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Manchester City vs Manchester United: Preview

Prior to the Blackburn match last weekend few of us would have thought things could have gotten any worse, but they did. A disappointing draw at Ewood Park matched by a lacklustre performance, the title now seems like a distant, fading dream.

Next up are our neighbours from across town, Manchester City who are in their own battle, that for fourth place. We managed a 4-3 victory in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, but Eastlands will be a tough place to go, especially considering the form Roberto Mancini has his charges in.

City have scored sixteen goals in their last five matches and have only lost once as well, so United’s defence will have to be on top form if this goal scoring run is to be halted.

Sir Alex Ferguson feels it is the most decisive derby he has contested:

“It could be the most significant derby I’ve been involved in. City could get into the Champions League, and their form in the last few weeks has been excellent. Six goals against Burnley, five against Birmingham – nobody has scored five against Birmingham all season, their defensive record has been fantastic.”

Edwin van der Sar will be the usual custodian between the sticks and will make his 150th Premier League appearance for United. Playing in front of the Dutch master will be a central defensive pairing of Nemanja Vidic and Jonny Evans as Rio Ferdinand is out with a groin strain. Rafael could be brought in on the right to replace Gary Neville and Patrice Evra will surely be back in his left-sided role.

The United midfield is more troublesome, should Sir Alex Ferguson go with a 4-4-2 or revert to the 4-5-1 that is so often used away from Old Trafford.

Considering we need to win the match, 4-4-2 would seem the best option with Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick in the middle, Nani on the left and Antonio Valencia on the right.

Dimitar Berbatov is fighting for his United future and Sir Alex may give him a chance to shine against City, alongside Wayne Rooney who should be fit to start the match.

Injuries to Ryan Giggs (hamstring), Anderson (knee), Wes Brown (metatarsal) and Michael Owen (hamstring) mean they will miss the match.

Manchester City will be looking first to gain a valuable three points to help their ambitions of reaching the Champions League next season and the added incentive of killing off United’s title challenge will mean Roberto Mancini will not need to give his side any further motivation.

Of the match Mancini is quietly confident:

“It’s a big game, of course, it is the derby – but also it’s just important that we win, and if we continue to play like we have been playing then we have a good chance. It is a difficult game. United are a good squad with some fantastic players, but we also have fantastic players and we are a very good team.”

Pablo Zabaleta is available for the Blues after serving a two-match suspension; Stephen Ireland is also back following a three-game absence with a shin injury. Joleon Lescott (hamstring), Wayne Bridge (groin), Martin Petrov (knee) and Michael Johnson (knee) are all definite absentees.

Many in the media have spoken of Carlos Tevez, former United striker and now City talisman. With good reason as well, he provoked a war of words with Gary Neville before the Carling Cup semis and has been in top form for City this year, also managing to score a hat-trick (over two legs) in City’s Carling Cup defeat to United.

But one player who is becoming indispensible to the City attack is Adam Johnson. The former Middlesborough man has made the right wing slot his own, and in the process ousting Shawn Wright-Phillips from the City starting eleven.

As always with a derby, form goes out the window. If United can get the three points and close the gap on Chelsea to one, it may give the league leaders something to think about going into their match with Tottenham.

If United lose then it is curtains for a 19th Premier League title… until next year anyway.

Prediction: 2-2 Draw

Probable Line Up: van der Sar, Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra;, Valencia, Fletcher, Carrick, Nani; Berbatov, Rooney


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