Manchester City will be without key player David Silva after the Spaniard limped off during the League Cup defeat against Newcastle United. Manchester United welcome back captain, Wayne Rooney for the derby. The Citizens will be looking to bounce back after a number of disappointing results of late. Defeat at West Ham United in the league, losing a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 with CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, losing to lowly Newcastle United in the League Cup has put manager Manuel Pellegrini under pressure for the first time at the Etihad.
The Blue half of Manchester will take heart from winning both league meetings last season and the fact United have barely improved under Louis van Gaal. Samir Nasri, a one-time United target, returns to the City squad after under-going groin surgery.
Van Gaal now has Rooney back after the player missed three matches for a red card against the Hammers last month. Rooney did pick up an injury in training on Monday but it is thought he is ok to line up on Sunday. Radamel Falcao will again miss out through injury after missing the 1-1 draw with leaders Chelsea last weekend. If Rooney does start, it means one of Adnan Januzaj, Juan Mata and Robin van Persie could be sacrificed. Although van Persie has disappointed this season, he is in good goal-scoring form and was the man responsible for the equalizer against Chelsea.
Manchester City’s dominance over United in recent years plus the respective league positions would suggest a straightforward home victory for Pellegrini’s side, the Red Devils will be aware of City’s shaky form and will go into the game knowing nobody expects a United win. While Sergio Agüero continues to score goals with consummate ease, leaders such as Yaya Touré and Vincent Kompany have been prone to going missing in some key matches this season.
For United, van Gaal knows his side’s result against Chelsea last week – combined with the battling performance that went with it – showed the rest of the Premier League that they can mix it with the best. City are currently in third while United sit in eighth spot and both sides desperately need to claim three points if they are to have any chance of closing the gap on Chelsea.
Although United have only been making steady progress, the feeling is there could not be a better time to play City this season. The missing Silva has created the most chances of all City’s players this season (22) and they have failed to win in their last three matches. United, however, have failed to win away from home this season, having thrown away matches when they were in a commanding position. a victory in the Manchester derby would be the ideal place to get that first away win.
When United and City line up for the Manchester derby, form generally goes out the window. The physical approach is likely to be as important as the tactical one. It is a game both sides have to win. A draw is no good to either and a defeat would be devastating for both clubs for very different reasons. City in their hunt for the title, and United in their hunt for Champions League football.
Commentary By Robert Shepherd