Wednesday 26 April 2017

Cross town rivals meet in season defining clash

The Manchester derby is always one of the most eagerly anticipated games of the season and the 174th meeting on Thursday comes with a season-defining edge.

It may not be the title showdown many were expecting, but the two sides are locked together in the table with Champions League qualification on the line.
Thursday will go a long way to deciding which one of the two Manchester clubs will occupy a top four spot in six weeks time. 

Chelsea and Spurs are all but certain to finish first and second, with us, City and Liverpool to fight it out for the remaining two places. 

City's defeat by Arsenal at the weekend ensured that Pep Guardiola will end a season without silverware for the first time in his illustrious career.

Coming into the game, City sit a place and a point above us and the victor at the Etihad would move into pole position with five games left. 
Of course, United could still qualify for the Champions League by virtue of winning the Europa League, regardless off league position.

With the semi-final against Celta Vigo on the horizon, Jose has made no secret of his desire to take us all the way in that competition.
City don't have that luxury and there's more pressure on them and Guardiola because the top four is their only route to qualify. 

There's never any added incentive in games such as this, but - not only would we leapfrog City with victory - we'd move joint third with Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool having played one game less. 
The men from Merseyside went down at home to bogey side Crystal Palace on Sunday when they succumbed to the curse of the former striker and Christian Benteke - a first loss in seven. 

Guardiola's City looked odds on favourites for the title after they started the season with ten straight wins, a run that included September's 2-1 victory over the Reds.

We ensured a modicum of revenge a month later when Juan Mata's goal knocked the neighbours out of the EFL Cup - a competition, of course, that we went on to win. 

In contrast to City's faltering form - their FA Cup defeat was their tenth of the season - United have picked up three successive wins and are unbeaten in 23 league games since the defeat at Chelsea in October. 

United have by far the most difficult run-in of all their top four rivals with trips to Spurs, Arsenal and Southampton to come.

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