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Manchester City ready for United to try to ‘close gap’ in Premier League | Football News

Who: Manchester City vs Manchester United
What: Premier League football
When: Sunday, March 3, 2024, 15:30 GMT
Where: Etihad Stadium, Manchester, England

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola says the Premier League champions are ready for rivals Manchester United to try to “close the gap” ahead of Sunday’s derby match at the Etihad Stadium.

City are just one point behind league leaders Liverpool, who travel to Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

United are eight points off Aston Villa in fourth spot, the fourth Champions League qualification spot.

New minority owner at Old Trafford, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, laid out his plans to return the 20-time English champions to the summit when he completed his acquisition of 27 percent of the club’s shares this month, including re-establishing the pecking order in the city.

Ahead of Sunday’s match, Guardiola admits the recent change at United is likely to change matters.

“Sir Jim and others know the diagnosis of the club. If Sir Jim said they need two or three years to be there, who am I to say the opposite?” the manager said.

“I’m sure they will work to close the gap.”

Last season’s treble winners, City also added the European Super Cup and Club World Cup to their haul by the end of 2023.

Guardiola says he knows this era of dominance on the blue side of Manchester will end eventually, but he’s determined it won’t be anytime soon.

“In the ’80s it was Liverpool, the ’90s, it was United – now we are this many years, winning seven Premier League titles in the last 11, 12 years,” he said.

“It has happened, but in 50 or 60 years, there has never in one country been a club that dominates and controls everything, so we can try to extend for as many years as possible what we are trying to do.”

United’s Premier battle for a Champions League spot

Although not feasting at the top table, United have their own battles to fight and Champions League qualification is top of their agenda. A home defeat by Fulham last weekend ended a seven-game unbeaten run, but United manager Erik ten Hag remains in defiant mood.

“We are also on a good run. The spirit is very good,” he said.

“We have done it before against City, also against Liverpool. We will prepare well. The players are looking forward to it. I can smell it. I’m excited.”

City defeated United in the FA Cup final last season on the way to emulating the domestic treble only their rivals, in 1999, had previously achieved.

This fixture last season resulted in a humiliating 6-3 defeat, although United did win at Old Trafford. That was not the case this season though, with City claiming a 3-0 win in the reverse fixture in October.

“We need a great day,” ten Hag admitted. “We like the challenge and we are looking forward to the challenge with them. We know we have to give everything and show a team performance if we want to get the result. But if you do it, it is possible.”

Following the United game, City face a tough run of games facing their title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal in the league, along with their Champions League last 16-second leg with Copenhagen on Wednesday.

“I prefer that than the opposite,” Guardiola said on the challenge he faces in all competitions. “Key players, we have 20 key players. We have had key players out injured and still done well.

“So nice to play the fixtures. They are the best. A chance to get to the quarterfinals of the Champions League, then Anfield, a chance against Newcastle United [in the FA Cup] – we work to arrive here to live these moments.”

Form guide

Manchester City’s season has picked up pace since their Club World Cup triumph in December. Pep Guardiola’s side have won 14 of their last 15 games and are undefeated in their last 18 games.

United had been on a seven-game undefeated run until Fulham’s surprise win at Old Trafford in the Premier League last weekend. Erik ten Hag’s side returned to winning way in the FA Cup in midweek by overcoming Nottingham Forest 1-0.

Head-to-head

The Manchester rivals first faced each other in the old Division Two in England in November 1894. United won 5-2 at City before sealing the double over their neighbours with a 4-1 win in the return fixture in January 1985.

There have been 190 meetings in total with United winning 77 to City’s 60.

Team news

Manchester City are without Jack Grealish, who injured his groin in the FA Cup at Luton on Tuesday.

Defender Josko Gvardiol is close to a return from an ankle injury but the derby is likely to be too soon.

Manchester City predicted lineup: Ederson; Kyle Walker, Josh Stones, Ruben Dias, Nathan Ake; Rodri; Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva, Julian Alvarez, Jeremy Doku; Erling Haaland

Manchester United’s main absentees are defender Luke Shaw and striker Rasmus Hojlund. Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martinez and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are also all absent from the back line.

Manchester United predicted lineup: Andre Onana; Diogo Dalot, Raphael Varane, Jonny Evans, Victor Lindelof; Kobbie Mainoo, Casemiro; Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes, Alejandro Garnacho, Marcus Rashford




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