A Manchester derby with extremely high stakes takes the spotlight on Saturday as Manchester United play host to their cross-town rivals Manchester City at Old Trafford.
Both sides are fighting for a Champions League place, with fourth-place United now one of the most in-form teams in England and hoping to fend off Tottenham below them while catching Newcastle United above. City have their sights set even higher, looking to take aim at first-place Arsenal.
Neither side can afford a slip in this match, as a win would keep the machine chugging along, while any dropped points would cause complications while chasing their league targets.
Manchester City have been the more dominant side in this fixture over the past few years, but they have slipped some in recent weeks, giving the visitors some doubts as they head to their rivals’ famous venue. United, meanwhile, are on a run of eight wins straight across all competitions and have played exceptional football on both sides of the pitch, conceding just four goals in those eight games, including just two over their last seven.
The Red Devils saw Portuguese full-back Diogo Dalot withdrawn early against Charlton Athletic in FA Cup play last time out, and Erik ten Hag said he will not be available for this game. Jadon Sancho and Donny van de Beek are still out, while Anthony Martial is a doubt with a minor leg injury. New loan signing Wout Weghorst will not be available just yet.
Central defence is the area of concern for Man City, with both Ruben Dias and John Stones a concern. Dias is for sure absent, still recovering from his hamstring injury suffered at the World Cup. Stones, meanwhile, was “not fully fit” for the Carabao Cup match against Southampton and Pep Guardiola said on Friday he does not think he will be available to face United.
- The home side has won the last two meetings between these rivals after going four straight without victory.
- Man City have won three straight in this fixture, scoring an astonishing 12 goals in those three matches, while conceding four.
- Phil Foden has just one Premier League goal and no assists since scoring October 8 against Southampton. He has registered just 0.32 xG (expected goals) and 0.30 xA (expected assists) since, including six matches without a single shot and five without a key pass.
For all of Manchester City’s attacking talent, it’s been Manchester United who have been the better side in front of goal since the World Cup break concluded. The Red Devils have been especially good at being patient, something which their sky blue rivals could learn a thing or two about.
Pep Guardiola has made some questionable tactical decisions in big games of late, recalling the old addage of the Spanish manager overthinking in key moments. Man City have enjoyed a pair of big results in this derby, but that euphoria can’t last forever, and Man United should pick up a result in this match.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City
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