Manchester United go into the match with a depleted midfield and memories of the 6-1 humiliation last year. But they have one advantage— they are three points clear at the top of the English Premier League table with three wins in a row.
City are sitting in 2nd, with just one win in their last three league games. Add to that the loss against Borussia Dortmund in midweek.
Anderson, Shinji Kagawa, Nani and Valencia are surely not playing while Tom Cleverley's situation is touch and go. Nemanja Vidic will not make the short trip either.
For City, Alaksandar Kolarov and Micah Richards are surely out. Gael Clichy, James Milner, Jack Rodwell and David Silva are doubts. Silva, however, might make it through.
Here are the key battles that could decide the outcome:
Vincent Kompany vs Robin van Persie: Kompany is usually in imperious form against United and he comes up against a player who has scored just one goal against City in 11 appearances. Clearly there's been only one winner here. Kompany thwarted him when the Dutchman was at Arsenal last season too, and without the service from Valencia or Nani, Kompany looks set to continue dominating the striker. Even though RVP can change a match with the flick of his left-foot, Kompany will be very confident against him.
Yaya Toure vs Wayne Rooney: Rooney hasn't started as a striker all season for United. In fact, he has so far started on the left, on the right and as attacking midfielder/secondary striker in a floating role supporting all areas of the pitch (more so with a depleted midfield). Also, the only man who can match him defensively and for power is Toure. These two will be all over the park come Sunday and it's going to be a close call. Rooney, however, has done very well against City in recent times and could also get on the score-sheet. This is probably the most important battle in the game.
Sergio Aguero vs Rio Ferdinand: Aguero hasn't scored in the last three league matches, while with Ferdinand in defence, United have conceded six goals in three away games. Both players are not at the height of their form, so it should be interesting to see how this one pans out. Aguero himself hasn't started as a primary striker and with Ferdinand's habit to come forward, they will face-off quite often.
Carlos Tevez vs Chris Smalling: Judging by seniority, Evans should start the match. But Alex Ferguson saw what happened against Reading and could opt for the more composed Smalling. If that happens, then the young Englishman will have his hands full. Tevez hasn't been a regular starter for City, but Roberto Mancini should ideally start him, seeing that 'The Bulldog' will be charged up against his former employers. He has four goals and four assists against United.
David Silva vs Michael Carrick: United will not have a midfielder to float forward, but City should see Silva being declared fit and hovering all over the attacking third. Carrick, who has probably been United's most consistent player this season will need to keep a check on the clever Spaniard. Since he has a tendency to push towards the wings, Carrick's positioning will also need to be very disciplined, else he leaves gaps in the center of the park. Also, if he wants to really make his stamp on Silva, a few clattering tackles should make the no.21 think twice before taking on the England midfielder.
- In the last 30 league derbies, United have won 17 times. City have won seven.
- The last two derbies however, have been won by City.
- 15 times United have gone behind first this season. If that happens on Sunday, will they be able to come back and win?
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