Manchester City head into the 50th Premier League Manchester derby six points clear of Liverpool at the top of the table but Pep Guardiola’s side have suffered an injury setback on the mouth of the run-in which begins this weekend at home to their cross-city rivals.
“Muscular. Hamstring. Four to six weeks. It happens. In other seasons our best players have been out for months. I’d love him but he’s not there. It is what it is.”
In just one of City’s three title-winning seasons under the Catalan coach have the Blues managed to do the double over United but Sunday provides the current champions with a chance of completing the brace and at the least maintaining their six-point lead at the top of the table:
“We have 14-15 players. With these players, we are going to fight and try to play good. It is impossible to fight if you don’t play good. We play with our people and hopefully, our people support as they always do.”
Derby Day Woes
Although, City have finished ahead of their city rivals in eight successive seasons the ‘noisy neighbours’ haven’t always asserted their authority in the derby, particularly under Pep.
Despite the shift from red to blue in the city, United fans still look forward to derby day in somewhat of a role reversal from yesteryear when it would be the Blues hoping to get one over on their rivals while taking a battering all-year round from the Reds faithful for their lowly position.
City won three of those five head-to-heads with their only defeat coming in April 2018 as they fell to a 3-2 loss despite leading by two goals at the break and on course to seal the title on derby day.
However, Ole Gunner Solskjaer appeared to have Pep’s number when it came to the eagerly-anticipated day in Manchester.
In nine meetings against the former boss, Guardiola won four, drew once and lost four derbies in all competitions with City’s 2-0 win in November just Pep’s second league win in six against Solksjaer.
Amazingly, this will be the City coach’s first meeting with Ralf Rangnick and he will be keen to lay down a marker in the area as well as maintaining control of the title race.
Ones To Watch
Injuries to both Ake and Dias means that it is almost certain that the 'Barnsley Beckenbauer' will be handed a start alongside Aymeric Laporte on Sunday afternoon.
It's been an indifferent season for the English centre back, who played a key role in Manchester City's title charge last season, but has struggled for minutes in the current campaign, having been hindered by injuries and an upsurge in form from his Spanish companion.
He hasn't struggled in his time on the pitch though, having impressed in a makeshift right-back role in recent weeks. An extended run in his natural centre half role should begin this weekend.
Who else? Cristiano Ronaldo will be making his first appearance at the Etihad since the summer transfer saga in which it looked as though the Manchester United legend could've been putting pen to paper on a deal in East Manchester.
Ronaldo has had plenty of highs and lows since his return to the Premier League, with one of the biggest lows coming in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford, in which the Portuguese forward barely mustered a touch of the ball.
Ronaldo has developed a reputation for being a big-game player during his illustrious career, and he will be hoping to solidify that further with a game winning performance on Sunday afternoon.
Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Stones, Laporte, Cancelo; Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva; Mahrez, Foden, Sterling
Manchester United: De Gea: Dalot, Maguire, Varane, Telles; Pogba, Fred; Sancho, Fernandes, Elanga; Ronaldo.
Where to watch:
This game will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League with kick-off at 4.30pm.