Etihad Stadium, Manchester
Sunday, 1st November 2014; 1330 GMT
The first instalment of the Manchester derby takes place at The Etihad on Sunday and it is sure to be a keenly contested affair with both sides yet to get their season beyond the 3rd gear.
Manchester City have stuttered off late and there is the familiar arrogant look amongst their players. Not the kind of arrogant which sees you brush aside opponents but the kind where you show up in games and just expect to win them. They were plagued by a similar problem when defending their title in 2012-13 and it remains to be seen whether Manuel Pellegrini can force his players out of their current state of reverie.
On the other hand, Manchester United have made their worst start to a Premier League season collecting just 13 points from a possible 27. They have been plagued by defensive frailties all season with inexperience and injuries being contributing factors to the situation. Off late though, Louis Van Gaal’s side have started battling and forcing results, and have come back to get two points in the last two games. While this is a meagre return for a club of Manchester United’s stature but after a 7th place finish last season the goals have definitely realigned to match the reality.
Team news and tactics
Manchester City come into this match seeking to win their fourth consecutive derby, a feat not seen since the 1970’s. But they will have to play well to win and hope that their spine of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure & Sergio Aguero can again be the defining factors.
While Toure was a doubt for this match following a groin strain he should start especially in the absence of playmaker David Silva. The Spaniard suffered a knee injury in City’s loss to Newcastle in The Capital One week and is expected to be out for 3 weeks. Jesus Navas should start ahead of James Milner as it will keep Luke Shaw in check and provide City with a lot of pace to exploit the oft seen confusion in Manchester United’s defence. Samir Nasri should get the nod to play on the left and provide support to Edin Dzeko & Aguero upfront.
Manuel Pellegrini will most probably line up his side in the traditional 4-4-2 with the advantage of this system being the option to use 2 strikers. And both Edin Dzeko and Aguero have a fine record against United having netted four times in five games each in the Premier League.
Possible line-up (4-4-2): Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Dimechelis, Clichy; Navas, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri; Aguero, Dzeko
Team news and tactics
Up until a few years back Manchester United used to look at the derby as just one of the games but with the infusion of Abu Dhabi money into Manchester City this fixture now means a lot. The Old Trafford based club have lost 5 of the last 6 derbies and start this one as underdogs and one gets a feeling that Van Gaal will happily accept a draw at this point of time despite City’s recent struggles.
As far as the line-up is concerned for Sunday, Chris Malling & Marcos Rojo should start at the heart of defence. Though the duo did not look comfortable at times against Chelsea last week they would have been reassured by the fact that they only conceded one goal. Antonio Valencia should make a return from injury and provide cover for Rafael on the right hand side especially as the Brazilian has a propensity to leave his post and bomb forward. Michael Carrick too is in contention to start but it remains to be seen whether Van Gaal will bring the midfielder into the fray in such a high octane encounter. Maroune Fellaini & Daley Blind would again be expected to form the double pivot in midfield and the big Belgian will want to continue his recent upswing in form.
The big decision facing the United boss is whether to start with Wayne Rooney who has been suspended for United’s last three matches. Van Gaal will want to play Rooney if he is fit knowing that the Englishman offers a more physical presence in midfield when his side are not in possession of the ball. Manchester United might start with a flat 4-4-1-1 with Rooney playing as the link between midfield and Robin van Persie upfront.
Possible line-up (4-4-1-1): De Gea; Rafael, Smalling, Rojo, Shaw; Valencia, Fellaini, Blind, Di Maria; Rooney; Van Persie
Player to watch out for
Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Despite the arrival of Diego Costa the Argentine remains the most devastating striker in the English top division. He possesses a sharp burst of speed, good technical ability & is strong when on the ball and if he plays to his potential then City should be able to win this game.
• Wayne Rooney is the top scorer in this fixture having scored 11 goals
• Since the beginning of last season Edin Dzeko has scored four goals each with his left foot, right foot & head – a unique record
• Manchester City will definitely miss David Silva who has more assists (41) to his name than any other player since making his Premier League debut in 2010
Manchester City 2-1 Manchester United
It is impossible to believe that Manchester City will not be fired up for this game and if they are then they will prove to be too strong for their neighbours.