Manchester United-Manchester City Preview
LONDON (SE) - Manchester City have the chance to establish their dominance in England's leading football city as they welcome rivals Manchester United to the Etihad Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson famously branded Manchester City 'the noisy neighbours' after the takeover of Sheikh Mansour in 2007, but City have responded by winning the Premier League title for the first time last season - beating their local rivals twice along the way.
However, Ferguson strengthened his squad in the summer, bringing in creative midfielder Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund and Premier League top-scorer Robin van Persie from Arsenal. City boss Roberto Mancini is aware the current Premier League leaders enter this match in the stronger position.
"They can lose. They have three points more. We have three points less and we can't lose," said Mancini. "We can't change the history. We are here for only two years, playing together, and they are used to playing this game for the title race for 20 years.
"They were a strong team and then they bought Van Persie and Kagawa. They put another player that scores 25 goals into the squad. In this moment United are favourites but the season is long."
Sunday's visitors have the best away record in the Premier League, winning six of their eight games on the road and scoring a league-high 18 goals. However, they conceded three times in the opening half an hour at Reading last weekend, and Ferguson knows his team will have to tighten up to avoid defeat against the Premier League champions.
"If we win it will be one of our best ever results. They are a really good, powerful team with massive players," said Ferguson. "It won't be easy and if we defend like we did at Reading we'll be in trouble.
"The important thing for us is to take lessons from the mistakes we're making and do something about it. We need to find a solution."
Never one to shy away from an opportunity to rile his rivals, Ferguson took a pre-match swipe at City over some perceived favourable decisions this season.
"The number of penalty kicks they get - 21 in the last year or something like that. If we got that number there'd be an inquiry in the House of Commons. There'd be a protest!"
City have doubts over David Silva (hamstring), James Milner (hamstring), Gael Clichy (ankle) and Alexander Kolarov (groin), while Micah Richards and Jack Rodwell remain out with knee and hamstring injuries, respectively. United are close to welcoming back Kagawa (knee), Tom Cleverley (calf), Anderson (hamstring) and Nemanja Vidic (knee), but Antonio Valencia (thigh) and Nani (hamstring) remain absent.
Hosts City are the only unbeaten team left in the Premier League, and they have not conceded more than one goal in any league game since August. Since the start of last season, City have played 27 matches at the Etihad and have outscored their opponents 74-18 in that time. Striker Sergio Aguero has scored in 20 matches since joining the club, and City are 19-1-0 in those games. His attacking colleague Edin Dzeko has bagged six league goals this season, five of those coming as a substitute.
City carry a Premier League-record 21-match unbeaten streak (15-6-0) into this contest as well as a 37-match run without a loss (33-4-0) at Etihad in league play.
Van Persie has been involved in more goals (14) than any other Premier League player this season, and has registered either a goal or an assist in 11 of his 13 starts with United. Wayne Rooney's seven assists lead the league and already are more than he managed in two of the last three seasons. United have won the last eight league games in which Rooney played.
The record of league meetings between these two since Mancini took over as Man City manager reads one draw and two wins apiece. Both of City's victories came last season, with the Citizens winning 6-1 at Old Trafford and 1-0 at the Etihad.