Everything you need to know, Predicted XI – Manchester City vs Manchester United Preview
Manchester City return from the international break with the first of the "biggest games of the season" in derby foes Manchester United visiting the Etihad. The game is live on Sky Sports on Sunday, 2nd October, with kickoff at 2 pm (BST).
City have started the season unbeaten in all competitions, with two league draws their only slip-ups, so even with the break, sitting second in the league is reason to be confident.
Pep Guardiola used his press conference to gee up the City fans, wanting them to be "active" and make the noise that so enriched the last contest between these two teams.
Erling Haaland has so far silenced the naysayers with 14 goals in all competitions and has said in his pre-match press duties that he wants to "make new memories" in the derby.
Team News and Predicted XI
There are multiple absences and considerations over the starting lineup for Sunday, not least the guaranteed losses of John Stones and Kalvin Phillips. Stones started for England vs Germany but suffered a hamstring injury in the first half; Guardiola said he'd miss around two weeks of action. Kalvin Phillips, however, was sent for surgery at the start of the international break and finds himself in a race against time to recover and prove his fitness before the World Cup break in mid-November.
Aymeric Laporte has been in training, and Guardiola says "he feels good" but didn't divulge the exact state of his fitness after summertime knee surgery. Jack Grealish has also said in a recent interview that he's not been feeling 100% since his groin injury at the start of the season, after which we can expect "the best Jack Grealish", despite him continuing to play for club and country.
Most of the team does write itself; I expect Manuel Akanji and Ruben Dias at the back with Walker and Cancelo. Even with Guardiola's liking for a left-footer in defence, and despite the top form of Nathan Ake, I think he'll stick to their developing and so far fruitful partnership. Rodri, Phil Foden Kevin De Bruyne and Haaland are sure-fire starters, too - leaving the debate on Bernardo's starting position. Grealish, with his exciting England cameos and the great all-round performance against Wolves before the break, feels the right pick, he's optimistic and encouraged, and one of his best City performances yet was at the Etihad in the derby a few months ago. If Grealish were to start, this puts Bernardo in midfield and Gundogan on the bench. If Gundogan is to start, I'd be putting Bernardo out wide - his energy, work rate and enthusiasm are a must in these big games. And he loves winding the neighbours up.
Ederson; Walker, Akanji, Dias, Cancelo; De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo; Foden, Haaland, Grealish
League Position: 5th
Top Scorer: Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho (3)
Previous Result: W 2-0 vs Sheriff Tiraspol (A)
Manchester United haven't played in the league since September 4th, their 3-1 win over Arsenal at Old Trafford. They had two league games postponed due to the Queen's death meaning the club have only played in the Europa League with fringe lineups since. Whilst new boss Erik Ten Hag might be appreciative of the extra training time, United might not be thankful as they were stringing together a healthy run of domestic wins.
Whilst they have played and beaten both Arsenal and Liverpool at Old Trafford, this is their first big test away, arguably of the season, and will want to keep pace with the teams above them. Marcus Rashford and Ten Hag both picked up the Premier League monthly awards for Player and Manager, but with their last domestic game coming nearly a month ago in itself, is their 'current' form really too relevant? I'm not convinced.
Ten Hag's employed a structured counter-attacking system, focused on extracting the best from pacey Rashford and the skilful duo of Antony and Jadon Sancho. It's not too dissimilar to the tactics that previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer employed in the 19/20 season, where he managed two wins over City, but, obviously, the improvement in their quality of player is staggering. Summer signings Casemiro and Christian Eriksen are expected to pair up behind Bruno Fernandes, a much harder working base with technical ability than what we're used to with United and the 5'8 Lisandro Martinez has impressed in defence since being paired with Raphael Varane at the back. However, City are a different test and offer enough variety in attack to keep both on their toes if the Blues are at their best.
In terms of team news, Rashford is 50/50 to start, but with his record of four derby goals, he might be worth the risk. Harry Maguire is unfortunately ruled out, and Anthony Martial (and his two Etihad penalties) looks to be sitting this one out through injury too. Casemiro is reportedly up to fitness, however, and should start. Predicted XI:
De Gea; Dalot, Varane, Martinez, Malacia; Eriksen, Casemiro; Antony, Fernandes, Sancho; Rashford
Head to head
The last contest between these two was also at the Etihad where City ran out 4-1 winners. An early De Bruyne goal was neutralised by a shot from Sancho, but a quick second from De Bruyne and two second-half goals from Riyad Mahrez kept City on top of both the table and in the city.
Referee: Michael Oliver
Assistants: Stuart Burt & Simon Bennett
Fourth Official: David Coote
VAR: Paul Tierney
Assistant VAR: Adrian Holmes
Written by: @olicoulsxn
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