It's that time of year again, the Manchester Derby has rolled around once more and this one has even more importance than ever. With Manchester City's top four spot at threat and Manchester United at risk of not even making Europe altogether - both sides face a must win game, not just for pride but for their season's sake.
Last time out
The reverse fixture in October ended in a stalemate as neither side's backline could be breached. It was the defenders who were the stars of the show, with Nicolas Otámendi putting in a stellar shift as he thwarted nearly all of United's endeavours, a well deserved Man of the Match performance from the Argentine.
Manuel Pellegrini confirmed that captain Vincent Kompany will face up to a month on the sidelines, although Belgium national coach Marc Wilmots would prefer the skipper to have two months off to ensure him being available for this summer's European Championships. As for Nicolas Otámendi, Pellegrini confirmed that he had picked up a knock midweek against Dynamo Kyiv and will be available tomorrow subject to a last-minute fitness test. Samir Nasri meanwhile returned to full training this week but won't be available for tomorrow's showdown.
The only new addition to United's growing injury list is Ander Herrera, leaving Louis van Gaal with even fewer attacking options, something that was made all too clear on Thursday night as United exited the Europa League at home to Liverpool. Meanwhile young stars Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Marcus Rashford and Adnan Januzaj are all expected to be part of the matchday squad if not involved from the offset.
What they're saying
Pellegrini hasn't given up on City's title chances yet saying the following:
"In football when you have a mathematical chance you cannot think you cannot do it, it's a winning mentality - win the next game and then see which team has the most points."
Couple this with an enthralling 2-2 draw that West Ham succumbed to, away from home against Guus Hiddink's Chelsea side, there is a chance to open up some breathing space between the sides - which will undoubtedly be seen as a priority.
van Gaal meanwhile hopes to capitalise on City's defensive woes at the best possible time, saying in his pre-match press conference that his side "have to disorganise" their opposition's defence, especially considering the injuries suffered in quick succession to the Citizens' first-choice centre-back pairing.
"You would expect them [City] to play with Demichelis and Mangala, so we have to analyse that, and analyse City."
It'll be a very open affair what with the defensive frailties of both sides and the importance of this game - United are desperate to stay within touching distance of the top four whilst their hosts are in need of some morale-boosting space between themselves and the teams snapping at their heels for a top-four place. Expect both sides to score as well as tensions to flare, in what may be a decisive derby in terms of each side's respective finish come May.