City have enough in their arsenal to emerge with the points from this exquisite feud
Manchester City will never have a better chance to shrug off their loosely-fitting ‘bottler’ tag. Form suggests they’ll complete the double over Manchester United and reconquer top spot for the first time in over five weeks.
While United were stringing together eight straight wins, City were delighting the psychologists with stutters at Everton, Swansea, Stoke and Arsenal that turned them from pacesetters to chasers.
The reality was that City simply struggled to break down some of the division’s toughest home defences while their rivals revelled in everything going right.
The pattern was never sustainable and, as United’s overdue stumbles against Wigan and Everton coincided with City’s Tevez and Aguero-inspired return to form, the table now offers a fairer reflection.
Another criticism of City is that they are rattled by being in the ascendancy, and therefore will teeter with expectations rising again.
However, an uninterrupted four-month stint as leaders earlier this season, coupled with their big-match record, suggests that doubts about their ability to handle pressure are misguided.
The 1-0 Easter defeat to Arsenal was their first loss to a top-five adversary. They have won their other five, scoring 18 in the process.
In addition, they boast a perfect record at home to top-half opponents, whereas United – often almost as frightening away as their neighbours are at home – have erred at Liverpool, Newcastle and Chelsea.
This derby kneels at the altar of symmetry too. The last four times the initial league clash has produced a winner, that same team has prevailed in the rematch.
The Citizens’ role as Manchester’s second club hasn’t generated an inferiority complex in the fixture either. They have beaten the enemy five times at home in the last ten years, even with a noticeably weaker side for over half of that decade.
City have scored 51 league goals at the Etihad to the visitors’ 36 on the road, and that attacking advantage should prove decisive. Wayne Rooney has fired twice in his last five top-flight derbies, yet likely bench-warmers Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli have the same tally in just 49 and 70 minutes of action in the grudge game respectively. Tevez and Aguero meanwhile have managed 12 strikes between them in four starts together.
1. Their last five league collisions at the Etihad Stadium have provided only four goals, with no more than one goal in any of those games.
2. Manchester City have found the net in all 17 of their home league matches, with only Arsenal keeping them to fewer than two.
3. There have been red cards in three of the last four Manchester derbies, with a centre back walking in the most recent two.
4. The full-time outcome has mirrored the half-time outcome in ten of these two teams’ last 12 meetings in the Premier League.