What a Saturday of sport we have to look forward to this weekend with the Manchester derby quickly being followed by the world title rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua in Saudi Arabia, meaning we don’t have to stay up until silly time to enjoy the bout (read our big fight preview here). Throw the Tingle Creek at Sandown into the mix (view the latest racing markets here) and it really is turning into a day for the couch and the big screen.
Having avoided the disaster of having to watch their big city rivals win the title in front of their very eyes at the Etihad this time two-years-ago thanks to a Paul Pogba inspired second-half comeback, Manchester City responded in kind by winning both derby meetings last season and will be looking to make it three-in-a-row on home soil this weekend (5:30 KO).
Now 11 points behind Liverpool in the race for the title, Pep Guardiola and his “Citizen” charges know they have no further ground for error if they are to once again pip Jurgen Klopp’s men to the holy grail and retain their Premier League title. A devastating second-half performance at a difficult venue in Turf Moore midweek will have helped steady any City nerves ahead of Saturday’s derby but a Marcus Rashford inspired United home win over Jose Mourinho’s “Spurs” will have lifted spirits on the red city of the city too.
Grabbing a brace in that famous 3-2 comeback win in 2017, Paul Pogba will miss out on Saturday’s latest trip to the Etihad but on the flip side the hosts will also be without the services of one of their key attacking threats in Sergio Aguero. This is where the difference in squad depth comes into play though with Ole Gunnar Solskjær forced into fielding youngster Scott McTominay, who has performed with credit to be fair to the 22-year-old, while City have enjoyed the luxury of being able to afford Gabriel Jesus more game time with the electric Brazilian striker taking advantage with a brace and man-of-the-match performance against Burnley during Tuesday’s 4-1 win.
Both sides arrive in similar veins of form ahead of the derby with City winning 3 of their last 5 league matches, drawing 1 and losing to Liverpool in a thriller while United have also only lost 1 of their last 5 but that was against a lesser opponent in Bournemouth and the reds also failed to pick up maximum points against Sheffield United and Aston Villa, just like in racing form figures can certainly be deceptive.
One thing that should be guaranteed on Saturday is goals with neither side keeping a clean sheet in their last 5 games with a combined total of 36 goals in those 10 games (City scoring 11, United 10).
While Manchester United have historically fared the stronger in the head to head stakes against City, that form has gone out the window pretty much since the “noisy neighbors” became a financial super power with the “Citizens” winning 15 Premier League matches against Man Utd, with 10 of those coming in the last eight years. Only Chelsea have won more against them, with 18.
In a further indication of City’s relatively new found dominance in this fixture, the Blue side of Manchester became the first team to beat Man United by at least two goals in three consecutive top-flight meetings with 3-1 & 2-0 victories last season. Liverpool achieved the same feat four times in a row between 1978 and 1979.
So, how do we see this latest Manchester derby playing out? As mentioned above goals shouldn’t be a scarce commodity with neither defence the force it once was. While Marcus Rashford was almost unplayable at times against Tottenham midweek the England striker needs to prove he can put in such showings on a more consistent basis if he is to be considered in the same company as the likes of Aguero, Kane and any of Liverpool’s front 3 for that matter. The 22-year-old does have an ok record against City with 2 goals in 6 appearances so may be worth an anytime goalscorer shout at 12/5.
It goes without saying both teams to score at 17/20 looks nailed on and with Manchester City holding the third best home record in the league and Saturday’s visitors all the way down in 14th when it comes to form on the road this campaign then the bet of the weekend has to be Manchester City to win and both teams to score at 17/10.