Having passed two big tests in north London, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first slip-up as Manchester United manager came in what looked like a very winnable game on paper.
The Norwegian has guided his team to impressive victories over Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal in the last few weeks, but United had to come from behind to salvage a 2-2 draw at home to Burnley on Tuesday night.
On another day, Sean Dyche’s men could easily have escaped Old Trafford with all three points.
There were, however, still plenty of positives to take from United’s performance. The hosts created numerous chances throughout the game and will feel that they should have emerged victorious on the balance of play.
Solskjaer will also be pleased with the spirit his players showed at 2-0 down and the fact that they kept pushing until the very end, with Victor Lindelof’s equaliser not arriving until stoppage time.
And while a home draw with Burnley can never be seen as a good result for a club of United’s stature, it is worth remembering that they are now unbeaten in seven matches and have taken 19 points from the last 21 available in the Premier League.
Leicester also picked up a point in midweek, coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Liverpool at Anfield.
Claude Puel’s men were excellent after a shaky opening 20 minutes, shutting down the Reds’ attack and fashioning plenty of clear-cut opportunities of their own; indeed, they were probably the better team against the league leaders and could easily have departed Merseyside with all three points had they been less profligate in front of goal.
Puel has attempted to make Leicester more of a possession-based team during his time in charge, but they still look most comfortable when they are able to play on the counter-attack. That goes a long way to explaining why the Foxes have a good record against members of the big six, and they will fancy their chances of causing United problems here – particularly as the Red Devils have kept just two clean sheets in their last 11 games.
Both teams to score therefore looks wise for this one, but when it comes to the crunch United will probably have too much quality for the hosts at the King Power Stadium. For that reason, back an away win with goals for both sides (11/4 with Unibet).
TIP: Manchester United to win and both teams to score
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Manchester City may have fallen further behind Premier League leaders Liverpool in midweek, but things could have been much worse for Pep Guardiola’s men following Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat by Newcastle United.
Liverpool also failed to emerge victorious from their clash with Leicester, which means City are five points adrift of the summit heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures.
Guardiola will be concerned by how passive and lifeless his side were in the second half at St James’ Park, when they created very little chances both before and after falling 2-1 behind to Rafael Benitez’s underdogs.
The intensity and aggression which was present in their play throughout the entirety of last season was conspicuous by its absence in the northeast, and the champions will need to get it back if they are to overcome Arsenal here.
The Gunners have been inconsistent so far in 2018/19, although they have been much improved when facing the big sides at home – Unai Emery’s men beat Tottenham at the Emirates Stadium and were arguably the better team in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool.
It has been a different story on the road, however, with Arsenal suffering a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Reds in December, as well as losing 3-2 to Chelsea and drawing 2-2 with Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.
Their defensive openness has not been helped by a glut of injuries in that area of the pitch, and there is a very real danger that they could be on the wrong end of a thrashing on Sunday unless the backline receives sufficient protection from the players in front of them.
City have not always been watertight at the back themselves this campaign, and the counter-attacking speed of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette does offer the Gunners a source of hope.
Guardiola’s side should get the job done in front of their own fans, but this is unlikely to be a tight, cagey encounter – go for a City triumph and over 2.5 goals (8/13 with Coral).
TIP: Manchester City to win and over 2.5 goals