Preview: Manchester City v Manchester United

City go into tonight’s game knowing that victory will move us level on points with United. Of course, there will always be other motivating factors in a game against the neighbours.

Thankfully we won at the weekend and the unwarranted pressure on both Roberto Mancini and the squad has been alleviated. Regardless of the result tonight our place in the top four is looking more comfortable thanks to Tottenham’s current form of 2 points from a possible 12.

Mancini on the other hand has 5 wins from the last 7 league matches, and a squad that will be focused on victory. With the return of Tevez and de Jong the team looked settled and at ease with the 4-2-3-1 formation at the Hawthorns.

There are unlikely to be any major changes. Either Adam Johnson or James Milner is likely to replace the suspended Mario Balotelli. It will be revealing to see who Mancini chooses. Johnson offers a greater cutting edge, while Milner will offer more solidity to the side with his defensive dilligence.

Mancini faces a similar choice at left-back where Zabaleta, who was excellent against West Brom, offers the tackling and commitment which would be welcome in a derby environment. Kolarov would offer more attacking potential, but having had so little game time there would be a danger of him not being sharp enough defensively.

Personally, the importance of keeping it tight at the back would ensure Zabaleta plays at full-back. The difficulty in finding space and creating openings in a derby is likely to make life difficult for Silva and Tevez, therefore Johnson would play to pose an additional threat.

Mancini may be more inclined to bring on Johnson in the second half when the game opens up. Adam is rarely a threat for a full 90 minutes, and is often at his most dangerous when he arrives on the pitch.

Elsewhere it’s likely to be a case of making sure everyone is fully recovered from Sunday’s exertions. A repeat performance from Yaya could make all the difference. Likewise, the prospects of a clean sheet provided by Kolo and Kompany when they keep their focus.

The media’s build-up to the game has included an analysis of Carlos Tevez by Jonathon Wilson, who eloquently puts into words what most City fans already know: Tevez’s importance is as much to do with his movement and teamplay as it is about scoring goals.

With de Jong and Tevez back, City were able to suffocate West Brom’s midfield on Sunday. De Jong’s effectiveness as a defensive shield enables Barry and Yaya to press the opposition higher up the pitch. Tevez drops deep to further harry opponents and link up our own play.

The good technique and passing of all our midfielders then enables us to knock the ball around and set the tempo, even if we don’t create a host of openings.

Doing this will be crucial in the intense atmosphere of a derby. If we can dominate possession then there’s always the chance of Silva or Tevez manufacturing an opening.

Ferguson may sacfrifice one of either Berbatov or Hernandez to bolster his midfield. The main danger from United is likely to be down the flanks. They’re quick to use the full width of the pitch when looking to get behind teams.

Evra is a threat and is another reason why it might be wiser for Johnson to start, so he can track the Frenchman on our right flank. Silva is less disciplined positionally and is therefore less effective at tracking an attacking full-back.

Despite their possible absentees, United are always a lot harder to break down when Vidic and Ferdinand play together. For that reason we’ll need to be clinical in our finishing. Any repeat of the recent profligacy in front of goal could prove disastrous. No prizes for guessing who is our most likely match winner.

Uwe Rosler on Tevez:

“He is a striker who can dribble, turn a man, chase non-stop, press the opposition, make smart moves, hold the ball up and – crucially – score goals. He is always up for it, has bags of energy, wears his heart on his sleeve and gives the whole team a lift.

“For me, he is every manager’s dream and the perfect player for English football.”

If City can produce a repeat of the performance against Chelsea, then victory should be ours. A repeat of the focus we showed in that game should be ensured by the memory of last season’s last minute defeats. United have yet to lose this term despite some mediocre performances, so maybe they’re due a loss.

Blue Days line-up (4-2-3-1):
Boateng – K Toure – Kompany – Zabaleta
de Jong – Barry
A Johnson – Y Toure – Silva

Prediction: 3-0 to City.

Player ratings: West Bromwich Albion v Manchester City
Player ratings: Manchester City v Manchester United

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