CompetitionsPremier League

No change for Pep Guardiola as Manchester City face ‘contenders’ United in derby

Pep Guardiola views Manchester United as a “real contender” for the title but is viewing this weekend’s derby as he would any other fixture for Manchester City.

Guardiola’s quadruple-chasing City are hoping to extend their lead over United at the top of the Premier League to 17 points with victory at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

The City manager is well aware of what is at stake but he insists he is not placing any extra importance on the game.

Guardiola has played down the significance of Sunday's Manchester derby
Guardiola has played down the significance of Sunday’s Manchester derby (John Walton/PA)

Guardiola said: “It’s just one game where the Premier League is 38 games.

“Of course they are a real contender, second in table. Everybody knows how important it is but all we’re thinking of is the gameplan, to execute it as well as possible and try to win the game.

“They are so strong in all departments. Defensively and in midfield they have quality, then playmaker Bruno Fernandes and the people up front.

“They have speed with (Daniel) James, (Marcus) Rashford, (Anthony) Martial and experience with (Edinson) Cavani, one of the players I admire the most for his career, what he has done.

“But we are going to be ourselves. This is my target, our target – to do what we have done lately. Be ourselves.

“We know the quality they have. We accept every challenge and want to do a good game to win it. ”

City and United played out a goalless draw in December
City and United played out a goalless draw in December (Michael Regan/PA)

City are unbeaten in 28 matches in all competitions, a run which includes a drab goalless draw with United at Old Trafford in December.

That result left City ninth in the table but things have changed notably since then, with Guardiola’s side powering to the top on the back of a 15-game winning run in the Premier League. Overall they have won 21 matches in succession.

Guardiola denies he approached that last league derby with anything other than the target of victory in mind, although he recognises his team are in much better form now.

He said: “You should ask the players what we said before that game. We were going there to win the game.

“The approach of the team is well known and Sunday will not be an exception.

“That game was not good, all the analysis was ‘boring’ and ‘0-0’, but we have to admit that in that period we were not at our best.

“During a season you have ups and downs and in that moment we were not in a good moment. but the intention was to try to win the games.”

Guardiola has the rare luxury of a fully-fit squad available following defender Nathan Ake’s recovery from a muscular problem.

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