Ex United and City winger Peter Barnes expecting close Manchester derby
It may not be the top-of-the-table clash many were anticipating when Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho arrived, but Thursday's Manchester derby has many of the ingredients people were waiting for.
With the stakes high for both teams, there will be tension, ferocity and an electric atmosphere as Manchester City host rivals Manchester United in an eagerly-anticipated clash at the Etihad Stadium.
Added to this is the rivalry in the technical areas. Guardiola and Mourinho fought a bitter war of words during their time as opposing managers of Barcelona and Real Madrid and, although they have refused to fan the flames since joining City and United respectively, any flashpoint could test the uneasy truce.
The Premier League title is no longer on the line, as many thought it would be when the sides met at Old Trafford in September, but the race for Champions League qualification carries huge importance for both clubs.
With just a point separating the sides in the tight battle for top-four places, the scene is certainly set. It just remains to be seen whether the game, as a spectacle, can live up to its billing.
Former England winger Peter Barnes, one of a select few players to have represented both clubs in Manchester derbies, feels that is far from guaranteed.
"It is a big game, probably a six-pointer for both teams," Barnes told Press Association Sport. "It will be close.
"I hope it is not a cagey game and both teams come out and play and there are goals in it, but I don't see many goals in it. Not many derbies are great games."
Most of the considerable hype surrounding the season's first derby centred on Guardiola and Mourinho. Neither have found the going particularly straightforward since.
Guardiola's City failed to sustain a meaningful title challenge and they crashed out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage. United, meanwhile, have spent most of the season outside the top four playing solid but unspectacular football.
Barnes, a City hero after two spells at the club from 1974-79 and 1987-88, said: "City's consistency has been up and down all season and they have no real trophies to play for apart from getting in the Champions League.
"I think Pep is doing a good job but I think it has been a massive learning curve for him. He has probably realised this is the toughest job of his managerial career.
"I think City are the better team in terms of individual players - they can make a difference on the day - but United are hard, workmanlike. Like all Jose Mourinho's teams, he's got them working hard, playing with confidence.
"They won the League Cup, they are in the Europa League semi-final. They have still got a lot to play for and they would love to finish in the top four above City and Liverpool."
Barnes, whose father Ken also played for City, grew up as a Blues supporter but also loved watching the great United side of the late-1960s. He finds watching the current United side underwhelming by comparison.
Barnes, a member of Ron Atkinson's United side in the mid-1980s, said: "I don't think United are the finished article.
"From the team I was brought up with, watching Best, Law and Charlton - United have always won with flair and style. They're winning now but not with flair and style.
"They have been better in the last couple of months and I still think they'll finish up there but they are not an attractive team to watch anymore.
"United teams of the last 40-50 years have always won things with style, playing entertaining football. This team doesn't."
Next season, however, could see both sides offer much more.
Barnes said: "I am sure United and City will strengthen in the summer. I think Mourinho is a great coach and Guardiola is a great coach. They know what they want.
"As a Manchester manager you have got to win with style, because of the past history at both City and United."