The derby between Manchester United and Manchester City will take centre stage during Week 31 of the 2015-16 Premier League season in a pivotal clash in the race for UEFA Champions League qualification next season.
The Citizens currently sit in fourth place, leading United by four points. City's recent slump appears to be over, but a loss at home against their rivals could push the team back into a negative spiral.
Elsewhere, Leicester City travel to Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur host Bournemouth and Arsenal face a tricky trip to Everton. Here's a look at the schedule for Week 31, complete with picks:
|Saturday, March 19||12:45 p.m. GMT/8:45 a.m. ET||Everton||Arsenal||Draw|
|Saturday, March 19||3 p.m. GMT/11 a.m. ET||Chelsea||West Ham||Draw|
|Saturday, March 19||3 p.m. GMT/11 a.m. ET||Crystal Palace||Leicester||Leicester|
|Saturday, March 19||3 p.m. GMT/11 a.m. ET||Watford||Stoke||Watford|
|Saturday, March 19||3 p.m. GMT/11 a.m. ET||WBA||Norwich||WBA|
|Saturday, March 19||5:30 p.m. GMT/1:30 p.m. ET||Swansea||Aston Villa||Swansea|
|Sunday, March 20||1:30 p.m. GMT/9:30 a.m. ET||Newcastle||Sunderland||Draw|
|Sunday, March 20||1:30 p.m. GMT/9:30 a.m. ET||Southampton||Liverpool||Draw|
|Sunday, March 20||4 p.m. GMT/12 p.m. ET||Tottenham||Bournemouth||Tottenham|
|Sunday, March 20||4 p.m. GMT/12 p.m. ET||Manchester City||Manchester United||City|
Source: BBC Sport
For ticket information on all Premier League games visit the official site or go to the ticket page on the home club's official website (links provided below):
City appeared to have turned the corner with a 4-0 win over Aston Villa in Week 29, snapping a losing streak of three straight matches. But the 0-0 draw against Norwich City on Saturday once again highlighted some flaws, making the derby against United all the more important.
The Red Devils have also looked shaky of late and lost their last Premier League fixture against West Bromwich Albion.
Per Manchester United's official Twitter account, manager Louis van Gaal admitted to MUTV his team has gone through a rough week after the FA Cup draw against West Ham United:
"I'm happy for the players because it's been a tough week," Louis van Gaal tells #MUTV. "We showed fantastic spirit to come back."— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 13, 2016
Inconsistency has plagued the Red Devils, who have failed to put together extended runs of results throughout the season. They can look solid and organised during a midweek match, only to display a woeful lack of creativity just a few days later.
City's runs have been more consistent, both good and bad. And ever since star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne went down with an injury, the bad has somewhat overshadowed the good. Creativity was a huge problem against Norwich, who comfortably dealt with the pressure and arguably had the better chances.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed the Belgian won't play for City until after the international break, per Stuart Brennan of the Manchester Evening News:
Pellegrini: “Yaya is fit to play, but 3 players continue to be injured, Nasri, De Bruyne and Delph” #MCFC— Stuart Brennan (@StuBrennanMEN) March 14, 2016
With both teams struggling to create chances, this match is likely to come down to individual quality, and City have the advantage. The likes of Sergio Aguero and David Silva should find some success against United's defence, which has looked shaky of late, while the Citizens have little to worry about on the defensive end.
Prediction: City edge past United but not by much.
Speaking of a lack of consistency: Everton have arguably been the toughest team to watch in the Premier League this season, looking nothing short of brilliant in one match and clueless in the next.
Per WhoScored.com, they've won three and lost three of their last six, including fantastic performances against Stoke City and Newcastle United, and horror shows against West Ham United and West Brom.
Their FA Cup win over Chelsea was an example of how great the Toffees can be, and in-form striker Romelu Lukaku flashed his talent in a big way, scoring twice. Via FATV, the first was a sensational effort:
Arsenal are winless in their last three in the league, were knocked out of the FA Cup by Watford and are expected to suffer another setback in midweek when they travel to the Camp Nou to take on Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.
The Gunners are desperate for some positivity, and a loss at Goodison Park would be devastating for their title chances. They simply cannot afford to lose against the Toffees and will likely throw everything they have at their opponents.
But given their poor form and mental state after likely setbacks in all three competitions they were competing in until this weekend, momentum is not on their side. Everton are flying high after the win over Chelsea, and powerful and mobile striker Lukaku presents a mismatch for Arsenal's defence, which doesn't handle movement well.
Prediction: Arsenal drop points again, and with Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur facing relatively easy competition, the Gunners' title chances look even more dire after Week 31.