Cities Divided: This Weekend’s Derby Games

Football betting expert Dan Roebuck previews this weekend’s big derby games…

A double dose of derby action is set to split families and friends on Sunday, with melees in Manchester and Merseyside providing local dust-ups with national connotations.

Bragging rights are always felt keener closer to home, but with the top two in the Premier League going toe to toe at Old Trafford, and Sam Allardyce looking to make his mark in the dugout for the sortie across Stanley Park, the rest of the country will be dialled in to two fixtures that for one reason or another rarely fail to disappoint.

For us punters, the key is to bet with the head, not heart, which is always difficult if you’re a red or a blue from either city.

United To Draw First Blood

‘Not bitter just better’ is the usual comeback from contemporary Manchester City supporters should they encounter a United fan who once rejoiced in the Sky Blues misery during the Sir Alex Ferguson era. No longer do the noisy neighbours shout their resentment from the rooftops and, why should they? Pep Guardiola’s side, clear by eight points at the top of the table, are 1/8 to win the title and know success across town on Sunday will equal the English top-flight record of 14 straight victories. Jose Mourinho’s team, 10/1 for league glory, must feel they have to pick up three points if they are to be considered rivals for the championship.

A potentially season-defining clash awaits with United 12/5, the draw 5/2 and City, favourites, at 23/20.

I’m slightly surprised at the odds on offer for a home win. United are unbeaten in 24 league games at home, while City have scrambled their last three victories courtesy of a 2-1 scoreline, with their winning goal coming in the last seven minutes on each occasion. Twice they’ve been behind and surely that will give huge encouragement to a United side that have started quickly in each of their last two league games, scoring five goals before the 32nd minute. United are 57/50 to score first which looks a brilliant bet (if the game finishes 0-0 your stake is returned).

The absence of the suspended Paul Pogba will be felt by the hosts – in the 17 league games the French midfielder has missed since re-joining United, their win percentage dropped from 61% to 41% – but that could be negated to some extent should City be without David Silva (71% to 63% over the same period).

In their 3-1 win at Emirates last weekend, United were overrun in midfield after Arsenal switched to a back four and it would come as no surprise if Mourinho reverted from a three-man defence against City in what surely will be a much more cautious contest.

This is the 20th meeting between teams managed by Mourinho and Guardiola, with the Spaniard having won nine to the Portuguese’s four. Take United to improve their manager’s statistics, with 2-1 the best correct score option at 21/2.

Liverpool To Let Loose

The last time that Sam Allardyce took a team to Anfield was back in April of this year when he led Crystal Palace to an unlikely 2-1 victory, landing odds of 6/1. It was the first time in 14 visits (and with a fifth different club) that the former England manager had steered a side to success away at Liverpool. His current employers, Everton, are even bigger in the betting for the latest Merserside derby, trading at 19/2, and despite the Blues having shown some new manager bounce, with successive league wins since Allardyce was announced as Ronald Koeman’s successor, I expect Jurgen Klopp’s team to come good.

The hosts are 7/25, which is perhaps too short to get excited about, but with Mohamed Salah in brilliant form (12 goals in the league) I can see Liverpool scoring at least twice. It usually takes a little bit of time before Allardyce instils some shape and discipline on a new team’s defence, so take the Egyptian to take advantage of any disorganisation and back him to score first (16/5) and at any time (4/5).

The Reds will be buoyant after qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League in emphatic style, and it would be no surprise if they completed a seventh win in their last eight games in the league in convincing fashion – I’d be looking at 2-0 (6/1) and 3-0 (7/1) for correct score options.

And one footnote, this fixture has seen 21 red cards in the 50 Premier League meetings (14 for Everton and seven for Liverpool). Those that potentially could be sent off? Wayne Rooney (25/1 – and 11/5 for a yellow) and Ashley Williams (22/1 – 2/1 for a caution) look the most likely if Everton lose their self-control.

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