Saturday, April 7 – 5:30p.m Local time – Etihad Stadium, Manchester, United Kingdom
Manchester City is set to welcome Manchester United at the Etihad on Saturday in a match that could see the league leaders crowned the Premier League champion.
Pep Guardiola’s side will line up for the encounter with an unfamiliar feeling of hurt and regret, after the Citizens soundly fell to a 3-0 defeat to Liverpool in the first leg of the quarter-final of the Champions League.
Mohamed Salah, to no one’s surprise, opened the goal scoring account for Liverpool, taking his tally for the season to an impressive 38 goals in all competitions. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain doubled the lead with a thunderbolt strike from 20-yards that caught Ederson off guard, before Sadio Mane rounded up a perfect first half with Liverpool’s third goal of the night.
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The match had an uncanny resemblance to the defeat sustained on the same ground at the start of the calendar year, with many expecting Pep Guardiola’s charges to conjure up an improbable comeback after the break, given the quality of his side.
For now though, City have to put the harrowing experience behind them as they prepare to host Manchester United in what is arguably the biggest fixture of the Premier League season.
Jose Mourinho’s charges are a well rested side with no midweek European duties to attend to having unceremoniously been eliminated in the last 16 of the Champions League by Sevilla.
The Red devils warmed up for the derby with a convincing 2-0 win at home to Swansea City last weekend. Alexis Sanchez has avowedly gotten to his stride since moving to Old Trafford in the January transfer window, as the Chilean scored a goal whilst setting up one for Romelu Lukaku, as United claimed victory to retain second place on the log with 68 points.
City supporters will relish winning the title against their overly successful neighbors, but Pep Guardiola is too level headed to give into the demands of the fans.
The hosts could be without Sergio Aguero, who missed the midweek trip to Merseyside through injury, while Fabian Delph and John Stones could be given a nod after making it to the bench against Liverpool having returned from injury.
Benjamin Mendy’s spell on the sidelines however continues following a knee injury.
Jose Mourinho on the opposite end will be spoilt for choice, as the United gaffer has a clean bill of health, with Sergio Romero being the only one sidelined with injury.
Ander Herrera featured as a substitute against Swansea, whereas Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo have returned to full fitness, despite not making it to the match day squad last weekend.
Romelu Lukaku odds and specials
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Romelu Lukaku became the fifth youngest admission to the 100 club behind Harry Kane, Wayne Rooney, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen, after reaching a century of Premier League goals with his strike against the Swans.
It was a massive achievement for the 24-year old who became the first Belgian, and the youngest player born outside the English shores, to ever attain the milestone.
The £75m signing was the victim of heavy criticism after undergoing a dry goal scoring spell in which he only scored once in 12 games throughout October and November. Furthermore, his torrid performance during the last Manchester derby, in which he aided both goals scored by City, didn’t help quell the criticism either.
Big Rom has however improved in stature since the turn of the year, as he has been directly involved in 15 goals in all competitions; scoring 11 and providing four.
High on confidence and with a plethora attacking might around him, the Manchester United striker promisingly looks set to score in the Manchester derby.
Manchester Derby match prediction
Manchester City are virtually champions elect and nothing can stop their procession to Premier League glory. The Citizens have the opportunity of a lifetime to win the title with a victory against United, but winning the Champions League remains the top most priority for the owners of the petrodollar fueled club.
The drubbing against Liverpool changes everything, including Pep Guardiola’s initial approach to the Manchester derby. City will have six more games after the derby to clinch the Premier League crown, while progression into the semi-final of the Champions League rests in one crucial match.
Had things been different midweek, Jose Mourinho would have gone for a joyless nonevent at the Etihad, but the Portuguese has smelt vulnerability and will strike without remorse.
Prediction: Manchester United to win – +300 on William Hill
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