Man City V Man Utd at Etihad Stadium - Match Preview
Updated Sunday, 29th April 2012
City not nervous, claims Mancini
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini claims there have been no nerves in the build-up to Monday's crunch derby against Manchester United.
The two heavyweight title rivals meet at the Etihad Stadium in one of the biggest and most eagerly-anticipated matches in Barclays Premier League history.
With City trailing league leaders United by just three points going into the game, the stakes are high, but Mancini has continually played down his side's chances.
Even though victory would take City back to the top of the table with just two matches remaining, Mancini insists United would remain title favourites and because of that, he says the pressure is yet to show.
The Italian said: "It is impossible to be worried for Monday yet. It is football, not work.
"Maybe Monday morning there will be pressure, but this is normal for us or for United. But not now, I don't think this."
Mancini first wrote off his side's title prospects after a damaging defeat at Arsenal three weeks ago left them trailing by eight points.
He has maintained that stance since, despite seeing his side cut the gap with impressive successive wins over West Brom, Norwich and Wolves, while United have faltered against Wigan and Everton.
With a testing trip to Newcastle and a home clash with struggling QPR still to come, Mancini says his side have the harder run-in as United play Swansea and Sunderland.
Mancini said: "Now we have this small chance but I think it is important that after Arsenal we just continue to play football.
"We have only one chance because they lost a point against Everton, but I think it will be difficult.
"They have one difficult game against us, then they have two easy games. They will probably get six points.
"It is clear if we have a chance - we want to take that chance - but I don't know."
Mario Balotelli is available again having served a three-match ban but it remains to be seen whether he will be recalled given the form of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez. Defender Micah Richards (hamstring) is also fit again after missing last week's win at Wolves.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson must decide whether to make changes.
Full-back Rafael would appear to be at the most risk of losing his place from the team that threw away a two-goal lead in the final seven minutes of last Sunday's encounter with Everton.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling could both step in, while Ferguson may also opt to reinforce his midfield with either Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley or Park Ji-sung at the expense of a wide player or Danny Welbeck.
Giggs has admitted games like Monday's Manchester derby are the reason why he is still operating at the highest level.
Should he play some part at the Etihad Stadium, it will be Giggs' 908th appearance for the Red Devils, an incredible 36 of which would have been against City.
As someone who, as a schoolboy, trained with the Blues and then grew up in the city, Giggs is acutely aware of how important these all-Manchester battles have always been.
Now though, it is something else, right up there with the very biggest matches Giggs has appeared in throughout his long and illustrious career.
"These are the sort games which I am still involved in football for," he said.
"They are big, title-deciding games.
"Apart from cup finals this is as big as you can get."
Three points in front but with a significantly inferior goal difference, Giggs knows the price of failure would be concession of United's place at the top of the Premier League.
Conversely, victory, or even a draw, would almost guarantee a record 20th league title.
The importance does not need to be underlined.
Yet Giggs admits the players cannot get drawn into such matters, as difficult as it is to avoid.
"They've been saying for the last two or three years that every derby is the biggest ever," he said.
"Obviously with three games to go and almost being neck and neck going to the finish there is no mistaking this is a massive game and the biggest in recent times.
"But as a United player, you're used to big games.
"You have to block out all the hype and the predictions. That's been going on all the season anyway, with people saying City were going to win the title and then United.
"It's different for the fans. I must admit it's hard but you have to be professional and not let emotions get too far ahead of you.
"Our job is to train well and be ready to perform when kick-off comes."