Yes, its Derby Sunday in the English Premier League 2017/2018 season. Derbies are great, there is a certain level of rivalry that comes to town in every football game and these intense rivalries are made worse in the English Premier League as it is the most competitive league in the world but the fiercest games are the games between cross town rivals, the local derby.
The most occurring derby in the English league is the London derby and there are several variations; North-London derby, East-London derby, etc. This is simply because there are always a decent amount of clubs representing the ancient city of London in the league every season. just yesterday, West Ham United defeated champions Chelsea 1-0 at the Olympic Stadium. The Hammers got their first clean sheet of the season and new manager David Moyes got his first win. West Ham remain 19th and this performance was the best they have produced this season, it was almost as if the urge to defeat their cross town rivals took over the squad and they dropped a masterclass.
The point is Derby games are allowed to go either way because of the rivalry between the clubs. In derby games, players that are fans of the clubs that they play for tend to play wit more determination and aggression. Great managers like Sir Alex Ferguson made a habit of making sure that there was at least one local lad in the matchday squad because these players understand the derby games more than most others.
In England, there are several derbies but the most talked about derbies are the Merseyside derbies and the Manchester derby.
Today, Liverpool, England would be divided. The city has always been divided into the Red and Blue segments of Liverpool and Everton FC respectively. Liverpool became the most successful club in English History winning the league title 18 times and the European Cup 5 times, the most for any British football club. Whereas, Everton have been ever present in the league winning it 9 times but have never won the Champions League or any European silverware
In recent years, Liverpool have had the better managers, players, they have had the bigger ambition, more drive and more thirst for success. This has left many of the Everton fans in anguish after most derbies as they rarely enjoy success against their cross town rivals. Last season, Liverpool did the double over Everton as the Toffees lost both legs. One of the worst feelings in football is having your cross town rivals do the double over your team.
Everton have had a terrible start to the season despite flying high last season. it seems like the sale of Romelu Lukaku seems to have taken a lot more out of the squad than first thought as their woeful performance has led to the sacking of Ronald Koeman and the appointment of Sam “Big Sam” Allardyce.
Big Sam is one of those ever present British managers that have a knack of securing league football. This peculiar attribute has made him manager of many clubs especialy the clubs that are worried of being relegated. Big Sam has championed a style of play that frustrates the attacking prowess of the opponents and keeping the ball off the ground so that they can be hard to press. Everton has been better of late and if former England Captain, Wayne Rooney can continue finding the back of the net, they would stay up.
Liverpool had much bigger dreams when this season started but all the points dropped against Watford, Chelsea, United, Spurs, City, etc has served as a rude reality check. The Reds are back in good form with Mo’ Salah and Phil Coutinho getting on the score sheet regularly. Sadio Mane, Roberto Firminho and Henderson also create a lot of chances that has made Liverpool very devastating in attack especially when they break away on the counter.
Earlier in the season, it was obvious that the team was poor defensively as they conceded so many goals from set pieces and defensive errors. However, they seem to have solved this problem with making sure that they outscore the opponents. It is derby day at Anfield so the fans and players will have all the extrar motivation that they need to ensure tha maximum points and bragging rights are obtained.
Wayne Rooney remains a pivotal part of the game. The Everton striker started out as a teenager in Everton before making his way to Old Trafford to play for Liverpool’s biggest rival; Manchester United. He has scored severally against Liverpool and he would be dangerous today. However, there are several Liverpool players who would be constantly dangerous to the Everton team. These players should be able to create more chances and convert enough of them to goals that would bury Everton.
The Reds are expected to continue their dominance of the City today especially as they would be playing at home in front of the Kop but the derby game is never an easy one.
Unlike the Merseyside derby, there are things more important than bragging rights at stake. This derby has been the most important derby in England in recent years. This is because Manchester United and Manchester City are two of the strongest teams in England. In fact, this derby has decided the winner of the title more than twice in the past 5 years and is shaping up to be the title decider this season as well.
Even today, the Manchester derby is not only a football game between the Reds and sky Blue of Manchester, but a game between the best two teams in the country as both Manchester teams lie first and second on the log as they have been since the beginning of the season.
Manchester United and Manchester City have Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola at the helm of their affairs respectively. These managers are the best in the world, categorically calling one of them the best would spark up intense arguments from the fans of the other. They favor contrasting styles of football and they were both in charge of rival clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively when they were both in Spain.
This season, Manchester City have been nothing short of spectacular. They drew at home to Everton early in the season but they have won every other game in dramatic fashion; either demolishing the opponents with sweet attacking football and scoring a truckload of goals or by leaving it very late and scoring a winner in “Sterling Time”
Manchester United started the season in incredible fashion too blitzing away their initial opponents by scoring 4 goals and keeping clean sheets. However, they have seen suspensions and injuries take away their best players and thus they have dropped points that sees them 8 points behind City going into today’s derby.
United are coming off two consecutive away wins at difficult grounds and would be hoping that they ride in high on confidence on Sunday. They would be missing french midfielder Paul Pogba due to suspension as the midfielder picked up a straight red card last time out against Arsenal. However, Jones, Zlatan and Fellaini are available for selection.
A Manchester City victory will more or less see them win the title as most pundits and fans of the sport would not see them losing an 11 point gap and they are favorites to win the match. However, Manchester United just equaled a club record that was set under Sir Matt Busby of 40 consecutive unbeaten games at Old Trafford. They would be able to set a new record today if they can avoid defeat from the hands of their cross town rivals. a victory for united will ignite the title race and hand out hope to teams like Chelsea and Spurs who intend to catch up with the Manchester clubs.
If my life depended on winning a football match, I would be employing Jose Mourinho to coach that and no football fan would be surprised if he delivered a tactical masterclass to end the winning streak of city today. However, the manager tht has most foiled Jose’s plan is the manager in charge of the City side coming to Old Trafford this evening.
Despite the tough circumstances, the harsh weather, City’s amazing form, United’s personnel troubles and all, I would be predicting that Manchester United leave the pitch happier than their noisy neighbors at the final whistle. This is not because United will be “Parking the bus” or engaging in negative football. This is because it is Derby day at Old Trafford and I would never bet against Manchester United and Jose Mourinho.