Manchester City will win the Premier League if they beat Manchester United in Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated derby.
Here, FP picks out five of the main talking points ahead of the Etihad Stadium encounter.
Will City clinch the title?
It has long been a case of when rather than if Pep Guardiola’s side will win the Premier League – and there could be few better ways of doing it than against the neighbours that have long lorded over you. Second-place United head into the weekend 16 points behind the leaders, meaning City merely need three points to win the fifth league title in their history. Victory would see the title clinched with more games to spare than any other team in English top-flight history.
Will United delay the party?
There is no danger of the ‘2018 champions’ merchandise being left to rot in a corner of the Etihad Stadium, but United will try to ensure it stays in its box for the time being. While tensions between Guardiola and Jose Mourinho appear to have thawed since their time in LaLiga, it would be galling for the Portuguese and all connected to United to see City win this Saturday. The Red Devils will be desperate to deny what captain Vincent Kompany has called a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to seal it in this way.
How will City respond to their Champions League humbling…?
Liverpool sent ripples across the footballing world on Wednesday evening by blowing City away in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final. A remarkable first half at Anfield gave Jurgen Klopp’s men a 3-0 lead that leaves the table toppers staring down the barrel of a European exit. There is little time to wallow in self-pity with the Manchester derby on the horizon and it will be fascinating to see how they respond on Saturday.
…And how much will the return leg be on City’s mind?
“Obviously they have a big advantage,” star man Kevin De Bruyne said at Anfield. “It’s not impossible, it’s difficult.” Guardiola echoed those sentiments but faces a balancing act given the return leg against Liverpool comes around this Tuesday. The City boss must decide whether to go full strength against United and risk tiredness or injury for the second leg. Top scorer Sergio Aguero has not played for a month and would surely not be risked on Saturday, while Guardiola has several other selection dilemmas to mull over in order to give his side the best chance of progression while not passing up on this chance to wrap up the title against rivals United.
How will United set up?
City have enjoyed some memorable wins at Old Trafford of late, but they have not beaten United at home since November 2014. Mourinho’s approach to big matches, especially on the road, has been criticised this season, even if Liverpool’s free-flowing display on Wednesday went some way to justifying his widely-derided reserved approach at Anfield earlier in the season. The United boss certainly has pace and power in attacking areas to do damage on Saturday, so using the counter-attack on top of a firm foundation would seem the most logical approach for the pragmatic Portuguese to take.