast: the oft-underappreciated Edin Džeko (+130, 2 goals), Stevan Jovetic (+150, 3 goals), 18-year-old José Ángel Pozo (+150), former Chelsea legend and future NYFC (MLS) stalwart Frank Lampard (+200, 3 goals), the electric and powerful Yaya Touré (+200, 3 goals), Samir Nasri (+210), Scott Sinclair (+210), playmaker David Silva (+300, 2 goals) and captain Vincent Kompany, among others. As usual, the cupboard is more than full over at the Etihad Campus.

 

Sunderland AFC
Getting Premier League goliaths Chelsea and Manchester City at Home back-to-back on the schedule must mean that the Black Cats have either done something very good or something very bad to Mr. Schedulemaker to reward/punish Sunderland (1-5-1 Home, 7 GF-7 GA, 0 GD) and manager Gus Poyet like this. But this team can be as scrappy as they come and lately, at least over the last 6 encounters, the Black Cats have held the upper edge over City. Surprise! But Sunderland and goalkeeper Vito Mannone—coming off an extremely impressive 0-0 Draw to current league leaders Chelsea here at Home on Saturday—will be up against it in terms of attacking players and “need” to win this game but then again, a team in 13th place has to worry about being relegated just as much as a second-place team has to worry about catching a first-place team, right? But City remembering last season and a 1-0 loss here, the Sky Blues will come in with both eyes open as these Black Cats have scratched the heck out of them over the last three seasons.

Besides the nice, recent record against the Sky Blues (below), what stands out for Sunderland is the now 5 Draws at Home as well as this nice little observation: If you toss out Sunderland’s 8-0 loss at Southampton earlier this season, Saints matches are only averaging 1.91 gpg (23 goals in 12 matches), so betting 2½ in Sunderland games seems logical when the situation is right the rest of this season.

The Black Cats biggest threats on offense come from Connor Wickham (+300, Anytime Goalscorer, bet 365), leading-scorer (4 goals) Steven Fletcher (+300), Sebastian Larsson (2 goals), Jordi Gómez (1 goal), Adam Johnson (1 goal), Jack Rodwell (1 goal) and America Jozy Altidore (+450) who still only has one goal in 36 appearances for Sunderland since joining the squad in 2013.

 

Best Betting Approaches and Trends
In the last 6 games in this series, Sunderland holds a very surprising 3-2-1 mark including a sweet 1-0 clean sheet in this fixture last season. In those six meetings, the Black Cats have beaten City three times by that 1-0 score, have tied them twice (2-2 and 3-3) and only lost 3-0 back in October of 2012. In the last 11 meetings in the series here at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland is 6-4-1 (11 GF-12 GA) against Manchester City in 11 games that averaged 2.09 gpg, so, the case for the Under is strengthened a little more and with both teams on a really short week with minimal rest, potentially odd starting  lineups for both sides, solid goalkeepers in both goals for both clubs and some potentially really chilly weather in the forecast on Wednesday night for Sunderland (Clear, Low 33°) and the Under looks like a good soccer pick here although with Agüero around, no Under is ever safe. Best bring some garlic.

And as far as gambling on a side, Manchester City has to be the call here as it knows after that somewhat bumpy league start, winning and getting all three points out of games like this will be imperative for the remainder of the season to try to make a little history. When the Sky Blues need that big goal, there’s usually one guy who comes through these days and his full name is Sergio Leonel "Kun" Agüero Del Castillo. You best recognize. And if you can beat mighty Bayern Fußball-Club Bayern München e. V. and nobody-ever-scores-on-us Southampton FC all in a week, then beating Sunderland, even if it has to be done the hard way, is required here on Wednesday night.

PREDICTION: Sunderland 0 Manchester City 1

EPL PICKS: Under 2½ +110 (Skybet), Manchester City -200 (bet365)

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