City enter this instalment of their local rivalry 11 points behind leaders Liverpool. The Reds could be 14 in front by the time the Manchester derby begins, provided they beat Bournemouth earlier in the day.
United will arrive at the Etihad Stadium buoyed by beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on Wednesday. However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are still eight points adrift of a place in the top four and qualification for next season’s UEFA Champions League.
Marcus Rashford is a forward in the kind of prolific form to trouble City’s weakened defence. The Citizens will likely try to keep the ball away from Rashford thanks to their ingenuity in midfield, where Kevin De Bruyne is effortlessly pulling the strings.
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De Bruyne was superb during a 2-2 draw with Newcastle United, and Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Burnley at Turf Moor. The Belgian has been unerring when picking his passes and is rarely wasting a chance to shoot from distance.
De Bruyne’s efforts have been aided by Bernardo Silva and David Silva. The latter has assists in his last two matches, and the 33-year-old’s influence is anything but on the wane during his final campaign with the Citizens.
Silva and De Bruyne were given the room to play by a complete performance from midfield anchorman Rodri:
He’s sometimes struggled since arriving from Atletico Madrid in the summer, but Rodri has been slowly finding his feet in England’s top flight recently. His command of possession helped City create numerous chances for Gabriel Jesus against the Clarets.
The Brazilian responded with two goals and proved he can carry the attacking load in the absence of the injured Sergio Aguero.
Aguero’s thigh problem will keep him out of the derby, but with Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez available, City will be confident there are still enough goals in the team to win.
Goals haven’t been a problem for Rashford lately, after the 22-year-old bagged a brace to beat Spurs. He’s been excelling on the left side of a United front three, stretching defences beyond breaking point with pace and perceptive movement.
Rashford will fancy his chances of keeping his run going against a City defence still missing the aggression of injured centre-back Aymeric Laporte. It would help to have Anthony Martial return to the starting lineup following Sunday’s 2-2 home draw with Aston Villa, but the Frenchman’s status is in doubt after Solskjaer told MUTV (h/t Metro): “Anthony got a slight injury on Sunday. So he will be out for a little while.”
The Red Devils can cause City problems, but Solskjaer will be more concerned about how a United defence that’s conceded seven times in the last four league matches copes with City’s in-form playmakers.