Pep Guardiola goes to Old Trafford with a single objective of either retaining or increasing the eight-point lead that Manchester City have over their cross-town rivals. Manchester United are on a 40-match unbeaten streak at home and Guardiola’s team has the flair and the firepower to break that record.
Jose Mourinho has truly made Old Trafford a fortress and this United side have looked unbeatable in front of their home crowd. Unlike United, City does not have any major concerns going into the match and will have most of their first team regulars.
There was a lot of talk as Jose took a dig at Pep for faking David Silva’s injury condition in the presser after the game against CSKA Moscow. As Silva was rested for the trip to Ukraine, he starting the game is almost inevitable. Benjamin Mendy is a long-term absentee and there is no chance of his return until next April. John Stones will miss the game due to a hamstring injury and one can find Gabriel Jesus on the bench for this game.
Ederson has been a substantial upgrade in the goalkeeping department for Manchester City. He is brave and willing to come out of the box to smother chances and that might be useful against someone like Romelu Lukaku who generally takes time before taking his shot on goal.
Nicolas Otamendi hasn’t been convincing yet, but he will start at the heart of the defence alongside Vincent Kompany who has made a steady return from injury and both of them would have to deal with United’s counter-attacking approach.
Kyle Walker has been very impressive ever since his big-money move to the Etihad and would pose some serious challenge against an inspired Ashley Young on Sunday. Fabian Delph has done well in the absence of Benjamin Mendy. He links up well with Silva and does his defensive duties astutely.
Fernandinho will be important in City’s gameplan for the match. He is the engine and breaks play when City don’t have the ball. His passing is impeccable as one can rarely see him misplacing a pass at the centre of the park.
Kevin de Bruyne will start on the right side of the midfield three. The Belgian has been immense to City’s success this season as he always cuts in from his flank and links up beautifully with his forwards to create numerous chances for his teammates.
David Silva is another player who is crucial to Manchester City in the midfield. Silva’s ability to pick the right man inside the box and his willingness to support Fernandinho while tracking back is laudable. Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini will duly mark both the assist masters and it would be interesting to see how the midfield battle turns out in this match.
Sergio Aguero will start up front, as Pep could trust his finishing and experience more than the youthful exuberance of Gabriel Jesus. Aguero was rested for the Champions League match on Wednesday and this is a clear indication of the manager’s plan for Sunday.
Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling will start on the flanks in the 4-3-3 formation for City. Both of them have similar qualities as their speed and elusive nature while attacking on the counter makes life difficult for the opposition team.
Sterling will have to better his finishing though as he will be up against an in-form David de Gea, who, well, saves.
Sane is an unpredictable element in Manchester City’s attack as he is prolific from inside the box and can be a threat from a long range too.