Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City v Manchester United talking points

Manchester City host rivals Manchester United in a much-anticipated derby on Thursday.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some talking points ahead of the game.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE QUALIFICATION

When the sides met in a hugely-hyped contest at Old Trafford in September, the clubs were battling for top spot in the Premier League. There was an expectation then that both sides would be title contenders. That has not transpired, with City's failure to mount a serious challenge perhaps the biggest surprise. The stakes for this clash, however, are still high with Champions League qualification important to both clubs. With City fourth and United just a point behind in fifth, the occasion is likely to be a tense one.

GAME

With pressures on both sides, there are fears the game could be stifled as a consequence. The meeting has many of the ingredients of a classic. Both sides have in-form, exciting players and the rivalries on the pitch, in the technical areas and in the stands are fierce. They also have plenty to play for in terms of league position. Such pressures have had a negative effect on past derbies, however, and it could be a tight, cagey affair.

DIFFERENT SIDES

The sides differ greatly in terms of the way they have played this season. Pep Guardiola's desire to play fluid, attacking football at City with moves building up from the back has been well documented. His commitment to his philosophy is unyielding, even when defensive mistakes have undermined the gameplan and cost points. United's approach under Jose Mourinho has been more pragmatic, with his side playing a solid but unspectacular game. City have been inconsistent while United have ground out results. It has brought them both to a similar points total. It is an interesting clash of styles that could go either way.

MANAGERS

The rivalry between Guardiola and Mourinho is regarded as one of the most ferocious in the game. There was certainly no love lost between the pair as they clashed regularly during their times in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively. Since arriving in Manchester both have avoided stoking any ill-feeling and their two meetings this season passed without incident. It remains to be seen if the pair have called a truce or whether a high-pressure occasion could bring any underlying tension to the fore.

TEAMS

City have a major doubt over playmaker David Silva, whose form in the second half of the season has been superb. Top scorer Sergio Aguero might also be less than fully fit after taking a knock at Wembley at the weekend. City could recall another exciting potential match-winner in Gabriel Jesus, but after more than two months out with a broken foot, his match fitness is uncertain. United are also without two key players in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba.

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