Premier League - Football: Sunday preview
There's a double-header of Premier League action on Sunday with all eyes on The Etihad for the first Manchester derby of the season.
Manchester City have made an impressive start to their Premier League title defence, but they will be expecting a decent test from neighbours and rivals United, an examination that many wouldn't have seen coming a few weeks ago as Erik ten Hag's side floundered.
The Manchester derby is the early afternoon treat on Sunday before Leeds and Aston Villa take centre stage in the evening.
New-look United up for the fight
|What:||Manchester City v Manchester United, Premier League|
|Where:||The Etihad Stadium, Manchester|
|When:||14:00, Sunday 2nd October, 2022|
|How to watch:||Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League|
|Odds:||Man City 1.44, Draw 5.50, Man Utd 6.50|
Two United managers tried and failed to land any sort of a blow against Pep Guardiola's City machine last season, but there is a guarded optimism that a third – Erik ten Hag – might have more luck.
Odds of 1.44 on City suggest the idea of a United win are fanciful, but there is definitely a more upbeat mood at Old Trafford, which in itself is extraordinary given how dismally they started the new season.
Last season City toyed with a spineless United. On Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's watch, the Citizens went to Old Trafford and won 2-0, hardly getting out of first gear. The return was even more one-sided, a truly humiliating 4-1 dismantling of Ralf Rangnick's side.
The City-City Half-Time/Full-Time bet came in both times and their fans will doubtless be confident it'll come in again at 2.10.
City, after all, are unbeaten in nine league and European matches having scored at least three times in six of those.
They have, however, been stopped twice, held to draws by Newcastle and Villa, who adopted a no-risk, no-respect approach, were happy to give City the ball and hit them on the break, and picked their battles in a calculated way.
And you get a sense that if Eddie Howe and Steven Gerrard can pull that off then Ten Hag, who deserves untold praise for United's current four-game winning run after that horror show at Brentford, will feel he too can frustrate the champs.
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Haaland's strike rate has to be feared
Half the United side who started at City in March have been jettisoned and new stars are emerging.
Lisandro Martinez is the star turn of a rebuilt defence, Christian Eriksen has added class and nous to midfield and Antony, the newest recruit, brings some X-Factor.
Project Rebuild United is still a work in progress but there are signs of corners being turned.
City, of course, are already the real deal and can hit back with any number of superstars of their own, none bigger than Erling Haaland. The striker's impact since arriving in England is near immeasurable and he looks almost a shoo-in at 1.66 to find the net given what he has done so far.
The Norwegian is 3.60 to score first, something he has done five times already for club and country this term.
Looking to upstage Haaland may well be Cristiano Ronaldo, who could make a first start since the mauling at Brentford, with both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial absent. However, when Ronaldo is 8.50 to score first in a match, it's clear the former world footballer of the year's star is on the wane.
The Manchester derby has brought us thrills, spills, X-rated tackles (remember Haaland snr, anyone?) and goals.
Yet six of the last seven showdowns – in league and cups – have produced under 2.5 goals, which is a 2.75 shot.
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Can Villa deliver another Elland Road thriller?
|What:||Leeds v Aston Villa, Premier League|
|Where:||Elland Road, Leeds|
|When:||16:30, Sunday 2nd October, 2022|
|How to watch:||Sky Sports Main Event and Premier League|
|Odds:||Leeds 2.37, Draw 3.25, Aston Villa 3.00|
Aston Villa won more away games than home matches last season, seven in total, including a 3-0 romp at Elland Road in March.
That was just Jesse Marsch's second match in charge of the Whites – the first had ended in a 1-0 loss to Leicester – and must have left the American wondering what he'd inherited.
Tipped to go down this season – they are now 5.00 for that fate – Marsch has got a tune out of Leeds but he'll struggle at any stage to repeat either the performance or the scoreline from their 3-0 win over Chelsea.
They welcome Villa on the back of a three-match winless streak and were clobbered 5-2 at Brentford last time out.
Last time out, mind you, was almost a month ago, so they will certainly be fresh for the resumption of their Premier League programme.
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Villa on the rise
They are 2.37 to beat 3.00 shots Villa, who are on the up after a sticky start which saw them lose horror shows at Bournemouth and Crystal Palace. Indeed, this side which could do little wrong on the road in 2021/22 has lost all three away games.
Their last two matches yielded a fantastic 1-1 draw at home to Man City before a largely forgettable 1-0 win over Southampton, a four-point haul which has taken them to within a point of Marsch's men in mid-division.
Villa have a decent record at Leeds, where they have lost on only two of their last 13 visits.
Leeds' supporters, who were perhaps hoping for a tad more consistency under Marsch than they suffered under Marcelo Bielsa, have grounds for disappointment.
They have scored 10 and conceded ten so far and Marsch – in the stands once more courtesy of a touchline ban – will have clocked that Villa scored three against his side twice last season.
It's 1.66 that both teams score, 1.90 over 2.5 goals and either look obvious ways in to what should be an entertaining encounter.