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United preview.

In the latter part of the week as the derby approaches, it seems to me that there has been a little more interest focused from TV and other media outlets on the game than in recent previous encounters.
In recent times, there has been the accusation that the derby has lost some of it's passion, intensity and meaning, something that is a little strange given the relative evenness of overall results since we returned to the Premier League.

Stuart Pearce has got in on the act though, stating both sides 'are on an even footing' and talking up our chances with our side 'packed full of internationals'. Ferguson on the other hand has remained fairly silent over the derby, preferring to lavish praise on the Glazer family this week for their 'excellent support'.

Albert Riera is expected to start on the left hand side of midfield for us, which should free up Sun Jihai to slot in at right back ahead of the out of sorts Nedum Onouha, with the favoured central duo of Barton and Ireland augmented with Sinclair on the right which leaves the only contentious decision being the forward partnership with Cole and Vassell rumoured to be starting ahead of Robbie Fowler, despite last weeks hat-trick.
As for United, their defence is looking more solid in recent times since the return of Wes Brown and he is likely to partner Ferdinand with Evra making his debut at left back with van Nistelrooy expected to replace Saha from their midweek game at Blackburn.

Looking at the likely line-ups, it is clear that are chances of winning the game rest with Barton and Ireland as for all their reinforcements their central midfield area is still weak and the stage is set for Barton to dominate proceedings with Ireland playing off him.
For me it is also important that Sinclair and Riera (if he plays) are given the opportunity to push on to negate the threat of Giggs and Ronaldo, whilst a welcome return to form from both Distin and Dunne is needed to attempt to shackle the threat of Rooney.

I don't think I've ever approached a derby with any semblance of confidence, and this one is certainly no different given both sides recent results and form.
I do think though that the early kick-off could subdue the atmosphere a little both on and off the pitch and I think chances are likely to be at a premium. I can't see too many obvious routes for a goal, but I do think we are more than capable of posting a clean sheet.

All in all, not a derby classic and I think a 0-0 draw will be the outcome.