City and United prepare for 'biggest' Manchester derby
Tevez 'destined' to score and Park set to play in game that will stop the nation
IT IS being billed as the match that will stop a nation. Manchester City entertain their neighbours United this evening in what is effectively a title decider and one of the biggest games the Premier League has seen for years.
And with kick off just a few hours away the media are determined to make the most of it. "There has never been a Premier League encounter quite like this one," states the Daily Mail. "A game that could alter the English football landscape; that could determine whether Manchester United remain the dominant force or instead have to step aside for their mega-rich neighbours.
"It is, as Sir Alex Ferguson said, the derby of derbies; a match that will enthral the masses in more than 650million homes across 212 territories around the world."
Writing in The Guardian, Daniel Taylor says that the 163rd Manchester derby will be "the biggest ever staged". Part of the reason for that, he explains, is that usually one of the clubs is in the ascendency and the other is down on its luck. "Look through the history of these two clubs and there are actually very few occasions when they have been competing for trophies at the same time," he says. "For long spells United and City have simply had other priorities."
"All the strengths of English football will be on display from bursts of technique to endless tribalism," says Henry Winter in The Daily Telegraph. And he warns that referee Andre Marriner faces a tough task. "Individually but particularly collectively, so much is at stake that tempers could become frayed."
So what of the teams? Carlos Tevez, whose City career looked finished after his mutiny is now back in the fold and looks likely to start against his former employers. Roberto Mancini even went as far as to say that the Argentine was "destined" to score against United.
As for United, Ryan Giggs has announced that the champions intend to make "a statement" against their rivals. While most commentators agree that Alex Ferguson will be determined to avenge the 6-1 humiliation heaped upon them by City at Old Trafford earlier in the season, a loss that hurt him more than he has let on.
But according to The Times, the wily Scot knows that a draw is all he needs and will go for a conservative formation. "Park Ji Sung is likely to be the surprise inclusion in Sir Alex Ferguson's starting XI as the Manchester United manager opts for experience and defensive security," reports the paper. That will mean Wayne Rooney playing on his own up front, while Jonny Evans is likely to miss out with a bruised foot.
And despite reports that City striker Mario Balotelli would get a surprise call-up to the starting XI it now seems that the best he can hope for is a place on the subs bench.