All derby's are massive games but this one carries some extra heft for both clubs. For City, a win all but insures a top 4 finish and a place in next year's Champions League. A loss all but insures a battle for the top 4 spot that will likely last until the end of the season. Across the pitch, a United loss might very well mean the last game managed by Louis Van Gaal. Both teams have been ravaged by injuries but that's where the commonalities end. City is still one of the best offensive teams in the league and United one of the best defensive teams. The City lineup, as I see it.
An all-Manchester lineup would, in my opinion, include 8 City players and just 3 from United—this year’s version of Chris Smalling, Antony Martial and David De Gea. When I write Joe Hart wouldn’t start, that’s no knock against Joe. It’s just that De Gea has been a Player of the Year candidate. If De Gea is replaced by a better than average keeper—say, Jack Butland—United aren’t even a top ten team. I firmly believe Joe Hart is one of the ten best keepers in the world. David De Gea might just be the best.
He’s been fantastic. My one reservation is that he’s played a lot of minutes consecutively and I wouldn’t want to see him get hurt. He was rarely seen in the early months of the season because of injury and I wonder if the lack of activity is a reason for his wonderful recent efforts. Regardless, he’s starting.
CB—Nicolas Otamendi or Martin Demichelis
Otamendi will be assessed later today. If he’s healthy, he plays. If he doesn’t, I think Demichelis gets the call.
I think he’s our third best center back. Today I watched a replay of the last five games Eliaquim Mangala played and I have the following observations:
· He’s probably the best looking athlete we have—tall, strong, fast for his size and clearly in excellent physical condition.
· In the last five matches he played, he hasn’t graded above a 6 out of 10 on my ratings. He’s just has not been a very good player.
The five best players for Manchester City since the sheikh’s started their little experiment have been Sergio Aguero, Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Joe Hart. I’m not sure who the next five are but I’m certain one of the next five is named Pablo Zabaleta.
I’ll be very, very interested to see if Fernandinho plays right wing like he did against Kiev and Liverpool (Cup Final). Personally, I think Pellegrini should do it but I suspect we’ll see the Brazilians lying deep with Yaya moving forward.
He’ll start if and only if Fernandinho plays wide right. If not, we’ll see Silva here.
He’ll be the RM in name only if we see Fernandinho wide. If Fernandinho stays in the center, I think we’ll see Navas. Whether he’s right or left, Silva will most definitely drift to the center.
With Pep coming, which players are absolutely certain to be with City next season? We can argue about that for a few days but we can all agree that Sergio Aguero will be one of those players.
Comments and your own lineups are more than welcome below.