Here is a rundown of the key battles:
Carlos Tevez vs Jonny Evans
As with last season, Evans has become a central figure in the United defence due to injuries. In Manchester United's last outing, the 4-3 goal fest at Reading, Evans looked particularly unsure at times, and he will need to up his level considerably at the Etihad. United won’t simply be able to outscore City as they have done to other sides, and so Evans cannot allow Tevez to get room in the attacking third. The Argentinian has been in good form, and will surely be selected for this match despite Mancini's penchant for rotating his forwards. With his history at United, Tevez will be very fired up, and Evans faces a tough job in keeping him at bay.
Maicon or Pablo Zabaleta vs Ashley Young
The Brazilian full back has started City's last two matches, but there's every chance Mancini could plump for the more defensively solid Zabaleta for the derby. Whoever is picked, the battle with Young will be an important factor in the outcome of the game. Young has been giving United most of their width in recent matches, and even if Valencia is fit to play on the right flank at the weekend, stopping Young's supply to van Persie and Rooney will be central to City's plans. Zabaleta may be the more solid defender, but the advantage of Maicon is his superior attacking ability, which may help overload Evra on United's left flank. Young will need to be tracking back to help out Evra whoever the City right back is.
Gareth Barry vs Wayne Rooney
For all the criticism he receives, Barry is an important part of the City midfield, and will most likely line up in the centre for the derby. Rooney is a key part of United's build play, as their most creative central player. If Barry can keep him in check, United will struggle to make chances through the centre, and may end up with their forwards isolated from the midfield.
Samir Nasri vs Darren Fletcher
David Silva faces a real battle to be fit for the derby, and if he is absent the pressure will be on Nasri to step up to the plate. The Frenchman is still yet to hit his very best form consistently for City, but is a phenomenally talented player on his day. If Silva is out, Fletcher will have to focus on tracking Nasri as he looks to find space in the final third, especially on the flanks, where City will look to overload United's full backs. Fletcher has also shown he can be important in United's attacking play, and may get plenty of space in this match if City's attackers don't track back.
Yaya Toure vs Michael Carrick
Toure hasn't been at his best in recent weeks, but is still one of the first names on the team sheet at City. His bursts from midfield and ability to dominate the opposition in the centre of the pitch are key to Mancini's team. Carrick's performances have been underrated this year, and they will need his passing ability to give them a foothold in the midfield. If Toure gets on top of Carrick, and stops him finding his passing rhythm, United will become even more reliant on counter attacks, and City should be able to dominate possession and territory in the match.
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