Sunday 20th March. 4PM. Sky Sports 1
It might not be the title-decider of a few years ago, but Sunday’s Manchester derby at the Etihad still carries huge importance as both halves of the city are still battling it out for Champions League qualification.
Manuel Pellegrini’s men have pole position in that particular race, but Louis van Gaal’s men could pile the pressure on with a derby win. Passions will be flowing, and it should be a fascinating battle from start to finish.
Prepare yourselves for a classic.
Can Home Advantage Count For City?
Despite booking a date with PSG in the Champions League quarter-final, the Citizens have been far from convincing in recent weeks domestically, even if they did pick up a Capital One Cup trophy in the process. Pellegrini’s has seen his men fall away from the title race and they are now in a battle for a top four finish. However, victory in the derby would virtually seal their place in next year’s competition.
One of the main issues for City is that their players haven’t looked motivated. That won’t be an issue against their fierce rivals,and that could make a vast difference here. The hosts will be gutted to see captain Vincent Kompany out of action once again, but the away side’s attacking injuries could allow them to escape unscathed.
Arguably the main battle of the day will be between Sergio Aguero and David De Gea. The Manchester United goalkeeper has been brilliant, but City’s main man will be confident about grabbing another derby goal.
City have been fairly rampant at home, in spite of the recent slump. If they perform to their potential, they should pick up a derby day win.
Will United Suffer European Hangover?
A difficult season hit another low point for Van Gaal’s men on Thursday as the Red Devils dropped out of Europe to arch rivals Liverpool. But the visitors have no time to feel sorry for themselves here as anything other than a win will probably rule them out of a top four finish.
Like the hosts, United are without their captain as Wayne Rooney remains on the sidelines. The youthful talent of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial have a lot of pressure on their shoulders. This, combined with the lack of cutting edge in midfield, could be a major problem once more.
That’s not to say that the visitors don’t have the quality to win. But the Red Devils are bereft of confidence right now. A lack of options was crystal clear on Thursday night, especially when you look at the substitutions that they made.
The odds are certainly stacked against Van Gaal’s men, but they shouldn’t be ruled out completely. Whatever happens, it should be a cracking contest.
Manchester City v Manchester United Betting
Despite their recent inconsistencies, the hosts are 5/6 favourites in Pellegrini’s final derby. The Red Devils meanwhile are available at 15/4 and the draw can be backed at 11/4.
Both teams have their problems, but there is no question that United’s outweigh City’s. Unfortunately for the visitors, we think that will show.
City have looked lacklustre in recent times but are more than capable of stepping it up here. If they do we’d expect them to win with ease.
If the hosts are to give Pellegrini a pleasing result in his final derby, then there’s every chance that Aguero will be the man to provide the goals. The 16-goal striker is carrying the expectations of the team on his shoulders, and we’re backing him to to respond in style.
Not only do we think he’ll score, we think he’ll be Man of the Match too. The odds on the latter are far greater, which is why we’re putting our money there.