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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Top Two Barclays Premier League Match Preview (Man Utd vs Man City)

Old Trafford, Manchester
October 23, 2011; 12:30 GMT
***
 In a season of league football, each game is as important as the other, a win gives you all three points whereas a draw just the one. Yet, some games are worth more than the other; clearly Manchester United against Manchester City is one of those. This Sunday the two Manchester clubs renew their rivalry at the Theatre of Dreams when league leaders City visit Champions United. The city of Manchester will come to a grinding halt; the rest of the football-ing world would perhaps stand still for those crucial 90 minutes. In boxing terms this is the equivalent of a big fight night when two giants collide till eventually only one’s left standing. This is the Manchester derby and the hype is real for once.


The match couldn’t be more tantalizingly poised as first takes on second and with pole position up for grabs. Roberto Mancini’s Citizen’s hold a slight edge but count the Red Devils out on your own peril, certainly never at Old Trafford. Form book favours City though, as Mancini’s men have emerged from the shadows of their illustrious neighbours and as things stand look the more menacing of the two outfits.

Ferguson’s United side began in awe-inspiring fashion but gradually began to slide of their pedestal in terms of the quality of football. Nevertheless, United still remain unbeaten and with most of their squad back to full fitness, City will have their task cut out as the Red Devils haven’t lost on their home turf in more than 18 months. All the little battles on and off the field add up to a momentous occasion and to quote one of the great cliché’s of modern life “when an irresistible force meets an immovable object, something’s got to give“.

 

Team News and Tactical Brief

MANCHESTER UNITED

After going through an injury crisis of major proportions, Sir Alex has announced that all the first team players except Ryan Giggs are fit and available for selection including the 23 players that made the trip to Romania in midweek for the Champions league game. This also means that Tom Cleverley, who started the season brilliantly, is also fit and likely to be included in the matchday squad for the first time since suffering a ligament injury at the Reebok Stadium last month. The only player missing for the Red Devils is the old war-horse Ryan Giggs who has a minor hamstring problem.

Sir Alex, for once, came under scrutiny for his team selection at Anfield which showed that he was looking for a point rather than all three. However, with the game being at Old Trafford, expect no such thing from the wily old Scot on Sunday as he will certainly go all out attack with his team selection and tactics.
De Gea will once again return to the starting line-up after being rested for the midweek game as Lindegaard was started in goal in Romania. However, it will not be an easy choice for the manager as far as the back four is concerned. Nemanja Vidic returned to the starting line-up in midweek but looked a touch short on match sharpness and that could be dangerous in this game considering the form of City’s front four. Having said that, the skipper’s presence and experience in big games is a boost for the whole team as he certainly brings a calming influence at the back. Vidic will be partnered by Rio Ferdinand, who was rested for the midweek game. Evra, who has looked on song for the last two games, will start at left back while Smalling is likely to get the nod at right back ahead of Phil Jones and the Brazilian twins.

Michael Carrick is likely to start his first league game this season after producing a sound display in Romania. The Englishman has normally been an automatic choice for the manager in big games for the past few seasons and his experience could once again prove to be vital on Sunday. He is likely to sit in front of the back four breaking City’s fluent passing while Anderson will be playing the role of the playmaker and will be looking to get forward on every opportunity. Nani, who has done well against the bitter rivals in the past, will return after being benched at Anfield while Park, another big game player for Sir Alex, is expected to start ahead of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia who have both been off colour in recent weeks.
Rooney will also return to the starting eleven in the league but the other choice of striker will be between Chicharito and Welbeck.

Probable Starting Line-up: (4-4-1-1) De Gea; Smalling, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra; Nani, Carrick, Anderson, Park; Rooney; Welbeck

MANCHESTER CITY

Roberto Mancini, like his counterpart, has all his players fit for the big game at Old Trafford. The only man missing for the Blues is ex-Red Devil Carlos Tevez who has been charged for his misconduct against Bayern Munich. Another former Old Trafford man – Owen Hargreaves is doubtful for the game and will face a late fitness test. However, with all the other players available for selection, the injury-prone midfielder is unlikely to get a chance against his former employers.
With all the players fit, this will be the biggest test for Mancini so far this season and it will be very interesting to see whether he carries on his attacking mentality at Old Trafford or will he revert back to his safety first option and play three defensive midfielders like he did in the last season. The formation will take the shape based on the manager’s decision and can change from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-2-1 depending on Mancini’s approach.

Having seen the way Mancini has operated this season, it is likely that he goes for a front four from the start and then change it at the latter stages if he feels that his team could get something out of the game. De Jong and Barry are certain to start in the midfield and will be operating in-front of their defense making it a back 6 for the visitors while defending.

Lescott and Kompany will be playing in central defence for the Blues with Micah Richards taking his place at right back. The choice of left back will be an interesting one from Mancini as both Clichy and Kolarov are fit and have been in good form of late. Clichy does provide a more attacking option but has been put to test by Nani in recent seasons while playing for Arsenal. On the other hand, Kolarov is a bit slow in comparison with the Frenchman and can be vulnerable to the pace of United’s forward line. Joe Hart will start in front of goal.
Up-front, Balotelli, who has been in scintillating form, is expected to start ahead of Dzeko. He will be getting ample support from Sergio Aguero, who is also certain to start after returning from injury in midweek and David Silva, who has been the standout player for the league leaders. Nasri, Milner and Barry will battle it out for the remaining spot again depending on the tactics used by the Italian. In all likelihood, the former Arsenal man is going to start while Milner and Barry can come on later in the game if City manage to get ahead. Adam Johnson is also a probable option for the manager as an impact substitute later in the game.

Probable Starting Line-up: (4-2-3-1) Hart; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy; De Jong, Toure Yaya; Nasri, Silva, Aguero; Balotelli

Key Facts

  1. United are unbeaten in 25 league games at Old Trafford winning the last 19.
  2. Wayne Rooney has scored five goals against City in all competitions.
  3. City have scored 14 away goals in 4 games this season.

 PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Nani (Manchester United)

 
City’s Nemesis?
The Portuguese has been in good form since the start of the season and is currently second on assists charts in the league. He has also done very well in the past derby games including the Community Shield this season where he scored two goals in the remarkable comeback win by United. Nani is expected to be involved in most of United’s attacks and if he has a good game, City could be facing a major problem.

Prediction

Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City

It will be a cagey game at the start with both teams easing themselves slowly into the game. However, the match will become explosive in the latter stages with United proving to be strong enough at home territory.

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