On Sunday evening the neighbors of Manchester will go head-to-head in a clash that has various ramifications.
A win for Manchester City could see them go 15 points clear of second-place Leicester City. A win would also extend City’s current winning run to 22 in all competitions. Games at the Etihad in recent times have been very close with Man United claiming 3 wins away from home. One other fascinating stat ahead of this game is the fact that United have not lost away from home in the league this season but are on a current run of 3 consecutive 0-0 draws.
Pep Guardiola reports that he has a full squad to choose from for the first time this season after Nathan Aké recovered from a muscle problem that has kept him out since boxing day.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be without Juan Mata and Phil Jones for the game. David De Gea has been excused by the manager, after the birth of his first child. Victor Lindelof, Paul Pogba and Donny Van de Beek are unlikely to feature due to the quick turnaround from Wednesday’s game against Crystal Palace. Anthony Martial is another expected to be missing against the Cityzens.
Players to watch
Riyad Mahrez has shown good form in recent games and is expected to be rewarded with a start on Sunday. His intelligence in recent games has seen him earn the plaudits from pundits and teammates alike. Ilkay Gündogan is also expected to feature prominently in this game after being rested for most of the Cityzens 4-1 win against Wolves. The German’s ability to drive forward and pop up with a goal is an asset for Pep’s side going into a tough game.
A return to form for Bruno Fernandes in this game could see United halt the Cityzens winning historic winning run. The Portuguese seem to have suffered from burnout but still possess the quality needed to come up with the goods. Luke Shaw’s ability to ride up the pitch will be key to breaking down the City defence and giving the Red Devils the extra body upfront. Defensive solidity will be in the back of the Englishman’s mind as he ventures forward.
Tactically, City are expected to play more passes within the United half as they try to find that final pass that breaks the defence down. Pep Guardiola is expected to field a very attacking side after some key players including Gündogan rested for most of Wednesday’s game. Rubén Dias and his CB partner will have the enviable task of keeping United’s frontline which is expected to be led by Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford quiet over the course of 90 mins.
Manchester United know they won’t have as much possession as they desire and would have to work hard from the front with a high press. Cutting the passing lanes will also give Ole’s side the chance to hit City on the break when that happens. Beating Manchester City at the Etihad is something Ole and his army are familiar with and know that solidity and discipline in defence and attacking efficiency is the only way to beat a well drilled City side.
Predicted Starting XIs
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Dias, Stones, Cancelo, Rodrigo, Gündogan,De Bruyne, Jesus, Mahrez, Foden.
Manchester United: Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Bailly, Maguire, Shaw, Matic, Fred, Fernandes, Rashford, Greenwood, Cavani.
Man City vs Man United: 3-1