PREVIEW: Manchester United vs Manchester City

On Saturday lunchtime, City make the short trip across town to face bitter rivals Manchester United in what is undoubtedly the biggest match of the Premier League season so far.

Both sides go into the game having won all three of their opening league fixtures this season. A late Marcus Rashford winner secured the three points for United away at Hull City before the international break, while City impressively overcame West Ham United 3-1 at the Etihad Stadium thanks to a Fernandinho header and a Raheem Sterling brace.

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The last time the two sides met, Louis Van Gaal’s United were 1-0 victors at the Etihad Stadium in March while City’s last visit to Old Trafford was a cagey, goalless damp squib. Neither side will want to leave themselves too open this time around, but the following stat suggests that we definitely won’t be seeing another 0-0 draw.

Claudio Bravo, İlkay Gündoğan and Leroy Sané are all poised to make their City debuts after recovering from their respective injury and captain Vincent Kompany could make a surprise first appearance of the season if Pep Guardiola’s comments in his pre-match press conference are anything to go off.

One of the biggest talking points in the build up to the game revolves around who Guardiola will select to replace Sergio Agüero, who will serve the first of a three match ban for violent conduct. In his pre-match press conference, United boss Jose Mourinho had this to say:

It changes because it is more difficult. When Agüero is available we know that he plays, we know their formation and their dynamics – nobody has doubts. If he is ready, he will play. But now he doesn’t play, they have an amazing squad in terms of options and there are many things he [Guardiola] could do.

He could decide to play with Iheanacho or Sterling. He could decide to play with Silva as a fake no.9 between the lines. It is clear that they have many options. That for us, in the preparation of the game, makes us have to go step-by-step with every situation because we are trying to reduce the unpredictability of the game. To try to do this now is more difficult

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The arrival of both Guardiola and Mourinho in Manchester has made Saturday’s game one of the most eagerly anticipated derbies for several years and it’s an extremely tough one to call. It’s an old cliché but the form book really does go out of the window on derby day, as this infographic of City’s recent visits to Old Trafford courtesy of Premier League stats aficionados KickOff illustrates.

United are unbeaten in their last six fixtures at Old Trafford while City will be hoping to build upon their win at Stoke in their only Premier League away game so far this season.

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The season may still be in its infancy but the form guide over both sides’ last 10 Premier League matches will perhaps make for more comforting reading for Reds than it does for Blues.

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If City do emerge victorious from the 172nd Manchester derby on Saturday, it will be their 50th victory over United.

Predicted City line-up: Bravo, Sagna, Stones, Fernandinho, Kolarov, Gündoğan, Silva, De Bruyne, Nolito, Sterling, Iheanacho

Player to watch: Claudio Bravo

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If he does make his debut, all eyes will be on City’s new Chilean no. 1 and it will be interesting to see how he does in what could be a baptism of fire, particularly with the ball at his feet. In this week’s INSIDE THE OPPOSITION Darren from theunitedpages.com told us that he expects United will put “everything into that little area in front of Bravo but behind his defenders and challenge him to come for it”. Let’s hope he’s up to the task at hand.

Prediction: Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City

Watch Dan Burke, David Mooney and Rob Pollard speaking to copa90.com ahead of the big game.

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READ ALSO:

The Manchester derby – Viva hate

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INSIDE THE OPPOSITION: Manchester United

Dan Burke speaks to theunitedpages.com

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