Love it or hate it, the 178th Manchester Derby is upon us and let’s face it, the stakes could not be much higher.
City travel to neighbours United tonight (in an 8pm kick-off), looking to take a huge step towards the Premier League title.
All eyes will be on Old Trafford, as the title race pressure intensifies, and the Red half of Merseyside implore a City slip-up.
With the two Manchester Clubs in contrasting form, the footballing world expect the Champions to collect the all-important three points with ease – but as the old adage goes: football is not played on paper, and form throws itself out of the window on Derby Day.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is certainly hoping that will be the case and has rubbished the suggestion his side would accept a City win if it would deny Liverpool the chance of the title.
"There are loads of things that motivate players but for me it is to win something yourself. It is not about taking something away from others,” he told press.
“We have to want to overtake them not because it is City and Liverpool but because we want to be the best. We have been the best and it is not nice [now] seeing those two at the top.
“As I said I am going to do everything I can to be successful. And hopefully these players can come out with a response in these four games.”
Journalists of the footballing world are less optimistic about United’s chances of defeating the Champions, predicting comfortable victories for City.
The Daily Star’s Jeremy Cross was particularly confident, scribing: “Has there ever been a Manchester derby that appears so stacked in one side’s favour?
“The answer is ‘no’, because there can be only one winner at Old Trafford - and it isn’t the home side.
“Manchester United are in free fall, while City continue their surge towards back to back titles.
“Pep Guardiola’s men are in a different class to United. They have the best players, the best system, the best attitude and the most confidence.
“Ruining their neighbour’s title ambitions is a sad reflection of where United are right now - but even this will prove beyond them.”
Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson agreed: “I think the league will be won here as I expect Manchester City to win easily.
“They need to work hard this week, which will not be enough, but it is the least they can do. To lose the way they did against Everton was mind-blowing.
“If City win this game, I can't see how they are going to be stopped.”
Mark Lawrenson told BBC Sport: “I think United will play on the break too, because that is almost the only way they can play at the moment. However, I don’t see it working for them.
“This is a lot like a Champions League game in terms of the quality of the opposition for United and we saw in their home games against Paris St-Germain and Barcelona how they could not get the ball, and without it they could not do anything.
“That is the way I see Wednesday going, with City dominating possession, creating more chances – and picking United off.”
Meanwhile, Sports Mole have examined how City may line-up against the Reds.
Barney Corkill writes: “Guardiola confirmed in his pre-match press conference that Kevin De Bruyne will miss this game with the hamstring injury he sustained during the weekend win over Tottenham Hotspur.
“City have a ready-made replacement in David Silva, who was dropped to the bench against Spurs, but Guardiola must also decide whether to keep faith with Phil Foden, who scored the only goal of the game at the Etihad.
“Fernandinho is expected to come back into the team, which would in turn free Ilkay Gundogan up to play in a more attacking midfield role, while PFA Player of the Year contender Bernardo Silva could also drop deeper if required.
“Bernardo has thrived in a front three alongside Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero, though, and that trio is likely to start again on Wednesday.
“Benjamin Mendy will hope to regain his starting spot at left-back, while Guardiola could be tempted to include the experience of Vincent Kompany in defence, with the Man City skipper having led by example in many previous derbies.”
In other news, Raheem Sterling has reflected on his recent backing for the PFA Awards, but asserts he would prefer to achieve success with City than receive individual acclaim.
"What I want to do is win the Premier League, win the FA Cup, then think about stuff like that, even though the awards are before that,” he said, quoted by the Guardian.
"Without that, it doesn't mean much to me really. I voted for Harry Kane. My vote for him is because he scores so many goals every year, he does so much for the team, gives so much for his team.
"I thought being around him in the national team, how he puts in his work, his work ethic, how he looks after himself.
“He's always there, especially coming back from injury, as a professional I looked at him and that's my reason for voting for him, seeing him on a day-to-day with the national team."
Finally, switching topic to transfer gossip and Sky Sports assert City are ‘not interested in entering a bidding war’ for alleged target Rodri.
An article reads: “City's director of football Txiki Begiristain has recommended the Atletico Madrid midfielder as the No 1 replacement for Fernandinho, who has continued to excel this season but will turn 34 in May.
“However, competition is expected to be fierce for Rodri, who only joined Atletico from Villarreal for £21.5m last summer.
“A number of top clubs across Europe are keeping tabs on the 22-year-old who won his first senior Spain cap in March 2018 and has already gone on to play five internationals.
“Sky Sports News understands City are not interested in getting involved in any bidding wars for the player, who has a release clause of £60.6m in his Atletico contract.”
Elsewhere, Team Talk claim City are also keen on Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld.
Apparently: “The 30-year-old centre-back has a release clause that allows him to leave Tottenham for just £25million this summer, and this has attracted interest from around Europe.
“Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint Germain have all made it known they would be happy to take the former Southampton star – but the Belgian is believed to be keen on staying in the Premier League.
“United have long been favourites to land the player, but now City are looking closely at Alderweireld – who they realise would be a cut-price way of bolstering their defence.”