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With the war of words/name calling/mind-games that have been prevalent the past forty-eight hours or so, it is a signal that the derby is now very much upon us - and the media has taken an even greater interest in this game than usual.

We have had plenty of comments so far, with particular contributions from Ferguson, Hughes, Toure, de Jong, Ireland and Sylvinho to stoke up the flames ahead of the weekend.

But what of the game itself?

The suspension of Adebayor leaves us very light in attack, with Craig Bellamy almost certain to be asked to lead the line (unless Carlos Tevez is declared fit).

With attacking options limited, Hughes I'm sure will look to bolster the midfield by bringing in Martin Petrov on the left. With Wright-Phillips on the right hand side, this will see de Jong shielding the defence behind Barry and Ireland.

For me it is Stephen Ireland who could have a big say in the outcome of the game. Playing in a more restricted role this season, he has so far struggled to match the highs of 2008/09. He could be given more licence at Old Trafford however and will be an important link between the midfield and attack. The ability to create chances may be at a premium, and Ireland is our best best for carving out opportunities.

Hughes will also seek to try and restrict United and their ability to be able to counter quickly when they win possession, with us putting plenty of pressure on United and not allowing them to settle.

The loss of Ronaldo has blunted some of their attacking threat yet they have opened up the season well - with just the blip against Burnley blotting their copybook. Wayne Rooney has stepped up well this season, with more responsibility (and a role that suits him more) since Ronaldo's departure and although it is early days, I'd expect him to sweep up the awards and accolades come the end of the season.

Toure and Lescott's formative partnership looks to be bedding down well, although a concern could be the way Van Persie dropped deeper to great success - something which Rooney will be adept at and he needs to be shackled effectively.

It is no great secret that United are at their best when afforded possession and time on the ball - something I suspect visiting teams concede far too often at Old Trafford. Ball retention then is what we must focus on, and a reason why I think we go with five in midfield to crowd them out and to try and dictate the tempo of the game. The loss of Adebayor is a huge blow, make no mistake - something Ferguson attested to, and whoever leads the line will have to come up big for us to have a successful afternoon.

Prediction: The weight of derby history at Old Trafford leaves you feeling far from confident, but there is a sense that this side could be unburdened by the past. A tough proposition awaits but I'll go for us to come away with a 1-1 draw,