Manchester United v Manchester City: Oppose Ole's outfit in derby date
After an agonising Champions League exit, Manchester United meet rivals Manchester City for Saturday evening's derby clash. Mark O'Haire previews the Premier League fixture...
Manchester United v Manchester City
Saturday December 12, 17:30
Spotlight on Solskjaer at Man Utd
Manchester United's season suffered a huge blow as defeat at RB Leipzig knocked the Red Devils out of the Champions League in midweek. Needing just a point to progress, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side conceded twice inside 13 minutes to leave their hopes in tatters.
United shipped an ultimately insurmountable third goal with a quarter of the contest remaining, although the visitors did stage their now customary second-half fightback thanks to a Bruno Fernandes penalty and Paul Pogba header. Solskjaer's side weren't short on efforts at goal - firing in 19 attempts in total - but defensive mistakes proved pivotal.
It's been a rollercoaster season for the Red Devils, both domestically and in Europe, and Tuesday's latest loss saw the Norwegian boss parachuted into favouritism in the Sack Race. Aforementioned frailties and vulnerabilities at the back have been evident throughout the campaign and can be attributed to the latest failure, as well as defeat in Basaksehir.
Manchester City match Champions League records
Manchester City matched the best group-stage Champions League performance of an English club in midweek as the Citizens strolled to a 3-0 success over Marseille, leaving Pep Guardiola's group with a 16-point haul (W5-D1-L0). City achieved their haul by conceding a solitary strike in topping Group C, a feat last achieved by neighbours Man Utd back in 2010.
Before a trip to Old Trafford, Guardiola could not have asked for a more straightforward assignment. And despite the loss of defender Eric Garcia to injury, it was a largely positive evening for City as Sergio Aguero marked his return to fitness with a goal 10 minutes after coming off the bench to add to Ferran Torres' opener at The Etihad.
Alvaro Gonzalez then put into his own net as he tried to stop Raheem Sterling scoring to wrap up a comfortable win for Man City, but Aguero's inclusion from the off this weekend still looks unlikely with Gabriel Jesus stepping back into the breach. Elsewhere, Guardiola will recall Ederson and Kevin De Bruyne after being rested on Wednesday night.
City odds-on favourites
Manchester United won both Premier League meetings with Manchester City last season and under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's watch the Red Devils have earned top honours in three of five meetings with their near neighbours. Nevertheless, United have earned only two triumphs from their past seven when welcoming the Citizens to Old Trafford (W2-D1-L4).
Man Utd 4.50 have earned only 21% of their Premier League points tally as hosts - the lowest share in the division thus far - and could be without Anthony Martial and Edinson Cavani for this contest. Solskjaer's side have been difficult to read in 2020/21 but evidence of previous encounters suggests United can cause problems on the counter-attack.
Man City 1.81 have been anything but the swashbuckling winning machine that swept Premier League rivals before them en-route to successive titles. The Citizens are still boasting a league-low points and goals output at this stage of a campaign under Pep Guardiola, whilst the visitors have lost five of their last six away trips to top-six rivals.
Keep Citizens onside
The goal line has been set quite high for Saturday's showdown and that's understandable with Man Utd's last eight matches producing an average of 3.88 goals per-game. Over 2.5 Goals - a winner in seven of those outings, and 15 of United's 18 across all competitions - is available at 1.68 and that creaking home defence is sure to come under scrutiny.
However, only three of the past 11 head-to-heads between these two have produced more than three goals and so I'm happy to delve into the Same Game Multi to find something more appetising than a straight play on Overs.
Instead, I'm going to take the 1.80 on Man City Double Chance and Under 3.5 Goals, a profitable formula in 13 of the Citizens' 18 encounters across all competitions this term. The visitors are likely to monopolise possession and their new-look defence has improved immeasurably, potentially leading us towards a much tighter affair than anticipated.
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