Almost 3 months have past since the ‘noisy neighbours’ and blue half of Manchester claimed the latest bragging rights of the city, as Roberto Mancini’s City thumped United 6-1 in their own backyard back in October. A much anticipated FA Cup 3rd round clash between the two sides will take place in the Etihad stadium this coming Sunday as both teams look to set the record straight.
A dream tie for both sets of supporters as Sir Alex’s men look to return the favour and put the pressure back on City as his injury stricken side make the short journey across the city to face a less than full strength Manchester City side, who in recent weeks have failed to deliver with just 3 wins from their previous 6 league matches.
United have also struggled of late with back to back defeats in the league against bottom of the table Blackburn Rovers along with a less than impressive performance against a determined Newcastle side midweek. That says little about the potential outcome of this fixture, as both managers will surely be looking to get the fans back on their side and with a win against their fierce arch-rivals should surely be the perfect remedy.
Mancini has had his hopes of having the Toure brothers available for the tie dashed yesterday as Ivory Coast have stood firm on both with younger brother and Africa’s player of the year for 2011 Yaya, which is surely to be a massive blow to his starting eleven. City also look set to be without the charismatic Mario Balotelli (ankle) and the in-form Gareth Barry whose double yellow card against Liverpool in midweek leaves him suspended for the clash. Mancini’s doubts of being able to fill the bench for the match have somewhat taken a turn in his favor with Samir Nasri (illness) likely to recover in time to at least take his place amongst the substitutes. Other than that, I expect City to be unchanged from their 3-0 victory midweek with Nigel de Jong looking set to replace Gareth Barry in the middle of the park and a possible starting role for Adam Johnson and Joleon Lescott looks to be on the cards with both looking set to replace the departing Yaya and Kolo Toure in both midfield and defence respectively. Edin Dzeko will likely lead the line for the blues as he looks set to shake off a slight knee problem picked up in midweek.
As for United, Ferguson will likely struggle to select a back four capable of handling the menace of Silva and Aguero. However, Ferdinand and Jones should continue in the centre of defence with Rafael and Antonio Valencia likely to be battling it out for the right-back slot. Patrice Evra will most likely continue on the left, and the much anticipated goalkeeping battle between David De Gea and Anders Lindegaard looks set to stir more talking points with the latter expected to keep his place in goal for the Red Devils. Options are few and far between for Sir Alex so an unchanged midfield with the exception of the returning Anderson possibly replacing Ryan Giggs will be the likely outcome this coming Sunday. I expect Wayne Rooney to keep his place up front with Berbatov, Welbeck and Javier Hernandez all battling to for that last starting spot.
An interesting battle is surely expected on the cards, with my key match-ups being whether or not Carrick and Anderson can handle the trickery and ability of David Silva slipping between the lines for Manchester City. I also believe City is lacking pace on the flanks, so it will be interesting too see if Clichy and Richards can handle the pace of Valencia and Nani up and down the wings. Weakened defences for both sides will surely be the target for both sets of managers, so an attacking game is much anticipated for what is sure to be one of the games of the season thus far.