4 Key Battles That Could Decide the Highly Anticipated Manchester Derby on Thursday Night

It's Manchester City against Manchester United in the Premier League on THURSDAY night and that is a little bit odd - nevertheless, it's here and it promises to be a cracking game with a heck of a lot on the line for both sides. A single point separates the bitter rivals and a win would be absolutely brilliant for both in terms of renewed end-of-season objectives and those all-important bragging rights. Manchester United have been going well enough in the Europa League and are expected to win...

Sergio Aguero vs Eric Bailly

Sergio Aguero is expected to be back leading the line for City after it emerged the reason he was substituted against Arsenal was because of a slight muscle injury.

He will be tasked with trying to breach a very stubborn United defence led by Eric Bailly, who is proving to be a real rock at back for the Red Devils.

The pacey Ivorian will likely represent one of Aguero's toughest opponents this season, and has the athleticism and aggression to neutralise the attacking instincts of the Argentine.

Marcus Rashford vs Vincent Kompany

Marcus Rashford was left on the bench by Jose Mourinho against Burnley at Turf Moor despite his Europa League heroics on Thursday, probably with this game in mind.

Rashford has caused City real problems in the past (who can forget how silly he made Martin Demichelis look) and will be eyeing a starting spot up top in the wake of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's season-ending injury.

Standing in the young England man's way will be Vincent Kompany, who's ability to deal with pacey strikers could really be put to the test on Thursday.

Leroy Sane vs Antonio Valenica

Antonio Valencia was also preserved at the weekend against Burnley, and like Rashford, will likely come back into the side for the trip to the Etihad.

Valencia has arguably been one of the best right-backs in the league this season and can perhaps count himself unlucky not to have gained a place in the PFA's Team of the Season.

It should be a fascinating battle between him and Leroy Sane, who recently gained himself a Young Player of the Year nomination.

Guardiola has started Sane in each of City's last 11 Premier League matches and it's clear the Spaniard sees him as a refreshing talent as do the majority of neutrals.

The German is extremely direct and has frighteningly quick feet, meaning Valencia will have to bring his A-game.

The Ecuadorian is of course known for his own marauding runs down the United right, which means a bit of back-tracking might be in order for Sane. Blink and you'll miss it. 

Jose Mourinho vs Pep Guardiola

The Manchester derby could well be decided by whoever manages to get their tactics right on the night - meaning that Jose vs Pep could well be where the game is won and lost.

The two bosses have arguably been the hardest to predict this season before games when it comes to tactics, formations and personnel.

There is only one point separating the two clubs in the Premier League so essentially, neither has really been significantly better than the other up until this point - perhaps Mourinho has shaded it with the EFL Cup triumph and his squad management over a long season.

Pep has made mistakes this season but when he gets it right, his teams have torn sides apart, and City can look like one of the best attacking teams in world football.

United's defence has looked solid over the last couple of months so it will be interesting to see how Mourinho approaches this away game, given what is at stake.

You get the feeling that come the end of this one, the word 'masterclass' will be doing the rounds on social media, but whose name will precede the term?

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