Saturday, November 29, 2008

United preview

The win over Arsenal has injected a much needed confidence boost to us after a sticky spell of defeats. Thursday's impressive win against Schalke will have only served to increase this further and it really is a difficult fixture to predict.

After a slightly shaky start themselves, United have picked up and are on the edge of the title race at present, but will be kicking themselves they did not take advantage of Chelsea and Liverpool's draws last weekend.

We have enjoyed a large degree of success over United in recent times - particularly at home, and added last seasons win at Old Trafford to register a rare double. As well as providing a buoyant air of confidence to our approach, the worry for me is that our recent success over United since our return to the Premier League - and in particular last seasons double - appears to have served to sharper United's focus ahead of the game, with both Ferguson, Giggs and Rooney's comments this week (although slightly misguided) evidence of this.

It goes without saying that Robinho is crucial to us getting the points - not only for his own contribution and creativity, but his work rate which frees up space and time for the likes of Ireland and Wright-Phillips to exploit. Along with the other members of the squad who sat out Thursday night, he is expected to be available for the game, with the latest team news from BBC Sport as follows:

Manchester City (from): Hart, Zabaleta, Richards, Dunne, Garrido, Ball, Wright-Phillips, Elano, Ireland, Kompany, Robinho, Vassell, Hamann, Benjani Mwaruwari, Sturridge, Fernandes, Ben Haim, Schmeichel, Onuoha, Evans.

Manchester United (from): Van der Sar, Foster, Kuszczak, Neville, Rafael, O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evans, Evra, Ronaldo, Nani, Carrick, Fletcher, Anderson, Giggs, Park, Rooney, Tevez, Berbatov.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been underwhelming in recent derby encounters, and with Ferguson's comments regarding 'systematic fouling' earlier this week, I don't expect him to get an easy ride from Pablo Zabaleta. An early card for the Argentinian could spell trouble though, as, as good a player as he looks to be, he does look prone to receiving his share of red cards over the course of a season.

It does have the potential to be a feast of attacking play, with the talents on both sides evident to see. United's defence it has to be said appears stronger than ours, and it may well be that Mark Hughes (or indeed both managers) adopts a more cautious note to their tactical approach in view of the attacking threat from the opposition.

A little surprising also that the bookies make us such long odds, as I would say both sides go into it on a relatively level footing.

Goals may be likely, and you can make a case for any result occuring this weekend, but for me I'll go for honours even and predict a 1-1 draw.

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