Odds: Man City 83/100, The Draw 13/5, Liverpool 3/1
The ingestion of mind-altering substances of any kind is not advocated here at news.bwin.com, for all it may be one of the few effective methods of gleaning enjoyment from the Manchester Derby (betting being the slightly more puritan-friendly alternative).
Both Manchester City and Manchester United arrive at this juncture in such rank bad form, despite the millions they have spent on procuring talented squads, that the prolonged attacking fluency necessary to create a beguiling spectacle looks beyond them.
Manuel Pellegrini’s hosts have prevailed just twice in their last nine outings, while United are winless in four.
Both sides’ being in such bad nick points to a dour fixture with defences in the ascendancy, which is potentially worrying for City.
Captain Vincent Kompany is certain to miss the game with a recurrence of the calf strain that has dogged him all season.
They have lost just three times with him in the starting line-up this term and, to make matters worse, fellow centre-half Nicolas Otamendi is also doubtful for the fixture, having sustained a dead leg last time out.
However, for all City may not be at their best defensively when United come town, they can call upon one thing to which their rivals don’t have access.
Namely, recent memories of playing consistently well for many games in succession, with the 0-0 draw they secured at Old Trafford earlier this term coming amid a run of 13 wins in 17 games.
Not since the dearly-missed days of Sir Alex Ferguson have the Red Devils been as consistently captivating.
As such, this game represents a timely dose of defibrillator to the collective chest of City’s title bid.
If the derby can’t rekindle Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure and friends’ early-season brilliance, nothing will.
Win, Lose or Draw?
The location of the latest edition of Manchester’s biseasonal bragging-rights bust up offers a sizeable hint as to the direction the points are most likely to go in.
City’s recent ineffectualness is mitigated if only their form at the Etihad is considered.
They’ve won three of their last six at the Etihad, only losing to sides above them in the table during that sequence, scoring in all bar one fixture and keeping three clean sheets.
By contrast, United’s dreams are diluted by the lack of proximity to the ‘Theatre’.
They’ve won a single Premier League road game since late November, bagging more than once in a solitary divisional away outing during that miserable sequence.
Any notion that an avalanche of City strikes might punish the Reds’ lack of incisiveness is quickly scotched with reference to the hosts’ own attacking deficiencies.
They’ve been shut out in three of their last four outings, the exception being against Championship bound Aston Villa.
Having already shared a goalless draw this term, another low-scoring duel is surprisingly well priced.
Who will do the damage?
In such inspiration-free circumstances, wisdom dictates score punters side with the one world-class getter of goals likely to be in attendance on Sunday.
The man in question has struck four times in the last six Manchester derbies in which he has played even a substitute’s part.
With netting once likely to be enough to win it, backing him to bag first seems reasonable.
City boss Pellegrini may wish to ponder whether his side’s recent timidity is a byproduct of their patchy form or vice versa.
Just once in the last eight outings have they received more than a single yellow card as a team. Coincidentally they won the game in question, the Capital One Cup Final, albeit on penalties.