Manchester City vs. Manchester United
EFL Cup: Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at 2:45 pm ET (Etihad Stadium)
Line and Odds: City -344/United +719 — Over -111/Under -119
FREE SOCCER Pick Manchester City vs Manchester United
City look to secure passage to the Final
Manchester United travel to the home of their cross-city rivals in a bid to keep their hunt for trophies this season fully intact. City have a 3-1 lead going into the second-leg of this EFL Cup semi-final tie and will look to finish off what they started at Old Trafford.
Pep Guardiola’s men come into this match as clear favorites. City are unbeaten in their last eight matches and have four wins and a draw in their last five. The run began with their first-leg victory over United in this tie. The Blues then thrashed Aston Villa 6-1 and just got past Sheffield United 1-0 away from home, but a disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Crystal Palace was sandwiched in between. City got back to winning ways with a 4-0 victory over Fulham in the FA Cup to keep their hopes of retaining the trophy alive and kicking.
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer has plenty of work to do, though the problems the Red Devils find themselves in are far beyond their manager. The reactions from the club’s administration in the January transfer windown have been just as erratic as the team’s performances on the pitch in their last five matches. United have three wins and two losses in their last five matches. A crushing 4-0 victory over Norwich was followed by a close 1-0 victory over Wolves, both at Old Trafford. But hopes of a mini-revival went straight back to nought as United lost two on the trot. League leaders Liverpool first dispatched them away in a routine 2-0 victory at Anfield before Burnley outplayed them at Old Trafford and ran out 2-0 winners. Solksjaer’s side returned to winning ways in a 6-0 mauling of Tranmere in the FA Cup, but are undeniably underdogs going into this match.
FREE SOCCER Prediction Manchester United vs Manchester City
Last Time Out
City comfortably saw off the hosts in a routine victory. Three first half goals, from Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and an Andreas Pereira own goal, saw City take a commanding lead into half-time. They could have added more in the second half, but a much-improved United were the ones who got the goal through Marcus Rashford. However, Guardiola’s men made sure there weren’t any more slip-ups and returned to the other side of Manchester with a more than useful lead.
Kevin de Bruyne is one player United should be extremely concerned about. The Belgian has seven goals and a whopping 15 assists so far this season. de Bruyne has shown time and again that he can unlock defences in a split-second, but what United will really need to watch out for are the his passes through midfield. The 28-year-old embodies Guardiola’s pass-and-move system. He’s never static and always wants the ball. If the United midfield cannot block him out, de Bruyne will make them pay.
Fernandinho will also be vital for City. The Brazilian has been forced to play at centre-back due to injury and form problems faced by the other defenders, but has slotted in admirably. United are likely to sit back and wait for counter-attacks and often, Fernandinho is the only outfield player left in the City half. Not only will he have to marshall his defence, but the 34-year-old will also have to make sure he is not beaten too easily by United’s pacy frontline.
Daniel James has flattered to deceive after a bright start to his United career, but will have a crucial role to play here. With Rashford out with an injury, the Welsh winger will have to step up. City will provide him with the best chance to do that as their full-backs are often in the attacking half. James will have space and time to latch on to the ball and run in behind the defence. Quite often, he has bungled the final pass, but United will require the 22-year-old to deliver some killer ones tonight.
Harry Maguire is yet another summer signing, whose abilities have repeatedly been questioned by fans and pundits alike. The English centre-back has certainly not shown enough reasons to justify his price tag, but can turn it around in what remains of this season. Maguire scored his first United goal against Tranmere – a stunning strike from outside the box – and has been given the captain’s armband ahead of other senior players. If the 26-year-old can step up in games like these, Solksjaer’s decision to make him the skipper might just attract a little lesser doubt.
Leroy Sane will still be unavailable for selection, though the German has returned to training with the squad. Riyad Mahrez was taken off against Fulham as a precaution and it is not known if he will feature while Aymeric Laporte, who did not play against Fulham, might be back for this clash.
Predicted Line-up: Ederson; Mendy, Laporte, Fernandinho, Walker; Gundogan, Rodri, de Bruyne; Sterling, Aguero, Bernardo.
Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay and Marcus Rashford are the big names absent for this match while Marcos Rojo, Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu-Mensah are also unavailable.
Predicted Line-up: de Gea; Williams, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan-Bissaka; Matic, Fred; Andreas, Lingard, James; Martial.