Premier League Preview: Manchester City vs Manchester United

Manchester United will travel to the Etihad with every intention of taking advantage of a slump in neighbors Manchester City’s form with a win in the first Manchester derby of the Louis Van Gaal era. City haven’t won any of their last three games in all competitions since Sergio Aguero scored all of the goals in a 4-1 romp over Spurs, but United are unbeaten in four – their last defeat was the 5-3 horrorshow at newly-promoted Leicester.

City will go into the game without arguably their most influential player. Spanish midfield maestro David Silva has been ruled out of this encounter following a knee injury picked up in the Capital One Cup defeat at home to Newcastle in midweek, and he will be unavailable for around a month. Ivorian destroyer Yaya Toure also picked up a knock in that game, but should recover in time to play on Sunday.

There had been reports of an injury to Wayne Rooney but manager Van Gaal has said that his captain will return from his three-match ban to play at the Etihad. Antonio Valencia is another player who could return following his recovery from a hamstring injury, but big-money loanee Radamel Falcao is ruled out with a leg injury.

Sunday’s hosts City have dominated these affairs in recent years, winning five of the last six encounters between the sides, including the last three. Their 4-1 victory last season was one of the lowest points of David Moyes’ miserable season in charge of the Red Devils, but given their current form it seems unlikely that they will repeat the feat this weekend.

Manuel Pellegrini said that he was “worried” by his side’s form following another disappointing result at home to Newcastle in midweek. “My feeling is that we are not playing well. We are in a difficult moment with a lack of trust,” he continued. “We are conceding too [many] easy goals and we are not scoring the chances we have to score.”

However, the Chilean known as ‘the Engineer’ claims that City will stick to their attacking principles to dig themselves out of their current form. “Around the end of October [2013] we had the same questions, and I answered the same way,” Pellegrini said. “It is the way we must play. We will continue doing the same way.”

His opposite number, meanwhile, is relishing the opportunity of his first meeting with City, and Van Gaal clearly feels his side have every chance of coming away with all three points. “What we have seen in the last matches was not so good,” Van Gaal said. “We have a good feeling about this match. We need a good result and it could be against Man City.”

With neither side playing to their full potential, this match could be the perfect springboard to move on to better things. City will be looking to close the gap on early pace-setters Chelsea and Southampton but know that if they fail to win, they will be at least eight points adrift of the Blues – in front of their own fans, the pressure is all on the Premier League champions.