Sports fans around the world live for derbies. There is a certain adrenaline rush when it comes to derbies, such as the Milan derby, the various London derbies, the Merseyside derby, El Classico and the Manchester derby.
This Saturday marks the 176th Manchester derby, where the noisy neighbors are looking to add another league title this season while rubbing salt into Manchester United’s wound.
The very first derby win went to Manchester United (formerly Newton Heath Boys), 3-0 in 1881. Manchester City however, have registered the largest margin of victory (6-1). The derby however did not muster much interest until the advent of the new Premier League era in the 1992-93 season. United dominated the early settings of this fixture but the tables have turned in recent times with City now taking control of the fixture.
Historically, the Reds have a strong record against their noisy neighbours – winning 72 and drawing 52 of the previous 175 encounters. United also hold the edge in the 40 Premier League encounters between the sides, winning 20 to City’s 13 while there have been eight draws.
Just 4 miles separate these two clubs and Manchester United will be making a short trek to the Etihad Stadium for the second Manchester derby of the season this weekend. United will be looking to avenge the 2-1 defeat against City at Old Trafford back in December and further consolidate second place in the Premier League, but it will be a tough task against the leaders, who will be looking to put their emphatic UEFA Champions League defeat at Liverpool in midweek behind them.
A STRENGTHENED UNITED
It was a weakened United in the first fixture, when the team was without star man Paul Pogba, who was suspended for a rash tackle on Hector Bellerin in a 3-1 victory over Arsenal. The acquisition of Alex Sanchez in the January transfer window and Phil Jones, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind who have regained fitness and has returned to training has offered Jose a deeper pool of players to choose from. Sergio Romero is expected to be out “for a few weeks” after sustaining an injury on international duty with Argentina.
Meanwhile, City could be without top scorer Sergio Aguero, who missed Wednesday’s 3-0 Champions League quarter-final first-leg defeat at Liverpool through injury. John Stones and Fabian Delph were unused substitutes at Anfield and could be involved on Saturday after recent injuries, but Bernard Mendy is expected to remain sidelined.
Pep Guardiola’s side have enjoyed a formidable season so far, in which they have won the Carabao Cup, reached the last eight of the Champions League and are close to securing the Premier League title. The Blues have won their last five Premier League games, scoring 14 goals and conceding just twice, since a 1-1 draw at Burnley on February 3rd.
In a team packed with multi-talented superstars, Kevin De Bruyne has been the shining light for City this season and is deservedly in the running for the PFA Player of the Year award. The Belgian playmaker, who has been instrumental in many of City’s wins this season, has scored 11 goals and registered 20 assists in all competitions this term. Capable of opening up any defence, De Bruyne is the chief orchestrator for Guardiola’s side and the Red Devils will have to be alert to nullify his considerable threat.
Romelu Lukaku the son of former Zaire international Roger Lukaku, has been aUnited stand-out this season and was referred to as the sergeant of the team for his phenomenal attitude by Jose Mourihno.
Lukaku has scored 26 goals in 45 appearances and racked up his 100th Premier League goal in a 2-0 win over Swansea in their last outing. He is widely criticized for scoring only on mid-table teams but silenced his critics with a sensational strike in a 2-1 win over Chelsea. On any given day he can be a menace to defenders, hence City is very much weary of him.
Speaking of defence, Saturday’s game will bring together the best defences in the Premier League this season, with United conceding 23 goals and City just 21 in 31 games so far.
The Reds have kept clean sheets on their last two visits to the Etihad Stadium and David De Gea is leading the way in the race for the Golden Glove with 16 shut-outs in the league, two more than City’s Brazilian stopper Ederson who is in second place.
Martin Atkinson will take charge of his fifth Manchester derby and the Reds are unbeaten in the previous four, including the 0-0 draw at the Etihad Stadium last season in which he sent off Marouane Fellaini.