Tomorrow, Manchester City face Manchester United for the first time of the 2015/2016 Premier League season in the 170th Manchester Derby. The Citizens enter the weekend atop the table while United are in third with their arms reach of the league's summit. Both team's have set their style of play and personalities in stone, and both sides have ambitions of hoisting a title at the season's end.
In recent years, the Manchester Derby has been a litmus test to gauge how good each of these teams can be. For a long time, City would compete and play well in the derby, but since the other half of Manchester was dominating in league play. However, since City's emergence as not only a domestic power, but a growing threat in Europe, the matchup has become a must see.
Coming in to the Derby, both teams have enjoyed fairly decent success during the week, City with a thrilling win at home against Sevilla, and United drawing in Moscow, cooling off a dangerous CSKA side. As mentioned, both teams are doing quite well in league play, and this match would only intensify the tug of war for the lead position in the table. Manuel Pellegrini is looking to give the club it's 50th victory in this matchup, and shift the power completely to the blue side of Manchester.
Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal claims that City have the advantage in the match, and most people would say that he is correct. City looked their most vulnerable in mid to late September where losses against West Ham and Spurs were suffered, and while the injury bug has bitten a few key players, the depth of the squad has proved to be invaluable. Since the loss to Spurs the Blues have now won four matches on the bounce, including matches that saw hat tricks from Sterling against Bournemouth and the gritty come-from-behind win we saw during Champions League.
City's greatest asset seems to be their counter attacking ability, in particular from the speed on the wings provided by Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Jesus Navas. Their ability to stretch the field will fare well against United, who prefer to play compact and between the feet of Schweinstager/Carrick and Juan Mata. It will be interesting to see what Louis Van Gaal sets as a line up, especially in that he enjoys changing things up in the midfield. Kevin De Bruyne will look to continue his blistering pace as the offense will likely run through him if David Silva cannot go. Wilfred Bony has looked rather pedestrian this season but still has the potential to give defenders problems with his strength in the box, while Yaya Toure will surely be in the mood to play.
On the defensive side, City have all but Gael Clichy at their disposal. Vincent Kompany seemingly was on timeout during his last few matches since injuring his calf before the international break and then returning for Euro Qualifiers. Nico Otamendi has had a tendency to gamble in the appearances that he's made so far, while Eliaquim Mangala has been nothing short of spectacular over the course of the last few weeks. This will be especially important for City as they face young Anthony Martial, who, like many others is experiencing his first Manchester Derby, and has yet to see defenders as quick and athletic as City's center halves. Memphis Depay and Juan Mata will provide the threat on the wings with newly minted 30 year old Wayne Rooney likely tucked behind Martial.
The match's pace will be dictated in the middle of the park, and look for United to be heavy on possession while City look to exploit the counter attack with their speed and shot volume. If David Silva does indeed play, the entire look of the match should change to be heavily in City's favor, but City should be able to dispose of United as long as they are focused.