The odds are it will once again be Manchester v London in the race to win the Premier League. But will it be United or City who lead the challenge from the north west?
The 2015/2016 Premier League has already provided more shocks and surprises that many people expected. The biggest surprise the early season collapse of defending champions Chelsea, a shadow of the team that dominated the League last season. Who would have predicted West Ham United, Leicester City and Crystal Palace all being in the top six at this stage, with Arsenal looking a stronger bet than they have for years.
As we enter match matchweek ten, both Manchester clubs have put themselves in a strong position to challenge for the title. City and United have both impressed in the opening weeks. And yet the occasional wobble adds to the pressure on two managers expected to deliver success at their respective clubs.
Old Trafford provides the setting for the 146th meeting between Manchester’s finest, which promises to be as fiery and feisty as ever.
Manchester City go into the game as the Premier League leaders following an ominous start to the season. Their early form suggested City would be unstoppable. But consecutive defeats against West Ham and Tottenham prior to beating Newcastle (6-1) and Bournemouth (5-1) at the Etihad Stadium was a sign that Manuel Pellegrini’s men still have weaknesses that can be exploited.
United, on the other hand, find themselves just two points behind the early leaders, and Louis Van Gaal is moulding his team into potential title contenders. Following a hugely impressive 3-0 demolition of Everton at Goodison, another United win will send them ahead of their noisy neighbours in the table. While City will be looking to maintain or even extend the two-point gap they currently hold over Arsenal, who entertain Everton in a tough Saturday evening clash.
Trying to call a winner between two teams who have plenty of quality going forward yet sometimes look vulnerable at the back is difficult. Those who feel brave enough to stick their neck on the line and predict a winner can do so at Coral football, where Pellegrini’s men are slight favourites at 13/8 compared to Manchester United at 8/5,. The odds are it will come down to a moment of brilliance or an error to separate the two sides in what promises to be a fascinating encounter.
Having won four consecutive derbies, prior to their 4-2 defeat at Old Trafford back in April, City will fancy their chances of derailing their rivals.. Scoring eleven goals in their previous two outings illustrates the considerable firepower that Pellegrini has at his disposal. But their strong start to the season is weakened by the absence of Sergio Aguero who picked up a hamstring injury on international duty and could be out until late November. David Silva could also miss out with an ankle problem he picked up playing for Spain. Samir Nasri remains on the sidelines, But City could welcome back Fabian Delph and Gael Clichy. While Kevin De Bruyne has been outstanding since his arrival for the Blues.
United’s ability to compete against the best teams was questioned when they slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal but that was a game where little went right for the Red Devils who provided the perfect response at Everton. The absence of Aguero who scored all three goals against United last season, including the winner in City’s 1-0 win at the Etihad last November may be a factor. Long-term absentees Ashley Young and Luke Shaw are the only first-team players missing for Manchester United.
The only certainty is that neither side will feel their title chances are over whatever the result of the Manchester derby.