Manchester City v Aalborg, UEFA Cup last 16, second leg, March 12, 2009
Many may look on the UEFA Cup, soon to be transformed into the Europa Cup, as Europe’s bastard child. But for Manchester City, the so-called richest club in the world, this tournament is coveted and stands as a huge stepping-stone in helping the club reach the lofty expectations that their owners now expect.
Robinho has been criticised for being running hot and cold this season, but at the City of Manchester stadium the thumb-sucking Brazilian has usually turned on the magic. Returning to the squad after a brief absence and likely to be deployed in the supporting striker role, it would be no surprise to see Robinho add to his 12 goals already this season (he is 5/4 to score on the night). Felipe Caicedo will likely lead the line (the Ecuadorian is 11/2 to be the first goalscorer) while the onus will again fall on Stephen Ireland to support the front men from midfield.
On the downside, Mark Hughes will be without the services of Craig Bellamy (injured) and Nigel De Jong (cup-tied & injured) while Vincent Kompany, who has been a linchpin in the side of late, is battling to shake off a toe injury.
In nine home matches so far in the UEFA Cup, City have only lost once, while chalking up just two draws and an impressive six wins. With such dominance it is no surprise to see the Citizens priced at 4/7 for the win.
But Aalborg are no mugs, and they look a tempting bet for the win at 5/1, particularly when the results the Danish champions have picked up on the road in Europe are considered.
Aalborg exited the Champions League this season after having picked up impressive away draws at both Celtic and Manchester United in the group stages. And the Danes showed their killer instinct in the last round of the UEFA Cup humbling Deportivo to a 3-1 defeat at the Riazor. Overall, the visitors have lost only once in their last seven European away games.
Of the danger men, Anders Due (six goals & four assists this season and 7/2 to score on the night) will be a constant threat down the Danish left hand side, Andreas Johansson will look to assert his authority in the centre of the park, while Jeppe Curth (10/1 to be the first goalscorer) will be the focal point up top.
101predicts: Manchester City 1 – Aalborg 2 (20/1)
Alternative bet: Draw/Manchester City (16/5)
Of all the competitions in world football, the UEFA Cup is up there with having the most open field with all the remaining participants fancying their chances of silverware.