Manchester City will look to maintain their lead at the top of the Premier League table when they face local rivals Manchester United in a derby this weekend.

The marquee fixture of Matchday 28 of the 2021/22 Premier League will come our way from the Etihad Stadium on Sunday evening as defending champions Manchester City lock horns with neighbours Manchester United. It is a contest that can have major repercussions for the title race and the top-four battle.

Manchester City are sitting atop the league standings with a six-point lead over Liverpool, although that could be down to three points by the time the game kicks off on Sunday. The Cityzens have looked a bit shaky after their shock defeat to Tottenham, beating Everton with a touch of luck before being made to work hard by Championship side Peterborough United in the FA Cup earlier this week.

With Liverpool breathing down their necks, Pep Guardiola’s side cannot afford a slip-up and will be gunning for three points against Manchester United, who are just about hanging on to the fourth spot in the table. Indeed, the Red Devils have been guilty of dropping vital points in winnable fixtures against Burnley, Southampton, and more recently Watford, who held Ralf Rangnick’s side to a goalless draw.

But with fifth-placed West Ham United also slipping up, Manchester United have been able to maintain a two-point lead. The likes of Arsenal and Tottenham are not far away and have games in hand, making it imperative for the 20-time English champions to start racking up wins even though they are on an eight-game unbeaten run in the league.

The reverse fixture at Old Trafford saw Manchester City beat Manchester United 2-0 in November 2021. However, the Red Devils have won on four of their last five visits to the Etihad Stadium in all competitions and only lost one of their previous seven outings there. Considering that they have lost just one game in their last 20 in all tournaments (excluding penalty shootouts), it promises to be an intriguing contest.

Team News & Tactics

Manchester City

Manchester City have been dealt a major blow heading into the derby as defensive mainstay Ruben Dias is sidelined with a thigh injury and could miss four to six weeks of action. Apart from the Portuguese international, fellow defender Nathan Ake could also miss out, while backup goalkeeper Zack Steffen is also a slight doubt. Youngster Cole Palmer is closing in on a return, but Sunday’s game comes too soon for him.

The Cityzens will line up in their preferred 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Ederson Moraes. John Stones is likely to pair up with Aymeric Laporte in the absence of Ruben Dias, while Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo line up as the full-backs. Walker’s battle against ex-Manchester City academy man Jadon Sancho could be one to watch out for on Sunday evening.

Rodri will sit at the base of the midfield and sweep up things that come his way while using his range of distribution to set the attackers on their way. Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva will bring the creative spark and the industry in the middle of the park.

Moving into the attacking third, Phil Foden could slot in as the false-nine and look to exploit the spaces between the lines while creating spaces for the wide forwards with his movement. Riyad Mahrez, who is Manchester City’s leading goalscorer across all competitions, should get the nod on the right flank. Raheem Sterling should feature on the left as he looks to break his duck against Manchester United.

Jack Grealish, Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus will all be options from the bench for the reigning champions.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Silva; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling

Manchester United

Manchester United have no injury-related absentees for the trip to the Etihad as Edinson Cavani has returned to training and is in contention to make the squad on Sunday. Scott McTominay is also available after recovering from his illness, meaning Mason Greenwood, who is indefinitely suspended, remains the only player missing.

Ralf Rangnick is likely to set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation. David de Gea, who has been Manchester United’s best player this season, will once again need to be at his best to keep the Cityzens at bay on Sunday. Raphael Varane and Harry Maguire should pair up at the heart of the backline, with the latter gunning to prove a point after coming in for intense criticism, leading to questions over his future.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka could get the nod at right-back over Diogo Dalot owing to his defensive nous, which could come in handy to keep Raheem Sterling quiet. Luke Shaw should feature on the left side, where he will have his hands full against a lively Riyad Mahrez. 

With McTominay back in the fray, he becomes the automatic pick for the No. 6 slot for Manchester United. As for the remaining two places in midfield, creator-in-chief Bruno Fernandes will occupy one of those. It leaves Fred and Paul Pogba competing for the other spot, and the former could get the nod over the Frenchman due to his superior work ethic and recent form.

Cristiano Ronaldo remains the only option up top for Manchester United, who will be desperately hoping for their icon to turn up the heat at the Etihad. Jadon Sancho should occupy the left flank against his boyhood club, while in-form man Anthony Elanga should get the nod over Marcus Rashford on the right.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Maguire, Shaw; Fernandes, McTominay, Fred; Elanga, Ronaldo, Sancho

Key Stats

  • In his managerial career, Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has lost more home games against Manchester United in all competitions than he has versus any other opponent (4).
  • Manchester United are looking to win four consecutive away games in all competitions against Manchester City for the first time since a run of four between November 1993 and November 2000.
  • Manchester City have won 15 of their last 17 Premier League games (D1, L1). They have won all 20 league matches this season in which they have scored first.
  • Manchester United are unbeaten in eight Premier League games (W4, D4), the longest current run without defeat in the division.
  • Raheem Sterling has failed to score in 23 league and cup appearances against Manchester United, including seven matches for Liverpool.

Player to Watch

Riyad Mahrez

The Algerian international continues to prove his worth to this Manchester City side, popping up with crucial goals on a regular basis. Riyad Mahrez is currently the leading goalscorer for Pep Guardiola’s side in all competitions, having netted 19 times in 32 matches, with eight of those goals in the Premier League.

The 31-year-old has been involved in nine goals in his last eight Premier League appearances, scoring six and assisting three, indicating the rich vein of form he is in currently. However, against no side has Mahrez played more games in the competition without scoring than Manchester United (11). It is something that the Manchester City winger will be hoping to change when the two teams meet on Sunday.

Prediction

Manchester City 1-1 Manchester United

Manchester City have looked a bit shaky in their last three matches, losing to Tottenham and picking up narrow wins over Everton and Peterborough United. While it would be foolish to count out Pep Guardiola’s side on any day, Manchester United come into the game on an eight-game unbeaten run.

The Red Devils have been creating chances galore – since Ralf Rangnick’s appointment, they have made 160 goalscoring opportunities, more than any other team, and have tightened things up a fair bit at the back. Their inability to convert those opportunities has been a major issue, though, which has stopped them from making further progress in the standings.

Furthermore, Manchester United have won each of their last three games at the Etihad. A win could be beyond their means on Sunday considering their profligacy in front of goal, but a scored draw seems a likely outcome.

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