Manchester City (+225) at Manchester United (+130), Draw (+230)
The 172nd Manchester Derby highlights the EPL’s return to action this weekend, as Manchester City (3-0-0, 9 pts) visits Manchester United (3-0-0, 9 pts) with top spot in the league on the line at Old Trafford on Saturday (7:30 AM Eastern).
Following the first international break of the season, both teams enter the match undefeated, but United has to be far more comfortable with their lineup heading into the first leg of the derby.
This game should have featured a clash of two Golden Boot hopefuls: Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergio Aguero. The strikers share the early season lead in goals with three apiece, but Aguero will be suspended for this match and two more following an elbow of Winston Reid in City’s 3-1 win on August 28.
Without Aguero, manager Pep Guardiola faces some tough calls on whether to shift from the 4-1-4-1 system that has brought City early success, or simply to start 19-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho in the place of his best player. The Nigerian flashed his potential this weekend, scoring an absolute beauty for his nation against Tanzania.
On top of questions up front, City also faces uncertainty in goal. After moving on from Joe Hart, it appears Claudio Bravo, a £17 million signing from Barcelona, will make his first ever EPL appearance in one of the biggest games of the year. Against Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Anthony Martial, and Marcus Rashford coming off the bench, it could be a tough day for the undersized goalie from Chile.
While the on-field matchup is the what ultimately matters, the media will spend most of the coming week trumpeting the rivalry between Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. After years of clashing in La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Champions League, the two managers dislike of one another is always the polarizing storyline. Mourinho’s squad is the stronger looking one heading into the weekend, but his losing record against Guardiola (3-6-7 all-time) will loom large.
Throw in the shocking fact that United have won just once over City in the last five meetings at Old Trafford, and there’s reason to think they’ll fall short of a victory in this spot. I like the value on the draw.
Pick: Draw (+230).
Photo Credit: Austin Osuide [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.