The Manchester derby involving Manchester City and Manchester United is one of the biggest games in English football and in recent seasons, it has become even more fiercely competitive with Manchester City spending plenty of money to acquire talented players.
The two teams will meet in the FA Cup third-round game on Sunday and it promises to be an exciting encounter with plenty at stake for the title challengers.
When the two teams last met, United were thrashed 6-1 at home, which makes City slight favorites for the game. Also, United have been inconsistent this season and recent losses against Blackburn and Newcastle will certainly affect their confidence.
However, the reason why United have won so many titles under Sir Alex Ferguson is because of their ability to overcome setbacks and turn things around.
If they manage to win this game, it will be a huge boost to their morale and could provide them with much needed impetus, which will also help them in the league. Manchester City will also know the psychological impact of such a tie and will believe that they can establish their dominance in English football.
Sergio Aguero was signed by Manchester City in the summer from Atletico Madrid for a big transfer fee and he has not taken much time to adjust to the Premiership. He is a player who is difficult to mark for the defenders because of his off-the-ball movement and good finishing abilities. He was excellent in the game against Manchester United in the league game at Old Trafford scoring a goal.
The Argentine international will further improve with time at City and he has established a good rapport with his teammates.
With Mario Balotelli most likely to miss the game due to an injury, Aguero will have to be at his best. He will be entrusted to score goals for his team.
With Manchester United's defense not looking solid at the moment, Aguero will look to take advantage and cause trouble to Manchester United.
Phil Jones was signed from Blackburn in the summer and he did have an excellent start to the season. However, he has not had good games in the last two games, which has led to defeats for the Red Devils against Blackburn and Newcastle. Jones has had to make a big step forward in his career by joining Manchester United and will undoubtedly face more scrutiny about his game than when he was playing for Blackburn.
However, he is a quality talent and will only get better with experience and more playing time. He is bound to be severely tested against Manchester City in the important FA Cup tie and will need to be at his best to stop City's attacks.
With Nemanja Vidic missing most of this season, there is huge pressure on Jones to do well and it will again be another game which could test his mental strength.
Vincent Kompany has been one of the best defenders in the Premiership in the last couple of seasons and it is clear that his leadership and presence at the back is vital for City. He was named as the captain of Manchester City by Roberto Mancini and has shown great responsibility in the role.
Kompany has shown great character and quality and is one of the main reasons why they are at the top of the table.
He is bound to have a lot of work to do against Manchester United and will need to be at his best to ensure that Joe Hart is not severely tested by the Red Devils. With Yaya Toure's participation in doubt due to the African Cup of Nations, it is very important that Kompany is at his best. United will be desperate to hit back after suffering two defeats.
Rio Ferdinand has been one of the best defenders in the Premiership in the last decade but he has not had his best season thus far. It is clear that he has lost some pace and has had to readjust his game.
Also, Nemanja Vidic missing from the team for most of the season is a huge setback for United. Rio has to be dominant and guide youngsters like Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who play alongside him in the absence of Vidic.
Ferdinand has not looked confident on a number of occasions and had a poor game against Newcastle United in the previous game. Also in the earlier meeting against City, Ferdinand had a torrid time and was culpable for some goals which led to the 6-1 drubbing at home.
However, he still has the quality to turn things around and it is integral that he finds his best form for United to win trophies this season.
Gael Clichy was signed from Arsenal in the summer and it was an intelligent signing by Roberto Mancini considering the price and the fact that he is very experienced in the Premiership.
However, even during his Arsenal days, Clichy had made some errors which led to goals and though he is a quality player, he could be targeted by United and their excellent wingers.
Nani in particular has troubled Clichy on a number of occasions in the past and could play on the right flank.
Clichy could also be dangerous to deal with for United because he provides excellent overlapping runs and does contribute a lot in attack. He will need to avoid making mistakes in the games and if he is positionally sound, then he could be a key player for City. He provides a good outlet for City and good width as well.
His performance could be important in the context of the game considering that he will face a tough challenge against United.
Manchester United did not win the midfield battle against Newcastle United as the combative duo of Yohan Cabaye and Cheick Tiote won the midfield battle and as a result, United failed to impose their dominance in the game. Carrick has come under criticism on some occasions in the last couple of seasons, but he is a vital player for United especially with the club facing a injury crisis this season.
The injury to Tom Cleverley and the illness of Darren Fletcher has affected the club this season.
However, in Carrick, they have a calm and technically excellent midfielder, who could be very important for the Red Devils against City. With Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry both set to miss the game, Carrick will need to be at his best so that United can create more chances and establish control of the game.
Samir Nasri was signed by Manchester City from Arsenal in the summer for a relatively high transfer fee. The French midfielder is undoubtedly very talented but he has yet to be at his best for Manchester City since his move from the Emirates.
Though he had an excellent start to his City career, he has not been at his best since the first few games and has been benched for some games this season. However, he did have a good game against the Gunners in the league fixture and Mancini will hope that he will be at his best against United.
Nasri has the quality to be a very vital player for Manchester City, but he needs to find his confidence and that will only come by playing regularly. His quick passing, creativity and dribbling abilities will mean that he can be influential in big games.
Wayne Rooney is one of the best players in the world and with Manchester United suffering plenty of injuries and some surprise defeats, they will need Rooney to step up in order for them to get back on track.
Rooney is a player who has the quality to make a difference to the team and United will hope that he can recapture his early season form when he was scoring superb goals, like against Arsenal in the 8-2 victory for the Red Devils.
He will be the key player in attack for the Red Devils and could be used in a free role behind the striker, where he can also show his creativity. The England international was rather subdued against Newcastle but he did score goals against Fulham and Wolves recently.
Even if he does not score, he adds plenty of quality to the team. For Manchester United to win the derby, then they will need Rooney to be at his fiery best.
David Silva was signed by Manchester City in the last season and he has been one of the main players for the club since his arrival. He has been one of the best performers in the Premiership this season and almost every team has found it difficult to cope with his movement and creativity.
Silva combines excellently with his teammates and has been involved in plenty of City goals this season.
He had an excellent game at Old Trafford in the league game this season where he was dominant in the midfield. If he is allowed the time and space in midfield, he is certain to deliver killer passes to pick out his teammates and he can also score some excellent goals.
Manchester United will need to find a good strategy to ensure that Silva is a peripheral figure in the game because if he does dominate, then it is quite likely that City will breach United's defense.
David De Gea was signed by Manchester United for a relatively high transfer fee in the summer in order to replace Edwin Van Der Sar, who retired at the end of the previous season. Though he is undoubtedly very talented, he has struggled in some games this season because it is quite difficult for him to adjust to the Premiership and the scrutiny that comes with it.
De Gea has the capability to be a top-class keeper for Manchester United, but at the moment, Sir Alex Ferguson will have to decide whether to bench the young Spaniard in favour of Anders Lindegaard.
Lindegaard was signed in the previous season and though he has received relatively less playing time, he has shown excellent composure and has had a lot of clean sheets to his name. Though Newcastle scored three goals against United when he played in the last game, he had a relatively decent game with the defenders having a torrid time.
Ferguson will have to decide which keeper will play against City in this crucial FA Cup tie and the performance of the Manchester United goalkeeper could be very important. It will be a great chance for the keeper who is selected to establish himself but he will be under huge pressure and any mistake could have a great impact.