Swindon Town v Manchester City
Friday 7 January, 20:00 kick-off
Live on ITV
It’s back! We’ve got another week full of our Game of the Day features and this time with a serious FA Cup flavour so sit back as we dig deep into our favourite third round ties and watch out for our special Odds Boosts that will accompany each fixture.
First up, it’s a traditional David v Goliath encounter as Pep Guardiola’s mega-rich Premier League champions visit a Swindon Town side in recovery mode after suffering some real dark times.
Dream draw for recovering Robins
It’s a dream draw for League Two side Swindon Town and new owner Clem Morfuni, who took over in July after a long legal struggle.
He took charge of a freshly relegated club with huge debts, a transfer embargo and no manager – with players and staff not paid fully in June and the local council chasing down unpaid rent on their County Ground stadium.
While Morfuni has been reducing debts off the field, manager Ben Garner has turned things around on it, with the Robins in fifth in League Two chasing an immediate promotion, and now reaching the FA Cup third round for the first time in a decade.
? Swindon Town FC (@Official_STFC) January 5, 2022
Wins over Walsall and Crewe have given them the chance to make the fourth round for the first time since 2012, when they beat Premier League side Wigan. Even with multiple changes, though, Man City are by no means Wigan!
It’s a free hit though for Swindon, this showpiece game is more a reward for the players, staff and the fans, who have been through that tough time to get the national TV spotlight and hopefully give a good account of themselves.
And you never know when the magic of the FA Cup will strike….
Tough to predict Pep’s line-up
Guardiola has lifted the FA Cup once, with the Carabao Cup seemingly more to his liking over the years, but with Man City strangely finding themselves out of that tournament they can give this one a bit more focus this season.
Although Pep and a number of City’s first team won’t be there due to Covid – it should still be a game for the City youngsters to get a run-out, and while the line-up may have a few more familiar faces in than you’d expect – the likes Cole Palmer, James McAtee, Luke Mbete, Josh Wilson- Esbrand and CJ Egan-Riley could all get a shot.
Fringe senior players sprinkled in the side should include Nathan Ake, Fernandinho, Ilkay Gundogan and quite possibly £100m man Jack Grealish, who hasn’t managed to nail down a regular starting spot as yet at the Etihad.
A good run-out and some production against the League Two opponents could be just the confidence booster Grealish needs ahead of City’s next league game against Chelsea.
Make no mistake, Guardiola is taking this competition seriously, and as long as City can cobble together a team with Covid absentees, their ample resources mean that even a scratch will still be better than most.
Stats and form
We all know City have been flying, and you can’t really equate their Premier League dominance with facing a League Two side, especially with expected changes – but they’ve dealt well with facing lower league sides as they’ve done pretty often in cup competitions.
They’ve won their last seven FA Cup ties against sides from the fourth tier or lower, last losing one against Blackpool back in January 1984, and crucially Guardiola is now well adjusted to playing these types of fixtures.
For what it’s worth, City have won 10 of their last 11 games against Swindon, but their last meeting was almost exactly 20 years ago when they also met in the FA Cup third round of the 2002 tournament.
That day, Paul Wanchope and Kevin Horlock gave Kevin Keegan’s City a 2-0 win.
Although hopes of a giant killing are slim to say the least, they’re at least a little brighter at Swindon after they ended a four game winless run in League Two with an emphatic 5-2 victory over promotion rivals Northampton.
Harry McKirdy scored four goals in that New Year’s Day hammering, so watch out for him and fellow forward Tyreece Simpson to be Swindon’s main threats whenever they can get the ball.
Best bets and OddsBoost
It’s 28/1 on the Sportsbook for a huge Swindon upset victory but perhaps the best way in when looking at the home side is to back them to score a goal, which given they found their shooting boots recently may not be an impossibility.
Port Vale, Oxford, and Newport have all scored against Man City cup sides in recent years, while Cheltenham scored first in last season’s FA Cup and forced City to score three in the last 10 mins to go through.
Wycombe also scored first in the Carabao Cup tie this season (which ended in a 6-1 defeat) and with City having Covid issues the 11/2 on Swindon to bag the first goal looks like one of the more live outsiders you’ll find for the game.
Man City to win and both teams to score is a more serious bet at 6/4 – the same price you’ll find Man City to win and over 4.5 match goals.
We’re playing a guessing game with the City line-up due to Covid, so it’s worth hanging fire until the team sheets come through, but Foden, De Bruyne, Sterling and Mahrez played against Wycombe this season so expect some big names to appear if they’re available.
Again, check the team news but Bernardo Silva has a particular affinity with the FA Cup as he’s scored five and assisted four in his last 10 starts in the competition. Silva is 6/4 to score and 6/1 to get two.
But Grealish could be the man to side with – as the feeling is he’ll start this game, and with something of a point to prove to his manager as well as those critics. Grealish is also 6/1 to score twice.
| Harry McKirdy, what else is there left to say?!
? Swindon Town FC (@Official_STFC) January 2, 2022
For Swindon, Harry McKirdy is 11/2 to score anytime, which is a nice price for someone who scored four in his last game, while he’s 17/1 to score first if the Robins can follow what Wycombe and Cheltenham did and take the lead against City.
And so we have two options for our special OddsBoost courtesy of the Betfair traders, which YOU can decide via our social media channels, with the choices being…