Bailly vs Stones: Who will come out on top in the Manchester derby?

This time tomorrow we will know the outcome of the Manchester derby. Will it be an exciting affair? Or will it be tactical, or just downright boring? Let’s hope for the first. In terms of the outcome, this could be decided fundamentally by the centre-backs for each team. It’s probably fair to say the team that wins the contest will have had the best performing centre-backs, unless of course we end up with a 3-3 which is highly unlikely in a Jose Mourinho match. With the attackers on both teams, the defending will need to be top class to keep them out, and that will come down to the likes of Eric Bailly for Manchester United and John Stones for City, the two main centre-backs for both sides on the day. But who is most likely to come out on top?

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With Vincent Kompany injured, Stones has taken over as the main centre-back for City. Partnering either Aleksandar Kolarov or Nicolas Otamendi, Stones is the sure starter for Pep Guardiola. Bought for a big price tag, the 22-year-old is expected to play the way Pep wants, which is of course as a ball-playing centre-half not afraid to move forward as much as possible. The Englishman does seem to be living up to the pressure, putting in some exciting performances in Pep’s first few games, and he did look assured playing for England last weekend.

This weekend though, could be described as his first real test. Stones hasn’t had to play against a striker like Zlatan Ibrahimovic yet, and will need to bring his A-game. It is well documented that Jose always has a plan to stop the opposition playing the way they want to, and so any chance of Stones coming out from the back seems highly unlikely, at least without two or three players closing him down. The young defender may feel he can cope with the actual defending side, as he may feel that Zlatan won’t run in behind, and that he has the beating of him in the air, but will he cope without being able to play the football that himself and Pep really want to play?

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In terms of Manchester United, Eric Bailly has also been a revelation. He has looked solid, kept clean sheets and will 99% be a starter in the derby, partnering the ever-consistent Daley Blind. Bailly is the kind of centre-back that is expected in a Jose team – strong, powerful and knows his job. United were good defensively last season, but this campaign they look solid and powerful, and that is a major difference.

Without Sergio Aguero, Bailly may feel he can control City’s attack. The possibility of Nolito or Sane starting, in a position they haven’t played for City before, could be a comfort. As much as David Silva, or Kevin De Bruyne play fantastic football, will they be able to find the right pass through the defence with no Aguero?

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Both defenders have made solid and exciting impacts to their sides, and just as this is a battle of Pep vs Jose, it could also be said there are battles everywhere, including Bailly vs Stones. If one can come out on top, this could be the major difference between winning and losing. With no Aguero, Bailly has the advantage, especially as Jose will surely stop Stones playing his game. Then again, if the English defender can find a way to come out on top, then England really do have a promising centre-back on their hands.

Featured Image: All rights reserved to Sean MacEntee

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