The Manchester Derby is always a big deal but the stakes are especially high for the upcoming matchup between Manchester United and Manchester City set for Saturday at Etihad Stadium. These teams have been playing each other since 1881 and this season there are so many storylines it’s hard to decide where to focus. Manchester United currently leads the English Premier League three points ahead of Manchester City–that, of course, means that a victory here by the home team would leave the two crosstown rival tied for the lead.
On the other hand, the team’s fortunes in European Cup competition couldn’t be more divergent. Manchester City is cruising in the Champions League–they’ve already locked up Group H and are 5 points clear of their nearest challengers. That means their Champions League group play finale at Old Trafford against CFR Cluj is meaningless to Man U bordering on an ‘inconvenience’ with the Manchester Derby on deck. Sir Alex Ferguson has all but said that they won’t take this game too seriously and will rest many of the team’s starters.
Manchester City, meanwhile, was embarrassed by their dismissal in Group D of the Champions League. City went winless in group play and finished dead last in the four team group. The denouement was a listless 1-0 setback at Borussia Dortmund that has their fans grumbling in what has otherwise been a stellar season. Their form of late hasn’t been great–they drew their last EPL game prior to the Borussia Dortmund loss–but nothing too serious. Some backers are uneasy about City’s lack of offensive punch in these games with only 1 goal in their last two contests.
Manchester United’s form has generally been strong having won three straight and eight of their last nine Premier League contests. A big component of this season’s success has been Man U’s play away from Old Trafford–they’ve taken 18 points out of a possible 24 on the road. There’s some concern about their sloppy 4-3 victory over lowly Reading last time out but we’re willing to draw a line through that–clearly that was a matter of focus being elsewhere.
Sir Alex Ferguson has challenged his team to play better defense through the media–Man U is #12 in goals allowed which doesn’t sound too bad until you consider that six of the eight teams below them are ranked #15 or lower in the Premier League table. Manchester City has been just the opposite–they’re the stingiest team in the league defensively allowing only 11 goals in Premier League play. Both teams are good offensively–Man U is the #1 ranked goal scoring team in the league while City is #3. Worth noting that Man U’s offense has been on another level–they’ve scored 37 goals this season which is 9 more than their nearest competitor. On a per game average basis that’s just under a half goal advantage per game.
No matter how you slice it it’s a fascinating matchup but our concern is betting value. Given their recent offensive struggles and defensive focus City will likely try to ‘take the air out of the ball’ to slow down the potent Man U attack. That may or may not work–Man U will likely make the most of their limited chances and could easily win a 1-0 game. But the stakes here are high for both sides and the most likely outcome is a low scoring draw. We’ll bet accordingly.
Bet Manchester City/Manchester United Draw 5/2
Bet Manchester City/Manchester United Under 2.5 23/20