The Manchester derby: Early team news
With two days to go until the Carabao Cup semi-final between Manchester United and Manchester City, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be carefully considering his line-up to take on the holders at Old Trafford.
United have been given the relative luxury of five days’ preparation for this fixture – compared to City’s three – and with Solskjaer likely to rotate his side for the Emirates’ FA Cup tie with Watford on Saturday, ahead of key Premier League clashes with Burnley and Liverpool, we could see a full-strength Reds in action.
The key question mark at the moment is over the fitness of Victor Lindelof, who has missed our last two fixtures with a back problem.
With the Swede still a doubt – Ole said before Wolves that he had not trained since the Leicester game, which he exited early – Eric Bailly could well continue at centre-back, where he has impressed in partnership with Harry Maguire.
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The Ivorian has now started four consecutive games for the Reds for the first time since September 2017, and picked up our Man-of-the-Match award after helping keep Aston Villa at bay during the late stages of the New Year’s Day win.
Elsewhere in defence, Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are first choices in their relative positions, while Solskjaer has switched between Luke Shaw and Alex Telles at left-back in recent weeks.
The Brazilian has started nine games since the international break, and Shaw five, but it was the latter who was given the nod in December’s league meeting, which perhaps gives a hint as to who Ole might be considering for the position this week.
Similarly, in midfield, Scott McTominay and Fred have been used in tandem, alternating with a Nemanja Matic-Paul Pogba pivot, although Pogba, Fred and McTominay were all picked to start the Villa victory, with Matic introduced in the second half.
All four are available for Solskjaer to choose from, with winning the battle in the middle of the park key, against a side which likes to dominate possession.
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Up front, Edinson Cavani is serving the second of a three-game suspension, but Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are in fine form, and Mason Greenwood started at this stage of the competition, against City, last season.
At the other end of the pitch, Dean Henderson has played the full complement of minutes in the competition this season, and is yet to concede a goal.
Indeed, David De Gea has tended to be given a rest in the Carabao Cup, making just two appearances since United last lifted the trophy, in February 2017.
Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones, neither of whom have made an appearance yet this season, are still out injured.
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CITY’S TEAM NEWS
The Blues have been hit by a COVID-19 outbreak in recent weeks, which meant they had to postpone their Premier League trip to Everton on 28 December. Sunday’s game against Chelsea went ahead, with City eventually winning 3-1, but only after Pep Guardiola confirmed that a number of his squad would have to miss out after contracting the virus.
Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus were confirmed to have tested positive on Christmas Day, while it was announced Eric Garcia also had COVID-19 hours before the trip to Stamford Bridge. Goalkeeper Ederson and winger Ferran Torres also missed out on the trip to the capital, as they are self-isolating.
Away from COVID-19, Aymeric Laporte, who scored in City’s win over Arsenal in the quarter-finals, is a doubt with a minor hamstring complaint, while fellow defender Nathan Ake also sat out the game against Frank Lampard’s side due to injury, meaning Guardiola could only name eight substitutes, rather than the permitted nine.
There was some good news on the fitness front for City late on, as Sergio Aguero came off the bench – the Argentinian striker has yet to play a full 90 minutes for our crosstown rivals this season, and missed the goalless draw at Old Trafford last month.