Although the build-up to the 172nd Manchester derby has been dominated by the slightly tedious Pep vs. Jose narrative, both managers have undoubtedly brought a bit of glamour back to the fixture. Under Pellegrini and Van Gaal, the derby matches were quite dull, especially towards the end of Manuel’s reign. I can’t remember not looking forward to a derby as much as the most recent one, when Rashford sent Demichelis back to the old people’s home. Thankfully though, Pep has brought the feel-good factor back to the Etihad with five wins from five in his first month as the City boss. Personally, I can’t wait for tomorrow’s game. Playing United at Old Trafford so early in the season is a win-win in my opinion. It’s basically a free-hit, and one that we should try and make the most of.
Vincent Kompany is the only player in the squad who is unavailable through injury. Pep confirmed in his press conference that the captain is close to making a recovery and has been training with team for a number of weeks now, but won’t play against United as the club are “still waiting for the results of his blood tests.” It’s a shame Vincent can’t be involved in such a big game, but I for one welcome the management staff’s cautious approach – it’s exactly what he needs if he’s ever to rediscover his old form.
Guardiola also confirmed in his press conference that Claudio Bravo will start in goal despite only having trained with his new teammates since Thursday. On the face of it, it might seem like a bit of a gamble to throw your new goalkeeper in for his debut against your city rivals, but Bravo should be absolutely fine – he’s a vastly experienced goalkeeper. Another player in line to make his debut is Ilkay Gündogan, who has been training with the squad for the last three weeks. It’s very unlikely Gündogan will start though, as both he and Guardiola have confirmed that he’s still a week or two off being fully fit. An appearance from the bench is certainly a possibility though – especially if City are holding-on to a slender lead and are in need of some control in midfield.
Who should start up front in Aguero’s absence?
The big question mark with regards to selection is who’ll play up top? Kelechi seems the obvious pick and undoubtedly deserves the chance to deputise for Aguero, but there have been murmurs (mostly from The Times) that Sané will start up-front. That would be a really interesting choice for a number of reasons, mainly because none of us have seen Sané play in a City shirt yet, but I do think it would be a massive risk. Kelechi has proven himself as a goalscorer and given that chances are unlikely to be at a premium, he’d be my choice in the no. 9 role.
Sagna should return at right-back having trained without problems since Monday, whilst Kolarov could be preferred to Clichy at left-back given United’s power in the air with the likes of Ibrahimovic, Pogba, Fellaini and Bailly. There’s every possibility Kolarov could actually start at centre-back seeing as Otamendi has only been in the country since Thursday and is likely to be jet-lagged. But I think City’s decision to fly him and Zabaleta back from Argentina early on a private jet is indicative of our intentions with regards to the game itself – I think Otamendi will start.
To be honest, it’s a very difficult one to predict this week for a whole host of reasons but here’s my best guess:
What do you think City’s team will be? Use our Squad Selector to put together your ideal starting XI!
Note: This Squad Selector is updated weekly, and thus only contains players who are available for this fixture. Check out our full Squad Selector for an extended version.