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Manchester City v Manchester United: Five key battles

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On Sunday, two of the Premier League's biggest clubs will come face to face at the Etihad Stadium for the first of this season's Manchester derby.

The game's significance has grown in proportion with City's rise to the top of English football, and Sunday's meeting may leave us thinking fireworks night has come early.

Up until recently, this fixture pitted England's finest against their noisy neighbours, but City's transformation from Premier League also-rans to two time champions means this is a derby with more than pride at stake.

Year after year individuals have made this game their own, whether it be Mario Balotelli questioning 'Why always me?' or Wayne Rooney scoring one of the best overhead kicks you'll ever see.

Sunday will be no different, the only uncertainty is who will stamp their mark on the game this year.

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With that in mind, here's five key battles that could decide the outcome of the points, and pride, on offer.

Yaya Toure v Daley Blind

City's powerhouse midfielder has been a shadow of his brilliant self this season, while Blind has at times seemed like he was born to sit at the base of United's midfield.

Toure, though yet to hit his best this season, certainly has the potential to change the game in an instance, and his young Dutch counterpart will have to be at his best to make sure that doesn't happen.

If Blind can stop Toure dictating the game, United's chances of winning increase infinitely. Admittedly it's a huge ask for the 24-year-old, but it also gives him the chance to show the Premier League he means business.

Unlike Toure, Blind is unlikely to prove to be a match-winner, but if he can dominate Toure he could well be a game-saver.

Vincent Kompany v Robin van Persie

Few players on show on Sunday will have as much big game experience as these two, meaning the pressure is on the both of them to produce the goods.

United's Dutch striker proved his killer instinct by grabbing a last minute equaliser against Chelsea, and Kompany will have to be on top of his game to make sure that doesn't happen again.

City's Belgian captain will not fear van Persie from a physical perspective, but he has at times this season been vulnerable to clever movement from opposition forwards.

Pablo Zabaleta v Angel Di Maria

These two Argentines have been teammates for the national side for a number of years, but on Sunday that will all be forgotten.

Since arriving in the Premier League this summer, Di Maria has shown what an intelligent, skillful player he is, and Zabaleta will have his work cut out trying to stop him.

However, there are few full-backs in the league you'd rather have in your team than City's reliable right-back.

Tireless, and tenacious, Zabaleta will make sure Di Maria knows what the Manchester derby is all about but City must be wary of the United winger drifting inside and picking up space away from his compatriot.

Sergio Aguero v Marcos Rojo

Another clash that pits Argentine v Argentine, you wouldn't blame Rojo for having sleepless nights about the prospect of facing Aguero.

United's central defender has just six Premier League appearances to his name, whereas his opponent is one of the league's deadliest striker's, having netted over 60 Premier League goals since moving to England three years ago.

Despite his diminutive frame, Aguero has strength and power to match his pace and dribbling skills, making him almost impossible to play against on his day.

Rojo still has a lot to prove, and he's not yet shown enough to suggest he has what it takes to cope with someone of Aguero's ability.

Joe Hart v David de Gea

Ok, so these two won't exactly be batting against each other, but whoever has the better game between the sticks will likely end up on the winning team.

As the last line of defence, the responsibility on the pair is huge, and the game could come down to which of the two handle the occasion better.

Hart has more experience that his United counterpart, but de Gea's raw talent is phenomenal and you can expect both of them to make at least one eye-catching, gravity-defying save.

A goalkeeper cannot win a game with a save, you need goals to do that, but making sure you don't concede at your end is the first step on the long road to derby day success.

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Topics:
Manchester United
Sergio Aguero
David de Gea
Manchester City
Robin Van Persie
Vincent Kompany
Premier League
Pablo Zabaleta
Gnegneri Toure Yaya
Football
Joe Hart

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