It’s a very important Manchester Derby in the EFL Cup

It’s always an occasion when Manchester United and Manchester City, so today’s EFL Cup tie could provide good theater at Old Trafford (2:55 p.m. ET, BeIn Sports).

United comes in on the heels of a 4-0 hiding over the weekend in manager Jose Mourinho’s return to Chelsea, while City was also less than its best in a 1-1 home draw against Southhampton.

Man in the middle: Mike Dean draws the referee assignment for this one. He’s shown 34 yellow cards and one red one in his Premier League matches this season.

Last meeting: Manchester City took a 2-1 win at Old Trafford on Sept. 10 behind goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho. Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted for the Red Devils.

Team news: Eric Bailly, Wayne Rooney and Phil Jones are on the injured list for United, but Mourinho could have Henrikh Mkhitaryan available for the first time since the last Derby.

The Manchester Evening News has been watching the team hotel, and speculates on the squad for today’s match.

Pep Guardiola’s squad is in the midst of a stretch of six matches in 18 days, and he’s on record about his intentions to rotate the squad.

De Bruyne, Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta won’t be in the mix, since they’re still out with injures. Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany could still factor, according to this report from the Manchester Evening News.

They said it, part one: “I think everyone can believe this competition is not the big one but I am going to prepare to win the game. For the players who play, we’ll be depending on them to make the best performance possible. It is a final.” — Pep Guardiola

They said it, part two: “I would prefer to play (next) in the Premier League. It’s a bad feeling in the Premier League. With the combination of results, the gap to the top is six points. We have had a very difficult period of matches. We lost points this week and, even in the match when we played phenomenal against Stoke (a 1-1 draw), we lost points then. Now we need to win matches.” — Jose Mourinho

Analysis: The form guide isn’t much help in this one. City is winless in its last five matches across all competitions while United has one win in four matches.

Obviously, Guardiola wants to win this match. But being practical in the middle of a crowded fixture list is more important. It seems likely that he will play a healthy number of reserves today, and maybe bring some big names in late if he needs to chase the game.

Mourinho, on the other hand, needs a win far worse than his rival.

That hiding at Stamford Bridge was a blow, and the murmurs of discontent are building in the red half of Manchester. It will be a surprise if we don’t see a number of first-team regulars in the squad today.

Look for plenty of physicality (read: fouls) and Mourinho’s patented park the bus mentality while Guardiola’s men play the usual tiki-taka — or at least the English equivalent.

Prediction: Manchester United plays harder and uses better players to grab a 2-1 win.

About Randy Capps

South Carolina native, Fulham apologist, writer and sports fanatic.

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