Derby deflation as City and United battle for fourth
When Manchester's Premier League big guns were spending lavishly in the close season, neither City nor United can have imagined that the final derby of the campaign would be little more than a contest in the battle for a Champions League spot.
With City, lying fourth, having slipped 12 points behind the leaders and United trying to climb up from sixth, Sunday's match is hardly the pivotal title decider they both would have wanted.
City spent 152 million pounds ($216 million) in preparation for the campaign while United also surpassed the 100-million mark, but neither team has generated the momentum needed to launch a sustained title challenge.
United, often laboured and struggling to score goals all season, go into the game at the Etihad Stadium trailing their rivals by four points but perhaps sniffing blood.
Since it was announced last month that Pep Guardiola would replace manager Manuel Pellegrini in July, City have won two of six league games and are far enough adrift of the summit to know that anything other than victory over their neighbours will end any lingering title hopes.
Arsenal, 11 points off the top and visiting Everton on Saturday, are another side who have imploded at a crucial point in the season with manager Arsene Wenger's position again coming under intense scrutiny.
Having won only one of their last eight games in all competitions and exiting the FA Cup at home to Watford, the debate about Wenger's future has become increasingly heated.
Arsenal's title hopes are increasingly balanced on a Leicester City slip up. Reuters
Like City, however, Arsenal's hopes rest on Leicester slipping up, which is looking increasingly unlikely with every passing week.
Both sides should win, with Leicester, who boast the best away record in the top flight, visiting Palace who have taken just four points from the last 12 games.
Tottenham, who have lost only two of their last 16 home league matches, face Bournemouth who are comfortable in 13th position in the table.
Newcastle, second-bottom of the table, are one point behind their neighbours who are 17th in the 20-team standings.