Manchester City will be without Sergio Agüero and David Silva for Sunday’s trip to Old Trafford to take on local foes Manchester United, but manager Manuel Pellegrini is confident his squad has the weapons to come out on top. City’s two outstanding attacking players, Agüero and Silva, both picked up injuries on international duty earlier this month and remain on the sidelines for a crucial top-of-the-table clash.
Yet their two performances since the pair went down injured provide encouragement that City can cope with their absence. Against Bournemouth last weekend, Raheem Sterling struck a hat-trick in a 5-1 win to maintain City’s two-point edge at the top of the Premier League standings. On Wednesday, it was the turn of City’s other huge summer signing to deliver.
Tied 1-1 with Sevilla going into injury time of their Champions League contest at the Etihad, Kevin de Bruyne found the bottom corner of the net with his left foot to deliver a vital win. That made it four goals in eight appearances, along with his three assists, since he arrived for around £54 million from Wolfsburg. And Pellegrini believes the Belgian could be crucial on Sunday, and didn’t rule out playing him in an unfamiliar striker role.
“De Bruyne is important with Silva or without Silva, but I think that he’s demonstrating every game why it was so important for us to sign him,” he said in his pre-match press conference. “He plays an offensive style and tries to arrive as often as possible to the other box. Scoring the goal he scored the other day he demonstrated that he’s a different player.
“We hope to see a lot of goals, the most important thing is to win the game. There are different ways to try to win, I think we have one, I hope for fans it’s a good show and a good game. We have players with characteristics that can play different ways, and every one of them can score.”
While De Bruyne was handing City a vital win on Wednesday, Manchester United were fighting back from behind to claim a 1-1 draw against CSKA Moscow, 1,600 miles away in the Russian capital. United manager Louis van Gaal admitted that the lengthy travel was a concern, although believes they have taken the steps to ensure that the team can still come out on top at Old Trafford.
Manchester United were victorious in the corresponding fixture last season, but City would end up finishing nine points above their local rivals come the end of the season. Indeed, this will be the first time that Van Gaal will be going into a derby match with both sides vying for superiority not just in Manchester but in the Premier League. Still, with United currently trailing their neighbors by two points, Van Gaal has claimed that it is Manchester City who are favorites for Sunday’s matchup.
“It’s not important who are favorites,” he said on Friday. “When you look at the facts, they are first and we are third. There's a goal difference, points difference -- they are first, so they are the favorites I think.”
Van Gaal has relatively few fitness concerns, with only Ashley Young, Paddy McNair and Luke Shaw ruled out. As well as Agüero and Silva, City will continue to be without Samir Nasri and Fabian Delph.
G: De Gea
D: Darmian, Smalling, Jones, Rojo
M: Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger
Mata, Herrera, Martial
D: Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov
M: Toure, Fernandinho
Navas, Sterling, De Bruyne
Kickoff time: 10.05 a.m. EDT
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra