One of the great things about today’s big match: We’re unlikely to see any pre-match surprises. True, a good twist is often irresistible, but when a match is this delicious, it speaks for itself, beginning with the starting XIs.
Aside from long term absences (like Nemanja Vidic) each team has their first choices available. There are no new injuries. There are no suspensions, illnesses – lingering rifts between stars and bosses. There are no excuses.
These might not be the exact starting XIs come 3:00 p.m. ET, but it’s be a shock if they weren’t pretty dang close.
Here’s the team Roberto Mancini’s likely to select for the home team:
Manchester City, Probable Starting XI
G: Joe Hart
LB: Gael Clichy
LCB: Joleon Lescott
RCB: Vincent Kompany
RB: Micah Richards
DM: Gareth Barry
DM: Yaya Touré
M: Samir Nasri
M: David Silva
F: Carlos Tévez
F: Sergio Agüero
That Carlos Tévez will be in a position to win this league for City proves the inherently unpredictable nature of a universe addicted to irony.
Manchester United, Probable Starting XI
G: David de Gea
LB: Patrice Evra
LCB: Jonny Evans
RCB: Rio Ferdinand
RB: Rafael da Silva
DM: Michael Carrick
DM: Paul Scholes
RW: Antonio Valencia
AM/F: Wayne Rooney
F: Danny Welbeck
Some interesting matchups these lineups imply:
Antonio Valencia vs. Gael Clichy – So much of what United has done this year (where they’re at their best) has involved Antonio Valencia. Gael Clichy is capable of containing him.
Wayne Rooney vs. Gareth Barry – The chances United has to counter will likely be the times Touré has surged into attack. That leaves Gareth Barry to lockup one of the Premier League’s best creators.
Nani vs. Micah Richards – The way these teams lean, expect Manchester United’s left flank to be wide open. As many nightmares as Nani’s given Premier League right backs, Micah Richards is just a terrifying for left midfielders tasked with marking the City’s juggernaut.
Nasri/Tevez/Silva vs. Carrick/Scholes – As deep as United’s midfielders are prone to sit, their job is more about clogging channels than offsetting their numerical disadvantage. Carrick and Scholes will need to stay disciplined and force overly-ambitious passes that can be cleaned up by Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans and David de Gea.
Sergio Aguero vs. Rio Ferdinand and/or Jonny Evans – It’s a horrible matchup for United’s central defenders: A quick striker that reads the game beautifully and does his damage playing along the defense. Whether they can hold their own will likely depend on how much help they get from the players around them.
It’s a big game, it’s a weekday, so PST will be doing play-by-play. Check back at 2:30 p.m. ET as we take you moment-by-moment through Monday’s big match in Manchester: City vs. United, with the Premier League title at stake.