The two Premier League football clubs from Manchester, and the clear top two sides in England, are set to clash on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium. Quite obviously, that makes this another massive derby. The tension between Manchester United and Manchester City has always been palpable. The recent rise, though, of the
benefactors Citizens has resulted in the stakes continually increasing when these two sides now meet. Perhaps the pinnacle encounter, thus far, occurred last April when City took siege of last season's title race with a 1-0 defeat of United at the Etihad. The blue half of Manchester would go on to celebrate their first top-flight title in 44 years.
Form Guide: United enter the weekend top of the table with 36 points from 15 league matches. They've won three successive league matches, with the most recent one occurring last weekend during the chaotic 4-3 defeat of Reading. In Europe, their last two ties have resulted in 0-1 defeats. It should be noted, though, that the Red Devils had already clinched top spot in their UEFA Champions League group with a perfect record prior to these recent inconsequential defeats.
Team News: During Sir Alex Ferguson's press conference on Friday, he revealed that Nemanja Vidic, Antonio Valencia, Nani, and Shinji Kagawa all are unavailable for the derby. Anderson is out as well. For Tom Cleverley, the United boss was a bit vague about his availability after the midfielder hobbled off at the midweek with a calf injury. For now, he's considered a doubt. (Full Team News Report)
Form Guide: City are unbeaten in league but they still trail United by 3 points in the title race. The most recent league result came last weekend at the Etihad during a 1-1 draw with Everton. In the Champions League, Roberto Mancini's side failed to advance from the group-stage for the second successive season. In fact, City's meager three points and no victories from six ties was the worst group-stage performance ever by an English side in the competition.
Team News: James Milner, Aleksandar Kolarov, Micah Richards, and Jack Rodwell are expected to be out while Gael Clichy is a doubt. David Silva is supposed to have a late fitness test.
United: David de Gea or Anders Lindegaard in goal? Your guess is as good as mine. The anticipated back four is Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans as the center-back pairing, Rafael at right-back, and Patrice Evra at left-back. Don't be surprised, though, if Chris Smalling gets the nod over Evans at center-back or over Rafael at right-back.
In midfield, only Michael Carrick seems certain. If a midfield duo is used, and if Cleverley is out, then Darren Fletcher seems probable. Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, though, are in contention too. If a midfield trio is used, all of the previously mentioned midfielders are possible as are the versatile Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones. The latter is also in contention at right-back. If a diamond midfield is used, then Rooney would likely be at the tip of it.
In attack, Robin van Persie will be the lead striker. Rooney is possible in a withdrawn or possibly out wide to the right. If Ferguson desires width, then Ashley Young likely starts on the left. Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) are certainly possible to get starts as well.
City: Joe Hart is the clear No.1 and captain Vincent Kompany will start in defense. If the assumption is that Mancini will start with a back four, then Matija Nastasic is probable over Joleon Lescott to partner Komany in central-defense. If Clichy is out, then Pablo Zabaleta likely deputises at left-back and that would make it certain that Maicon starts at right-back. If a back three is used, then Komany, Nastasic, and Zabaleta is the most likely trio to start but Lescott is possible is if the latter is used as a wing-back on the opposite side of Maicon.
In midfield, Yaya Toure is an automatic selection and Gareth Barry likely will be preferred over Javi Garcia as the Ivorian's partner. If Mancini opts for more midfield structure by pushing Toure higher up the pitch, then these three midfielders could start together. If Silva passes his fitness test, he'll be one of the nominal wide players while Samir Nasri would probably be the other. If Silva can't go, then Mario Balotelli may get a start out wide. Scott Sinclair is a wide option but he's failed to impress during his short time at City.
Up front, Mancini likely will choose between two of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, and Edin Dzeko. If the City manager anticipates that United might push his side out wide for crosses and if he emphasizes more height for set-pieces, then Dzeko may come into the side over the more talented Aguero and Tevez. Balotelli is possible to get a surprise start up front as well.
* Typically, in this section of our previews, we tend to highlight a few anticipated tactical keys. This derby, though, along with the reverse fixture, is likely to be the biggest domestic ties United will be involved in this season. Therefore, we've already written an extensive scouting report on the 'noisy neigbours' (Tactical Preview: Manchester City). Later today, we'll post a piece on the various tactical options that Sir Alex has at his disposal. Rather than be redundant, we'll refer you to the linked City piece for your tactical needs and we hope you'll check in later for our final tactical piece for the derby. We're hoping this provides more detailed coverage.
KO: 1:30pm GMT, 8:30am EST | Etihad Stadium
Live TV: Sky Sports 1 (U.K.), FOX Soccer (U.S.)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Odds: Manchester City 5/4, Draw 23/10, Manchester United 11/5