It will be the clash of the top two in the Premier League this weekend as leaders Manchester City host second-placed Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City will be aiming to take another major step closer towards lifting the Premier League title this season when they lock horns with neighbours Manchester United in the derby in Matchweek 27 on Sunday. The Cityzens have already opened up a 14-point lead over the second-placed Red Devils and can further stretch it with a win.
Having had a dodgy start to the campaign, Manchester City have made a fine recovery and look primed to win the title while talks of a quadruple are also doing the rounds given their current form. Indeed, Pep Guardiola’s side have won each of their last 21 matches in all competitions, most recently beating Wolves 4-1 and will be intent on adding the scalp of their neighbours as well.
Manchester United, on the other hand, have seen their title challenge tail off in recent weeks, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side drawing four of their last five Premier League matches, the last two of those being goalless stalemates against Chelsea and Crystal Palace. However, the opportunity to break their local rivals’ streak should provide them with extra motivation ahead of the derby.
The reverse fixture played at Old Trafford had ended in a 0-0 draw while Manchester City beat Manchester United 2-0 in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup earlier this year. And ahead of their latest meeting, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
Ruben Dias and John Stones have now scored FIVE goals and only conceded THREE in the 16 games they have started together this season 🤯 pic.twitter.com/GxiTXyMJKE
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 27, 2021
There is some good news for Manchester City heading into the game as summer signing and long-term absentee Nathan Ake has returned to training and in contention to feature in some capacity on Sunday. There are no other injury-related issues for Pep Guardiola heading into the game.
The manager is unlikely to make many changes to the side that saw off Wolves in the last game. Ederson Moraes, who has been a solid presence in the Manchester City goal, should start again on Sunday evening. Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo could be preferred as the wing-backs once again, with the former’s pace likely to come in handy against Marcus Rashford.
Ruben Dias, who has been a huge hit since joining City in the summer, is a certainty at the heart of the defence. He will, however, be in line for a change of partners, with John Stones likely to be rotated in for Aymeric Laporte. Even though the pair has been very solid this term, against Edinson Cavani, they will be in for a stern test.
Rodri should sit at the base of the midfield and will likely be tasked with cutting out Bruno Fernandes’ influence on the game. Bernardo Silva has been impressive in recent games but is likely to make way for Ilkay Gundogan while Kevin De Bruyne will take up the third slot in the middle and look to act as City’s chief chance-creator.
Riyad Mahrez was in his elements against Wolves in midweek and should hold on to his spot. Gabriel Jesus, who scored twice in the game, could drop out though, making way for Phil Foden, who ought to slot in on the left-wing with Raheem Sterling moving into a central role against Manchester United.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Gundogan; Mahrez, Sterling, Foden
Manchester United, meanwhile, will once again continue to be without the services of Paul Pogba, Juan Mata and Phil Jones who are all out injured. David de Gea has travelled to Spain for the birth of his child and will miss out again as well while Victor Lindelof’s chronic back problem makes him a doubt.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is unlikely to make many rotations to the lineup that took the field against Crystal Palace on Wednesday. De Gea’s absence means Dean Henderson gets the nod in goal once again as the Englishman looks to establish himself as Manchester United’s No. 1.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 5, 2021
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw are the automatic picks for the full-back slots. The latter has been United’s best creators this term and will once again be key, but will need to be alert defensively against City’s in-form wide players on the evening. Eric Bailly and Harry Maguire should form the central defensive pairing.
Scott McTominay should replace Nemanja Matic in the midfield double pivot for Manchester United partnering Fred. Bruno Fernandes, who has looked out of sorts in recent games, will need to pull his socks up and put up a big display amid questions over his impact against the traditional Big Six clubs.
Daniel James, who has been in decent goalscoring form of late, could come in for Mason Greenwood on the right-wing, with his pace likely to come in handy if Manchester United set up to play on the counter. On the left flank, there is no looking past Marcus Rashford while Edinson Cavani should continue as the sole striker ahead of Anthony Martial.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Henderson; Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw; McTominay, Fred; James, Fernandes, Rashford; Cavani
- Manchester United Asian Handicap +1.5 @ 1.600
- Bruno Fernandes to score anytime @ 4.00
- Manchester City have lost three of their last five home games against Manchester United in the Premier League including the corresponding fixture last season.
- Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 21 Premier League matches away from home.
- Manchester City are unbeaten in their last 28 matches across all competitions. The Cityzens have won each of their previous 21 games – the third ever longest run in all competitions among teams in the big five European leagues.
- All of Manchester United’s last three games in all competitions have ended in goalless draws. Never have they played out four consecutive 0-0 draws in their history.
- Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero has scored nine goals in 16 appearances against Manchester United in all competitions. However, eight of those came in his first eight derbies, with the Argentine scoring just one in his last eight such games.
Player to Watch
— United Zone (@ManUnitedZone_) March 4, 2021
The Manchester United No. 10’s performances have come under the scanner of late with the goals not coming as freely as they were in the earlier parts of the season. Indeed, only two of Rashford’s nine Premier League goals this term have come in his last 12 outings.
Recently, it was revealed that the England international has been playing with a shoulder injury that may require surgery. While that may have had an adverse effect on his performances, it is imperative that Manchester United have a red-hot Rashford out on the pitch if they are to reignite their title challenge, starting with a win against the leaders.
Manchester City 2-0 Manchester United
Manchester United have played out three back-to-back goalless draws which is hardly the ideal preparation for a big derby against a Manchester City side that has looked absolutely unstoppable of late.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have a brilliant away record in the Premier League but with goals hard to come by, they are likely to find it hard to break down the best defence in the competition this term. And considering the run at Pep Guardiola & co. have been on, they should be able to bag another victory and take another step towards the title.