Man Utd play host to rivals Manchester City in the EFL Cup fourth round this midweek, with both in need of a lift after underwhelming recent runs of form (8pm Wednesday on Sky Sports 1).
United, who made it through to this stage of the competition by beating Northampton 3-1 last month, were thrashed 4-0 by Chelsea in the Premier League at the weekend. They have now collected only two points from the last nine available – and five from the last 15 – in the top flight.
Questions are beginning to be asked about Jose Mourinho, who has not yet inspired the turnaround that many anticipated when he was appointed as Louis van Gaal’s successor in the Old Trafford dugout in the summer. The Portuguese is struggling to make the same impact as fellow new bosses Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola (pictured) at their respective clubs. Man Utd are therefore under a bit of pressure heading into this week’s meeting with their City rivals, even though the EFL Cup is low down on their list of priorities this term.
Manchester City also dropped points at the weekend, coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Southampton at the Etihad Stadium. It is now five matches in all competitions without a victory for Guardiola’s men – who drew with Celtic and Everton, and lost to Tottenham Hotspur and Barcelona, in their previous four encounters – with their lead at the top of the Premier League table having vanished in recent weeks.
Man City, who beat Swansea in the previous round and won this tournament last year by defeating Liverpool in the final, are thus also in need of a pick-me-up on Wednesday. A triumph over their neighbours will lift the mood around the club once more.
United will have to make do without the services of Eric Bailly, Marouane Fellaini and Phil Jones (all knee), while Wayne Rooney could be set for a late fitness test as he attempts to shake off a thigh problem. Mourinho may opt to shuffle his pack and rest some of his key names – Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be left on the bench, for instance – with the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Memphis Depay, Marcos Rojo, Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin, Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Matteo Darmian all hoping to be handed rare starts.
Man City, meanwhile, will be unable to call upon Pablo Zabaleta (foot), Bacary Sagna (hamstring) and Fabian Delph (muscle). Kevin De Bruyne may also miss out after picking up a knock in the draw with Southampton. Guardiola is likely to stick with three at the back – particularly as right-backs Zabaleta and Sagna are unavailable – and is also likely to hand playing time to some of the fringe members of his squad, including Willy Caballero, Jesus Navas, Fernando, Tosin Adarabioyo and Aleix Garcia. Captain Vincent Kompany will also hope for his third start of the campaign in this Manchester Derby, after regaining full fitness in the last couple of weeks.
Our Preview’s EFL Cup Manchester Derby Betting Tips Verdict
EFL Cup matches such as this Manchester Derby are always notoriously difficult to predict given the uncertainty regarding the two teams’ line-ups, but this preview concludes it is probably worth backing a score draw at Old Trafford.
Mourinho will be desperate to get one over on Guardiola while also relieving some of the pressure on himself, but City have played the better football this term and are likely to cause the Red Devils plenty of problems. A 2-2 draw after 90 minutes could therefore be the way to go in the correct scoreline market, with Kelechi Iheanacho an astute choice for first goalscorer.
- Betting Tip: Back Manchester United and Manchester City to draw 2-2 @ best price 15/1 with BetVictor.
- Betting Tip: We recommend Kelechi Iheanacho to score the first goal of the game @ best price 6/1 with Unibet or Paddy Power.
Greg Lea is a freelance sports writer. Read the articles that he has written at Just Bookies.