Man Utd vs Man City: Rooney and De Bruyne centre stage
Man United under fire ahead of Manchester derby but victory over local rivals could send them top of the table
It's a weekend of derbies in the Premier League with local rivalries resumed in London, the North East and Manchester, where league leaders Man City make the short trip to Salford to face third-placed Man United.
In the capital high flying East Enders West Ham welcome their rivals from the other side of town, champions Chelsea, and few would have expected that at this stage of the season the Hammers would be six points and eight places higher than the Blues in the table.
The Manchester derby is a top of the table affair, but on Wearside it is a relegation scrap as Newcastle in 18th visit rock-bottom Sunderland.
Elsewhere under-fire managers Tim Sherwood and Gary Monk meet as Aston Villa take on Swansea and Arsenal must contend with the visit of Everton, whose fine start to the season has tailed off somewhat.
However, there is no doubt about the weekend's big attraction, which kicks off at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon.
Manchester United might be third in the table, but they have come in for some sustatined criticism this week after a sterile performance against CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, never mind the fact that a win for Louis van Gaal's team would lift them above Manuel Pellegrini's men and could see them go top of the table.
Despite that Van Gaal has had to contend with what The Times calls a "long line of prominent former players, from Rio Ferdinand to Paul Scholes, queueing up again to complain". Their main gripes appear to concern a lack of pace and penetration in attack.
"United's resounding 3-0 victory away to Everton on Saturday appeared to represent another corner turned, but then came the seemingly habitual step back against CSKA," says the Times. "It has been the story of Van Gaal's stuttering reign; the only consistency has been inconsistency. Good luck trying to predict which team will turn up when Manchester City visit Old Trafford on Sunday."
Then there is the enigma of Wayne Rooney, who will hope to earn some love from the United faithful on his 30th birthday weekend.
Despite his brilliant United career, Rooney is strangely unloved at Old Trafford, despite staying loyal for a decade.
"If there was to be a top ten of players in the hearts of United supporters, Rooney is unlikely to be in it," writes Mark Ogden of the Daily Telegraph, who believes he knows the reason. "A boyhood Evertonian, a Scouser, who has never made a secret of his devotion to the blue half of Merseyside, Rooney has conspicuously stopped short of saying what supporters always like to hear. For Rooney, his career at United has been purely business."
Relationships of a different kind are the talk of the blue half of town, with City boss Pellegrini forced to deny a rift with captain Vincent Kompany after his return to fitness did not result in a return to the first team.
However, they have prospered without him, winning four on the trot and scoring 15 goals in the process. With Sergio Aguero and David Silva both out, Raheem Sterling has performed admirably with Wilfried Bony working hard up front. But it is Kevin de Bruyne who has really caught the eye, and most observers believe he will be the key to Sunday's clash.
"Manuel Pellegrini's men have looked super when everything has clicked," says James Dall on ESPN. "The £54m spent on De Bruyne in the summer doesn't exactly resemble a bargain, but it does look like money well spent.
"The former Wolfsburg player is genuinely brilliant and already has five goals and four assists from nine City appearances in all competitions. His eye for a through ball is startling and that's something United will need to restrict the flow of, especially as Sterling – a hat trick hero against Bournemouth last weekend – has fantastic off-the-ball movement."