Friday 18 March 2016

Match preview: City v United

The 171st Manchester derby brings with it a strange set of circumstances as United travel five miles across town looking for a first win at the Etihad in three seasons.

Manuel Pellegrini's side sit four points ahead of United but the pre-season title favourites are 12 points adrift of leaders Leicester after a patchy 2016 ahead of what looks the most insignificant and unpredictable meeting in years.

City's domestic indifference has come against a backdrop of a historic European run- in contrast to United's early exit- as they have made the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time where they will face PSG in 'El Cashico'. 

Pellegrini will sign off from his City spell with a trophy in his final season after winning the League Cup but, instead of the expected title challenge, they- like us- face a battle to merely finish in the top four.

That should not be considered a noteworthy achievement for either side- more a minimum requirement- but even with a defeat on Sunday, Pellegrini's men will remain in a strong position for a top three finish and automatic Champions League qualification.  

Ander Herrera missed the Liverpool match with a tight groin but Bastian Schweinsteiger and Antonio Valencia both came off the bench and could be pushing for starts on Sunday.

Juan Mata has served his domestic ban whilst Ashley Young and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have returned to training and may also feature.
Wayne Rooney, Luke Shaw, Phil Jones and Will Keane all miss out, as do defensive duo Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi for the hosts. 

"We have to disorganise the defence of Manchester City, we know that Vincent Kompany and maybe Otamendi also shall not play, so we can analyze that and then you can discuss the  game plan" said Louis van Gaal.
"This also depends on which players are fit to play as we cannot train in between, so the recovery time is very short but we have to cope with that

"Any match against City is very important for the players and the fans as well as it is a derby- the same as Liverpool- so it shall be a similar match to the last time but we have to deliver a good performance" added Van Gaal.

The corresponding fixture ended in a goalless stalemate at Old Trafford- only the third such stalemate in the Premier League era- but United are without a win at the Etihad since 2012 having lost there the last two seasons.

Form guide: City W D L W D D United W W L L D D
Match odds: City 4/5 Draw 11/5 United 7/2
Referee: Michael Oliver 

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