Manchester United vs. Manchester City: Biggest X-Factors in Epic EPL Showdown
Monday's much-anticipated Manchester derby at Old Trafford will pit two bitter rivals and the two best squads in the English Premier League against one another for the final time this season.
Although Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils boast a comfortable 15-point lead in the league table, City won't be content to concede any more points to their rivals following a gut-wrenching 3-2 defeat at the Etihad last December.
With a plethora of individual talent across the board in this matchup, expect another back-and-forth clash on Monday.
Below we'll highlight the biggest X-factors in Monday's Manchester derby.
Pablo Zabaleta, Manchester City
City's Pablo Zabaleta is an underrated starter for Roberto Mancini's club, and although his numbers don't wow, the importance of his experience and comfort level on the ball cannot be overstated.
Zabaleta actually scored the equalizer in last December's loss to United before Robin van Persie put home the match winner in injury time. The 28-year-old Argentine is a clutch performer and will surely be one of the most competitive stars on the pitch on Monday.
A vice captain, Zabaleta isn't going to give up a chase or let the Citizens down with any mental lapses in a game of this magnitude, and that's why his play at the back will be something to keep an eye on against United.
Patrice Evra, Manchester United
Veteran Red Devils defender Patrice Evra will play a key role at the back for Manchester United on Monday. With that being said, Evra's ability to get forward and contribute offensively will be every bit as important.
The 31-year-old has four goals and five assists in Premier League play this season, and is excellent at providing an attacking presence from the back. Evra doesn't need to score or assist on Monday to leave his mark, though.
So long as he is igniting the United attack from the back, Evra will be a key contributor.
While Van Persie and Wayne Rooney will receive the superstar attention up top, United's vice captain won't go unnoticed in Monday's Manchester derby.
Vincent Kompany, Manchester City
Arguably Manchester City's most reliable player, Vincent Kompany's versatility and poise at the back will be critical for the Citizens on Monday if they hope to stall the vaunted United attack led by Robin van Persie.
Van Persie and company poured in three goals in the December meeting, and will be at an even greater advantage this time around playing in front of their supporters. It's crucial that Kompany sets the tone early on in front of City's net, sending a message to Van Persie, Rooney and United's prolific goalscorers.
Watch to see not only how Kompany performs on Monday's mighty stage, but also how the Citizens captain leads and organizes his teammates from the opening kickoff on.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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