There are so many attacking jewels lining up for Manchesters City and United on Sunday that it's almost unthinkable that there won't be a hatful of goals. Lee Dixon gets set for a barnstormer...
The Manchester derby dominates the Premier League weekend like no other match has done so far this season. And with reason, too. Sunday's lunchtime kick-off should be a real humdinger.
Recent head-to-heads, current form, Opta stats - everything about the game screams goals.
Fans saw 18 scored across four games between the two clubs last season, though we shouldn't forget the last of that sequence was decided by a solitary Vincent Kompany header.
Current trends suggest two rather different teams, however, with United keeping just three clean sheets but scoring 37 goals in 15 Premier League games so far. City are tighter at the back and a little less prolific, but are still the division's joint second highest scorers alongside Tottenham. With all that attacking talent on the pitch there must be goals.
Fergie's men go into the fixture with a three point lead and they'll do well to leave the Etihad with that intact. As Andrew Atherley points out in his Betting.Betfair preview, Roberto Mancini's team have won 33 out of 37 Premier League home games since their last defeat at the Etihad, including seven out of eight against big-six opponents.
And the home side will feel they need to put up a real fight for the home fans. City didn't just exit the Champions League on Tuesday night; they exited European competition for the season after finishing stone cold last in Group D with the worst record yet of an England team at that stage of the competition. Debate rages about whether not participating in the Europa League is a good or bad thing, but for me, it's a blessing in disguise. I think Roberto Mancini will see it like that, though he won't say it.
United went out of the Champions League at the same stage last year but have made no such mistakes this time round. The fans will crow about that for sure and there's bound to be an amazing atmosphere which will ensure the game is played a fast tempo.
That will aid City, who could be missing David Silva again. The Spaniard is a key player for the champions, injecting pace and invention into their attack, and they lose something when he's not there. The crowd will help push them along on Sunday, however, and it could be one occasion when his presence is not missed that much.
The match odds make City favourites at 2.285/4, with United at 3.412/5 to win and the draw the outsider at 3.613/5, but it's simply too easy to see any of those results happening and I don't have a strong feeling about either.
For me, the money will be made betting on goals at both ends. An Opta stat illustrates the likelihood of United scoring a few - they've only scored more than this after 15 games in one previous Premier League season (2001). The markets are already skewed in the direction of a big scoring match but I can't trust either defence to stop either attack so I'll take a chance on a 2-2 draw at 14.013/1 and back over 4.5 goals at 5.59/2 in case it goes really crazy.
There are potential goalscorers all over the pitch but I just have a feeling Wayne Rooney will get on the scoresheet here, and he may even be a bit of value in the market given his struggles so far this season. Let's try to get him backed at anything above 3.02/1.
Finally, everyone assumes they'll be bookings galore and while it's a possibility, it could be overbet. My final bet is a lay of 9pts and above in the bookings market at what will likely be a big enough odds-on price.
Michael Cox's Tactical View
Like Lee, I expect goals in this game. Both sides are remarkably disorganised despite sitting top of the league – I’m not sure either manager knows his best starting XI or even his best formation, and there’s an overreliance upon star individuals, with no cohesive shape to the sides. The defences have been suffering from a lack of protection.
Honestly, I think this match could go either way – but I wouldn’t be surprised to see City get a few goals. If Roberto Mancini uses Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero – the former to drift between the lines, the latter to sprint in behind, I think United could struggle. Manchester City to be ahead at both half-time and full-time is too big at [3.8], in my view.
Alan Thompson's Trader's View
Lee thinks the bookings aren't offering any value. I agree with but I also think this is true of the goals markets. The last meeting at the Etihad was decided by a single goal. In the last six league meetings between these two at City, five have produced just one goal and the other finished 0-0. So the last six meetings have produced under 1.5 goals; it's at Old Trafford where the goals have been going with 17 in the last three meetings. Also, both these sides are noted for their late goal-getting, United have scored 18 of their goals this season after the 60th minute. City have recorded 15 in the same period.
Because under 2.5 goals is available at [2.4], I will be backing that and then placing an in-running lay at [1.4] to get my stake back. If I can get both sides matched then this will give me a free bet on under 2.5.