Man Utd v Man City preview
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Last Updated: 21/10/11 4:24pm
Old Trafford provides the setting for a titanic clash on Sunday with top spot in the Premier League and Manchester bragging rights up for grabs.
Both sides have played some exhilarating football during the early part of the season and are unbeaten in their opening eight league games going into one of the most eagerly-awaited derbies in years.
They have already met once this term, of course, with United coming from behind to prevail 3-2 in the Community Shield at Wembley back in August.
While it is hard to draw too many conclusions from that game about what can be expected this weekend, hopes are high that it will be a similarly thrilling affair full of attacking endeavour.
City and United have scored more than 50 goals between them in the Premier League already and have been setting the pace in the title race from the very start.
It is Roberto Mancini's men who currently hold a two-point lead after taking advantage of United's 1-1 draw with Liverpool last Saturday to beat Aston Villa 4-1.
A trip to the red half of Manchester represents their stiffest challenge so far, even if there have been confident noises coming out of the City camp this week and defender Micah Richards says it is United who are 'frightened'.
Sir Alex Ferguson insists he is ready for the challenge, calling the match a 'six-pointer', and the Red Devils have such a formidable record at home they will fancy their chances of returning to the top of the table by 3.30pm on Sunday afternoon.
United have dropped just two points in their last 25 games at Old Trafford, with those coming against West Brom last season after United had given themselves a two-goal lead.
Ferguson can be expected to name his strongest available line-up for the visit of City after carefully managing his players through the past couple of games.
Wayne Rooney returned to the starting XI against Otelul Galati in the UEFA Champions League after being surprisingly named on the substitutes' bench at Anfield, and will be relishing the chance to shine again on Sunday following his spectacular late winner in last season's corresponding fixture.
Midfielder Tom Cleverley (foot) and Brazilian defender Rafael (shoulder) remain sidelined but Ferguson has no fresh fitness worries and faces some tough selection decisions.
Nemanja Vidic came back into the side for the win over Galati and is set to start despite being sent off in Europe, while Rio Ferdinand missed the trip to Romania to save him for the derby.
Manchester City stayed at home in midweek as they claimed a vital 2-1 victory over Villarreal to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the last 16 of the Champions League.
Sergio Aguero stepped off the substitutes' bench to score the last-gasp winner and is likely to start at Old Trafford after recovering from a groin injury.
Mario Balotelli comes back into contention following his European suspension and will hope to partner Aguero up front after impressing against Villa.
Edin Dzeko is another attacking option, although Carlos Tevez is not expected to play any part against his former club after attending a club disciplinary hearing over Mancini's allegation that he refused to come on at Bayern Munich, which the player denies.
Mancini has been very positive in his approach this term and has made it clear he wants to win against United, so City are unlikely to tinker too much with a successful formula and they have no major injury worries.
Gael Clichy may replace Aleksandar Kolarov at left-back and Richards could come in for Pablo Zabaleta on the opposite flank if Mancini decides to freshen things up.
Possible starting XIs
Manchester United: De Gea, Smalling, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Nani, Giggs, Fletcher, Young, Rooney, Hernandez.
Manchester City: Hart, Richards, Lescott, Kompany, Clichy, Y Toure, De Jong, Silva, Nasri, Balotelli, Aguero.
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