Manchester City v Wolves: City set to win again but don't expect a rash of goals

After a run of four games without a clean sheet, Pep Guardiola's team will not want to concede when they host Wolves on Saturday in a game Steve Rawlings expects them to win...

Having lost their opening fixture of the new season away at Spurs and having dropped points at home to Southampton (0-0) and Crystal Palace (0-2), it's taken the defending champions, Manchester City, 15 games to return to the summit and with a relatively easy run of fixtures to come, it's no surprise to see them trading as warm favourites to pick up a fourth title in five seasons.

Having already played title rivals Liverpool (2-2) and Chelsea (1-0) away, as well as local rivals, Manchester United (2-0), Pep Guardiola's side are nicely poised to try and put some daylight between themselves and the rest.

The Citizens have already accrued six more points than they had at this stage last season and with fixtures against Leeds (H), Newcastle (A), Leicester (H) and Brentford (A) to follow after Saturday before the year's out, they have another record within their sights.

City have now won 31 of their 39 Premier League games in 2021 (D2 L6) and only Liverpool in 1982 (33) and Chelsea in 2005 (32) have won more matches in a single calendar year in English top-flight history.

It's not all been plain sailing of late for City though. They've now conceded in each of their last four in all competitions and Tuesday night's defeat (1-2) to RB Leipzig will have angered the demanding gaffer.

With the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden all in need of game time, following time out of the side because of covid (KDB) and injuries, Pep put out a strong line-up in Germany for the Champions League dead rubber and although the result was immaterial, the performance was still disappointing.

Other than Foden, who played well until subbed off as a precaution at half time, Pep's side lacked their usual intensity, and the poor performance was made even worse when a ridiculously rash challenge by Kyle Walker in the 82nd minute saw the right back sent off. He'll now miss their round of 16 match in the Champions League and it was very obvious that Pep was far from impressed.

City topped Group A ahead of Paris St-Germain but the fact that they conceded in all six matches is a concern going forward.

Goals drying up for watertight Wolves

New manager, Bruno Lage, has worked the oracle with the Wolves defence.

Leeds, with 15, were the only team in the Premier League to concede more set piece goals (excluding penalties) than Wolves (14) last season but after 15 games, Lage's men are the only side in the division yet to concede such a goal.

That demonstrates brilliantly just how organised and well-drilled they are under the former Benfica boss and their defence has been breached just once in their last four Premier League matches. And that was an injury time winner by second favourites to win the league, Liverpool, last week, but their defensive solidity does have a negative flipside.

Wolves are not conceding many, but they're not scoring either and in the five Premier League games played since they edged out a dire Everton side at home 2-1 on the first day of November, they've found the net just once.

Wolves are on the exact same points tally as they were at this stage of the season last year (21) but the xG numbers suggest they should have won more points earlier on.

They found the net just twice in their first five Premier League games, losing their opening three fixtures 1-0 and losing 2-0 at home to Brentford, a week after they'd beaten Watford away by the same score, but their xG total for those five games was 10.1! They scored just two when the stats suggested they should have scored ten.

Wolves' xG numbers aren't as strong as they were at the start of the campaign and the chances are drying up as well as the goals. They recorded an xG of 1.29 when they beat West Ham 1-0 at home four games ago but that's the only time since that Everton win on November 1 that they've record an xG bigger than 1.

They recorded an xG of just 0.13 at home to Liverpool last week but the 0.36 recorded away in a 0-0 draw at Norwich a week after they'd beaten West Ham is perhaps even more damning.

City set to win again but don't expect a rash of goals

These two have had some decent encounters since Wolves returned to the Premier League three seasons ago. The pair shared the points at Molineux (1-1) before Wolves put in a poor performance at the Etihad (lost 3-0) in the 2018/19 season but they did the double over City the following season, winning a classic at home 3-2 two months after a 2-0 counter-attacking steel at the Etihad, with Adam Traore scoring both goals.

City got the better of Wolves in both games last season, winning 3-1 away and 4-1 at home and given they've also conceded in each of their last four matches, Yes in the Both Teams to Score market at odds of around 7/4 will appeal to plenty.

It's very hard to see past the home side in the outright market but 1.19 is just too short so I've weighed up a couple of alternatives.

City to win and Both Teams to Score has landed in each of their last three Premier League matches. Manuel Lanzino scored a quite brilliant consolation goal for West Ham with virtually the last kick of the game two weeks ago and Ollie Watkins pulled one back for Aston Villa after City had led by two at the break three days later. City won both games 2-1 and Hernandez grabbed a second half consolation for Watford in a 3-1 home defeat last Saturday.

At odds of around 2/1 that's been a lovely way to get the champions onside of late, but I suspect the run may come to an end on Saturday.

The combination of Tuesday's sloppy defeat in Germany, that recent run in the Premier League, and Wolves' poor recent record in front of goal, suggest Pep's side may well keep a clean sheet on Saturday.

They will have received an almighty roasting after such a careless performance in midweek and after the run of games they've just had in the Premier League, there'll be a huge emphasis on not conceding.

City to win to nil is quite rightly an odds-on chance but Wolves will keep things tight. Under in the Over/Under 2.5 Goals market at around 2.6 is tempting given there have been less than three goals scored in 11 of Wolves' last 12 Premier League away games but I like the odds-against for the home side to win with less than four goals in the game.

That gives us a combination of 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 and 2-1 and it's a bet that would have won in four of City's last five Premier League encounters.

For those interested in a wager on the goal scorer markets, odds of around 2/1 about Bernado Silva finding the net look juicy. The brilliant 27-year-old Portuguese playmaker is in incredible form so he's almost a guaranteed starter and he's scored six goals in his last eight Premier League appearances.

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