Man City v Man Utd preview
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Last Updated: 30/04/12 7:16pm
Roberto Mancini and Sir Alex Ferguson go head-to-head in a potential title decider
The destiny of the Premier League title could be decided on Monday in what promises to be an unmissable Manchester derby between City and United.
Rarely has so much rested on the outcome of a local feud, with both sides prepared to admit that this is as big as domestic clashes get.
With just three points separating the two sides heading into a heavyweight encounter at the Etihad Stadium, a positive result for either would see them claim the upper hand with just two more fixtures to come.
United are seasoned veterans when it comes to title-chasing, but City believe they are the future kings of English football.
A 6-1 victory at Old Trafford in the reverse fixture back in October suggested a changing of the guard may be on the cards, but United have refused to surrender their crown without a fight and have surged their way back to the summit.
The Red Devils have, however, dropped five points in their last three Premier League fixtures, while City have been perfect during that run to haul themselves back into the title hunt.
The Blues have been buoyed by the return of Carlos Tevez from a self-imposed exile, with the Argentine frontman having netted four times in his last three outings to suggest he is ready to gun down his former employers.
United have their own striking hot-shot to call upon, though, and have seen Wayne Rooney spearhead their title defence with 13 goals in his last 11 games.
The Red Devils also boast an enviable record at the Etihad, with only one defeat suffered in their last five visits to the home of their noisy neighbours.
City, though, have swept all before them in league fixtures in front of their supporters and have taken 77 points from the last 81 on offer.
There would appear to be little to choose between the blue and red halves of Manchester ahead of an eagerly-anticipated encounter and it could be that one moment of magic, or a mistake brought on by the intensity of the occasion, makes the difference.
Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli is available again after serving a three-match ban for his sending off at Arsenal.
It remains to be seen whether he will be recalled to Roberto Mancini's starting XI given the form of Sergio Aguero and Tevez, and the continued question marks over his temperament.
Defender Micah Richards (hamstring) is fit again after missing last week's win at Wolves.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson must decide whether to make changes to his league leaders and tinker with his tactics.
Full-back Rafael would appear to be at the most risk of losing his place from the team that threw away a two-goal lead in the final seven minutes of last Sunday's encounter with Everton.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling could both step in, while Ferguson may also opt to reinforce his midfield with either Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley or Park Ji-sung at the expense of a wide player or Danny Welbeck.
Portuguese winger Nani is doubtful after picking up an ankle injury in training, but Jonny Evans will be in contention for a starting berth after shaking off a knock.
Possible starting XIs
Man City: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Milner, De Jong, Yaya Toure, Silva, Aguero, Tevez.
Man Utd: De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Park, Rooney.
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Unmissable - City v Utd
Goalkeeper Joe Hart believes the pendulum has swung Manchester City's way as the race for the Premier League title reaches boiling point.
Sir Alex Ferguson's worst nightmare is losing the title to Man City on goal difference, says Gary Neville.
Danny Welbeck left the Etihad Stadium in a protective boot on Monday, compounding Manchester United's derby misery.
- Caution costs
- Fergie points finger at Mancini
- Mancini maintains caution
- Kompany 'buzzing' after win
- Kompany takes City top
- City v United
- Evra - City must be stopped
- Tevez - I want to stay at City
- Giggs - Let's make statement
- Mancini eyes 'greatest' title
- Carrick - Derby not decisive
- Aguero has no exit plans
- Fergie - Defeat ends chase
- Nani eyes new deal
- Kompany won't change style
- Mancini - Utd still favourites
- Fergie - Derby of all derbies
- Barry relishing second chance