Manchester United v Manchester City, Premier League, September 19, 2009
This weekend’s clash at Old Trafford is the most anticipated Manchester derby in decades and a Manchester City victory would finally confirm that a title challenge will be mounted from both sides of town. City approach the match with a 100% record in the league this season, level on points with the Red Devils who have played a game more.
Momentum is certainly gathering at Eastlands and their potential to grow in to championship contenders was illustrated with a magnificent 4-2 defeat of Arsenal (City are 100/1 to repeat the scoreline this weekend), who have performed admirably in the early stages of the season.
Though the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho, Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy have grabbed the headlines in the early part of the season, Citizens chief Mark Hughes will be even happier with the way his new-look back four has gelled after three clean sheets. If City can remain tight at the back, then their chances of winning at Old Trafford, and indeed breaching the top four, will be boosted no-end. (City are 4/1 to keep a clean sheet.)
It’s been a typical start to the season across Manchester, as the champions have struggled to get going in most of their fixtures thus far. But for a shock loss at Burnley apart, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men have already won well at early-season pace setters Tottenham, as well as defeating an Arsenal side who travelled up north in buoyant mood.
September is often the time that the United machine really starts to tick, so Hughes’ side will have their work cut out throughout the 90 minutes.
United will be without suspended midfielder Paul Scholes, who picked up two yellow cards in their win at Tottenham a week ago. Rio Ferdinand (12/1 to score) is back fit and will be looking to edge Johnny Evans out of the team to play alongside Nemanja Vidic (7/1 to score), but young right-back Rafael is rated as very doubtful to return from his shoulder injury leaving John O’Shea to deputise at full-back.
Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is few weeks away from a return due to a broken finger, so Ben Foster will get his first taste of a Manchester derby.
Across midfield Darren Fletcher, aided by Anderson, will be looking to continue his superb form of late against the likes of combative midfielders Gareth Barry (8/1 to score) and Nigel de Jong in the City side, while United will look to hurt their neighbours down the wings with Antonio Valencia and Luis Nani set to be employed down either flank. Up-top, Wayne Rooney (4/1 to score first) and Dimitar Berbatov (7/4 for either Rooney or Berbatov to score first) will lead the line, while Little Mickey will be hoping for some playingÂ time if Fergie chooses to bring the striker off the bench.
Hughes has large selection headaches of his own ahead of the match. Emmanuel Adebayor is suspended for his conduct in Saturday’s win against Arsenal, while Carlos Tevez is unlikely to make a sharp return to Old Trafford to face his former club as he is still recovering from a knee injury sustained on international duty.
And the walking wounded list continues. Roque Santa Cruz (9/1 to score last) remains another fewÂ weeks away from his City debut after recovering from knee trouble. Vincent Kompany (ankle) is also struggling to recover before the derby, while Stephen Ireland (5/1 to score) is rated at 50-50 with an ankle knock as well. Robinho and Michael Johnson are also all out and Mark Hughes may be forced to play Craig Bellamy (10/3 to score) as a lone striker at the Theatre of Dreams, with the unloved Benjani Mwaruwari waiting in the wings for a rare appearance.
101predicts: Manchester United 4 – Manchester City 2 (50/1)
Full match odds here.