Premier League games will not get any bigger than this as the two giants of Manchester go head to head at the Etihad, in a game that will go a long way in deciding the title race.
Manchester United slipped up against Everton at Old Trafford after twice taking the lead and are now just three points ahead of the Citizens, who have a far superior goal difference. A win for Roberto Mancini’s side will see them move to the top of the table, while either a draw or a loss will see the Red Devils take a huge step towards retaining their Premier League crown.
The two fierce rivals have already met twice this season, with the last match between them being in the FA Cup at the Etihad, a match that saw United narrowly beat City by a 3-2 scoreline. However, in the last league match between these two giants, Manchester City thumped United by a 6-1 scoreline, a result that will surely give the Citizens some confidence. One thing is for sure though, whatever the result, a lot of goals could be in the offing and the game promises to be a thriller.
Mario Balotelli returns for Manchester City after serving his three-match suspension for the red he picked against Arsenal. But it’s very unlikely that he will start the game as Mancini is expected to stick with his inform Argentine front pair of Sergio Aguero and former United player Carlos Tevez. Micah Richards is set to fit for the game after missing last week’s 2-0 win over Wolves with a hamstring problem. Boss Roberto Mancini has a big decision to make in his midfield, with the improved form of Samir Nasri of late or the more defensive solidity of two holding players against their rivals United a key decision.
Anderson, Darren Fletcher, Anders Lindegaard and Nemanja Vidic remain long-term absentees, but they have no new injury worries ahead of the match. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling will be hoping to be included in the team at right-back after a not-so-impressive performance by Rafael against Everton and the more defensive-minded stability they can give their team. Sir Alex Ferguson must also decide whether to play Wayne Rooney along with Danny Welbeck up ahead or go with a lone striker in Rooney and play a three-man midfield. Nani, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young will all be vying for starting berths in wide areas.
Rooney v Kompany
Rooney is chasing the Golden Boot but he will not have a tougher opponent than Kompany. The City defender’s red card at the Etihad in January was a major factor in Sir Alex’s team winning the FA Cup tie 3-2.
Aguero v Ferdinand
Ferdinand has responded well to his manager’s assertion that he had to change his style to survive. But he will have his hands full with Aguero, whose 29 goals this season represent an outstanding return for a debut season in English football.
Yaya Toure v Scholes
Different in size and style but each vital to their team winning the midfield battle. City’s decline this season can be traced back to Toure going to the African Cup of Nations in January, while Scholes is yet to lose a league game since coming out of retirement.
Clichy v Valencia
Valencia was injured for City’s 6-1 win at Old Trafford and Clichy had an excellent match-up against Nani. Valencia does not have Nani’s skill but his energy will stop Clichy advancing down the wing from left-back.
Head to Head
08 Jan 12 – FA Cup – City 2-3 United
23 Oct 11 – Premier League – United 1-6 City
07 Aug 11 – Community Shield – City 2-3 United
16 Apr 11 – FA Cup – City 1-0 United
12 Feb 11 – Premier League – United 2-1 City
Man City – WWWLD
City’s home form this season has been nothing short of excellent, having won 16 and drawn just once in their 17 games at the Etihad stadium, with only Sunderland having taken points off them. 51 goals scored and only 10 conceded at home is the best in the entire division on both counts, as is their points tally by some distance.
Man Utd – DWLWW
At the same time, United’s away form has been similarly impressive this season with statistics showing that they lead the Premier League in the number of away wins (12 out of 17 games), goals conceded (just 13) and points gained (39), while only City have managed the same number of goals scored (36).
Man City – 11/10, Draw – 5/2, Man Utd – 12/5
A mouth-watering title-deciding clash is in prospect at the Etihad as the best home record in the league goes up against the best away record.
Whilst, the league won’t be won mathematically on Monday, but a victory for either side will generate huge psychological win over the other. United do have a slight advantage, a draw will keep them three points ahead of their neighbors with just two games left to play.
Both teams have already won over each other this season and while City have the home advantage they have struggled when they are under pressure, meaning United’s greater experience in these situations may prove crucial.
Manchester City 1-1 Manchester United