City clear favourites for derby

BATTLE ROYALE Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho will look to put one past his old nemesis Pep Guardiola on Sunday. REUTERS

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola does not think Sunday's derby against Manchester United will define his team's campaign, but is still keen to avoid a repeat of last season's defeat by the same opponents.

City were in control against United in the corresponding fixture at the Etihad Stadium last term, leading by two first-half goals, only for United to stage a second-half rally and win 3-2.

"We have to play good," Guardiola told a news conference on Friday. "If we play good, we have a chance to win. You cannot imagine we are going to play amazingly for 90 minutes against top teams.

"I would like to play the same game as last season when we were on top for 75 minutes but United showed us that they just need 10 or 15 minutes to create chances.

"When they have the ball, they can create something because they have incredible talent."

Both teams are in good form, with seventh-placed United on a three-game winning streak and league leaders City having gone 11 games unbeaten in all competitions.

Guardiola is looking forward to the battle but believes the fixture has come too soon to have significant bearing on the title race.

"We are in November so maybe the game at Old Trafford (in March) will be more decisive," the Spaniard said. "Of course we are on a good run, United as well. It's a good derby. All of them are special."

The red half of Manchester will be buoyed by news that strriker Romelu Lukaku has returned to training ahead of Sunday's battle.

Lukaku, who has scored four goals for United this season, missed Wednesday's 2-1 win at Juventus in the Champions League as well as last weekend's 2-1 Premier League victory over Bournemouth.

The Belgium international will return to the squad if he comes through training without incident.

"Lukaku is training with the team this morning," Mourinho told a news conference. "If the answer is positive -- and we have of course one more session tomorrow -- he is ready."

Mourinho did not want to dwell on the gap between the teams, preferring to look on the fixture as a means to continue his side's positive momentum.

"If we draw (the gap) is nine (points) and if we lose, it's 12," he said. "I don't think that's the way to look at the match. It is difficult enough being an isolated event.

"If you want to put the match into the context of where we are and where we can be, it becomes even more difficult."

One thing the manager is pleased with is his team's willingness to fight until the end.

United's ability to snatch late goals under former manager Alex Ferguson was one their most potent weapons, an ability they have not managed to display with any sort of regularity since the Scot retired.

"We are not a team that gives up," Mourinho said. "We're a team that always finds a way to fight back... (but) if we keep conceding goals before the opponent we will arrive at the day where we cannot come back so we have to make sure we grow up."

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City clear favourites for derby

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