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Manchester City vs Manchester United Preview

The 183th Manchester Derby highlights this week's English Premier League action

Champions-elect Manchester City are on course to claim their 22nd straight victory across all competitions but standing in their way is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United who have proven to be Pep Guardiola’s bogie side, doing the league double over the Citizens last season as well as playing out to a goalless draw at Old Trafford in the reverse tie three months ago.

Meanwhile, the Baby-faced assassin is enduring another horrid spell of results in recent weeks, winning just three times from 10 Premier League matches that has seen the Red Devils resign from the race for the title to settle for a second-placed finish as City found top gear with 15 straight league wins that has allowed Guardiola’s men to make it a game of catch the leader.

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English Premier League: Manchester Derby
Sunday 7 March
Etihad Stadium
18:30

To Win
Manchester City 5/10
Draw 34/10
Manchester United 5/1

Manchester City

Manchester City will still be fully focused on the task at hand – reclaiming the Premier League crown that they dearly covet, however, the trophy that will change the history of the club and the reason the best manager in the world was brought to Manchester was winning the UEFA Champions League.

The elite club competition will surely be prioritized by Guardiola and his boys who are dreaming of a possible quadruple on the cards. It didn’t seem this way at the beginning of the season with tactics being altered to become sounder defensively. Although in a recent interview, the Spanish mentor stated that the 1-1 draw with West Brom was the turning point of City’s current success.

Guardiola just didn’t recognize that it was his team on the pitch so he decided to go back to his basics that has brought him success and allowed more freedom to his players which has worked out flawlessly.

The number of goals this team can score coupled with their new found solidity at the back is a powerful combination that personally has swayed me in the direction of City pipping the likes of Bayern Munich and Paris-Saint Germain to the Champions League crown.

Sergio Aguero is nearing full fitness and will be kept in cotton wool for the most demanding matchups. The Argentine striker is nearing 200 goals in Sky Blue colours but hasn’t contributed in any of the 56 Premier League goals this season. Its scary to think what heights this team could reach with a 30-goals per season marksman leading the line.

The most important element that separates City from their competitors is their strength in depth. Every position is covered by two or more world class international footballers that fully trust their manager’s philosophy and compete healthily for starting berths.

The defence and goalkeeper Ederson deserve a lot of credit as without them laying the solid foundation to build on, everyone playing ahead of Spanish midfielder Rodri in the City team would not be capable to get on the ball and display their magic that gets fans at the edge of their seats with silky smooth football played at high intensity.

Recent Form - All Competitions
Manchester City – WWWWW
Manchester United – DDDWW

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Manchester United

Manchester United has proven the sternest test to City’s brilliance in recent meetings. The Red Devils are unbeaten in three games against the noisy neighbours. In fact, the last City player to score against United in the Premier League was Argentine defender Nicolas Otamendi who headed home a consolation goal in the 2-1 defeat in December 2019.

United have come under heavy scrutiny by fans and pundits for their approach in matches against the big six by playing both Scott McTominay and Fred to shield their defence which lacks speed especially in the centre with Harry Maguire not living up to expectation and the hefty price tag.

This has resulted in very dull affairs from the fans perspective as United are yet to beat any of the big six clubs and haven’t shown enough intent to do so. The Reds’ manager is content with draws in these clashes which isn’t title winning material in my opinion.

But looking at the situation in retrospect, if you get beaten by a direct rival, it’s not just them who overtake you in the standings but also every other team vying for UEFA Champions League football. There’s many teams hunting these positions so mathematically it might not be the worst possible outcome.

However, it’s dreadful viewing for United fans as they effectively play with six defenders to contain opponents and Portuguese talisman Bruno Fernandes is left with too much to do. Fernandes gets double marked by opponents and there is one less attacker for him to play off in these situations, which has resulted in the Portuguese Magnifico not finding the back off the net when it matters the most.

Paul Pogba will be unavailable for this massive clash and a huge miss for the Old Trafford faithful. Since suffering injury against Everton, Solskjaer’s troops have won one and drew four of the last five Premier League games, which highlights the Frenchman’s importance in taking the burden off Fernandes’ shoulders.

Dean Henderson will step in for David De Gea with United’s long-time number one granted personal leave to go back home to Spain, while Anthony Martial will face a late fitness test on his knee injury.

Martial will be working hard to be back in time. His absolutely brilliant volley from a Fernandes free-kick last season was a highlight that he will hope he can recreate on Sunday.

Probable line-ups:

Manchester City: 4-3-3
Ederson; Walker, Dias, Laporte, Cancelo; Rodri, Gundogan, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, Sterling.

Manchester United: 4-2-3-1
Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Fred, McTominay; Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani.

Prediction: Manchester City (5/10)
It’s going to be an intriguing contest at the Etihad, but I see City getting the better of United. This approach won’t change and Solskjaer will try and stay in the game for as long as possible with the hopes of nicking the odd goal from a moment of brilliance and stealing maximum points. What happens if City open the scoring early in the first half, what’s plan B? What will Solskjaer do to turn the game on its head? In the current form City are in, it’s going to take a miracle in the form of goalkeeper Henderson taking home the Man of the Match award by saving between five to ten shots on target.

Written by Bryan Naicker