Manchester City face off against neighbours Manchester United in one of the most hotly anticipated fixtures of the Premier League on Sunday.
Manchester City versus Manchester United. Pep Guardiola versus Jose Mourinho. Undisputed champions of England taking on the faltering giants of England. It does not get any bigger than this in the Premier League. The first Manchester derby of the 2018-19 season comes our way on Sunday evening from the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City have continued from where they left off in their record-breaking, title-winning campaign last time out. Guardiola’s men sit at the top of the Premier League table with 29 points from 11 games, maintaining their unbeaten start to the campaign.
The Cityzens have won their previous six matches across all competitions, in which they have scored a whopping 23 goals while conceding just one. Having hit Southampton and Shakhtar Donetsk for six goals each over the past week, the reigning Premier League champions will be in no forgiving mood, when they face off against their arch-rivals.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have had to endure a torrid start to the season. The Red Devils are currently languishing in the seventh spot in the table, nine points behind the leaders, having lost three of their 11 league games this term. However, Mourinho’s men have been on a resurgent run recently and are unbeaten in their last four matches in the top-flight.
Manchester United come into the game on the back of three consecutive wins in all competitions, with the latest being a stunning 2-1 comeback victory over Juventus in the UEFA Champions League. And they will be gunning to get three points on Sunday against their neighbours and push closer to the top four.
Team News & Tactics
Star playmaker Kevin De Bruyne remains sidelined for the reigning champions, while backup goalkeeper Claudio Bravo is the only other absentee. Guardiola is likely to make a few changes to the team that took the field against Shakhtar earlier this week.
Brazilian international Ederson Moraes will continue under the crossbar. Kyle Walker is expected to feature once again at right-back, while John Stones and Aymeric Laporte should hold on to their spots in the centre of the backline, ahead of Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi. Benjamin Mendy should come into the team at left-back in place of Oleksandr Zinchenko.
No changes are expected in the middle of the park, with the two Silvas – Bernardo and David – in charge of the playmaking duties, while Fernandinho will screen the defence. Riyad Mahrez, who scored in the midweek, is likely to drop out, however, with Leroy Sane likely to come into the team. He will slot in on the left flank, with Raheem Sterling moving to the right side of attack.
Gabriel Jesus scored a brilliant hat-trick in the midweek game, but in all likelihood, should make way for premier striker Sergio Aguero for the Manchester derby.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Mendy; Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, David Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Sane
Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku returned to training after missing the midweek game against Juventus with an injury. However, club record signing Paul Pogba did not train with the team due to a minor knock, but is expected to be ready for the game. Diogo Dalot remains sidelined for the visitors, while captain Antonio Valencia is back in contention.
David De Gea was once again brilliant for Manchester United in the midweek encounter against the Italian champions and will continue in goal against City. Ashley Young has been key in the Red Devils’ recovery and should continue at right-back, while Luke Shaw will start on the left side of defence. Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof will line up at the heart of the defence.
Ander Herrera has made an impact since returning from injury and should occupy one of the three midfield slots for the Red Devils, while Pogba will take up another spot. Nemanja Matic has looked a bit pedestrian in recent matches, but Jose is likely to stick with the Serbian ahead of Marouane Fellaini in the No.6 role for the visit to Etihad.
Juan Mata sparked the turnaround against Juventus and should be rewarded with a start on the right flank on Sunday, while in-form man Anthony Martial will look to cause problems from the left side. Alexis Sanchez has looked bright in the central role in the past couple of outings and should start ahead of Marcus Rashford.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): De Gea; Young, Smalling, Lindelof, Shaw; Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Mata, Alexis, Martial
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last three league visits to the Etihad (W2, D1), keeping two clean sheets.
- Manchester City have won two of eight matches against Manchester United in all competitions (D2, L4) since recording four straight victories between 2013 and 2014.
- The Red Devils have kept just one Premier League clean sheet this season, conceding 18 goals in 11 matches. It took them until 31 January – and 25 games – to concede as many last term.
- Since losing the Manchester derby in April, City have taken 25 league points from a possible 27 at the Etihad Stadium, scoring 32 goals and conceding just four.
- This will be Jose Mourinho’s 300th Premier League match as a manager. He has won 189 games in the competition, with 67 draws and 43 defeats.
- Pep Guardiola has won nine of 21 games against Jose Mourinho-managed sides in all competitions (D7, L5).
1. Both Teams to Score – YES @ 1.70
2. Under 5.5 Cards @ 1.66
1. Full Time Result – Draw or Manchester United @ 3.00
2. Anthony Martial to score anytime @ 4.33
Player to Watch
Raheem Sterling (Manchester City)
After having a sensational last season, the England international has stepped up a notch further this time around for the Cityzens. In 14 matches across all competitions, Sterling has scored and assisted 7 goals apiece already.
The 23-year-old was at the forefront of City’s hammering of Southampton last weekend, grabbing a brace and setting up two more and was on the scoresheet against Shakhtar as well. Interestingly, however, the Englishman has failed to score in all 12 of his Premier League matches against Manchester United despite attempting a total of 19 shots.
Having penned a new bumper contract worth £15 million-a-year days before the match, Sterling will be hoping to celebrate it with another starring display and break his duck against the Red Devils in the league.
Manchester City 2-2 Manchester United
Not very long ago, the outcome of the game would have been a foregone conclusion in the minds of the fans, considering Manchester United’s poor start to the campaign. However, the way the Red Devils have bounced back in recent matches gives them a great chance heading into the first Manchester derby of the season.
Manchester City are unbeaten in the Premier League this term and have been in punishing mood in the past few games. And they will, without a doubt, put a lot of pressure on their local rivals this weekend. But, Mourinho has the knack of turning it on in the big games – just like he did in the 3-2 win at the Etihad last season, and against Chelsea and Juventus more recently.
It promises to be another intense contest between the two heavyweights on Sunday, one that is likely to go down the wire, much like most of United’s matches of late. While City are likely to dominate the proceedings, we at The Hard Tackle, expect United to show their resilient nature once again, to come away with a point from the home of the champions.