Last season’s Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium was meant to be a title-clincher and Manchester City had thousands of pounds worth of fireworks ready to go off at full-time. Everything was going swimmingly after two goals in five minutes from Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan fired City into a 2-0 half-time lead. The second half… well, the less said, the better. A quick Paul Pogba double followed by a Chris Smalling winner left Blues baffled and Manchester United fans elated, and the title celebrations were put on hold.
And so there may be a desire for revenge amongst the City squad when Manchester United arrive this weekend, but no matter what the form table says, anything can happen on derby day. Pep Guardiola will know that and will have been thinking carefully about his lineup all week.
Nothing much to report here. Claudio Bravo remains a long-term absentee and Kevin De Bruyne is out after his injury sustained in the Carabao Cup, but otherwise Guardiola said City have everyone available.
The usual no-brainer in goal and wouldn’t Ederson love a clean sheet against United? Ahead of him, we can’t see too many surprises. Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy (though there is the Delph temptation given some of Mendy’s defensive lapses of late…) will have to push up and get back in their full-back positions, while John Stones and Aymeric Laporte will marshall the defence. There is a case for both Nicolas Otamendi, perhaps the most physical and aggressive of City’s defenders, and Vincent Kompany, battle hardened in derbies with a knack for big goals, but we’d be surprised if Guardiola switches from the outstanding Stones/Laporte combo.
In midfield, there can only be Fernandinho anchoring. Ahead of him, things are a little trickier with Ilkay Gundogan back – Guardiola has been known to use the German in big games. But unless of some tactical plan beyond our understanding, we can’t see anything but the David Silva and Bernardo Silva duo completing the midfield. David has been delivering regular 9/10 performances of late and Bernardo has also impressed, so Gundogan, fresh back from injury, would seem an unnecessary risk.
Raheem Sterling has ascended to a completely new level and must start again – we have a feeling he could be among the scorers on Sunday. It gets tricky when selecting the other winger, with arguments for both Leroy Sané and Riyad Mahrez. This is an incredibly difficult pick, as we think Leroy could terrify the Manchester United defence, but after his Man of the Match performance against Shakhtar, our prediction is that Riyad Mahrez starts.
Again, there is a dilemma up front. It may be an easy fact to forget, but Guardiola didn’t start Kun Aguero for either derby last year, though he did come off the bench at the Etihad, as City tried to fix the second half mess they had gotten themselves into. Gabriel Jesus is fresh off a hat-trick that could boost his confidence and you know, we wouldn’t be too surprised if he starts, but playing it safe, we’re going for Sergio Aguero to lead the line and hopefully bag plenty of goals.
On the bench: Aro Muric, Danilo, Fabian Delph, Nicolas Otamendi, Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sané and Gabriel Jesus.