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Premier League Preview: Man City v. Man United

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  • Man City (3rd) trail Liverpool by 11 points
  • Man United (6th) eight points out of 4th
  • Last meeting: Man United 0-2 Man City

For the first time in recent memory, Manchester City and Manchester United each find themselves failing to meet expectations — by their own respective standards, at least — as they prepare to meet at the Etihad Stadium in the 179th Manchester derby on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

Man City, the two-time defending Premier League champions, are looking increasingly unlikely to retain their crown for a third straight season but look a surefire bet to finish in the top-four, which is a place for which Man United would bite your hand off as they currently trail leaders Liverpool by more points (22) than they have points of their own (21).

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The struggles for United have been all about consistency as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side hasn’t won back-to-back games all season. The Red Devils haven’t won two in a row in the PL since March. On the bright side, United turned in one of their complete performances of the season on Wednesday, spoiling Jose Mourinho’s return to Old Trafford and beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1. Marcus Rashford scored both goals and Solskjaer couldn’t rave enough about his 22-year-old forward after the game. From start to finish, United were the better team and looked in majority control, which isn’t something they’ve been able to say often in 2019.

As for City, they’ve simply been “not good enough” without ever actually being “bad” this season, given Liverpool’s scintillating form (14W-1D-0L thus far). Realistically, City likely need to pick up all 69 remaining points this season, and even then they might still come up short.

Injuries/suspensions

Man City: OUT – Sergio Aguero (thigh), Aymeric Laporte (knee), Leroy Sane (knee), Oleksandr Zinchenko (knee)

Man United: OUT – Anthony Martial (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Marcos Rojo (undisclosed); QUESTIONABLE: Paul Pogba (ankle), Nemanja Matic (groin), Diogo Dalot (groin)


Projected lineups

Man City: Ederson — Walker, Otamendi, Fernandinho, Angeliño — Rodri, De Bruyne, Silva — Bernardo, Jesus, Sterling

Man United: De Gea — Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young — Fred, McTominay, James, Mata, Lingard — Rashford


What they’re saying

Pep Guardiola, on the derby: “It’s Man United. I respect what they’ve done for English football, European, and world football. United have huge history and their quality is always there but we must try to beat them. We play against a good team, try to follow the performances we’ve put in and try to win the game. You know my opinion on the title race.”

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on his derby memories: “It took many years before I played a Manchester derby myself. Of course, Man City are a better team now than when I was playing. … Confidence is a strange thing in football; you can get performances and results like Wednesday night and it boosts it so much. And I know our boys will be up for it. 24 hours less recovery time [than City] shouldn’t matter, you go on adrenaline.”


Prediction

The win over Tottenham was impressive, no doubt about it, but City remain a challenge of an entirely different class, no matter what their points total says. If the title is well and truly gone for Guardiola’s side, then retaining superiority in Manchester will have to suffice. City 3-1 United.

Projected lineups: Man City v. Man United

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A feisty Manchester Derby takes center stage at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as Man City and Man United need the points for their respective title and top four bids.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

With key players missing or injury doubts for both teams, there is plenty of debate about who will line up for Man City and Man United.

Below we look at how Pep Guardiola and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should set up their teams and give our own analysis of the situation.


Man City

—– Ederson —–

— Walker — Stones — FernandinhoAngelino

—- Rodri —- Silva —-

—- Bernardo —- De Bruyne —- Sterling —-

—– Jesus —–


Man United

—– De Gea —–

— Wan-Bissaka — Lindelof — Maguire — Young —

—- McTominay —- Fred —-

— James — Lingard — Rashford —

—– Martial —–


Analysis: Man City have a few big decisions to make in defense, with either John Stones or Nicolas Otamendi expected to partner Fernandinho at center back, with Otamendi likely to get the nod after playing against Burnley in midweek. At full back Pep has been rotating his options with Angelino maybe edging ahead of Mendy, while Walker seems to be winning the battle with Cancelo. For now. Midfield picks itself with Rodri the holder and Kevin De Bruyne playing ahead of him, but the big decisions is who out of David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan starts alongside Rodri. Up top Riyad Mahrez is pushing Bernardo Silva for a start with Raheem Sterling on the other flank and Gabriel Jesus continuing up top with Aguero out injured.

Given their injury issues, which have eased a little, Man United’s lineup choices are a little simpler. De Gea will have Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire and probably Young ahead of him, while McTominay’s return in midfield is a big boost and he will likely line up with Fred. Up top they are sweating on the fitness of Anthony Martial who missed the midweek win against Tottenham and is questionable to start, but Rashford, Lingard and James are expected to start behind either Martial or Mason Greenwood.

Liverpool smash five past rivals Everton

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Sadio Mane had a goal and two assists as Liverpool tore through Everton back line in a 5-2 win at Anfield on Wednesday to bring their table lead back to eight points.

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Divock Origi scored twice, with Xherdan Shaqiri and Georginio Wijnaldum also scoring in the win.

Michael Keane and Richarlison netted for Everton, who slipped into the relegation zone. The Toffees sit 18th, a point behind three teams.


Three things we learned

1. Klopp’s “second choice” attack brings first class results: Origi continued his Toffee-killing ways with a first half brace, and Shaqiri delivered a goal while Adam Lallana didn’t look too rusty in a rare start. The manager has done this to his Merseyside rivals before, thumbing his nose at the gulf in class by keeping stars out of the Starting XI. It’s difficult to perceive it as anything but that, especially considering that there’s no giant ahead: Bournemouth is Saturday’s opponent.

2. Reds open floodgates and own back line in 6-goal first half: Make no mistake about the fact that Liverpool was much, much better than the Toffees in opening a 4-1 lead before halftime, but Richarlison’s wide open headed goal as the teams headed to the locker rooms showed the

3. Toffees do little to save under fire Silva: There was graft and guile, but Everton had little impact on a wobbly Reds back line. Alex Iwobi and Richarlison had their moments, to be sure, and the two goals are nice, but the Toffees were carved up like a holiday feast. Now in the Bottom Three, Everton looks at the following fixtures ahead: Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal, with a League Cup trip to Leicester City thrown into the mix.

Man of the Match: Origi had two great goals and Sadio Mane relished his Derby day. He would’ve gotten our nod after a goal and two sensational assists but he missed an 81st minute chance as if to prove his fallibility and then blew a breakaway chance in the 85th. Origi gets his derby due.


Origi had Liverpool ahead before the clock hit six, finishing a lightning counter attack. It was inspired by an incredible pass from Sadio Mane, and Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made the highlight look better by charging to the top of the 18 and letting the Belgian walk around him.

Shaqiri had it 2-0 just over 10 minutes later. Trent Alexander-Arnold sent a rocket cross some 60 yards that Mane took down with his chest before playing the Swiss striker into the box for calm finish past Pickford.

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The Toffees answered through unlikely source Keane, who walked over Dejan Lovren after trapping a Alex Iwobi pass and drilled it past Adrian in the 21st minute.

Iwobi then sent Calvert-Lewin behind the Reds back line, but the Everton youngster took a sloppy touch. Virgil Van Dijk fouled the player but it wasn’t called by Mike Dean and VAR was not going to call it back.

Origi had it 3-1 before long, though, running onto a long ball from Dejan Lovren and taking two classy touches to complete his brace.

Liverpool were still in danger at times, as Richarlison was denied an assist from a sliding Lovren in the 44th.

Mane then made it 4-1 before the end of the half, as Alexander-Arnold led a counter attack off an Everton corner.

Richarlison answered in first half stoppage, turning a Bernard cross past Adrian with a fine header.

Liverpool started the second half in brighter fashion, and Everton’s chances were fewer and farther between. Tom Davies mishit a chance that Adrian comfortably gathered in the 65th.

Mane missed two chances to seal the deal, but Moise Kean let him off the hook by beating Adrian but firing wide in the 85th.

Wijnaldum added Liverpool’s fifth in the 90th minute, taking a feed after Roberto Firmino roasted Mason Holgate and poking past Pickford.

Rodri, Jesus lead Man City to easy win

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Gabriel Jesus got Manchester City back in the win column ahead of a weekend derby, as the reigning champions scored a professional 4-0 win over Burnley at Turf Moor on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Riyad Mahrez scored his 50th Premier League goal and Rodri also scored for City, who became the third team to break the 30-point marker and joins Leicester City on 32. Man City hosts Manchester United at 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Robbie Brady scored in the 89th minute to ruin the clean sheet. Burnley dips into 11th with 18 points, six clear of the Bottom Three. The Clarets visit Spurs on Saturday.


Three things

1. Gabby goes good: Manchester City’s second league match without Sergio Aguero went much better than the first, and the 22-year-old Jesus deserves all the credit. Both of his goals were clinical finishes, the first a beauty from just inside the 18 and the second a thumping, leaping volley of a Bernardo Silva pass. His fourth and fifth goals helped City ease to the win ahead of an intense weekend derby.

2. Rodri’s pile pildriver seals the deal: The Spaniard’s second Premier League was a scorcher of the hottest quality. David Silva‘s shot was blocked onto the path of Rodri, who hit a volley past a flying, splayed Pope. We’re not sure his hand would’ve held up to the pressure of this incredible rip.

3. Feast of famine Clarets fail to give it a go: Sean Dyche set up negatively and mostly limited damage, but the home crowd will have been hoping for something more from a side which has either been strong or miserable for the better part of a month. Burnley’s last five fixtures have ended multiple goals to nil: 3-0 losses to City and Sheffield United, a 2-0 defeat versus Palace, and 3-0 beatings of Watford and West Ham.

Man of the Match: Rodri — Aside from the blazing goal, Rodri completed 90 of 99 passes while winning four aerials and three tackles.


It comes as little surprise that City controlled the early stages, and had the ball in the goal only to see a flag rightly raised when an offside Gabriel Jesus redirected an Angelino drive past Nick Pope.

Jesus would break through in the 24th minute, swirling a shot around Pope which looked an awful lot like Jack Grealish‘s marvelous goal versus Manchester United this weekend.

Pope continues to shine at Turf Moor, and made a strong leg save to deny Bernardo Silva before halftime, one of several interventions in the frame.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Jesus again got the better of Pope when Kevin De Bruyne played Bernardo on the right of the box. The Portuguese sent a cross to the back post that a leaping Jesus smashed into the goal for 2-0.

Dwight McNeil ripped a free kick on frame that Ederson collected in the 61st minute.

Rodri’s rocket goal was joining by a savvy strike from Mahrez in the 87th minute, Phil Foden laying off to the Algerian for a dribble to the top of 18 and drive past Pope.

Brady denied City its clean sheet when he ran onto a loose ball at the back post in the 89th.

Messi wins 6th Ballon d’Or

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Lionel Messi is back on top.

For the sixth time, the hosts at France Football’s end-of-year awards ceremonies read out Messi’s name as the winner of the Ballon d’Or. The 2019 award is Messi’s first since 2015. Since the the award was won by Cristiano Ronaldo twice and Luka Modric last year after guiding Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final.

So far this season, Messi has scored 14 goals to go with eight assists for Barcelona in all competitions. Last season however, Messi returned to his dominance, leading La Liga with 36 goals and scoring a total of 48 between the league and the UEFA Champions League. He also had 16 assists between both leagues.

Also honored on Monday evening was the winners of the Best Young Player and the Best Goalkeeper, a new award.

The goalkeeping award, named after the Soviet great Lev Yashin, went to Liverpool’s Alisson Becker. The Brazilian goalkeeper backstopped Liverpool in his first season in England to second place in the Premier League and the 2019 UEFA Champions League title. He’s recorded 21 clean sheets in 45 Premier League appearances so far.

Matthijs de Ligt, the former Ajax star who led his team to back to back Champions League semifinals, was named the Best Young Player by France Football. Now with Juventus, de Ligt is part of a superstar generation of young Dutch players who are looking to take their nation far at the 2020 Euros and beyond. De Ligt, at just 20-years old, still has many of his best years ahead of him.

The top ten in the final 2019 Ballon d’Or is as follows:

10. Riyad Mahrez, Man City

9. Bernardo Silva, Man City

8. Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich

7. Alisson Becker, Liverpool

6. Kylian Mbappe, PSG

5. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

4. Sadie Mane, Liverpool

3. Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus

2. Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool

1. Lionel Messi, Barcelona