x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Manchester derby decider is on the cards in English Premier League

United appear to have an easier path than City, with eight of their 10 final games against teams in the bottom half of the table, but it looks like the showdown at Etihad Stadium will be key.

Javier Hernandez, left, Michael Carrick, centre, and Ryan Giggs will need to put the disappointment of their under-par performance against Athletic Bilbao at Old Trafford behind them when United host West Brom Albion on Sunday.
Javier Hernandez, left, Michael Carrick, centre, and Ryan Giggs will need to put the disappointment of their under-par performance against Athletic Bilbao at Old Trafford behind them when United host West Brom Albion on Sunday.

The Premier League title race has become a two-team affair and both Manchester teams - City and United - are in action on Sunday, looking to bounce back from midweek defeats in the Europa League.

United appear to have the easier run-in on paper, with eight of the 10 matches after Sunday against teams in the bottom half, but everything is pointing towards the Manchester derby on April 30 at Etihad Stadium being a title decider.

"We are satisfied with the situation we are in," said Michael Carrick, the United midfielder.

"But just because we have come through a tough two months doesn't mean we will sail through the next two nicely.

"We are not getting carried away and we are not taking anything for granted. We know how quickly it can come back and bite us."

Beaten in Europe on Thursday, the two clubs must ensure there is no hangover on Sunday.

United found themselves in the unusual position of being utterly dominated at home in a humbling 3-2 loss to Athletic Bilbao.

City, meanwhile, went down 1-0 against Sporting in Lisbon

United are at home to West Bromwich Albion and City face a trip to Swansea City's Liberty Stadium, where Arsenal have been beaten this season, and Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea were held to draws.

Roberto Mancini, the City manager, does not believe there will be any lasting impact of the loss in Europe.

"I am not worried," the Italian said.

"We will go through in the Europa League and Sunday will be a different game."

Kolo Toure, the City defender, was also taking a cautious approach, saying: "Every game we play between now and the end of the season is going to be massive for us."

United will be expected to beat West Brom, but manager Sir Alex Ferguson is wary of the fact the visitors were the only team to win a point at Old Trafford last season.

"West Brom are in a bit of good form just now," said the Scot. "They've won their last three, scored five against Wolves and beat Chelsea last weekend.

"But we are at home and we expect to win our home games."

Given United's fixture list, Mancini thinks it might take a record points haul to shake off their neighbours.

City can finish with a maximum of 99 points if they win all 11 remaining games - a total which would eclipse Chelsea's Premier League best of 95.

Mancini said: "If we get to 99 we will win.

"Sixty-six plus 33 is 99 - but I am not good at mathematics ...

"Swansea at home are fantastic, they are having a good season but we want to continue winning."

 

PREVIEWS

Swansea City v Manchester City

The league leaders will be without centre-back Vincent Kompany after the captain injured his calf in the Europa League defeat to Sporting on Thursday. Right-back Pablo Zabaleta also remains sidelined with a hamstring injury, but Micah Richards is expected to return to add defensive cover. Swansea will be missing Nathan Dyer. The winger starts a three-match ban for his red card against Wigan, with Wayne Routledge likely to start.

Manchester United v West Brom

Defender Chris Smalling will almost certainly be ruled out for Manchester United after the head wound he suffered on England duty opened up again, but Rio Ferdinand will return at centre-back. Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick should earn recalls in midfield after being benched for the Europa League defeat to Athletic Bilbao. For West Brom, defender Steven Reid will be sidelined for the remainder of the campaign with his ankle injury. Captain Chris Brunt is in contention to start for the first time in two months after recovering from a broken foot.

Norwich City v Wigan Athletic

Norwich defender Daniel Ayala will miss the clash with a hamstring injury and is joined on the sidelines by left-back Marc Tierney and striker James Vaughan. Centre-back Ryan Bennett is in contention after being an unused substitute during the defeat at Stoke City, where midfielder Jonny Howson made his first appearance since signing from Leeds. Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager, has had a week’s training with his squad under his belt, unlike last week, when the international break affected his selection for the defeat to Swansea.

 

THE TITLE CHASE THE REST OF THE WAY

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