As Manchester City’s title hopes have all but faded, they must find the motivation for victory today against bitter rivals Manchester United. Sure, supporters from both clubs would love to have a one-up for banter for the next six months, but the teams ultimately have to run out and perform. City could end United’s top four ambitions if they win at the Etihad, and with United’s recent away form (1-3-4), it’s a possible feat.
City have owned the Derby in recent years. In fact, Manuel Pellegrini could be the first City manager since Joe Mercer to win four League derbies against the Reds. It has to be said that City have not been out of first gear since October, recent draws against Norwich and Dynamo Kiev have suggested that the team are in a rut, and if the match is anything similar to the October meeting at Old Trafford, it could be a slow, methodical affair.
Looking at the opposition, United have a bevy of options at their disposal. What’s important is how United Manager Louis Van Gaal selects his squad. United are very young up front now that Captain Wayne Rooney is out injured, and newcomers Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Memphis Depay and Jesse Lingaard are all a part Van Gaal’s setup and could give problems to any back line with their pace. United’s midfield is a question mark, however -- Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick have been doing most of the lifting, if one could call it that. Fellaini has been reckless and aimless, as he’s accumulated yellow cards for needless fouls, and Carrick has all but lost all of the form that we saw over the last few seasons. Defensively, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind will be tasked with keeping up with Sergio Aguero, and the Argentinian could have a big day up top for City.
City have yet to shake the injury bug that has seen their Captain Vincent Kompany set back with yet another calf injury, and his back line companion Nicolas Otamendi picked up a kick during the week against Kiev, but is set to play. The Blues will need production out of their midfield. One player in particular is Yaya Toure, who has shown flashes of brilliance in small moments, but is again linked to a departure from the club.
The 171st Manchester Derby may not hold any title implications for either club, but there is still plenty at stake. Looking into the future, it’s guaranteed that at least Manuel Pellegrini will not be here to manage his side next year. Here’s to leaving the Derby on a good note.