Manchester City vs Manchester United
Time: 8:30 am ET
Location: Etihad Stadium – Manchester City
TV Broadcast: FOX Soccer Channel
Derbies are almost never predictable, however I will be doing just that and predicting the outcome of this one. There are some out there saying that this match doesn’t really matter, that it’s too early to mean anything. I disagree with that sentiment. This is a match that could change the direction of either club propelling them towards (or away from) the title. For starters, throw out the midweek Champions League results for both teams. I doubt they will have any real impact on this match, especially considering that it is a Manchester derby and recent form is almost never something to go by.
Both clubs have several players missing due to injury. For Manchester City they have out: Gael Clichy (doubtful), Aleksandar Kolorov, James Milner (doubtful), Micah Richards, Jack Rodwell (doubtful, but probably wouldn’t play anyway), and David Silva (highly doubtful, but could make the bench anyway). Manchester United has a list not quite as long: Anderson, Tom Cleverly (doubtful), Shinji Kagawa (may make the bench), Nani, Antonio Valencia and Nemanja Vidic.
Each team is missing several players that will truly be missed for City those are Kolorov, Milner and Silva. United’s missing wingers Valencia and Nani has been rough in terms of the teams typical wing style of play, but missing Anderson’s recent form will be tough. As for Vidic, Sir Alex Ferguson has come out to say he won’t play this weekend, but I have a feeling that this is more of Sir Alex’s “mind games” and that we will see Vidic return to the starting lineup. This would be a massive boost for a defense that is leaking goals.
This is going to be a match in which both sides will be trying to exploit the weaknesses of the other. For Manchester United this would be their defense, including the center of the midfield. The return of Darren Fletcher to the squad will help some with this, but there have still been defensive errors, even with him playing. For Manchester City they have had some weaknesses along the wings and shown defensive lapses at times. With Kolorov and Milner out this would be an area that United could look to exploit further. In many previous matches, especially early in the Premier League season and throughout their Champions League campaign, defensive lapses resulted in goals, but more often City was not punished for them. Against United there is little doubt that any lapse will result in a goal.
Part of this discussion and analysis will come down to team tactics. How will both sides line up? Will United play the out of sync Ashley Young on the wing? (Most likely, yes.) Will Kagawa and Vidic be fit to play for United or Milner and Silva for City? Which midfield partnership will be put out by Sir Alex? Will Mancini go with a 3-5-2?
So, will Mancini decide on a 3-5-2? I’m not so sure that he will, at least not to start. He typically plays this formation when he’s going all out for the win and that probably would not be wise against this United side that has such a strength in goal scorers that could punish such an attacking minded setup. On the other hand, having those 5 midfielders could stagnate the United midfield that has already shown they can’t cope with teams that strangle the center of the pitch and shut down their passing lanes. This will be the way to go for City, close down quickly and shut down United’s ability to get the ball forward to players like Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Wayne Rooney. I actually think Mancini will, at least to start, go with a 4-4-2 with both Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez starting up front and Edin Dzeko assuming his super-sub role coming off the bench later. With Aguero and Tevez in tandem it will force United to play somewhat deeper and avoid having to chase them down with through balls over the top.
Sir Alex will almost certainly go with his preferred formation of 4-2-3-1. I think he should leave Hernandez on the bench to come on in the second half and start Young, Kagawa, and Rooney behind van Persie. Again, the main thing to look for with United will be their central midfield setup and the defense behind them. If they actually do have Vidic back, then that leadership coming from the back will make all the difference in the world. As good as Rio is, he has shown that he is not the same sort of leader that Vidic is.
In this match, United will not want to concede first. Doing so would be akin to giving up the match as a loss. Manchester City is a team that does not give up many goals, especially at home, having allowed 6 goals at home and 5 away. Compare this to a United side that has allowed 9 at home and a whopping 12 away. The Red Devils continue to work on the basis of coming from behind to score more goals than they allow. They have scored a total of 37 goals (City has scored 28) and have scored 18 of those on the road. As far as the blue side of Manchester goes, they are the only team left that is unbeaten this season and always seem to do just enough to get a result from each match.
Sunday’s Manchester Derby has the makings of so much uncertainty that it is hard to predict what will happen. Neither team is playing all that well. They are both doing just enough to squeak by with results. This is even more apparent in the Champions League where both teams have been found out by better teams too many times. Teams that don’t have the same flashy names that both red and blues sides can put down on paper. They have fantastic “FIFA” teams that would rate high and do well if you are playing a video game, but neither squad is playing well as a true team. There are tons of individual talent but no real cohesion to their play. No real true partnerships anywhere on the pitch for either team.
What this all brings together is what could be one of the most entertaining Manchester derbies in a long time (or the most boring). Both teams have been scoring a lot of goals and both teams have a lot of great talent, but the question remains as to which team will be able to get everything clicking and get the result they want.
My final prediction for this match is going to be a rather dramatic draw. I would guess either 1-1 or 2-2, but I have a hard time seeing either team winning this. Manchester City is missing too many key players and Manchester United still hasn’t found a way to dominate a match.
Be sure to also check out the Week 16 Premier League Predictions.
Let me know what your prediction is. City or United or a draw?