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Combined XI: Manchester City vs. Manchester United

Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI from the squads of Manchester City and Manchester United ahead of Saturday's derby at the Etihad Stadium.

The 179th Manchester derby takes place on Saturday afternoon as both Manchester City and Manchester United look to build on midweek wins which helped to get disappointing seasons back on track.

Champions City remain 11 points off the relentless pace set by Liverpool so far, but avoided falling any further behind with an impressive 4-1 victory at Burnley on Tuesday night.

United welcomed Jose Mourinho back to Old Trafford 24 hours later and eased the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a 2-1 triumph over the current manager's predecessor, although they remain eight points off the top four.

Here, Sports Mole selects its strongest combined XI from the two squads, using only players available for Saturday's showdown.

Combined XI: MNC vs. MNU

David de Gea's position as the best goalkeeper in the world, and even the league, has been challenged by the Brazilian duo of Alisson Becker and Man City's Ederson in recent seasons, with the latter going a long way to revolutionising the position courtesy of his ability with the ball at his feet. When it comes to pulling off spectacular saves few can rival De Gea still, but as an all-round goalkeeper Ederson is now above the Spaniard.

Ederson's selection sets the tone for a predictably Man City-heavy side, with only two United players making the cut. The first of those is Harry Maguire, who has been a solid if not spectacular performer for the club since his world-record move. The England international's position may well have been under threat if Aymeric Laporte was fit, but City have their own problems in defence at the moment and Maguire is the pick of the remaining bunch.

Laporte's injury has caused predictable headaches for Pep Guardiola, to the point where Fernandinho is now his first-choice centre-back. John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have both been in and out of the team alongside the Brazilian, leaving him as a simple choice to partner Maguire.

The left-back slot was the most troublesome in this XI given that both sides have had three players sharing the role this season - Benjamin Mendy, Angelino and Oleksandr Zinchenko for City and Luke Shaw, Ashley Young and Brandon Williams for United. Williams has impressed enough already to have run Mendy close, but the Frenchman's experience earns him the nod on this occasion.

There was a similar debate at right-back, where Kyle Walker has raised his game this season to hold off competition from Joao Cancelo. United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka was also in the running, but Walker has been part of a sturdier defence as well as contributing more in attack than his compatriot this season.

With Paul Pogba still a major injury doubt for this match it is a simple choice to go for an all-Man City midfield three, although Scott McTominay's form does deserve a mention.

The Scotland international is still some way behind the trio selected, though, with Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva having directly contributed to 22 league goals between them already this season, while Rodri has seamlessly slotted into the holding midfield role and showcased his own goalscoring ability with a stunning strike against Burnley.

The big question in terms of the front three was who would lead the line - Gabriel Jesus, fresh from his drought-ending brace against Burnley, or Marcus Rashford, who was also on the scoresheet twice in midweek.

Rashford's best moments in a season which has seen him already score nine goals and create four more have come while playing from the left, though, which means that Raheem Sterling moves over to the right, Jesus starts in the middle and both Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva miss out.

No Man City player has directly contributed to more goals than Rashford this season, although Sterling is not far behind with eight goals and an assist to earn a place alongside his England teammate.

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Who will win Saturday's Premier League clash between Man City and Man Utd?

Man City
Man Utd
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