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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Jose Mourinho out to spoil Man City's Premier League title party

Victory will see Pep Guardiola's side crowned champions

Vincent Kompany and his Man City teammates will be hoping to party
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Premier League
Sky Sports Premier League, 5.30pm Saturday

Manchester City would love to seal the Premier League title in style with a win over neighbours Manchester United but ultimate party pooper Jose Mourinho may have something to say about events at the Etihad.

City skipper Vincent Kompany called it a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to claim the title against United, although whether Pep Guardiola really cares who they cross the finishing line against will determine whether the runaway leaders are worth backing.

Guardiola was giving nothing away, at least in his open pre-match press conference, chatting to reporters before the players had even trained for the final time. He refused to discuss potential title celebrations, probable team tinkering or the possible return of Sergio Aguero.

That is all perfectly understandable with the Champions League quarter-final second leg against Liverpool on Tuesday but it makes determining a match bet more difficult. 

Should City be at full-strength they would have to be considered a strong selection given there is a 16-point gulf between them and second-placed United, and at least a couple of changes seem to have been factored into the match prices.

However, if it is more like an early round of the League Cup-style team it could be argued United are more than capable of keeping the champagne on ice, at least for another week.

Guardiola reportedly told several star players they would sit out the Manchester derby, although that was before the 3-0 stuffing against Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday.

Now it could be argued there is even more reason to heavily rotate the side - or it could be argued a win over United to nab the Premier League title would be the perfect morale boost after the Merseyside massacre.

Punters and bookmakers will be guessing until the teams are announced but one part of proceedings that is unlikely to change is Mourinho's attitude to big away matches, so a punt on under 2.5 goals could be the best option.

Mourinho showed, to his cost in Seville when United drew 0-0 in the Champions League, that he just will not change philosophy and it worked to some extent at the Etihad last season in a goalless stalemate.

Didi Hamann: It may pay to oppose City in Manchester derby

However, United scored only once in their five away games at top-six sides in the Premier League last term and have failed to notch on trips to Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool this season. All three went under 2.5 goals, with the exception a 3-1 success at Arsenal.

It makes sense for pride as much as points that United do everything possible to avoid defeat at City and their cause will be aided should some of Leroy Sane, Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva be given the game off to prepare for Tuesday's European comeback bid.

Under 2.5 goals
1pt 21-20 Betfair

Premier League standings

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Team news
Manchester City
Sergio Aguero needs a late fitness check. Benjamin Mendy is still working his way back from injury and Pep Guardiola could rotate.

Manchester United
Reserve keeper Sergio Romero is United's only absentee.

Key stat
Five of the last seven Manchester derbies have featured under 1.5 goals.

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City skipper Vincent Kompany called it a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to claim the title against United
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