Manchester City continues to close in on yet another Premier League title as it hosts Manchester United in the latest installment of the Manchester Derby. Kickoff on Sunday is set for 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
Manchester City has not lost in the Premier League since a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on Nov. 21. United is second in the Premier League table, 14 points behind City, but has drawn their last two Premier League matches and four of their last five.
Who: Manchester United (14-9-4, 51 points) at Manchester City (20-5-2, 65 points).
When: Sunday, March 7, 2021.
Time: 11:30 a.m. Eastern.
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester (55,017).
TV: NBC Sports Network and Telemundo.
Latest line: -200 for a Manchester City win, +550 for a Manchester United win and +310 for a draw.
Here is some of what Steve Douglas of the Associated Press wrote about how a win on Sunday might all but clinch the Premier League title for Manchester City.
The divergence in fortunes of City and United over the past five weeks — they were separated by just a point at the top of the standings on Jan. 27 — has been dramatic.
City hasn’t lost a match in any competition in that period and is riding a record 21-game winning run that has pushed Pep Guardiola’s team into a 14-point lead.
Second-place United, meanwhile, has won just two of its eight league matches in that time and its attacking game has sputtered to a halt, the last three matches played by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side finishing 0-0.
“They always get good results here at the Etihad Stadium but we know the opportunity we have to extend our advantage,” Guardiola said Friday.
Squad strength, and the respective managers’ utilization of it, has played a key role.
United’s players, to put it bluntly, look shot after playing games every three or four days since the start of the season owing to their involvement in the Europa League and going deep in both domestic cup competitions.
Marcus Rashford, for example, has played a part in each of the team’s last 30 games dating back to Nov. 21. Bruno Fernandes, the star playmaker, has missed just one of those matches — a win in the FA Cup over second-tier Watford on Jan. 9 when he was an unused substitute.
Quite why Solskjaer deemed it necessary to give both players 45 minutes in the second leg of the last-32 match against Real Sociedad in the Europa League last week, with United already leading 4-0 from the first game, is a relevant question.
Rashford and Fernandes were visibly off their game in the goalless draw at Crystal Palace on Wednesday. Naturally, both played the full 90 minutes, highlighting Solskjaer’s dependence on certain individuals.
This is where City and Guardiola differ, and it might be why the team has managed to come through the grueling schedule so well.
There’s no denying City has the best and deepest squad in the league — it didn’t go unnoticed that Guardiola had $500 million worth of talent on his bench for the 2-1 win over West Ham on Saturday — but he can fall back on a settled style developed over years as well as a structure that does not rely on one individual and can operate at a high level whichever players slot in at a given time.
It’s why City barely missed Kevin De Bruyne when the Belgium midfielder was recently out for a month with a hamstring injury. Guardiola found other solutions. It’s why City has managed to stay on course for a quadruple this season despite its best striker, Sergio Aguero, starting just four games in all competitions because of injuries.
Again, Guardiola has eventually solved the problem, often playing without a striker but still seeing the goals fly in.
Manchester City will host Manchester United at Etihad Stadium in the latest Manchester Derby on Sunday.
The clubs stand atop the Premier League standings, with Manchester City separating itself in first place with 65 points. Manchester United is coming off back-to-back draws and sits in second with 51 points after 27 matches played.