City vs United: Key battles in the 179th Manchester derby
Sportsbet.io identifies the pivotal tussles in the 179th Manchester derby between Manchester City and Manchester United.
Manchester United travel across the city to take on Manchester City on Saturday in what is going to be an absolute cracker. The Manchester Derby produces fireworks. Every time. And given the recent slump in form the home side has gone through, expect it to be a fiery encounter.
City have been a force to reckon with at the Etihad Stadium, except for Wolves who took advantage of the Cityzens' vulnerable defence. The Sky Blues have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five league outings and will be under tremendous pressure to withstand the Red Devils' counter-attacking policy, led by the red-hot Marcus Rashford.
While integrity and authority govern this fixture, Manchester City have a different objective from the Manchester derby this term, of catching up to speed with Liverpool in the Premier League title race. And having said that, here are three key battles which are expected to affect the course of the game.
FERNANDINHO vs MARCUS RASHFORD
Rashford has been an absolute revelation for Manchester United this season, with eight goals in his last eight appearances in all competitions; including a recent match-winning brace against Tottenham. Given his imperious form, the 22-year-old forward is poised to spell doom for the Cityzens' defence.
Defensive frailties this season has forced Guardiola to deploy midfielder Fernandinho in the centre-back position, and the Brazilian has done a decent job barring a few errors. Given the stakes at hand, Fernandinho must keep the Englishman at bay.
KEVIN DE BRUYNE vs SCOTT MCTOMINAY
Four goals and nine assists in 14 Premier League games underline the football genius in Kevin De Bruyne. As the chief co-ordinator of Manchester City's game operations, de Bruyne must assert his dominance in the engine room ahead of Manchester United's Scott McTominay.
The Scotsman, while sitting deep, not only guards his back-four but is also tasked to keep the ticking from the back. McTominay averages 2.2 tackles, 1.4 interceptions and 1.3 clearances per game, and the 22-year-old's impressive game-reading skill will aid United's push for a stellar display against the Cityzens.
RAHEEM STERLING vs AARON WAN-BISSAKA
Raheem Sterling has been scoring goals for fun this season, having bagged eight in 14 Premier League outings. His form, however, has seen a dip of late as he has only managed two goals in his last six league games. City will indeed be counting on his forays, and a certain Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be asked to put an end to the danger.
Wan-Bissaka, who joined Manchester United from Crystal Palace in the summer, averages 4.4 tackles, 1.9 interceptions and as many clearances per game this season. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will pin his hopes on the 22-year-old to shut down any possible threat on the right flank.
Words: Swapnil Bhopatkar