Saturday evening will see the Etihad Stadium play host to the 149th top flight Manchester Derby, as City look to gather some momentum and try to shorten the gap between themselves and Liverpool with a third successive victory over local rivals Manchester United.
Oleksandr Zinchenko is available for City having returned to first team training after undergoing an operation on his knee in late October. Sergio Aguero, who has a pretty impressive record of 9 goals in 14 Manchester Derbies, will be unavailable due to the injury picked up against Chelsea. Leroy Sané and Aymeric Laporte remain the two long term absentees. However, Ilkay Gundogan is likely to regain his place in the starting eleven after missing Tuesday’s win with a suspension.
Manchester United will be without Paul Pogba, who remains out with a ankle injury, but Ole Gunnar Solksjaer could be handed a boost with Anthony Martial potentially available, having recovered from the injury that ruled him out of their game on Wednesday night. Midfielder Nemanja Matic, is also not expected to be fit enough for the Derby.
Manchester City come into the game off the back of a convincing 4-1 victory over Burnley in midweek, after a disappointing draw last weekend at Newcastle left them losing even more ground in the title race.
Gabriel Jesus scored twice on Tuesday night ending his recent goal drought, whilst summer signing Rodri was also amongst the goals after an impressive performance. Burnley grabbed a late consolation after a rather fortuitous ricochet meant it is now 8 games since City last kept a clean sheet.
City remain 3 points off second place Leicester who are the next visitors to the Etihad in a fortnight’s time, and still 11 points off run away leaders Liverpool at the top of the table. But City are unbeaten in 4 of their last 5 league games.
Manchester United had arguably their best performance of the season so far against fellow strugglers Spurs at Old Trafford, with Marcus Rashford scoring a brace. Solksjaer’s side sits in 6th place in the league, 11 points behind local rivals City and a mammoth 22 points off 1st place having only won 1 of their last 3 games.
Head to Head:
Pep Guardiola has never lost more than one Premier League home match in a Premier League campaign, and is unbeaten in 4 of his last 5 Manchester Derbies, with the exception being United’s 3-2 comeback at the Etihad during the centurion season. The Blues could make it a hat-trick of wins against the reds after a 3-1 victory at the Etihad in November of last year, and then the cruising to a 2-0 win at Old Trafford in late April. In total, there have been 177 fixtures between the two sides with City having won 53, drawn 52 and lost 72.
Pep Guardiola will likely stick to the same 4-3-3 formation and the majority of the team who started in the week, given how impressive the performance was compared to some other recent games. The bigger question is - how will Manchester United set up? At the Etihad last season they tried to match City with a 4-3-3 but played a 5-3-2 back in April. Could the United boss set up with a 3-4-1-2 which proved successful against Liverpool in October or will he stick with his preferred 4-2-3-1.
The game will be an almost completely Manc affair as the incredibly experienced Anthony Taylor will take charge of the Derby once again, having refereed the meeting the last time the 2 sides met at the Etihad in 2018. Taylor is nearing almost a decade of officiating in the top flight of English football and will be joined by Gary Beswick and Adam Nunn while Mike Dean will be fourth official. Michael Oliver is the VAR and his assistant will be Marc Perry.
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