Manchester City host Manchester United, knowing well enough that a win would crown them the Premier League champions for the 2017-18 campaign.
Manchester City have had a wondrous campaign. Pep Guardiola’s magic seems to be in full flow as the Citizens have dominated the Premier League. But, their overall form has taken a dip of late, with the latest halt coming in a 3-0 thrashing handed by Liverpool in the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Quarter-Finals.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have already been dealt a blow in the form of their ouster from the UEFA Champions League at the hands of Sevilla. The Red Devils have just the FA Cup left to compete for and would ideally love to end the season on a high.
Their last encounter saw City emerge victorious, albeit narrowly at Old Trafford earlier in the season – a match that set the tone for the rest of the campaign. Ahead of their latest meeting, we take a closer look at the two sides.
Team News & Tactics
Sergio Aguero is a doubt for the game and is likely to sit this one out. Besides Aguero, only Benjamin Mendy is nursing an injury. But, the defender is confirmed to be taking no part in the game on Saturday. Pep Guardiola could have one eye on their return leg against Liverpool in the Champions League and could field a heavily rotated side on Saturday.
We should see John Stones and Aymeric Laporte as the centre-back pairing for the match, while Oleksandr Zinchenko and Danilo are likely take charge of defending each flank.
In midfield, Kevin De Bruyne and Fernandinho could be rested for the match, meaning a start for Ilkay Gundogan and Phil Foden in the middle of the park.
Raheem Sterling was benched against Liverpool and should start on Saturday, with Gabriel Jesus and Bernardo Silva likely to take up the other spots in attack. David Silva should retain his position as the number 10 of the team.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ederson; Danilo, Stones, Laporte, Zinchenko; Gundogan, Foden; Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Sterling; Jesus
Sergio Romero is the only player set to be unavailable for Jose Mourinho, who has chosen to call up Under-18 star and recent signing Matej Kovac up to first-team training. The youngster could find himself on the bench, with Kieran O’Hara set to play for the Under-23 side.
We should see an almost identical starting eleven from the one that took the field in the 2-0 win over Swansea. However, Juan Mata could drop to the bench to give way to either of Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford – the latter could be preferred due to his excellent record in big games so far.
Given the fact that Mourinho himself would be well aware of Guardiola having one eye on the Liverpool game, he could use this fixture to showcase United’s attacking prowess and win back some of the supporters that had started showing grim faces after the exit against Sevilla – where the fans blamed Mourinho’s tactics, selection and a lack of attacking intent.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Young; Pogba, Matic; Rashford, Lingard, Sanchez; Lukaku
1. Manchester United Asian Handicap + 0.5 @ 2.070
2. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.75
1. Manchester United to win @ 4.33
2. Romelu Lukaku to score anytime @ 3.25
3. Alexis Sanchez to score anytime @ 3.40
1. Big Game Bottlers – Manchester United have won just 1 of their last 10 away games against the ‘Big Six’ sides, drawing 6 and losing 3.
2. Drought – Their goal record in the aforementioned games is even more dire, with Manchester United failing to score on eight of the 10 occasions.
3. Manchester City could complete a double over Manchester United with a win on Saturday, which will be the fourth instance of the Citizens doing so against their neighbours. City would go level with Liverpool as the club to do the double over United most number of times.
4. Etihad Emperors – Manchester City are on a 14-game winning streak at home in the Premier League and have now gone 27 league games without a defeat at the Etihad.
5. Keeping the momentum going – Manchester United have scored atleast 2 goals in their last 4 league matches and would be looking to make it 5 league games in a row.
Player to Watch
Romelu Lukaku’s big game pedigree has often been questioned and to some extent, he has failed to deliver against the big teams this season at United. But, the problem was more a lack of proper service than Lukaku himself. The Belgian is having a great first season at the club and would love to silence his big-match critics with a proper performance on Saturday.
Manchester City 1-3 Manchester United
Many people are already handing the trophy over to Manchester City. Indeed, the Citizens are almost champions and are set to be crowned. But, Manchester United would not want it to happen on Saturday, at the very least. Some experts have tipped City to win the Manchester derby on Saturday.
But, we feel Guardiola will rest key players and unlike the experts’ opinion, Mourinho’s side will come out the gates more attacking than they usually are against the top sides. We expect an open game and United to come out on top, solely based on the presumption that Guardiola should field a heavily rotated side, with one eye on the game against Liverpool.