It is another derby, this time at Old Trafford on Saturday's early kick-off, and with it comes another chance for Manchester City to prove their credentials against their illustrious neighbors Manchester United.
Expectations this time around are comparatively lower to what it was when the two sides met at Eastlands in November. And for good reason too. Those ninety minutes could probably be the purest definition of the word 'dour'. The game ended goalless, with the most exciting feature being the brief tussle between United's right-back Rafael and City skipper Tevez.
Turning back a few more pages to September 2009, when the two sides last met at Old Trafford in the league, will provide justice to the history of this great rivalry. Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, described that game as probably the best derby of all time after a 4-3 win for United with City equalizing thrice. There was action literally till the last kick of the game when Michael Owen scored the winner in the sixth minute of injury time, after Craig Bellamy had equalized two minutes back.
For the first time in a long time, the divided city of Manchester will have both its representatives directly competing for the championship. The previous occasion when the two were direct competitors for the title was in 1967-68 season, when City defeated Sir Matt Busby's United 3-1 at Old Trafford in March to begin their surge towards their second championship title, which was eventually secured on the last day of the season. Therefore, the game has a special significance attached to it.
Manchester United come to this game after seeing their 29-game unbeaten run broken at the Molineux after a 2-1 loss to Wolves. Their run, incredible as it was, was showing signs of breaking down and it came against an impressive Wolves side. Despite the loss, United head the table by four points, seven ahead of third placed City who have played a game more. What could provide them with that extra spurt of energy will be the thought of derailing City's title hopes for yet another season. The 'noisy neighbors' as Sir Alex had described them, haven't won the title in 43 years and a victory for United on Saturday will push that count.
City go into the game knowing that a loss could be fatal, as they seek to prove their credentials as genuine title contenders. On the back of a 3-0 win against West Brom, thanks to skipper Carlos Tevez's hat-trick, Roberto Manici will build his City side on a solid defense and look to hit United on the counter. Therefore, the game may not be a goal-fest, but it'll prove exciting, especially after United midfielder Paul Scholes said he wouldn't consider City a major threat unless they won a title.
Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher said, You have got to earn the title. Nobody gives you the trophy. The team that wins the league will be the team that deserved it and showed the best form throughout the season. The added weight to the tie comes in the form of the title. It will, however, always be the battle of Manchester. It will be quite a spectacle on Saturday.
Team News -
United have Javier Hernandez as a doubt after his trans-Atlantic flight landed only on Friday, while Evans, Valencia, Ferdinand and Hargreaves are all injured.
City have Mario Balotelli and Nigel de Jong battling to recover from respective injuries, while A Johnson and Richards are sidelined with injury.
Manchester City have tasted victory just once in their last 26 league games at Old Trafford, and have failed to score in four of the last five league encounters against the reds. Of the 143 league games between the two sides, they have drawn 49 of them.
As most often is the case when big teams play, both will cancel each other out with a draw the likely result. Neutrals will hope for a goal-filled, entertaining draw though, as will Arsenal fans who will benefit most from a share of spoils.