In all the turmoil of England’s dramatic top flight, Manchester City remain calm and focused. The ways in which they have responded to struggles this season has been admirable, but beating Manchester United at the Etihad could give City a significant morale boost in the absence of silverware.
Here are three things to watch:
1 - Direction of Play
The Blues will seek to explore their typical mode of possession, forcing United to defend in the traditional manner of José Mourinho’s ‘parked bus.’
Hopefully the progress that City have made in terms of tactical coordination and work-rate will allow them to penetrate United’s lines.
The Sky Blues need to convert possession into a favorable scoreline as early as possible. It has been difficult to do this season as teams put numbers in the box to frustrate final passes and shots.
2 - Red Devils
Manchester United have found a bit of success over the course of this season despite injuries and their own brand of ‘bad luck.’
Mourinho’s mind-games have potentially had some effect as a number of the Red Devil’s stars and start-ups seek to establish their validity in the squad.
Even without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba (due to injuries) United have shown that there is a wealth of players who can turn a game around and give them a result.
3 - Complete Stubbornness
City have done well to play incredibly positive football despite a massive amount of missed, deflected, and blocked shots. The next edge of attacking prowess is ever-present on the horizon with quick strikes, intricately worked runs, and deft shots that we have come to expect from Sky Blue attackers.
The absolute stubbornness to stop counter-attacks and cover weak-side runs still eludes City’s defense. Even if it only amounts to one or two chances per match, it has been enough to hold City to consolation prizes in 2017.
After a series of high-profile matches in recent weeks, the Blues have yet another blockbuster fixture. Each Manchester team has progressed a lot after multiple rounds of suffering this season, but everything will fall away on Thursday evening as they fight for a spot in next season's Champions League.