Mahrez returns; Aguero stays on the bench – Predicted XI: Manchester United vs Manchester City (Carabao Cup)

It’s already time for the second derby day of the season, as Manchester City again travel to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United – this time in the Carabao Cup Semi-Final.

I’m sure most fans weren’t on their hands and knees begging for another  derby, especially after the last one. At least this time it’s a one match knock-out so there has to be a winner. Nor will either side be cagey for 90 minutes as no-one wants to be playing extra-time in this congested fixture schedule.

Combine this with the fact both sides play Championship opposition in the FA Cup this coming weekend, I think we’ll see strong line-ups all around. Here’s our predicted team for the blue half of Manchester…

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With Ederson still self-isolating and Scott Carson pushing eighty, Zack Steffen will don the gloves for the second match in a row. The US number one had a few uncertain moments on his Premier League debut, while being relatively untested by a poor Chelsea side. He’ll need to get over that quickly with United in great form.

Fortunately, I think the goalie will have an unchanged back-line to give him confidence. Joao Cancelo is playing so well he might have kept Walker out of the side even if he was available. Meanwhile, the partnership of John Stones and Ruben Dias are damn-near undroppable, as the images of a sulky Laporte in the stands every week have shown.

(Photo by Adrian Dennis – Pool/Getty Images)

The only place in defence I’m uncertain of is left-back. With Benjamin Mendy dominating the headlines for all the wrong reasons, Oleksandr Zinchenko is the more likely choice. The Ukrainian lady-killer had a decent game on Sunday and arguably deserves to retain his place. Barring any last minute fitness thumbs-up from the physios on Laporte or Aké, he starts.

In midfield we’ll see the return Fernandinho. He played well against United last time out, and is one of the best rotational options Pep currently has. Although I can’t remember them starting together often, I think Ilkay Gündogan will play alongside our captain. The German didn’t play the full ninety minutes on Sunday and offers more going forward than Rodri when he needs to.

For similar reasons, Bernardo Silva should get the nod here as well. He also offers versatility in his positioning and can provide cover if gaps open up with players bombing forward. Silva is great at pressing high up the pitch, which allows Kevin De Bruyne to drop into midfield and create space for himself. Guardiola will probably utilise the Belgian in a similar position to that he played against Chelsea in this match.

If the line-up is going to be as similar to last weekend as we think, Pep Guardiola is going to need the forward line to stretch the play. That would normally mean a right-footer on the right, and a left-footer on the left. However, I can’t shake the feeling that Riyad Mahrez will take up his usual position on the right, with Raheem Sterling on the opposite side. This option would rely on Cancelo creating width, with possibly De Bruyne or Silva occasionally moving over to do the same on the left. 

(Photo by DAVE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

If the Blues can show the same tenacity that they did on Sunday, they’ll be too much for United’s defence to handle. As long as City don’t concede a penalty, I sense another clean sheet on the cards too.

Substitutes: Scott Carson, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Benjamin Mendy, Rodrigo, Phil Foden, Cole Palmer, Sergio Agüero.

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You can follow Richard on Twitter here: @ignoblewretch

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