It’s that time of the year again. The race for top four is hotting up and two of the clubs in direct competition are facing each other. However, the games don’t get much bigger than this. Both Manchester sides have under-performed in the league and they are trying to salvage something from this campaign.
United have the Europa League to focus on as well, but Jose Mourinho will not want to lose against his long-term rival Pep Guardiola. Three points from this derby could give the winner the confidence to go on and secure a place in next year’s Champions League.
City come into this tie in mixed form, having most recently been defeated 2-1 by Arsenal in the FA Cup Semi-final. Before that tie, Guardiola’s side had beaten Southampton, yet they only claimed draws against the Gunners and Liverpool. Crucially, they were defeated by an Eden Hazard brace in a huge fixture against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. This effectively ended their title hopes.
Jose Mourinho’s United side bring their long league unbeaten streak into this tie and they will know that this is one of their biggest tests so far in terms of retaining this run of results. A tactical masterclass from Mourinho meant the Red Devils brushed aside league leaders Chelsea. Since that win, they have scored twice against Anderlecht and Burnley. United won both these fixtures.
Guardiola had a mixture of both good and bad news regarding his team selection this week. Sergio Aguero is able to face United having been replaced early in City’s FA Cup Semi-final defeat, Gabriel Jesus also returns to the squad. However, David Silva is ruled out of this tie.
Mourinho was dealt a huge blow before this fixture as Paul Pogba picked up an injury. The Frenchman will miss the derby along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. Daley Blind and Eric Bailly are expected to continue their centre-back partnership. Juan Mata is ruled out for a longer period, but he may return before the end of the season.
Verdict: Manchester City 1-1 Manchester United
With so much at stake, the teams that have already played this week looked nervous. Arsenal and Tottenham struggled their way past Leicester City and Crystal Palace, respectively, so a clash between two sides in direct competition could be a nervy affair.
Mourinho will be cynical, knowing that a loss will hugely dent his ambitions. Expect a tight but fiery fixture that will likely end as a draw. At the end of the day, a point is better than nothing.