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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Man United can take points off shaky City

Mourinho to get the better of Pep

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea
1 of 1

Premier League
Sky Sports 1, 8pm Thursday

Jose Mourinho has been playing down the significance of his third Manchester derby clash with Pep Guardiola but punters should ignore him and back his side to take at least a share of the spoils.

After Manchester United's 2-0 victory at Burnley on Sunday, Mourinho restated his opinion that the Europa League is the main priority for the rest of the season.

However, United have been making excellent progress on European and domestic fronts in recent weeks and there is no reason why that cannot continue.

The match comes at a tricky time for United, who are playing their eighth game of nine April fixtures.

But it is also far from ideal for Manchester City, who have had only three days to recover from the physical and mental stress of Sunday's FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal.

City were dominant in the opening half against the Gunners but tired as the match progressed and Pep Guardiola was forced into three enforced changes with David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho suffering minor injuries.

All three are expected to recover for the derby and Guardiola has extra options to consider with John Stones and Gabriel Jesus back in training.

In terms of numbers they look fine but it is more difficult to assess the mental fatigue inflicted by such a damaging defeat.

The FA Cup was Guardiola's last chance of winning a trophy in his first season in England and he would have fully expected City to defeat an Arsenal team who have had a miserable time in 2017.

But City were found wanting when the game got tight and it was not the first time they have failed on a big occasion this season.

In league and cup matches against the top seven they have won two, drawn four and lost seven (including the 2-1 extra-time defeat to Arsenal).

One of their two victories was a 2-1 triumph at Manchester United in early September when they played by far the better football.

City were flying at that stage but those heady days are gone and the Arsenal defeat was just the latest example of their vulnerability.

They have lost five league matches since the start of December - a stark contrast to United who are unbeaten in the Premier League since October.

United have drawn too many games to be involved in the title race but would probably accept another stalemate against City, maintaining the slender one-point gap between the teams.

The Red Devils are without Paul Pogba - withdrawn after sustaining a muscle strain towards the end of Sunday's 2-0 win at Burnley - and several other injured players, including attacking talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will not play again this season.

But United have one of the deepest squads in the league and fringe players such as Ashley Young and Anthony Martial have shown their worth in recent matches.

Mourinho's teams often thrive on perceived adversity and, far from giving up on the chase for the top four, the Portuguese will have been working fiendishly on a plan to stop city.

It might not be pretty to watch but United look value to extend their Premier League unbeaten run to 24 games.

Man Utd +0.5 on Asian handicap
1pt 26-25 bet365

Bet on this game at

Team news
Man City
David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho are expected to be passed fit despite being forced off during Sunday's FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal. John Stones is available after a minor injury and Gabriel Jesus (foot) could be involved for the first time since February. Bacary Sagna and Ilkay Gundogan (knee) are definite absentees.

Man Utd
Paul Pogba (muscle strain), Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marcos Rojo (both knee), Juan Mata (groin), Phil Jones (knee) and Chris Smalling (toe) are out.

Key stat
Manchester United are unbeaten in their last 23 league matches.

United have one of the deepest squads in the league and fringe players such as Ashley Young and Anthony Martial have shown their worth
E.W. Terms
Sky bet