Date:Saturday February 12 2011
Saturday, 12th February
It's here, the Manchester Derby, could it be time to knock the Rags of their wobbling throne for good?
Baconhead is without his pet Camel Rio who is out for around two weeks with a calf strain. Jonny Evans is also out with ankle injuring, meaning the inexperienced Chris Smalling will partner Nemanja Vidic at centre half. I'm sure Carlos will be loving this.
Hernandez will not be involved due to jet-lag sustained from taking his trans-Atlantic flights to play for Mexico. Darren Fletcher is not 100% fit but should start none the less, alongside Scholes and another.
Rooney will most likely lead the line alone with wide support from Nani and Giggs.
United's Probable Team:
1) van der Sar
21) Rafael - 15) Vidic - 12) Smalling - 3) Evra
24) Fletcher - 18) Scholes - 16) Carrick
17) Nani - 10) Rooney - 11) Giggs
After last season, City's players will know all about the damage the midfield maestro can cause. His passing ability is unrivalled in the English game and was described yesterday by Xavi as 'the best central midfielder in the last 15, 20 years.' Should we stand a chance of leaving Old Trafford with a favourable result, we must hassle him, give him no space to work with and get in his face. Deprive Scholes of space and you deprive him of options
Nigel de Jong has been ruled out after failing to recover from an ankle injury in time. The Dutch terrier will be a huge loss in midfield, where he provides integral crunch and bite. However, a replacement must be found and it is James Milner who is the most likely candidate to fill de Jong's boots. Despite playing a substantial amount of football in recent weeks. Mario Balotelli is unlikely to make the bench after only completing fitness training this week; not taking part in any actual football drills.
Mancini will pick the dependable Zabaleta at left back to deal with the threat of Nani whilst Richards could make his return at right back after concussion. Barry and Yaya will start in midfield with Kolarov and Silva in advanced positions in support of Tevez. Dzeko will be on the bench but expect him to play a part, his first Premier League goal against United? Now that would be cheeky.
City's Probable Team:
2) Richards - 28) Kolo - 4) Kompany - 5) Zabaleta
7) Milner - 42) Yaya - 18) Barry - 13) Kolarov
Recently praised by Tevez as 'City's best signing' after numerous excellent performances, pulling the strings and orchestrating our attacks with intuitive passing. His ability to deliver the ball through a needle's eye should come in useful today as Tevez looks to attack Smalling. United do not have a player like Silva - a player who can create space for others and exploit gaps in defence. It is of paramount importance that he sees a lot of the ball tomorrow because his ingenuity really could prove to be the difference.
Manchester City have won just one of their last 26 league visits to Old Trafford.
The Eastlands club have failed to score in four of the last five league encounters with United.
The two sides have drawn 49 of their 143 league encounters.
United have scored the most headed goals in the Premier League this season (14). But they have also conceded the highest percentage of headed goals in the top flight (33%).
City have not lost any of the 25 league games in which Carlos Tevez has scored, winning 23 of them.
Only Arsenal (25) have earned more points away from home in the Premier League than City (22) this season, but they are winless in their last three on the road.
I hate predicting this fixture; I feel like I'm tempting fate. However, I will attempt to state how I feel. I'm feeling more confident leading into this fixture than I have been for donkey's years. The absence of de Jong dents my aspirations slightly but I firmly believe that should we defend resolutely, break with pace and utilise Silva, then I think a win is not beyond the team. The selection of Kolarov in an advanced position could be more significant than many think. He will provide genuine width and will threaten with his fizzing delivery and rocket of a shot. The focus will obviously be on Tevez. The 'traitor' who will be keener than all to make an impression. Baconface will probably match City and go for a 4-5-1 formation with Rooney as the lone frontman, supported by two wingers. This selection will certainly not please the league's leading goal scorer, Dimitar Berbatov who is often left out for the big games. United will rely heavily on the ageing legs of Giggs and Scholes with Fletcher not 100% fit and Carrick just being Carrick, United could struggle to control the midfield - an area of the game they normally pride themselves on dominating. I genuinely can't wait for this game. My heart says a City win but my head says a well contested draw. Prediction: United 1 - 1 MCFC.
Tuesday, 15th February v FC Aris @ 17:00 (Europa - A)
Date:Saturday February 12 2011
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