Where will the 171st rendition of the Manchester derby be won and lost?
Club Journalist @markbooth_mcfc has picked out six things to watch at the Etihad Stadium…
What’s at stake…
Although the list of favours required has lengthened, City are still alive in the title race following the goalless draw at Norwich last time out.
However, if United were to win at the Etihad on Sunday afternoon for the first time since 2012/13, the Blues would be facing a fight for their top four place and qualification for next year’s Champions League.
West Ham, who travel to Chelsea on Saturday, are just two points behind City, meaning it’s imperative to win the derby, not only to pile the pressure on those above but to put some distance between us and the chasing pack.
Derby day specialist…
Sergio Aguero needs just one goal to equal the record for Premier League strikes in the Manchester derby.
Kun has netted on seven occasions against United in the league and only Wayne Rooney has more (8) – however, Aguero has reached his tally in just seven games, while Rooney has taken 16 to reach eight derby day goals.
Only five players have scored more against United than Sergio in Premier League history – Les Ferdinand, Thierry Henry, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler (all 8) and Shearer (10).
We’re likely to find out at Friday afteroon’s press conference whether City will be without both Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi for the 171st Manchester derby.
The outlook appears to be slightly more optimistic in Otamendi’s case, while unfortunately it looks as though Kompany will be missing for a good few weeks with a calf injury.
That opens the door for the prospect of a first start for Eliaquim Mangala since 6 January.
As if making up for lost time wasn’t enough of a motivation, the 25-year old defender lost his place in the France squad announced on Thursday and will be desperate to show his best form in the closing weeks of the season to ensure that he’s involved in Euro 2016 this summer on home soil.
One Stale Stalemate…
To put it lightly, the first Manchester derby of the season was the dampest of damp squibs*.
There were just two shots on target in the entire 90 minutes at Old Trafford and just 12 overall which is the second lowest in any Premier League game this season.
United also failed to register a single shot in the first half of a Premier League game for the first time in more than a decade (since 2003/04).
Surely this clash will be more befitting of the star power on show?
*What is a squib anyway and why is it always damp? Answers on a postcard…
61-year record up for grabs…
If City do manage to beat United at the Etihad on Sunday, it will be the first time we’ve won three successive home league games against the Red Devils since 1955.
It would also be Manuel Pellegrini’s fourth derby day win. The last City boss to win four league matches against United was Joe Mercer back in 1970 (he went on to win five in total).
Rest and recovery…
City have rarely entered a game with more rest and recovery days between matches than their opposition this season but we’re in that position this time around.
United’s Europa League defeat to Liverpool on Thursday night means that Louis Van Gaal’s men have had two less days in the ice baths, in the gym and on the training field ahead of this one.
In a game of fine margins, these small advantages can count for a great deal.