By Neil Leverett and Niall Clarke
- A resurgent Manchester United travel to city rivals and reigning champions Manchester City for the Manchester derby in game of the week
- Crystal Palace host Tottenham Hotspur also in London derby on Saturday evening
- Arsenal entertain Wolverhampton Wanderers, with the visitors on three-game losing streak
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – It’s derby weekend not just in Manchester but in London for Gameweek 12, as the final round of fixtures commence before the international break.
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Game of the week: Manchester City vs. Manchester United (Sunday, 16:30)
Niall: The big game this weekend is the Manchester derby and there are not many games in world football can top this fixture. Not only does it pit two city rivals against each other, it sees the top two of the last season meet for the first time this campaign.
Manchester City ended up winning the title fairly easily last season, but it feels like the gap between themselves and Manchester United has grown even wider. The Citizens are top of the Premier League, nine points above Man United in seventh, a gap that seems way too big even at this early stage of the season.
If Jose Mourinho’s side are to mount an unlikely turnaround then they must win this game. There is no harder fixture in English football than a trip to the Etihad to face the Champions right now, but it is a fixture United know they can win. Last season the Red Devils overturned a 2-0 deficit to claim a 3-2 victory and temporarily postpone their neighbours’ title celebrations.
City have arguably improved on last season’s history making side by turning themselves into a much more solid defensive unit. They have conceded only four goals thus far compared to United’s 18, a stark difference from last campaign.
United will be heading into this match with some confidence after their come-from-behind win against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, but right now the hosts are on a roll. They are free scoring and looking solid at the back, and they will likely have too much this time around.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-0 Manchester United
Neil: What more can be said of this Pep Guardiola side? Having again making a very good side in Shakhtar Donetsk look like mere amateurs with a thumping 6-0 win in Europe, City’s current run of form is nothing short of frightening. In their last six games since the most recent international break the Citizens have conceded just one goal and scored an astonishing 24 times in that period – with two six-goal hauls in their last two outings.
There appears to no sign of let-up in the host’s offensive ethos either, with Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, David Silva and Leroy Sane all chipping in to the effort.
After Wednesday night’s historic win in Turin themselves, this gap between the two sides has closed significantly – for me at least – which makes this particular edition of the Manchester derby even more fascinating. Anthony Martial is arguably in the form of his career for United right now after a tough spell a Old Trafford and all the signs points to a real classic on show here – if a spiky one.
Right now it is very difficult to predict anything other than a win for the men in blue, but given the Red Devils’ ability to grind out three points against a Juventus side that rarely lose a game, coupled with last season’s Eastland’s comeback, I just get the feeling United might nick a point here, in what could be a titanic tussle.
Prediction: Manchester City 2-2 Manchester United
Neil’s One to watch: Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Saturday, 17:30)
It is not just England’s third city that sees the battle lines drawn this weekend, indeed the capital also plays host to what seems like an infinite stream of London derbies, as the Eagles hosts Spurs on Saturday evening.
Indeed only a fortnight ago, Palace ended the Lilywhites’ north London rival’s 11-match winning run in a 2-2 draw at Selhurst Park with Gunners, and Mauricio Pochettino‘s rather shaky side can expect more south London hospitality – or lackthereofit – this weekend.
Roy Hodgson‘s men are in somewhat of a tricky patch of form and have only scored twice at home this season. They did however give Chelsea food for thought last Sunday before eventually succumbing at Stamford Bridge, but their last two performances will see the volume turned up in the south of the city before the international hiatus.
Spurs are even more the unpredictable this season and needed to sweat on a comeback win versus PSV Eindhoven in midweek, days after surviving a scare against Wolves from 3-0 up. They have though won all of their last four meeting with their hosts and I expect Tottenham to have just a bit too much here.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Niall’s One to watch: Arsenal vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers (Sunday, 16:30)
It is a shame that this match is not being televised because Wolves vs. Arsenal is my Premier League one to watch for this weekend, This game could be a cracker. Both sides like to play attacking football and have goals in them when on form. Wolves are coming on off the back of two straight defeats, but they have proven to be tough opposition for the top sides. They held both Manchester clubs to draws and came close to coming from behind to earn a point against Spurs.
Arsenal are in good form having not tasted defeat in 14 games – including last weekend’s 1-1 game of the week draw against Liverpool. Their attack is largely to be thanked for that with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette being on fire up front, but against the Reds the Gunners showed a much tighter defensive structure.
This should be an entertaining game that is full of goals and could go either way. Wolves are difficult to beat, but Arsenal are still in good form despite back to back draws and the points may well be shared in this one – despite Arsenal playing hosts.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Premier League game of the week sees the first Manchester derby of the season at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon, kick off 4.30pm GMT.
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