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Another Manchester derby is upon us this weekend, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
If Manchester United want to have any hope of claiming a first Premier League crown since 2012-13, only three points at the Etihad on Sunday will suffice.
Manchester City is comfortably in first place at the moment, 14 points clear of the Reds, but you can bet Pep Guardiola will make sure his side keeps their foot on the gas.
Dean Henderson will likely get the call in goal with starting keeper David de Gea out for personal reasons.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has said Victor Lindeloff will be assessed before kickoff Sunday to see if his back problems have fully healed.
If he can’t go, Eric Bailly will likely take his spot in the starting 11.
Paul Pogba won’t play due to a muscle thigh injury while Phil Jones is out with a knee injury.
Juan Mata will miss a third consecutive game through injury as well.
Anthony Martial missed Wednesday’s 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace after sustaining a knock to his knee in training Monday. It’s unclear if he’ll be available for Sunday’s derby.
Donny van de Beek is doubtful as well with a knock.
The Sky Blues have a clean bill of health at the moment with centre-back Nathan Ake back to full fitness.
City boss Pep Guardiola said the Dutchman had a good training session this week and could return. Could is the operative word especially given the dominance of John Stones and Ruben Dias; it’d be surprising if Ake saw the field on Sunday.
A long road to history
The 185th edition of the Manchester derby could bring with it more history for the Citizens.
The Sky Blues are unbeaten in their last 28 fixtures in all competitions. A win or a draw Sunday would set a new club record for the longest single-season run without a loss in club history.
Pep Guardiola’s men have won their last 21 competitive fixtures, the third-longest run in all competitions among the big five European leagues.
If City can keep their noses in front for Sunday’s derby, it will eclipse another Premier League record. The Citizens haven’t trailed in their last 19 league matches, tied with Arsenal for the longest such streak in EPL history.
Man United’s done the bulk of their damage this season on the road.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side is unbeaten in their last 21 Premier League matches as the visiting team.
The Reds will need to earn another seven results to catch Arsenal’s record of 28 consecutive EPL matches without losing.
United will draw on their recent history at the Etihad for inspiration to continue their impressive road run.
The Reds have beaten City in three of their last five league games at the Sky Blues home turf, including a 2-1 win last season.
The Citizens haven’t lost three consecutive home league games against United since April 2010.
If the Reds can win Sunday, it’d also be the first time they’ve beaten City in three straight road games in all competitions since they had a run of four from November 1993 to November 2000.
An obvious flaw in Man United’s game recently is a lack of finish.
For a team that’s near the top in goals this season, they’ve cooled off tremendously over the past few games.
United’s last four matches in all competitions were goalless draws.
Getting on the scoresheet will be a tall order against a City side that’s been practically impenetrable in 2021.
Ederson leads the Premier League at the moment with 15 clean sheets.
A clean sheet for the Sky Blues Sunday would mark the first time since Arsenal in 1998-99 that a single opponent has shutout United three times in one season.
United kept City scoreless in their two meetings in all competitions last season.
Owning the opposition
Anthony Martial will hope to be fit for Sunday as he’s thrived of late in these derbies.
The Frenchman scored at the Etihad derby in 2018-19 and 2019-20. Only Wayne Rooney (4) and Eric Cantona (3) have scored more derby goals for United against City.
Sergio Aguero is hoping the Manchester derby can breathe new life back into his frustrating season.
The Argentine has nine goals in 16 career Manchester derbies.
It’s rare to see a visiting side succeed at the Etihad, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s had a lot of good fortune there lately.
The Norwegian could become the first manager in the Reds history to win each of his first three away meetings in all competitions at Man City.
Before the match, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he’s not worried about the 14-point gap separating his side and City at the moment.
“Our focus is just on this one game and not where we are going to end up. We just have to be the best possible Man United and end up trying to improve on last season, of course. That means moving up the table, getting more points, hopefully, challenge or get to a final and get a trophy. What other teams do, we can’t control,” says Solskjaer.
Man City’s Pep Guardiola said his side need to be at their best against United.
“I know how difficult United are. I have the feeling they are a better team every season. They haven’t lost away for more than one year.
“They always get good results here at Etihad Stadium, but we know the opportunity we have to extend our advantage.
“The Premier League is 38 games; this is one of them. Obviously, they are now real contenders, second in the table.
“Everyone knows how important it is. We will try and win the game.”
Sunday’s match from the Etihad begins at 4:30 pm. (JSL).