Manchester United make the short trip to the Etihad Stadium to face rivals Manchester City in the latest edition of the Manchester derby.
Three spots in the league table and 19 points separate the two sides, with the hosts aiming to stretch the gap to Liverpool to six points whilst the Reds will be hoping to strengthen their grip on this season’s top four.
City’s previous league fixture ended in a 1-0 win at Goodison Park against a resilient Everton side – the game featured late controversy when Rodri supposedly handled the ball in his own penalty area but the VAR adjudged the ball to have struck him on the shoulder.
A defensive mishap from Michael Keane allowed for a Phil Foden tap in which handed City all three points. Days after the game, Everton were allegedly apologised to by the PGMOL chief Mike Riley after the VAR official Chris Kavanagh saw nothing wrong with the incident.
In what was a scrappy and uncomfortable win for the English champions, it cemented their place at the top of the pile but a win for their challengers against West Ham yesterday evening will only intensify the pressure.
City’s previous home game featured late drama when Harry Kane scored a last minute winner in a 3-2 win for Tottenham Hotspur. The defeat allowed Liverpool to close the gap and pile on the pressure but Pep Guardiola’s side responded with the 1-0 win against Everton last weekend.
The champions have been free scoring at the Etihad this season with a joint-high of 36 goals. They have also been solid in defence with them only conceding on nine occasions. Before the defeat to Spurs, the Citizens had won seven in a row at home but the Reds will be hoping to make it consecutive home defeats for the blue side of Manchester.
United endured a painful goalless draw against relegation threatened Watford last weekend which saw the Reds have 24 shots but failed to convert any of them. The draw was a setback for Ralf Rangnick and his players and allowed the likes of Arsenal and West Ham to close the gap on the Reds who still occupy fourth.
The draw last Saturday made it consecutive draws for the Reds after they drew against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano in the Champions League.
Sunday’s derby looks to be a crucial game for the Reds with the likes of Arsenal having three matches in hand over United and West Ham only being two points behind. The Hammers’ loss to Liverpool on Saturday night could prove important come the end of the season.
Although the draw frustrated many, it made it six games without defeat in all competitions and United are unbeaten away from home since the bruising 4-1 defeat against Watford last November.
The reverse fixture ended in a 2-0 win for the blue half of Manchester thanks to an own goal from Eric Bailly and a header from Bernardo Silva.
Guardiola has fresh injury concerns for Sunday’s derby with Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias both missing out with longer term injuries. Apart from those two injuries, the hosts appear to have a fully fit squad.
United will be without Edinson Cavani who misses out again with a suspected groin injury. It has also been widely reported that Cristiano Ronaldo has not travelled with the squad and was not pictured with the squad on Saturday night.
Captain Harry Maguire is expected to return to the starting lineup after being left out against Watford last weekend.
City have recently bounced back after the home defeat to Tottenham with wins against Peterborough and Everton. The Blues currently sit top of the league table and the loss against Spurs was their first since the defeat against Crystal Palace in October.
United were frustratingly held by Watford last weekend – three days on from a positive result in Madrid in the Champions League. The Reds have only lost once in 2022 and will put an unbeaten away record under Rangnick on the line at the Etihad later today.