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David Silva v Nemanja Matic: The key battle in the Manchester derby
Last Updated: 04/04/18 5:11pm
Will David Silva inspire Manchester City to a title-clinching victory over Manchester United? Or will he be stopped by Nemanja Matic? We assess the key battle in Saturday's Manchester derby, live on Sky Sports.
Manchester United visit cross city rivals Manchester City on Saturday evening hoping to prevent them from becoming the earliest title-winners in Premier League history.
It will no doubt be a tough day for Jose Mourinho's United side as they also aim to become the first side to win at the Etihad Stadium in the Premier League since Chelsea in December 2016.
United will have to be at their very best to get anything from the game and their key players will need to be ready to stand up to the attacking threat of Pep Guardiola's runaway Premier League leaders.
Top scorers in the Premier League and with an abundance of attacking talent at their disposal, City are on the verge of their third league title in seven seasons. While Kevin De Bruyne has rightly received most of the plaudits, it is a City veteran who could be the key man on Saturday.
David Silva has been City's most creative force over the last eight seasons, with no other player making as many assists (75) or creating as many chances (663) as the Spaniard since his arrival in England at the start of the 2010-11 season.
This season his contribution may have been overshadowed by his team-mates' sensational form but Silva has still made 11 assists and created 54 chances, second only to De Bruyne in both categories for City. The 32-year-old has also scored nine goals in all competitions this season, his best total since scoring 12 in 2014-15.
Since the start of March, Silva has been City's key man with three goals and three assists in four Premier League games. Only Liverpool's Mohamed Salah has been involved in more goals (seven) during the same period.
Silva has also created 11 chances from open play, the joint highest for City with De Bruyne and second most in the Premier League behind Chelsea's Eden Hazard.
David Silva in Premier League since start of March
|David Silva||Total||Man City rank||PL rank|
|Open play chances||11||1st||2nd|
If United are to stop City then they will need to find a way of stopping Silva from getting the space he needs to supply the likes of De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling.
Much has been said about United's midfield this season but one constant is Nemanja Matic. The Serb is the only outfield player to start all 31 Premier League games for Mourinho's side.
He has been their key player, and even though he may not be a major creative force, he is an expert at supplying attacking players with the space and possession they need.
Nemanja Matic in Premier League this season
|Nemanja Matic||Total||Man Utd rank|
No United player has had as many touches, made as many passes or made as many tackles as Matic this season. If they are to get anything at the Etihad, he will have to be at his absolute best.
Matic's greatest skill is gaining possession of the ball and no other outfield player has done this as often he has since his return to the Premier League in January 2014.
Most ball recoveries by outfield players in PL since January 2014
Part of winning possession is of course tackling and Matic's ability to break up play and engage opposition players will also be of major importance against City.
Since his return to Chelsea in 2014, the only midfielder to have made more tackles and interceptions than Matic in the Premier League is N'Golo Kante, a man widely regarded as one of the best in the business.
Whoever starts alongside him, Matic is set for a busy evening at the Etihad on Saturday. In a game where United are expected to see significantly less of the possession than usual, his skills will be vital to their cause.
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