Aston Villa v Manchester City: Holders to retain but concede
Manchester City are red-hot favourites to win Sunday's Carabao Cup final against Aston Villa and Andy Schooler has found a way of getting with City at 17/10...
Aston Villa v Manchester City Sunday, 16:30 Live on Sky Sports Main Event
City red-hot favourites
The odds suggest it's barely worth Aston Villa turning up at Wembley for Sunday's Carabao Cup final.
Manchester City are just 1/25to lift the trophy with the Sportsbook. They are trading at 1.15to win in 90 minutes. Villa can be backed at 22.00 with the draw a 10.50 chance.
To give that some context, Swansea were 1.40 shots against League Two Bradford (9.4) in the 2013 final.
This isn't saying much but City should win.
They've just beaten Real Madrid to regain favouritism for the Champions League. Perhaps most worryingly for Villa, they managed their victory in the Bernabeu without starting any of Sergio Aguero (nine goals in his last five starts v Villa), Raheem Sterling, Fernandinho or David Silva.
Expect most, if not all, to play in this one.
Key defender Aymeric Laporte will miss out, however, having limped off against Real.
Not for the first time in recent weeks, Pep Guardiola came up with a formation and tactical plan in the Bernabeu designed very much to deal with his opponent's strengths. It certainly worked.
City to target Grealish?
If that trend is to continue here, expect him to target Jack Grealish, who has been by far Villa's most creative player this season.
Southampton offered up a template last week - James Ward-Prowse man-marking the England hopeful during what was a third successive defeat for Villa.
However, such a template probably isn't needed. Grealish has made little impact in the two games against City this season - they lost 3-0 at the Etihad before a 6-1 humbling at Villa Park in January.
Anwar El Ghazi is the injury doubt for Villa, who have already beaten Leicester, Liverpool and Wolves to reach this stage.
However, their wins over the latter two were against much-changed sides and they won't be getting those sorts of favours here.
City to win again
It's hard not to see City winning and claiming the trophy for the fourth time in five seasons.
By most teams' standards, they've been pretty ruthless against the lower-quality opposition in the Premier League. They've won 13 and drawn two of their 16 games against sides currently in the bottom 12. They've scored a whopping 53 goals in those matches - an average above three per game.
Villa, meanwhile, have struggled to get anything against the better teams. They are 0-1-10 against the top nine, conceding 32 in the 11 matches in question.
That figure of 32 highlights their biggest problem - they have the worst defensive record in the Premier League.
Villa carry goal threat
They have, however, offered more than most in the bottom half going forward.
They've actually scored in eight of those 11 games against the best teams and that is a nod to where the value could lie in a game in which getting with City at a decent price is hard to do.
Guardiola's men have been far from watertight this season. Things have improved of late; notably they didn't concede at all with Laporte on the pitch following his comeback. But with the Frenchman injured again, Villa will be encouraged.
Both sides have found the net in nine of Villa's last 10 games and the both-teams-to-score option has potential at 2.22.
However, for a bigger price, make it City to win and both teams to score in 90 minutes and the price balloons to a tempting 17/10 with the Sportsbook.
Layers expect goals
That looks a better option than backing a high-scoring game.
Both sides have strong 'over 2.5 goals' figures across the season - 70% of Villa's league games have landed the bet and 74% of City's. But, as ever when City are involved, that's reflected in the market with over 2.5 just a 1.44 shot.
Over 3.5 is a line in greater use in City games but even that is just 2.02. With City still fighting on three fronts, there's every chance that if they get two goals up they simply try to control the game and run down the clock - don't expect them to march on to a 6-0 result like they did in last season's FA Cup final against Watford.
Early booking on the cards
There's also an angle in the card markets where it could well pay to follow a trend.
Nine of the last 10 English domestic cup finals have seen a card shown in the first 31 minutes and that's the over/under mark thrown up by the Sportsbook for this game.
That could be a co-incidence but such a run over a five-year period - when the trend prior to it was more lenient - suggests to me that the officials have made a conscious decisions to clamp down early in a bid to stop things getting too wild in the competitive atmosphere of a final.
Even if I'm wrong, final referee Lee Mason also has a penchant for an early card.
He's shown one before 31:00 in four of his last five games in all competitions, while seven of his 13 Premier League matches have also seen a card that early.
Only four teams in the top flight have seen more yellow cards than Villa's tally of 51, while City have only seen six fewer having seen their good discipline levels of last season drop this term.
With those stats in mind, over 30 bookings points is also worth considering at evens.
Nine of Mason's 13 PL games fit that bill, while there have been at least 50 bookings points in the last five EFL Cup finals.
Man City have won seven of their last eight matches against Aston Villa in all competitions (D1), scoring 26 goals and conceding just three across those games.