Manchester City blew their last chance of giving manager Pep Guardiola some silverware in his first season in charge at the Etihad when they were dumped out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage by Arsenal at the weekend, and they must now focus fully on finishing in the Premier League top-four. They can move closer towards that goal by collecting all three points on Thursday evening against a Manchester United side which remain hot on their heels.
The Red Devils looked to be out of the running as regards a Champions League berth just a couple of months ago, however three straight wins have sent them soaring up the table and they sit just a single point behind the Citizens with an unbeaten run of 23 Premier League matches. OK so there have been draws aplenty in that run but their excellent level of consistency has resulted in Mourinho’s men moving ever closer to the top table of the European game. Can they make the final push over the coming weeks?
Indeed they can but it will be no easy task. United are just one point adrift of City and three behind stumbling Liverpool and their fate is very much in their own hands. Defeat in Thursday evening’s derby match would be a massive set-back but a draw wouldn’t be a disaster by any means as it would allow the Red Devils to remain hot on City’s heels. Given that Mourinho insists that the Europa League is his main priority at the moment, a single point may be the best that United can hope for.
We’re not suggesting that the Red Devils boss will field a weakened team for what is undoubtedly a massive match but following the injury of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho will be aiming primarily to avoid defeat and we believe that United will do that. The Old Trafford side are the draw specialists in the Premier League and City have been far from their best at the Etihad, therefore we expect the hosts to drop two points on Thursday evening.
That said, we do expect a few goals along the way and with both teams finding the net in their last meeting at Old Trafford earlier this season, we’ll be going for both teams to score in what looks set to be a thrilling Manchester derby match.