Over here in the UK, the televised Sunday games are branded ‘Super Sunday’, regardless of whether they’re actually ‘super’ or not. But this weekend, the moniker most certainly applies.
That’s because Sunday sees two of the most hotly-contested local derby matches in English football taking place, back-to-back, on the same afternoon.
First up, we have the Merseyside Derby, as Liverpool play host to crosstown rivals Everton, with the Toffees looking to kickstart their form under new boss Sam Allardyce.
Then all eyes turn to Old Trafford, as second-place Manchester United take on runaway EPL leaders Manchester City in a bout that some are already calling a potential title decider.
It may be a little early for that hyperbole, but a win for City would give them a colossal 11-point lead over United and give Jose Mourinho’s men with a huge mountain to climb in the second half of the season.
Here’s a quickfire guide to everything you need to know ahead of this weekend’s derby double-header.
+140 Manchester United
+185 Manchester City
(Odds from Dec. 8 via Bovada.lv)
Liverpool has dominated the Merseyside Derby in recent years. The Reds did the double over the Blues last season, with Jurgen Klopp’s men claiming a 3-1 win at Anfield in their last meeting with goals from Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho and Divock Origi giving them the three points and bragging rights in the city.
Despite having a reputation for always making the Merseyside Derby a competitive affair, Everton hasn’t actually beaten Liverpool since October 2010, 15 Merseyside Derby games ago. Even more worrying for Everton fans is the Toffees’ form at Anfield. The Blue half of Liverpool hasn’t been able to celebrate a win at Anfield since September 1999.
By contrast, the Manchester Derby is a much more evenly-contested clash over recent years.
The last EPL clash at Old Trafford saw City run out 2-1 winners, thanks to goals from Kevin de Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho proving the difference-maker. The last EPL meeting saw Marouane Fellaini sent off in the closing stages as the two sides played out a goalless draw at The Etihad Stadium.
Playing at Old Trafford will hold no fear for City, who have claimed EPL wins at United’s ground in four of the last six seasons. Throw into the mix City’s irresistible form and it won’t be surprising to see Pep Guardiola’s men going into the match on the front foot, looking to attach against Jose Mourinho’s at-times more pragmatic approach.
RECENT EPL FORM
Both Liverpool and Everton head into this weekend’s clash on two-game win streaks, but in the overall context of the season Liverpool’s form is far more stable than that of its rivals. The Reds haven’t lost at home in the league all season, and are in superb goalscoring form after scoring eight times across their last two road trips. They also have the EPL’s top goalscorer, Mo Salah, in their ranks. The home side has scored three or more in each of their last two games, and are +130 to beat a -2 spread this weekend.
Things look somewhat different on the other side of the matchup. After a disastrous start to the campaign under Ronald Koeman, Everton parted ways with their Dutch manager and replaced him with Sam Allardyce, whose reputation for organizing teams and making them tough to beat has paid early dividends with a 2-0 win over Huddersfield on his debut. Now the Toffees are hoping a Derby Day victory over their rivals can kick-start a run of solid results as they look to move away from relegation danger. A draw would be considered a decent result for the Blues, and you can take that at +475.
Manchester United: WLWWWW
Manchester City: WWWWWW
Second plays first in a battle between the two best teams in the EPL, both in terms of the league table and current form.
United are on a roll, having won their last four straight, scoring 12 goals. They’re also battle-tested, having just beaten Arsenal 3-1 away at the Emirates. Even more significantly, United are unbeaten in their last 24 home games in the EPL. Jose Mourinho is known for playing a reserved, at-times defensive style of football, but he’s let his team off the leash in recent weeks. Most believe the Portuguese boss will revert to his tried and trusted formula for this game, though. A 1-0 United win can be backed at +1000.
City, meanwhile, are simply unstoppable, having picked up 14 wins and 1 draw from their opening 15 EPL games. They’re riding a 13-game win streak and have that uncanny ability to find goals when they need them. The only slight chink in the City armor could be at the back. The Sky Blues have conceded in each of their last three EPL games, and to vastly inferior sides to United. A City win with both teams scoring pays at +300 with Bovada, and that looks like a decent bet.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
For Liverpool, victory is essential to keep pace with their Champions League qualification rivals. They’re not likely to make a run at the title this season – especially with City galloping over the horizon already – but they’re certainly capable of booking themselves into a Top Four spot.
For Everton, it’s a case of righting the ship before the chaotic festive period. The Toffees had a catastrophic start to the season but, with Wayne Rooney back in form and a lot of positive noises coming out of the club following Allardyce’s appointment, things are looking up. Beating Liverpool would be just the shot in the arm the blue half of the city needs.
For Manchester United, the clash with City represents a golden opportunity to benefit from a six-point swing and close the gap between them at the top of the table.
Meanwhile, City knows that victory over their local rivals could give them a near-unassailable lead at the top of the Premier League
THE MEN MOST LIKELY…
…to have a busy day between the sticks: David de Gea
Manchester United’s goalkeeper is widely considered to be one of the best — if not the best — keepers in the world today. The Spanish stopper put in a stunning performance to keep Arsenal at bay last weekend and he’ll have to be even more alert this time around when City arrive at Old Trafford. He’s currently second on the EPL saves list with 53 and is +300 to keep a clean sheet this weekend. Only the bravest punters – or those wearing rose-tinted spectacles – are likely to go big on that prop.
…to fire their team to a wide-margin win: Mohamed Salah
Despite being known more as a winger, Salah has been in prolific goalscoring form for Liverpool this season. And with the Reds scoring three or more in each of their last two games with Everton at Anfield, Salah may well extend his tally this weekend. He’s +300 to open the scoring and -135 to score at any time.
…to offer value in the goalscorer markets: Kevin De Bruyne
Manchester City’s Belgian playmaker is having a standout season. He tops the EPL’s assists list (with eight) and has scored four times already this season. Most notably, his last three goals have all come within the last five EPL games. With United likely to ‘park the bus’ and offer a strong defensive front on Sunday, it may take something special from range to break United’s resistance. De Bruyne’s ability to drift into the seams between the back line and midfield, coupled with his superb distance shooting, makes him one of City’s most likely threats from range. He’s available at +900 to open the scoring and +300 to score at any time. Both offer decent value, but I prefer the flexibility of the latter.
Liverpool looks like a solid bet to take the victory over an Everton side who aren’t predictable enough to rely on from a betting perspective. The Toffees could show up inspired and give Liverpool a real test, but it’s equally likely that an early Liverpool goal could pop the Everton balloon as the Reds run riot at home. Bovis are offering a -1 and -2 spreads on Liverpool, and I like the Reds to beat the bigger spread at a price of +130.
In Manchester, it’s impossible not to back the visitors. United may have a remarkable undefeated run at home, but City is an entirely different proposition. Mourinho’s tactics will be particularly interesting. Will he park the bus or go for the jugular? Against a side as accomplished as City, I feel either course of action could help Pep Guardiola’s men, who would relish the task of breaking down a stubborn resistance in a game of defense versus attack, but also have the sheer pace and guile to exploit spaces in the United midfield and back line if the home side looks to push forward. The straight moneyline odds offer fair value on a City win, and I’d happily take the +185 on offer.
Liverpool to beat the spread (-2) at +130
Manchester City to win at +185
All odds from Bovada.lv as of 12/8.
[Main image credit: Wikimedia Commons]