Preview: Manchester City vs Manchester United

by Tom Parker

After a fantastic display against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League curtain raiser on Tuesday, Manchester United make the short journey across town to the Etihad for a potentially season-defining encounter with Manchester City tomorrow.

Wayne Rooney played down the importance of the fixture in the week by claiming Liverpool is still United’s most important fixture but fans of both teams know exactly what is at stake ahead of the game and quite how much victory or defeat will mean.

The tussle between last year’s winners and runners-up in the league presents the ideal opportunity for either David Moyes or Manuel Pellegrini to really establish themselves in the Premier League.

Moyes and Pellegrini have faced each other as managers on two occasions previously with the 60-year-old Chilean completing a double over Everton in 2005 with Villareal. Both have come a long way since then though and Moyes has a fantastic record as Everton manager against City.

The spoils were shared last season as both sides triumphed on one occasion. United emerged from the Etihad victorious in October when Robin van Persie scored an injury-time winner while City won at Old Trafford for the second season in a row.

City and United both go into the match in decent form. City dropped points at the Britannia on Saturday before hammering Viktoria Plzen 3-0 in their opening Champions League group game on Tuesday. Meanwhile, United eased to a home win over newly promoted Crystal Palace and looked impressive against Bayer Leverkusen with a 4-2 victory.

Micah Richards, Gael Clichy and David Silva are all injury doubts for the derby with summer signing Martin Demichelis definitely ruled out after sustaining a knee injury. Vincent Kompany should play after returning from a lay-off on Tuesday.

David Moyes kept his cards relatively close to his chest ahead of the game and divulged precious little team news in his Friday press conference. Danny Welbeck could return after missing the last two fixtures with a knee injury while Phil Jones and Rafael da Silva both have an outside chance of being in the squad.

So far under Moyes, United have looked impressive with the decision to re-kindle Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic partnership proving a great move that has so far made United almost watertight at the back. Although, City will pose a threat with the mobility of Sergio Aguero having the potential to cause problems for the occasionally sluggish United defence.

However, United will go into the game in a very confident mood. Marouane Fellaini was magnificent in midweek and slotted into the side like a glove on his full debut and he offered United real physicality in the centre of the pitch that could stop Yaya Toure from bossing the midfield on Sunday.

The performances of Antonio Valencia and Wayne Rooney on Tuesday has given United fans further optimism ahead of what promises to be a really tense affair and if the early season form can continue, United could walk away with another three points but it will no doubt be a very tough encounter.

Prediction: Manchester City 1-1 Manchester United

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