Premier League Odds, Picks and Predictions: Sheffield United vs. Manchester City (Saturday, Oct. 31)
Matt McNulty – Manchester City/Manchester City FC via Getty Images. Pictured: Pep Guardiola.
Sheffield United vs. Manchester City Odds
|Sheffield United Odds||+850 [Bet Now]|
|Manchester City Odds||-335 [Bet Now]|
|Draw||+480 [Bet Now]|
|Time||Saturday, 8:30 a.m. ET|
Manchester City travels east to take on struggling Premier League side Sheffield United on Saturday. The Cityzens and Blades have both had disappointing starts to the season, with Sheffield in the relegation zone and Man City sitting in 13th place with a game in hand on most of the league.
I’ve been holding out hope that Sheffield United just need to find their form, but I’m starting to have major concerns about the Blades chances of avoiding relegation. They’ve only taken one point from their first six Premier League matches, having scored just three goals. This kind of form started when the Premier League restarted in June to complete the previous season.
Despite this poor run, the underlying performances haven’t been nearly as bad as the results. The Blades have actually improved from last season in the amount of time they are spending in opponents’ final third, and the number of passes completed within 20 yards of the opponents’ goal is on the rise.
I’m skeptical of their ability to generate much if they’re unable to get on the ball against City. Sheffield United ranks third worst in non-penalty expected goal difference (NPxGD), and they’ve been an under team since they joined the Premier League.
Manchester City is off to a shaky start in the Premier League by their recent lofty standards. The Cityzens have led the league in xG difference in each of the past three seasons but enter this match ranked seventh, having gone 2-2-1 in their first five league games.
What’s really happening under the hood is a fascinating look at how manager Pep Guardiola is changing the way City are playing to prevent goal-scoring opportunities for their opponents. City have long been xG darlings, and for two years they dominated the league with a prime Fernandinho patrolling the defensive midfield and preventing opposing counter attacks.
The 2019-20 version of City exposed some cracks, and they haven’t been resolved yet. They conceded too many counters through the middle, Fernandinho is now past peak, left back Benjamin Mendy has struggled and center back Aymeric Laporte has missed a lot of time due to injury.
Guardiola has changed how City are playing recently, sacrificing shots and free-flowing attack for more controlled possession. They’re protecting their defense by playing more conservatively. In City’s last two league games, they held Arsenal to 0.84 xG and West Ham to 0.26 xG. In the Champions League, they’ve held Porto and Marseille to 0.6 combined xG.
City’s attacking xG numbers have not exceeded 1.9 in a game this season, a product of being short-handed in attack and changing how they play. Leeds and Leicester showed how vulnerable City are on the counter, and Guardiola’s changed approach makes City an attractive under team.
If City were still playing the same way they played in 2019 and the first few games of 2020, I’d have concerns about playing them in a spot against a well-drilled Sheffield United defense. The Blades will present plenty of resistance defensively, but with City shutting down counter attacking opportunities, I envision a low-scoring Saturday morning battle in the Premier League.
Man City’s recent change in tactical approach is driving the total down here, as the total dropped from 3.25 to 3 since open. But I still see value on a total bet in this match.
I’ve had to adjust my City totals downward due to this perceived change in tactics, and the market has not caught up yet.
The PICK: Under 3 (-110 or better)