The two-way Manchester battle for the Premier League title looks set to go right to the wire but it won’t be possible for City and United to also be fighting it out for the FA Cup come May as the pair have been pitched against each other at the third round stage.
Roberto Mancini’s men, who were drawn first and subsequently enjoy home advantage, are Boylesports’ 13/10 favourites to progress at the first attempt while Manchester United are 5/2 via Skybet to get one over on their ‘noisy neighbours’ and bet365 post what is sure to a be a popular 23/10 against the tie requiring an Old Trafford replay.
Partybets price a 1-1 stalemate at 11/2, however, United’s injury problems, particularly at the back, could prove crucial in the mouth watering Eastlands showdown and it’s easy to see City edging a thriller.
They’re 3/1 courtesy of Blue Square to triumph by a solitary goal and 8/1 (Stan James) to finish on the right side of a 2-1 scoreline but arguably the best bet is William Hill’s 12/5 for Mancini’s charges to prevail in a match that produces three or more goals.
Mario Balotelli meanwhile, was on target twice in City’s incredible 6-1 triumph over their rivals earlier in the campaign and the Italian, enjoying a fine season, looks the most appealing first scorer flutter at 11/2 with , although as that particular market is wide open, the controversial striker is a slightly safer bet at 15/8 (Paddy Power) to notch at any stage.
Also entertaining a television audience today, albeit probably a somewhat smaller one, is Peterborough’s home tie against Sunderland. Ladbrokes make Posh 3/1 to cause an upset but the Black Cats have been more resilient under Martin O’Neill and they deserve to be installed as even money favourites by Betfred.
At Stamford Bridge, William Hill’s 2/9 chances Chelsea should have little trouble getting past Portsmouth and Andre Villas-Boas’ side, many people’s pick at 13/2 () to lift the trophy, are 7/5 at bet365 to prevail by at least two clear goals against poor travellers Pompey. It could be a touch tighter however, at Hillsborough, where League One high-flyers Sheffield Wednesday are 23/10 courtesy of Ladbrokes, to force a replay in their tie against Championship promotion-chasers West Ham.
Man City win and over 2.5 goals in the match – 12/5 (William Hill)
Mario Balotelli to score at any time – 15/8 (Paddy Power)
Chelsea to beat Portsmouth by at least three – 7/5 (bet365)