Manchester derby fever grips England

Paul ELLIS / AFP

The Manchester derby between City and United at the Etihad Stadium is the clear pick of matches in the 12th round of the 2018/19 Premier League season, with focus falling on managers Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.

All is well in the world of the Citizens, who beat Southampton this past weekend to ensure they come into the derby sitting at the top of the log, but they will be wary of a Red Devils team which famously came from two goals down to defeat the hosts at the Etihad in the second half of last season to delay their title celebrations.

United also claimed a dramatic, come-from-behind 2-1 win at high-flying Bournemouth last Saturday, with Marcus Rashford scoring the decisive goal in injury time. Whether Mourinho has the bravery to field the youngster from the start at City remains to be seen, but at least he can rely on the fine form of Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba, who have both been at the top of their games in recent weeks.

Both teams will come into the game on the back of midweek UEFA Champions League matches of varying difficulty: it doesn’t get much tougher on the continent than United’s trip to Turin to face mighty Juventus, while Guardiola may even consider resting some of his top players for a home match against Shakhtar Donetsk which should bring a comfortable victory.

City’s main chasers at the top of the log, Liverpool and Chelsea, will hope United can stymie the Citizens at home and allow them to make up ground. The Reds will fancy their chances of putting plenty of goals past Fulham early on Sunday, while the Blues will be next up and have a tougher test when they welcome Everton to Stamford Bridge.

Another London derby to keep an eye out for is the battle of Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park. Spurs won 3-2 away to Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend and will fancy their chances of another victory on the road in an effort to keep up their top-four hopes, while Wilfried Zaha will hope to inspire Palace, who generally raise their game when the ‘big guns’ come for a visit.

Elsewhere, Mohamed Diame’s Newcastle United will chase a second win when they host Bournemouth; Wilfred Ndidi’s Leicester City will make an emotional return to the King Power Stadium to face Burnley in their first home game since the tragic helicopter accident which took the life of their chairman; Mario Lemina’s Southampton are at home to Isaac Success’ Watford; and Sol Bamba and Bruno Ecuele will hope to lead Cardiff City to a home win over Brighton & Hove Albion.

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