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Premier League - Football: Five key battles in Manchester derby

In the lead-up to this weekend’s crunch Manchester Derby, we analyse the key battles which could define the Etihad clash.

Erling Haaland vs Lisandro Martinez

Notching an extraordinary 11 goals in his first seven Premier League appearances, Manchester City sensation Erling Haaland has been the talk on everyone’s lips since the Norwegian arrived at the club from Borussia Dortmund in the summer.

Haaland’s first taste of the Manchester derby will see him come head to head with one of the Premier League’s other most discussed new signings this season, Argentine centre-back Lisandro Martinez.

Following the Red Devils’ new manager Erik ten Hag in making the move from Ajax to Old Trafford ahead of this season, Martinez’s 5ft 9in frame as a central defender has been the source of much scepticism and even ridicule amongst supporters up and down the country.

The Argentina international has so far silenced his doubters, however, putting in some impressive tough-tackling displays as United have recovered from a slow start to the season to go on a run of four successive league wins heading into this weekend’s derby.

The United new man has yet to come up against a striker of Haaland’s calibre in the league so far this season, though, with the Norwegian’s almost freakish power and pace set to provide Martinez with his biggest challenge yet in a red shirt.

bet365 have boosted Haaland’s odds to score to score two or more goals from 13/5 to 10/3, and have also boosted Martinez’s odds to get booked from 11/4 to 15/4.

Kevin De Bruyne vs Scott McTominay

From the world’s most in-form striker in Haaland to arguably the most distinguished midfielder on the planet, Kevin De Bruyne.

Belgian midfield dynamo De Bruyne has started this Premier League season in outstanding form, contributing with one goal and six assists so far. It seems that when De Bruyne is on song for Pep Guardiola’s men, they are almost impossible to stop such is his ability to make things happen and unlock defences.

The man who is likely to be charged with thwarting De Bruyne in his tracks during this weekend’s Manchester derby is United’s 25-year-old midfielder Scott McTominay.

A player who has received more than his fair share of criticism from United supporters so far in his career, McTominay has enjoyed a fine start to the season himself under new manager Erik ten Hag – certainly since being paired with Christian Eriksen.

The Scotland international’s presence and energy in midfield has been so impressive in fact that marquee summer signing and four-time Champions League- winning midfielder Casemiro has been made to wait for his full Premier League debut.

If, as expected, McTominay retains his place in the United midfield alongside the more advanced Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes, he will be largely responsible for what seems a thankless task in minimising the influence of City’s key man De Bruyne.

Man City to score in both halves, De Bruyne to score anytime and McTominay to get booked has been boosted from 10/1 to 14/1 by bet365.

Jadon Sancho vs Kyle Walker

Turning our attention to Manchester United’s hopes of inflicting damage on their rivals, Jadon Sancho will be a key outlet in attack with Marcus Rashford an injury doubt ahead of the match.

With Erik ten Hag’s men likely to sit compact out of possession, United’s best chance of hurting this City side may be to hit them fast on the counter. This approach has proved successful for the Red Devils in previous Manchester derbies, and Sancho’s ball-carrying ability will be vital for such a strategy to work again this weekend.

Sancho, who came through City’s academy, struck a stunning goal for United in a 4-1 defeat at the Etihad last season. The skilful winger will be aiming to get on the scoresheet in the derby again and help United towards a more positive result this time around.

Having been omitted from Gareth Southgate’s latest international squad, Sancho will be keen to impress against England right-back Kyle Walker. Walker is renowned for his incredible recovery pace, but can be got at in one-on-one situations as Sancho himself demonstrated last season.

Having notched two impressive goals against Liverpool and Leicester in recent outings, another derby strike could really help the 22-year-old kick on in his second season in the Premier League.

Jadon Sancho has been priced at 13/2 to score anytime in the derby, with Kyle Walker given odds of 13/2 to be booked.

Antony vs Joao Cancelo

Arriving with a weighty £85m transfer fee from Ajax, Brazilian winger Antony was able to deliver with a goal on his Manchester United debut against Arsenal.

Running onto a through ball from Marcus Rashford to slot home with his left foot from a right-wing position, Antony will be hoping to have similar joy against United’s Manchester rivals at the Etihad this weekend.

The 22-year-old will likely line up to face Joao Cancelo at left-back for Manchester City, in what will be an intriguing clash between two mercurial talents.

Cancelo, despite operating as a full-back, is one of City’s most creative players and thrives when able to influence the game in the final third with his vision and range of passing.

With Cancelo always eager to bomb forward at will and play a prominent role in City’s attacks, and Antony’s skillset revolving around his ability to bamboozle defences, something will have to give in what represents an intriguing area of the pitch to keep an eye on in the derby.

The traders at bet365 have priced Antony at 9/2 to score anytime against City, with Joao Cancelo given odds of 3/1 to receive a yellow card.

Bernardo Silva vs Tyrell Malacia

Joao Cancelo’s compatriot Bernardo Silva is another of a host of City players with impeccable and wowing technical quality. Able to occupy a number of positions, Silva has regularly been deployed on the right for City so far this season alongside Erling Haaland and Phil Foden in attack.

Although City boss Pep Guardiola’s team selections are notoriously hard to predict, should Silva line up on the right flank he will likely be faced up with United’s new left-back Tyrell Malacia.

Signed from Feyenoord in July, Malacia has impressed United supporters with his attitude and ability to defend one-on-one. The Dutchman put in a brilliant defensive performance in a victory against Liverpool at Old Trafford which appears to have galvanised the team in the Premier League this season.

City’s Silva will pose a unique challenge to Malacia at the weekend, with the diminutive playmaker typically preferring to drift in-field from the right and receive the ball more centrally which can make him elusive and difficult for defenders to pick up.

Silva is 7/2 to register over 0.5 assists in the match, with Dutch defender Malacia 9/4 to receive a yellow card.

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