The Manchester Derby is upon us!
With Manchester City looking unstoppable, and Manchester United looking, well, stoppable, is this as forgone a conclusion as we all think?
Well, we all thought so last season when Manchester City found themselves 2-0 up at half-time, only for Paul Pogba and Chris Smalling to pull off that miraculous turnaround; can United somehow repeat this feat?
My gut says no.
City average three goals-per-game in the league so far – which we have come to just expect from them – but it’s their defence which gives them that air of invincibility. Ederson has conceded just four Premier League goals this season, and he may be quietly eyeing up Chelsea’s record of just 15 conceded all season in 2004/05.
Though United have actually been in good form recently (and they really should have held on for a win against Chelsea), their performances have not been as good as the results suggest. Their first half against Bournemouth was absolutely dreadful, and they were incredibly lucky to head into the break on level terms; a showing like that at The Etihad, and they’ll be obliterated. They can forget about scoring three times in one half, too.
The fact that United have still kept just one clean sheet would be ominous at the best of times; then you see City have 24 home league goals and Sergio Agüero and co. will face Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelöf – it could be a bloodbath.
Look, I’d rather avoid tipping a City win considering how short they are, but I simply cannot see any other outcome to this Manchester Derby. United have been better in recent weeks, but still not outstanding, which makes me fear for them.
There won’t be a miraculous comeback on Sunday; there won’t be delight in the red side of Manchester - Pep Guardiola’s men will continue their romp towards a second successive Premier League title.
In something that’s fast-becoming a reliable banker for me: I’m backing Manchester City to be leading at half-time.
A quick look at the stats tells you why I’m confident: United have been trailing after half an hour in five of their 11 Premier League matches – which is a lot for a side who have top four aspirations – while City have led after 32 minutes (yeah, I’ve rounded it up for Agüero’s 32nd minute goal against Cardiff!) a whopping eight times.
To their credit, Jose Mourinho’s side often end matches stronger than they start them, but that will not be a problem for this tip.
United’s flimsy defence, coupled with City’s firepower, is a great combination to see this bet land.
City will score – that’s obvious – while United have scored in every away game this season; three of the last four Manchester Derbies have seen BTTS, too.
Agüero to score at any time is an obvious one – he has an outstanding record against United, scoring eight goals in nine matches against them.
And then there’s Matić and Fernandinho, who amassed 13 yellows between them last season. Plus, we all know how emotional these derbies can get: the last time these two met, referee Martin Atkinson dished out nine yellow cards.
Go on, dare to believe…