It is a dream scenario for Manchester City and a nightmare one for Manchester United. Saturday’s showdown between the local rivals at the Etihad Stadium gives Pep Guardiola’s side the chance to wrap up the Premier League title with victory over their neighbours, whose hopes of a title were in effect over before the turn of the year. In shore, City supporters could not have chosen a more perfect situation. Football betting fans are also in great shape with exciting odds from many top bookmakers.
The table-toppers have been champions-elect ever since the return fixture in December, when goals from Nicolas Otamendi and David Silva on either side of half-time earned the visitors to Old Trafford a 2-1 win. That result increased City’s lead at the summit of the standings to 11 points.
That gap has only grown bigger since then. Guardiola’s men have failed to emerge victorious in only three of their 15 subsequent top-flight encounters (draws at Burnley and Crystal Palace, and a 4-3 defeat by Liverpool), their advantage now stands at 16 points heading into this weekend’s derby.
There is one complication for City and punters: the Champions League. Saturday’s meeting with United comes sandwiched between the two legs of their quarter-final against Liverpool, and Guardiola has already made it clear that Europe is his priority with the title all but secured.
“For the line-up we have to think about the Champions League… we are going to adapt in the game against United,” the Catalan said after last weekend’s 3-1 triumph over Everton that helped propel his club even closer to the British championship.
The outcome of Wednesday’s trip to Anfield will determine the extent to which City shuffle their pack; a comfortable win on Merseyside may alter Guardiola’s thinking, but the likelihood is that the tie will still be finely poised heading into next Tuesday’s return.
That complicates matters when it comes to picking a tip for this match, but City are clear favourites – BetBright offer 7/10 on a home win, while Ladbrokes offers 3/4 odds – and are widely expected to get the job done regardless of the 11 players who trot out at teatime on Saturday.
Similarly, low odds are available on both teams to score, with 888Sports going with odds of 7/10 while Redbet has set a line 10/13, both of which represent common lines across the board. With that in mind, it could be worth combining those two selections into one bet and backing a Manchester City win with both teams to score.
City have been imperious at home for the majority of the campaign, with August’s 1-1 draw with Everton still the only time they have not triumphed in front of their own supporters in the Premier League.
City has scored an extraordinary 51 times in their 15 top-tier matches at the Etihad – more than every team outside the top six has managed in total this term – including three against Arsenal, four against Tottenham and five against Liverpool. It is therefore difficult to see United shutting them out, even if the Red Devils did draw 0-0 at this ground in 2016-17.
It is also worth considering the changes Guardiola is likely to make and examining whether or not City will be significantly weaker as a result. Vincent Kompany is likely to be rested and David Silva may also begin the game on the substitutes’ bench, while Sergio Aguero has been struggling with a knee injury and could be saved for midweek.
The likes of Ederson, Kyle Walker, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have tended to play whenever fit, though, and City’s side cannot exactly be deemed second-rate if back-ups of the quality of Ilkay Gundogan, John Stones and Bernardo Silva are called upon.
From United’s perspective, this is an important match even if first place has not been a realistic target for some time. Jose Mourinho adopted a rather negative approach for trips to Chelsea and Liverpool earlier in the season and was duly rewarded with a grand total of zero goals.
Still, the Red Devils do not have as much to lose on this occasion: United’s top-four place is safe, they cannot win the league and they will still be favourites for second even if they lose here.
Considering all this, it would be wise for Mourinho to ensure his side get bodies forward on the counter-attack, particularly as the speed and movement of Jesse Lingard, Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial has the potential to cause City problems in transition.