Manchester City’s contention with Premier League leaders, Liverpool will continue today when Pep Guardiola’s side welcome Manchester United to the Etihad Stadium. The reigning champions trail the Reds by 11 points. The Citizens have won three of their last four league clashes with United, though, and will be determined to collect another three points in this weekend’s Manchester derby. Both teams warmed up for the game with impressive wins in midweek as City beat Burnley and United overcame Spurs
The Manchester derby is always a key clash in the Premier League calendar and all eyes will be on the Etihad Stadium when City take on United, as the two footballing giants face-off for the first time this season. Yet the confrontation will be significant for reasons that go way beyond goals and titles.
City welcome United to the Etihad Stadium for the 179th edition of the Manchester derby as both sides look to build on midweek wins.
The champions cruised to a 4-1 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor to return to winning ways, while United beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on former manager Jose Mourinho’s first return to Old Trafford.
The matches continue to come thick and fast for Man City as they gear up for a festive period in which the quality and depth of their squad will be tested to the limit.
December could hardly have got off to a better start as Guardiola’s side eased to only their second win from their last six games across all competitions at Turf Moor, with misfiring striker Gabriel Jesus also ending his drought in the process with a well-taken brace.
However, things only get harder from hereon in, with City’s three remaining league games before Christmas seeing them come up against United, Arsenal and Leicester City, the latter of whom current sit between the champions and runaway leaders Liverpool in the table.
One positive is that Guardiola will have opportunities to rest players between those matches – they have already secured their place in the last 16 of the Champions League ahead of next week’s match at Dinamo Zagreb, while a second or even third-string City side will still be fancied to beat League One Oxford United in the EFL Cup quarter-finals.
It is still a challenging run of fixtures at the most difficult stage of the season, though, and with City having already dropped 13 points this season – only three fewer than the whole of last term and one fewer than their 100-point campaign – those opponents will fancy their chances of further denting the champions’ title defence.
Man City have not won successive league games since the start of November, which is a wildly inconsistent spell by their standards, and a patchy recent home record against their near neighbours suggests that they may have their work cut out to end that relative drought this weekend.
In general, though, City’s record at the Etihad is exemplary, with 23 wins and only one defeat from their 26 home outings across all competitions in 2019.
In the Premier League alone they have won 24 of their last 27 home games, scoring 81 goals in that time, although they have already dropped more points in front of their fans this season than they did throughout the whole of 2018-19.
Another slight concern may be the fact that they have only kept one clean sheet in their last seven matches at the Etihad, while home and away it is now eight games since they last managed a shutout – a curious problem which has also affected title rivals Liverpool in recent months.
Nonetheless, a trip to the Etihad remains a daunting proposition for any visiting team, and United’s own away record will do nothing to fill their travelling supporters with belief.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have won just one of their last 11 away league outings stretching back to February, losing six of those including defeats at Everton, West Ham United, Newcastle United and Bournemouth, as well as draws at Huddersfield Town, Southampton and Sheffield United.
The latter of those was their most recent away outing in the Premier League, and even then it took a seven-minute purple patch, during which the Red Devils scored three times, to paper over the cracks of another dismal performance.
Indeed, United’s only away win in the league since February came at struggling Norwich City, with the Canaries one of only four teams who have amassed fewer points on the road this season.
The story does not improve much in all competitions either with only three wins in their last 17 on the road, including a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Kazakhstani minnows Astana in their most recent such outing.
Unsurprisingly given such rotten form, clean sheets have also been difficult to come by, with their last away Premier League shutout coming in February – a run of 12 matches in which they have been unable to prevent the opposition from scoring.
Solskjaer will, of course, be keen to focus on the positives rather than those negatives ahead of this match, and Wednesday’s win over his predecessor Mourinho may have come at the perfect time.
Marcus Rashford inspired his team to victory with a display Solskjaer regarded as his best during their time working together, and if the England international can continue his rich vein of form today then he will fancy his chances of unsettling a Man City defence with problems of their own.
Remarkably, United have not won back-to-back league matches for more than nine months now, so to do so against two of their big-six rivals in the space of three days would be a major step towards some much-needed consistency.
The Red Devils actually have a good record against those ‘big six’ despite their recent struggles, avoiding defeat in each of their last five such games, including becoming the only team to take points off Liverpool this season.
The Spurs win lifted United up into sixth and also eased the pressure on Solskjaer somewhat, but they remain eight points adrift of the Champions League places and the Norwegian will know that his job will be back under scrutiny if that gap grows any bigger.
So far this season, City have fallen some way short of the exacting standards they have set themselves over recent years under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage. Meanwhile, United is still immersed in post-Ferguson angst as Solskjaer grapples with his team’s continuing underachievement.
David de Gea has backed Manchester United to beat derby rivals City in today’s crunch showdown at the Etihad.
United will head across town in confident mood following the midweek win over Tottenham to ruin Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford.
Rashford scored twice to inspire a 2-1 triumph, lift United into sixth in the Premier League table and ease the pressure on under-fire boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Beating the reigning champions will be a different challenge altogether, however, but De Gea believes United have a chance if they can take the form showed against Spurs into the showdown with Pep Guardiola ‘s men.