With the key fixture of the mid-week games being none other than the Manchester derby, both clubs will be looking to secure a place in the top four as well as close the gap on third-place Liverpool.
Given that the one point separates Manchester City and Manchester United from one another, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho will be at it again in an interesting match with just six league games remaining of the season.
Guardiola’s men have only won eight of the 15 league games played at the Etihad Stadium, meanwhile, Mourinho’s side currently have the third best form away from home despite playing two away games fewer than Chelsea and Manchester City.
Here are the three key battles that could shape the outcome of the fixture…
Marcus Rashford vs Vincent Kompany
After being rested in the latest league game against Burnley, Marcus Rashford is expected to be re-introduced into the starting line-up and will most likely play as the lone forward once again. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic out with a long-term injury and Anthony Martial showing to be more effective from the left flank recently, the youngster will certainly relish the chance of continuing to evolve as a player arguably within his preferable position. Bagging three goals and an assist over the last five games in all competitions, Rashford has already gained the full trust of manager Jose Mourinho.
Rashford will be in for a tough and tight duel against Vincent Kompany, who returned from injury at the start of April and is still the club’s best centre-back despite only making five league appearances so far this season. The 31-year-old put in a superb performance against Southampton and is starting to get back into the groove of the player he use to be before the injury problems had occurred. Remembering his experience and pure class, Kompany surely has the ideal intelligence to nullify the threat of Rashford.
Sergio Aguero vs Eric Bailly
Manchester City’s top goal-scorer in the league, Sergio Aguero, is a doubt for the derby on Thursday but he’ll be looking to get back into full fitness in order to continue his fantastic record against the Red Devils since moving to the Premier League. The Argentine international has eight goals in the Manchester derby and is only three goals away from Wayne Rooney, who currently has the most goals in this special fixture. Despite January signing Gabriel Jesus being on the sidelines and is actually close to returning from injury, Aguero has shown that he can still offer a lot to Guardiola’s side as he has scored eight goals in his last ten appearances in all competitions.
Aguero will be up against none other than Eric Bailly, who has been one of the side’s consistent and key players since the start of the season as he’s arguably become the club’s best player within his position. Although the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are still injured and now Marcos Rojo will miss at least five months of football, the pressure instantly rises on the 22-year-old to extend his super displays till the end of the campaign as well as form a good understanding with new partner Daley Blind at the heart of defence.
Ander Herrera vs Kevin De Bruyne
Considering the fact that Paul Pogba is out with a muscular injury and Manchester United have very little options to choose from in the midfield positions, means that Ander Herrera will have to complete a performance at the highest level by offering his abilities on both sides of the pitch.
Following the impressive recognition that has he been receiving over the past few weeks, the Spaniard has evidently shown that he is a big game player and he could prove it once again on Thursday against an attacking Manchester City side.
Meanwhile for Guardiola’s men, Kevin De Bruyne is expected to play in the role as the central midfielder given that David Silva does not look to have passed the late fitness test. No other player has completed more Premier League assists than De Bruyne (13) has so far this season. Being one of the few individuals that have massively developed under Guardiola this campaign, the 25-year-old is relishing the freedom he has been given to roam wherever within the system to cause many problems for the opposition.