It feels as though the whole Premier League season has been building up to this...
Manchester City's seemingly-runaway title charge faces its toughest test yet as they visit neighbours United at Old Trafford with Jose Mourinho's side coming into the fixture in their best form since the early weeks of the campaign.
United's back-to-back away wins at Watford and Arsenal have ensured that there is still plenty riding on Sunday's derby despite City managing to see off Huddersfield Town, Southampton and West Ham United with three successive late winners. Even in light of those valuable victories, Pep Guardiola's outfit have been unable to stretch their eight-point lead at the top of the table and so they will have to beat United if they are to extend their advantage into double figures ahead of the busy period of Christmas fixtures.
The home side face having to take on their noisy neighbours without star man Paul Pogba, whose red card in the 3-1 success at the Emirates Stadium last week sees him sit out the next three matches.
MAN UTD INJURIES
Jose Mourinho confirmed during the week that he expects Nemanja Matic to be available once more on Sunday having missed Tuesday's 2-1 win over CSKA Moscow with a muscle injury sustained at Watford recently. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is another who is anticipated to return after missing the last two matches due to fatigue suffered in the recovery from the ACL damage which blighted his 2017 calendar year.
Phil Jones has a chance of making the squad after stepping up his recovery from a muscle problem he aggravated on England duty in November, while Marouane Fellaini could also be considered following a knee injury.
Eric Bailly is unlikely to be fit to return, extending his absence to a seventh game, while Michael Carrick will be given further time to recover after undergoing a procedure to deal with an irregular heart rhythm.
MAN UTD SUSPENSIONS
Paul Pogba's sending-off for a late challenge on Hector Bellerin at Arsenal last Saturday rules him out of the Manchester derby, along with the following fixtures against Bournemouth and at West Bromwich Albion.
While City have no players missing, they do have Leroy Sane, Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho all riding their luck in a disciplinary sense. The trio have collected four bookings each this term and would miss the midweek trip to Swansea were they to be carded again at Old Trafford.
MAN UTD POTENTIAL STARTING LINE-UP
Jose Mourinho has so far only tended to go with a three-man back line in those fixtures which see United come up against a side forming a similar shape, but such has been the success of the formation to this point he may well be tempted to roll it out once more against City's 4-3-3.
The added centre-back such a formation offers could be considered valuable against the league leaders, and if he does choose a trio at the heart of defence he will have Phil Jones to throw into the mix as a possibility alongside the recent threesome of Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof. Elsewhere, Ander Herrera will continue in midfield after partnering Paul Pogba against CSKA Moscow in midweek, this time teaming up with Nemanja Matic in the centre of the park.
Up front Mourinho again has plenty of options. The 3-4-1-2 shape he has recently used has brought the best out of Jesse Lingard so the England attacker could again start, but there is likely to be a late decision on Zlatan Ibrahimovic's ability to start and Marcus Rashford's chances of inclusion. Anthony Martial's recent run of excellent form should see him get the nod to join Romelu Lukaku in the forward line.
MAN CITY TEAM NEWS
United come up against their city rivals at a time when the blue side of Manchester will be smarting from their first defeat of the season. A much-changed City outfit were beaten 2-1 by Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek, as with their Champions League progression already secured Pep Guardiola decided to give a run-out to Tosin Adarabioyo, Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz among others.
They are likely to revert to a more familiar shape and starting XI at Old Trafford, with Kyle Walker, Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi, Fabian Delph, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling all likely to return to the line-up.
One positive for United to come out of City's matches of late is that they have been far from convincing in fixtures. Whereas they were casting teams aside with goals aplenty previously, their last four wins before their midweek defeat had all come thanks to late winners. Sterling was responsible for the first three of those, with David Silva bagging the decisive acrobatic strike in their most recent league game against West Ham at the Etihad.
TV COVERAGE & KICK-OFF TIME
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BEST OPTA MATCH FACTS
No away side has scored more Premier League goals at Old Trafford than Manchester City (27 - level with Chelsea) while only Chelsea (6) have won more games there as the visiting side in the competition than City (5).
Manchester United have lost seven of their last 12 league games against their local rivals (W3 D2 L7) – as many as they had lost in their previous 45 in league competition against them (W22 D16 L7).
Jose Mourinho’s side are on the longest current unbeaten home run in the Premier League (24 games - W14 D10 L0), with their last such defeat at Old Trafford coming against Manchester City in September 2016 (1-2).
Manchester City have now won 13 successive league matches – a joint-record within a single top-flight season, alongside Chelsea (2016-17), Arsenal (2001-02), Preston and Sunderland (both 1891-92).
Jose Mourinho has won just four of his 19 managerial meetings with Pep Guardiola in all competitions (W4 D7 L8), with just one of those wins coming in league competition (2-1 with Real Madrid at Barcelona in April 2012).
These are the two tightest defences in the Premier League this season, with Manchester United (9) having conceded one goal fewer than Manchester City (10); this despite facing more than double the tally of shots on target (64 v 27).
Romelu Lukaku scored in both of Everton’s league matches against Manchester City last season – the only player to have scored in three successive league appearances against a side managed by Pep Guardiola is Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid v Barcelona between March 2009 & February 2010).
Ederson has only made 20 saves in 15 Premier League appearances this season for Manchester City – his rival goalkeeper at Manchester United; David de Gea has saved 21 shots in his last four Premier League appearances, including 14 in his last game against Arsenal.