Venue: Old Trafford
Date: 10 September 2016
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Kick off: 12:30
The clash of the titans. A battle of the masters. Old enemies in new surroundings.
Whether you adore or despise derby day, it’s coming. On Saturday, Manchester will stand still and the two form sides in England will face off. Dissecting all of the elements thrown into this particular boiling pot is always a difficult task. So, what are the key aspects to consider in the build up to what is surely the biggest game in the Premier League this season so far?
Old Enemies Take Centre Stage
Would it be fair to say that the transformation of both Manchester sides this year has been largely down to two men? Definitely.
City picked up arguably the world’s greatest manager in the summer. On the other hand, United fans would argue that they did the same. Pep and Jose have had their share of experiences in the past, Guardiola’s rampant Barcelona side facing off against Jose’s Galacticos on more than one occasion. Tensions often boiled over too, with Mourinho at the very least attempting to get under Pep’s skin frequently during their time in Spain. It would be fair to say though that on the whole, Pep’s side more often than not ran out winners. Will we see the same on Saturday? Who knows. This game is about as unpredictable as it gets. Mind games though have been fairly non-existent in the build up to the game so far – nonetheless, I do expect that to change once Mourinho has commenced his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon. To say that this game is all about the managers is an unfair assessment, but the two managers certainly hold a lot of the spotlight heading into Saturday’s war.
In City’s last game against West Ham, Sergio Aguero did something that can only be described by myself as reckless and stupid. To lose Aguero for any three games is a blow, but to be without him for a game of Saturday’s calibre really hurts our chances. Yes, we all know that Andre Marriner did see the incident. However, if we’re honest with ourselves, can many of us defend Sergio’s action as being innocent? I can’t. He deserved a ban and that’s the way of it, so we move forward without him for this one. A more ambiguous state of affairs is that of City’s goalkeeping situation. Following the acquisition of Barcelona’s Claudio Bravo, you might’ve been forgiven for thinking we’d seen the last of Willy Caballero’s kicking. Don’t be so sure. Following reports that Bravo is yet to train with City, it would be surprising to see him thrown straight in at the deep end. Perhaps there is logic behind Bravo’s absence thus far that doesn’t hurt his chances of starting on, but for me, seeing Willy’s name on the team sheet at 11.30 on Saturday would induce an anxiety that I’m not really game for. With United looking next to fully fit, it is certainly City who have the bigger selection headaches; in all honesty (and with a pinch of pessimism), I could see the absence of Aguero deciding the fate of the game altogether – here’s hoping I’m wrong.
Will this game affect the destination of the title?
I mean, obviously to a degree this game will go a tiny way to deciding things in May, but will it be the title marker many will suggest it is come the close of play? Not for me. City could very well lose on Saturday, United fans would start readying the ribbons; I have no doubt. That works both ways though, if City were to win I’m certain that there would be blind optimism on our side too. It’s one game, the fourth game of a 38 game season. It’s important to remember not to go overboard, no matter the result. I don’t like the build-up to derby games, there’s a tendency to paint it up as being the Mona Lisa of football games, don’t believe the hype. Lots of things will happen over the course of the season, City will lose games that they probably shouldn’t, as will United. Saturday is a great chance to keep the win streak alive, and whilst losing will burn for a while; we have a team and a manager that we will grow to be proud of, and that’s enough for me.
Who can hurt us?
There’s a lot of explosive elements in that United team, and this particular choice of ‘danger man’ may surprise a few, but the one who can hurt us most tends to be Wayne Rooney. His record in derby matches is excellent, and you get the impression that he knows exactly how to get himself mentally ready for games like this. So for me, stopping him is integral if we are to have a happy time on Saturday.
My prediction: I think City will find it difficult on Saturday, but so will United. With Sergio Aguero in the side, I’d have been inclined to predict a tight win for City, as it is I’m expecting a game of few chances to probably end in a score-draw.
Predict the score:
[statsfc-score-predictor key=”D8SJIk7F6vySBuDaFQRSHy11xfbyCt18uXRinj2b” team=”Man City” date=”2016-09-10″ default_css=”true”]