Manchester United welcome their city rivals to Old Trafford in one of the most interesting derbies in English football.
City currently sit two points clear of United on top of the table, but a win for United would see them leapfrog City, possibly into first place.
On the other hand, three points for City would be even more crucial as they would be able to widen the gap between their local rivals, who are one of the title challengers this season.
Our soccer analyst, Richard Oyadina, who’s into event planning and execution, is not a fan of either club.
So, we are in for unbiased analyses from Chelsea’s point of view!
With two points separating the rivals in the standings, this particular derby will be about more than just bragging rights. United and City enter their first derby of the season in good form. Both are doing well in the league and were able to avoid major upsets during midweek Champion League games.
Kevin De Bruyne scored a late winner to hand City a 2-1 win over Sevilla while Anthony Martial salvaged a point from the difficult trip to CSKA Moscow for the Red Devils.
United have no fresh injury concerns. England international Ashley Young who was sidelined since last three weeks has returned to training but is not fit to face the local rivals. He joins his compatriot Luke Shaw and Paddy McNair as the latter two are set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
City, on the other hand, have lost few of their star players and the list has only grown after Sergio Aguero and David Silva joined the list during the last international break.
The duo joined Sami Nasri, summer signing Fabian Delph and Gael Clichy on the treatment table.
Here are three key battles that could determine the outcome of the game.
Raheem Sterling v Marcos Rojo
In the absence of Silva and Aguero, City’s attacking inspiration will need to come from the former Liverpool man.
Sterling was on fire in his last Barclays Premier League outing against Bournemouth, scoring his first hat-trick for the Citizens since his record-breaking move in the summer.
But then, he will need to bring that same lethal attitude in front of goal at Old Trafford against Rojo who has looked solid filling in at left-back since Luke Shaw’s broken leg.
This is far the biggest test of the season for the Argentine. But if Rojo and co. can limit Sterling’s impact, it will go a long way to securing a victory for the hosts.
Anthony Martial v Vincent Kompany
Kompany is a major doubt for this game, but he returns in this all-important clash he will have the task of keeping Anthony Martial quiet.
The 19-year-old Frenchman has been unaffected by his price tag and his composure and maturity on the pitch makes him look beyond his years.
He’s fearless and always loves running at defenders and having a shot when he has the goal in sight – what a player!
While Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi have done well in Kompany’s absence, the City defence looks most assured with the Belgium captain in the heart of the back four. His defensive prowess will be very important against a tough United attack.
Juan Mata v Kevin de Bruyne
This duel is not really a head-to-head because it’s doubtful their path will cross on the pitch. This battle is more so about who ends up making more of a mark and influencing the game for his side.
Mata has started all Premier League games for United this season and that shows his importance to Louis van Gaal. He has five goals and four assists in all competitions this season and finally, he seems to be justifying the hysteria that followed following his £37.1m move from Chelsea.
The Spaniard has been a valuable asset to United and his contribution on Sunday could prove to be the difference.
Kevin De Bruyne became the second highest British transfer of all time when City paid £55 million for his services last summer.
And he has been sensational like he was with Wolfsburg last season.
In five appearances for City in the league, the Belgian has three goals and three assists. He also has a goal in the league cup and on Tuesday scored the winner against Sevilla in the Champions League at the Etihad stadium.
In the absence of Aguero and Silva, the Belgian is the side’s biggest and most lethal threat – even ahead of Sterling – and Manchester United will have to make special arrangements to deal with him.
HEAD 2 HEAD (LAST 5 GAMES)
Manchester United and Manchester City have met 169 times. United have won 70, City have won 49 and 50 have ended in draws.
Sun 12/04/15 BPL Manchester United 4-2 Manchester City
Sun 02/11/14 BPL Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
Tue 25/03/14 BPL Manchester United 0-3 Manchester City
Sun 22/09/13 BPL Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United
Mon 08/04/13 BPL Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City
With my Chelsea having fallen off the pace after an unusual inconsistent start and with only Arsenal seemingly shaping up as a serious title contender, this match will have huge implications for the title race – not the destination of the title. This is the toughest derby to call in a number of years but United at home gives them a slight edge over a City side missing a number of key players. 2-0
PREDICTIONS OF OTHER FIXTURES
West Ham United 2-1 Chelsea
Leicester City 2-1 Crystal Palace
Aston Villa 0-2 Swansea City
Stoke City 1-1 Watford
Norwich City 2-2 West Brom
Arsenal 1-1 Everton
Sunderland 0-0 Newcastle United
AFC Bournemouth 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Liverpool 1-1 Southampton
KEY MATCH STATS (SUPPLIED BY OPTA)
Wayne Rooney has scored 11 goals in Manchester derbies (all comps); more than any other player in this fixture.
Rooney is 30 years old on the day before this match – no player has scored as many Premier League goals as he has by the age of 30 (187).
Manchester City have won six of their last eight Manchester derbies in league competition (L2) – prior to this run City had won six of their previous 42 derby games v Man Utd.
Man Utd have won 17 of their 23 Premier League home games under Louis van Gaal (74%), conceding just 16 goals (D3 L3).
Manchester City are looking for their 50th competitive win in the Manchester derby (W49 D50 L69).
None of the last 12 Manchester derbies in all competitions have ended as a draw (five United wins, seven City wins).
The last 10 Manchester derbies in all competitions have seen 41 goals scored (4.1 goals per game).
Manchester City have had the most shots on target (74) and have allowed their opponents the fewest (24) in the opening nine matchdays of 2015-16.
Kevin De Bruyne has 23 assists in 41 league appearances since the start of last season; three more than any other player in the top five European Leagues.
Man City will be missing Sergio Aguero for this game – he’s scored eight goals in eight Manchester derbies in all competitions, including all three for City v Utd last season.