Manchester United against Manchester City is an irresistible force paradox.
No, that’s not a posh way to say ‘derby’, but a case of wondering what will happen when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?
Pep Guardiola’s team have been untouchable this season. They have already amassed more points than any of last season’s bottom seven did, and a win here would hypothetically put them eighth in the 2016/17 table.
They have so far failed to win just one of their 15 matches in the Premier League, and no side has failed to score less often since the start of last season. City are undoubtedly an unstoppable force right now.
But is there any more of an immovable object than Jose Mourinho’s bus of a defence? Or after last week’s match at Arsenal, David de Gea?
Since August 2016, United have kept a clean sheet 26 times, which is the most in the division. The 16/5 on offer that they do so here has to be worth thinking about.
Both sides have also been completely unstoppable when scoring the first goal this season.
United have done so ten times and won all ten, but City can top that with 11 wins from 11. Something’s got to give on Sunday though, right? I took to Twitter to see what the people think.
Man City have scored first 11 times in the PL this season: W11 D0 L0
Man Utd have scored first 10 times: W10 D0 L0
What's going to happen on Sunday?
— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) December 5, 2017
Most of the responses kindly pointed out there is no option for a 0-0 draw, so maybe that’s what people think will happen? You can get odds of 10/1 if you believe the Grinch that spoils big games will get his way, and bore us all into submission.
It’s not a bad shout either, as there has been a 0-0 between the teams in each of the last two seasons, including at Old Trafford in 2015.
There have also been three 0-0s in league matches amongst the big six since Mourinho took charge of United, and guess what? All three featured his team.
All three were on the road though, and I believe there will be goals in this one. Not many of them, granted, but with this much attacking potential on the pitch there should be one or two.
I frequently tip Lukaku to score first in this column, and he frequently disappoints me. He is available at 5/1 here, and there is a Money Back Special where Paddy will give you your money back as a free bet if he scores any time. Well, I assume they mean during this match at least.
With only one goal in his last eight in the league, and a morale boosting goal against CSKA Moscow in midweek, the former Toffee might be the man to break the deadlock.
He’s not the favourite though. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are both available at 4/1, and the latter is a particularly appealing choice. He has scored two goals in his last seven games, but in those matches he has also missed five clear-cut chances and his opportunities have been worth a total of 3.8 expected goals.
Jesus is a worthy joint-favourite on ability alone, but the numbers also suggest goals won’t be far away for him.
Aguero’s best chance of scoring will be via a penalty (as no team in the Premier League can top his tally of three this season) yet despite the reputation of the Theatre of Iffy Decisions, it’s not as unlikely as you might think.
Michael Oliver will be the man in black on Sunday, and only Mike Dean of the regular refs gives penalties more often than he does. Oliver has also given one in four of the last five United matches he has taken charge off.
Perhaps the fact one was against United at Old Trafford means he’ll never give another one there for the rest of his career though. Give two against them and Fergie will send you to the tower, I’ve heard.
But Oliver has awarded seven pens to City in his career (the second most of any team), and there is likely to be some last-gasp defending in both boxes. It can never be guaranteed, but the 11/4 on offer for there to be a penalty awarded is certainly tempting.
As is a bet on City to score the last goal. The price is 8/11, so it won’t make a fortune for you, but their form under Guardiola suggests it’s a definite possibility.
They’ve had four winners after the 80th minute already this season, when the Premier League record (which is jointly held by Liverpool and Arsenal, fact fans) for a whole season is seven.
Since the former Barca and Bayern boss took over, City have scored 52 goals in the final 30 minutes of matches.
That’s more than anyone else, 16 more than United, and the Red Devils can only out do them by one when it comes to least goals conceded in the final half hour too. You can get 5/4 for United to score last if you prefer, though I expect City to finish the stronger of the two.
As for a score prediction, I’m going for 1-1, at 6/1. If Lukaku scores first with a penalty before Jesus equalises, you’re laughing. But don’t be surprised either if the unstoppable force wins narrowly.