PEP GUARDIOLA met his match in Jurgen Klopp and it looked like another German had his number when Thomas Tuchel burst on to the English scene.

Tuchel masterminded three successive wins over Guardiola’s Manchester City after taking charge at Chelsea midway through last season, culminating in a 1-0 victory that saw the Blues crowned as European champions.

And it looked like they had a great chance of grabbing City’s Premier League title this term when Chelsea tooled up with the big-money capture of Inter striker Romelu Lukaku.

But Guardiola has risen to plenty of challenges during his six years at the Etihad and he has put both Tuchel and Klopp in their place so far this season.

A win at Stamford Bridge and a thrilling draw at Anfield have set the tone, with City heading into the latest round of games with a 10-point lead over Chelsea at the top.

What had looked like being a three-way scrap for glory is turning into a title procession and the Blues must win at the Etihad today to keep their faint hopes alive. But the bookies don’t fancy their chances, with the Euro champions as big as 22/5 with Unibet and City a best 8/11 at SBK.

Tuchel can’t take heart from his side’s improved form, with Chelsea winning both legs of their League Cup semi-final against Spurs either side of an FA Cup stroll against minnows Chesterfield.

That has coincided with Lukaku’s return to the starting line-up after his ill-advised moans in the media.

The big Belgian could get some joy against a City defence that has conceded in three of their last four, including a cup tie at lowly Swindon.

Lukaku is as big as 3/1 with Unibet for anytime scorer and that looks overpriced for a player of his quality.

The last four meetings of these sides have all seen a one-goal winning margin, with three 1-0 victories and a 2-1 triumph. Backing the one-goal winning margin pays 6/4 with McBookie today and could be worth a punt.

I also like City in the corner handicap as they won 13 to just four for Chelsea when these teams faced off at Stamford Bridge earlier this season.

City -3 in the handicap pays a generous 11/10 at Bet365.

There’s a massive clash at the other end of the Premier League table today as Newcastle host Watford in a six-pointer.

Both teams head into the game with morale low as the Magpies were dumped out of the FA Cup by Cambridge last week while Watford were crashing 4-1 at Leicester to make it seven losses in a row.

McBookie price a Newcastle win at 11/10 and that looks decent with a huge St James’ Park crowd behind them.

Terrible defending is the reason why both sides are deep in trouble so there should be some goals.

Over 2.5 strikes is a best 17/20 at Betfair while BTTS is shorter at 9/13 with SBK.

Chris Wood should make his debut up front for Eddie Howe’s side and the big Kiwi is 6/4 with BoyleSports for a goal.

But Allan Saint-Maximin remains Newcastle’s biggest threat by far and appeals more at 5/2 (Bet365) for anytime scorer. The maverick is also 11/4 at McBookie for an assist.

Manchester United knocked Aston Villa out of the FA Cup on Monday night but Steven Gerrard has the chance for instant revenge when the Red Devils come to the Midlands on league duty tonight.

Villa were the better side at Old Trafford in the cup and only some marginal VAR calls stopped them from scoring.

They have also been boosted by the signings of Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne so the home win looks pretty decent value at 21/10 with Skybet.

Everton received a much-needed morale boost last weekend when they won at Hull in the FA Cup.

They will be confident of keeping the momentum going at rock-bottom Norwich today and are 11/10 at BoyleSports.

Grant Hanley could have quite a battle with Salomon Rondon and the Scotland star is 9/2 at Bet365 to be carded.

Super singles

  • Man City -3 corner handicap (11/10, Bet365)
  • One-goal margin in City v Chelsea (6/4, McBookie)
  • St-Maximin goal (5/2, Bet365)
  • Grant Hanley to be carded (9/2, Bet365)

African Cup of Nations

THE AFCON has been a bit of a turn-off for armchair fans so far with the only excitement coming from hosts Cameroon and a referee with a Mickey Mouse watch.

I backed the Indomitable Lions to reach the final in last week’s column and they’re looking good so far after 2-1 and 4-1 wins.
But they’ve still to face a decent team so I’m not getting too carried away.

The only clash of the titans so far came in Group D as Rangers star Joe Aribo got one over on Liverpool’s Mo Salah when Nigeria beat Egypt 1-0.

They’re back in action today and the Super Eagles are 1/5 hot favourites with McBookie to beat Sudan. I fancy Nigeria to score in both halves at 6/5 with the same firm.

Egypt should bounce back when they face Guinea Bissau in the second group game and combining a win with a goal for Salah pays 110/100 in a McBookie bet builder.


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