It’s not been a particularly memorable campaign to date for either of the Manchester giants, but this game still has plenty riding on it. Victory for either team here would clearly help keep their respective title and top four aspirations alive, but the main impact would be in the huge damage it does to the losing team.
For Manchester City a defeat or even a draw would leave their already rapidly diminishing title hopes virtually dead and buried. Not only that, but it would leave them facing an unexpected fight to secure a top four finish. Pep Guardiola certainly wouldn’t have anticipated the prospect of no Champions League football in his first season at the Etihad Stadium, but that could be a very real possibility were they to come away from this game empty handed.
A frustrating goalless draw at Carrow Road last weekend leaves City with almost no room for further slip-ups. Assuming there are no major losses of form from the top two, City probably need to win at least eight of their final nine Premier League matches to have any hope of the title.
That would be a tough enough task as it is, but given that they have at least another two Champions League matches to come, it’s almost certainly beyond a team that has fallen off the pace after winning just one of their last five top-flight fixtures.
A second season in three without Champions League football is already looking like a distinct possibility for Manchester United. Were they to lose to their ‘noisy neighbours’, it’s difficult to believe that they would be capable of making up the gap on any of the top four over the remaining games.
In terms of absentees, Kevin De Bruyne, Samir Nasri and Fabian Delph are all still a couple of weeks away from returning for City and Vincent Kompany was injured in the Champions League match against Dynamo Kiev. Yaya Toure should return after missing the trip to Norwich. United’s injury list is shortening, but Wayne Rooney and Ashley Young remain sidelined. Juan Mata will be available after serving his suspension though.
Player for player Manchester City are the better team at present and with home advantage and the visitors having had the small matter of an equally intense Europa League tie against Liverpool less than 72 hours earlier, it really should point to a victory for Manuel Pellegrini in what will be his (and quite probably Louis van Gaal’s) final Manchester derby.