Manchester Derby Preview, Betting tips and Predictions
City to keep United at arm’s length in title race.
Score draw @ 7/2 with Betfair
Draw HT/Manchester City FT @ 9/2 with Betfair
Gabriel Jesus to score first and Manchester City to win @ 5/1 with Betfair
Every year, the Manchester derby seems to get even more intriguing. Each time it is viewed as the biggest clash in the fixture’s history, though that could actually be true this time. The pair meet at Old Trafford on Sunday and even though the Premier League season has not yet reached the half way point, it is definitely a mist win for Jose Mourinho’s side if they want to win their first title in four years. Pep Guardiola’s side are unbeaten in all competitions and are on a 13-match winning run dating back to August. They are top of the table, with United directly behind them, but they have hardly felt the pressure all season.
There is the added spice of the personal rivalry between Guardiola and Mourinho. Former friends from their days working together at Barcelona, the pair have become real foes since. When Guardiola was in charge of the Blaugrana and Mourinho Real Madrid, their competition became most personal, and although it does seem to have mellowed since they both arrived in Manchester, they will both be keen to get one over on each other. For Guardiola, victory could mean having one hand on the trophy already; for Mourinho, defeat would almost certainly mean throwing in the towel.
City have shown their attacking qualities this season, but have more recently seen their games go the distance. They have been very much like Sir Alex Ferguson’s United, scoring late goals to win matches. Neither side are at their best, but our betting tips for this game are either a score draw or a narrow away win with Gabriel Jesus to score first. It is hard to see United stopping City and, although they have been imperious at home themselves, the title race could be all but over on Sunday evening.
The performances and results of both sides have been reflected in the Manchester Derby betting offers from each bookmaker, with City overwhelming favourites. It is not hard to understand why, either, because Guardiola’s side have been literally unbeatable all season. They are answering questions thrown at them, too. Having blown away every team they faced for a spell earlier in the campaign, scoring five or more goals against the likes of Stoke, Crystal Palace, Watford and Liverpool, and four against Feyenoord and Napoli in the Champions League, they are now winning games narrowly and showing they can fight to grind results out in tough conditions and when not playing well. Raheem Sterling has been a revelation this season, netting nine Premier League goals. Four of them have been crucial in saving a point or grabbing a win in the last ten minutes against Everton, Bournemouth, Southampton and West Ham. He will undoubtedly be a threat for United at Old Trafford, but City will have so many different options in attack it is hard to know how they will set up.
United have not been quite so impressive, but they had matched City for attacking intent earlier in the campaign. Romelu Lukaku started the season like a house on fire and he has eight Premier League goals to his name, though only one of them has come recently, in the 4-1 win over Newcastle last month. United will need Lukaku to step up, but a big impact on their form has been the sporadic appearances of Paul Pogba in midfield. They have looked great at Old Trafford overall and they will cause City problems, but they have come unstuck on the road lately, losing at Huddersfield, Chelsea and FC Basel in all competitions. Saturday’s win at Arsenal showcased their biggest asset, though, with David De Gea making a string of world-class saves to deny the Gunners as they piled on the pressure. He defended a two-goal lead, which then allowed Mourinho’s men to win the game with a third goal on the counter attack from Jesse Lingard. De Gea will need to be at his best again this weekend.
As mentioned above, United have missed Paul Pogba at times this season and they will again here. The France international was instrumental at the Emirates Stadium, assisting two goals before being sent off for a late challenge on defender Hector Bellerin. Some believe that will cost the home side the match, but they are also weakened in defence. Phil Jones and Eric Bailly have both been out for some time and are unlikely to return in time, meaning Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof will most likely line up at centre back.
City will be missing John Stones, while Benjamin Mendy and Ilkay Gundogan are also on the long-term injury list. But the biggest questions about their line up lie at Guardiola’s door. He has so many different options, particularly up front. He doesn’t like playing both Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus up front together because doing so reduces their effectiveness out wide. It is hard to foresee who he will play there, but Jesus has been impressive whenever he has come on having not started lately, so it could well be him. Fernandinho should come in for Fabian Delph in midfield.
Key Battle: Antonio Valencia vs Raheem Sterling
Sterling has been City’s player of the season so far, but this is a key battle in a general sense. Not only will Antonio Valencia attempt to get forward as he did at Arsenal, but the wide areas will be where City can be stopped most easily. West Ham showed just how effective doubling up on their wingers can be, and they will surely look to repeat the trick. Mourinho’s approach here will be crucial; he may like to contain teams in the bigger games, but failure to win is not an option here.