Manchester, Merseyside Derbies Headline Premier League Matches

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Premier League front runners, Manchester City and United will go head to head this weekend in a game which will go a long way in deciding this season’s champion. A victory for the citizens will see the blue side of Manchester establish an 11-point lead over neighbours and might turn this year’s league to a one-horse-race. Jose Mourinho however knew how important this encounter is to the Red Devils in keeping tab of Pep Guardiola’s side and anything short of victory for United will not be to their advantage. Meanwhile, rejuvenated Everton side under new manager, Sam Allardyce will take a short trip to Anfield against an in-form, Liverpool in the Merseyside derby as both teams are having a contrasting season so far

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City travel to Old Trafford for the toughest test of their Premier League title credentials so far, while new Everton boss, Sam Allardyce bids to defy Liverpool’s “Fab Four” as the northwest derbies take centre stage on Sunday.

City are eight points clear at the top of the table and victory at their fierce rivals could realistically end Jose Mourinho’s hopes of landing the club’s first league title since Alex Ferguson’s trophy-laden reign.

Meanwhile, Mourinho believes both Manchester United and Manchester City have taken big steps forward this season. The sides meet in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford on Sunday, with United trailing Premier League leaders City by eight points in the table.

Mourinho feels his side have improved in his second season in charge but acknowledges City are also significantly better in their second campaign under Pep Guardiola. “We are a better team than last year, no doubt about it but I think City is also a better team than last season,” Mourinho said.

When asked how good City are, Mourinho replied: “Very good.”

The game is pivotal for United’s title hopes as they attempt to halt the momentum of a City side who have dropped just two points from their opening 15 Premier League games and Mourinho acknowledged the derby represents a big opportunity for his United side but was keen to stress the game is still only worth three points.

“To me it is one more big match against one of the best teams in the country, the first against the second. It is a big match. I don’t need to know that a derby is something special for the people. For us, in the end, it is three points but honestly, I think for the people born in the city and feeling the colours, it is a good positive rivalry and a special match,” Mourinho said, when asked about the magnitude of the game.

United’s record signing Paul Pogba misses the derby as he begins a three-match suspension following his red card against Arsenal last weekend. Marouane Fellaini is a potential replacement for the Frenchman but is still working his way back from a knee ligament injury picked up while playing for Belgium in October.

Mourinho says Fellaini will be assessed today to determine his availability but Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Phil Jones and Nemanja Matic are all able to play.

“Zlatan is available. Jones is available. Fellaini I have to wait until tomorrow. Bailly is not available. Carrick is not available. Matic is injured but he plays,” Mourinho said.

Indeed, Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea is confident his side can put an end to Manchester City’s winning streak on Sunday.

City will equal Arsenal’s Premier League record of 14 consecutive wins with victory at Old Trafford, but head into the game on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, their first since April.

United’s 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow on Tuesday levelled a club a record of 40 games without loss at Old Trafford and De Gea believes his side can continue their impressive run on Sunday.

De Gea, speaking exclusively to Sky Sports pundit Thierry Henry on Nissan Match Zone, said: “Can City stop United? We play at home with the fans. It’s a derby, we have confidence, we feel really strong and we want to win. The team is in a good moment, we won two difficult away games so we have confidence and we know we play an important game. We really want to win.”

Mourinho heaped praise on the Spaniard following last Saturday’s 3-1 win over Arsenal, labelling De Gea as the best keeper in the world after he made a league record 14 saves against the Gunners

De Gea admitted he felt unbeatable against Arsene Wenger’s side last weekend as he secured a league-high ninth clean sheet for the season ahead of City stopper Ederson in second with seven.

United head into Sunday’s game without midfielder Paul Poga, who was handed a three-match suspension after receiving a red card against Arsenal, and Juan Mata believes his side will miss the French international.

But while Manchester will be at the centre of attention on Sunday, up the road in-form Liverpool host Everton in the season’s first Merseyside derby.

Liverpool have put their early-season problems behind them, topping their Champions League group with an avalanche of goals and climbing into the Premier League’s top four, with five wins in their past six top-flight games.

After their 4-1 defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in late October, the focus was on the side’s porous defence but the ‘Fab Four’ attackers have since dominated the narrative — with 46 goals between them this season.

Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Mohamed Salah and Philippe Coutinho have formed a fluid and devastating attacking group but they will come up against arch-pragmatist Allardyce, whose new charges are in the relative comfort of 10th after a tricky spell.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has pleaded with his free-scoring players not to get carried away after they hammered Spartak Moscow 7-0.

“We should not think it will be like this from now on until the end of our entire lives,” he said.Elsewhere, Spurs desperately need to end a four-game winless streak in the league.

Tottenham, so long seen as the coming force in English football, suddenly look vulnerable after a disappointing run that has seen them pick up just two points from four outings.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side have slipped to sixth in the Premier League table, a whopping 18 points behind leaders Manchester City and they have a fight on their hands to stay in the hunt for a top-four place.

Stoke City are not the scariest of opponents but they travel to Wembley after a morale-boosting win against Swansea City and with the knowledge that Spurs have struggled to put away lower-placed teams at their temporary home this season.

The Argentine was impressed by the performance of his second-string players against APOEL Nicosia in the Champions League.

“To have more players with the confidence to compete for a place is important and will help the team a lot. Now we need to be focused on winning in the Premier League again. But this season I think has been a massive step up for us,” said the Spurs boss.

Elsewhere, third-placed Chelsea travel to West Ham, Spurs desperately need to end a four-game winless streak in the league and Arsenal will hope to prove that last week’s home defeat to United was only a blip.