Manchester City welcome fierce rivals Manchester United to Etihad in the Premier League tomorrow as both clubs hope to make a statement in race for the title.
Manuel Pellegrini’s City currently holds third spot in the standings, and they come into the local derby with a positive mood following their 3-1 aggregate win over Dynamo Kiev in the UEFA Champions League second leg played at the Etihad on Tuesday.
City striker Sergio Aguero admits his side’s Premier League title dream is a slim one, but still hopes his side can reignite their challenge with victory over neighbours Manchester United tomorrow.
Fourth-placed City have won just once in their last five outings and are 12 points adrift of leaders Leicester City, albeit with a game in hand.
“We have to win, even more so because the title is slipping further and further away, and we have to make sure we take fourth place,” Aguero said.
“We want the title but we have to take into account that United are right behind us and it will be a tough game. We will have to play intensely.”
“At one point United were huge,” Aguero added. “City has invested a lot of money to bring in quality players, and that has levelled the playing field.
“I do not know what is happening at United, I focus on City and tomorrow. We are thinking about winning and nothing else.”
Manchester United have been eliminated from the Europa League at the last-16 stage in both of their appearances in the competition
United must beat City to keep alive their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, says manager Louis van Gaal.
“We have to beat City because that is the other chance to qualify for the Champions League,” said Van Gaal.
“The expectations are always high. We know that and we can cope with that.”
The winners of the Europa League automatically earn a place in the Champions League, a route which could see Liverpool back in the competition next year after they comfortably saw off United over the two legs.
United must now finish in the top four, a task that would be made all the more difficult by defeat at the hands of City at the Etihad tomorrow.
Van Gaal’s side are also still to face second-placed Tottenham, and West Ham.
“I am not angry, I am not frustrated,” said Van Gaal. “We have created a lot of chances but they scored the away goal. That was the difference.
“I hope City tomorrow will be the catalyst. We shall do everything that we did against Liverpool on Thursday.’’
City will navigate the derby without skipper Vincent Kompany, who suffered a repeat calf injury against Dynamo Kiev in midweek.
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 toda, 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.
Like City, however, Arsenal’s hopes rest on Leicester slipping up, which is looking increasingly unlikely with every passing week.
The battle for the title seems to have come down to a two-horse race between Claudio Ranieri’s side and Tottenham Hotspur, who trail them by five points and host Bournemouth tomorrow.
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.
With the Blues going into the game in hot pursuit of the Premier League title, a win is vital for Manuel Pellegrini.
But the pressure for Louis van Gaal to achieve a Champions League place means that United are equally desperate for three points.
City go into the fixture having won four of the last six encounters, but United’s 4-2 win last April put an end to that winning run which was followed up by a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in October.

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