Premier League: Why Manchester City Will Beat Manchester Utd
It's not been a good week for Roberto Mancini.
In the season where Manchester City were supposed to begin their assault on the Champions League, defeat at the hands of Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday evening has left them with three losses and three draws. It's the worst record for an English team in the competition, let alone an English Champion.
Mancini insists he is not embarrassed, but upon suffering such a grizzly demise in the "Group of Death," he probably should be.
Aleksandar Kolarov's melancholy rendition of Jingle Bells might unwittingly capture the despondency in the £365 million City squad, particularly when they look at the relative fortunes of their Manchester neighbours.
Even with a surprise defeat to Cluj, Manchester Utd have dominated Group H of the Champions League. And in the Premier League, they are three points clear of City going into Sunday's crucial derby game at Eastlands.
Sir Alex Ferguson may also be buoyed by the fact that his team have won all five of their league matches that have followed a Champions League game, whereas the Citizens have only succeeded on three occasions.
However, by taking three points on Sunday, City can leapfrog over the Red Devils on goal difference, in what could be a pivotal match in the race for the title.
Fortunately for Mr Mancini, there is plenty to suggest that he will turn his frown upside-down with a victory in the 146th Manchester derby.
While their European performances leave a lot to be desired, Manchester City are one of the few sides who remain unbeaten domestically. In the league, United have lost twice on the road already, and twice in their last ten matches.
City haven't been beaten at the Etihad Stadium in the league for two years, and most significantly, they haven't lost a home game to Manchester Utd since April 2010.
The United faithful will need no reminding that Mancini's men took six points from them last season in emphatic style, capped by a 6-1 rout at Old Trafford where City court jester Mario Balotelli debuted his "Why Always Me?" t-shirt.
Even though Manchester Utd are at the league pinnacle right now, City are meeting them at an ideal time: Ferguson's side are in the midst of a defensive crisis.
They have shipped 32 goals this season, 21 of which occurred in league games. You have to go back to 2000/01 to find a season when The Reds leaked more at this stage.
City, meanwhile, have only conceded 11 league goals and just six at Eastlands––a home tally bettered only by Stoke. (Who knew The Britannia Stadium was such a fortress?)
Manchester Utd's defending against Reading last week was nothing short of comical. After conceding three goals in 15 minutes to a side in 19th place, Sir Alex Ferguson labelled the display at the back "cartoonish." Rafael was visibly frustrated when he was substituted at the 32 minute mark for Chris Smalling. At times, Rio Ferdinand and the back line treated set pieces like completely foreign concepts.
What's more, United have been dealt the blow that Nemanja Vidic will miss the game, as he is taking longer than expected to recover from knee surgery.
While Sir Alex has undoubtedly drummed defensive discipline into his side repeatedly since returning from the Madejski Stadium––and will continue to do so after the Cluj defeat––this is not the time to face a side who score an average of 2.4 goals per home league game.
Ferguson has admitted that his prolific attack has rescued his defence this season, but by comparison, they have only scored 1.5 goals per away game in this league campaign.
With all these goals from both Manchester sides, the most shocking outcome of Sunday's match will be a 0-0 draw. The latest betting odds suggest that the bookies believe there will be more than 2.5 goals. After all, the Manchester derby has only been goalless twice in the past 20 years.
It may be painful for the red side of Manchester to accept, but there will be goals in this derby. And the statistics tell us it is the blue team who will score more of them.
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