Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini has downplayed the significance of their Premier League game at home against Manchester United, but expects his side to return to their normal form.
The champions are winless in three matches, including last week’s draw at CSKA Moscow, last weekend’s loss at West Ham and the League Cup defeat by Newcastle in the midweek.
City will be looking to maintain a 4-point lead over their neighbours in the first Manchester derby of the season, but the Chillean refused to be carried away by the hype surrounding the league fixture.
“It’s not the biggest game for me – all of them are,” Pellegrini said in his pre-match media briefing on Friday. Especially when you have to win three points. Especially against Liverpool or Chelsea it’s a game of six points. If you win and your rival doesn’t win.”
City won comfortably in the corresponding fixture last season, which happened to be Pellegrini’s first derby.
Eight of United’s players, who made the trip to the Etihad Stadium last term, have exited the Old Trafford doors, with new boss Louis van Gaal expected to name a strong forward line for the contest.
Pellegrini is certain it will be a difficult game for his third-placed side but says their previous form has no effect on their result come Sunday.
“I expect that we are going to have a tough game against a very good team with very good players,” the 61-year-old declared.
“The game we played here, the first one at the Etihad was in a moment where I was new here, where maybe there were a lot of doubts about the result but I never changed my mind in the way we have to play against any other team.
“It was three points, like every other game. For supporters it’s a special game and we know that. We know what it means to win against Manchester United.
“I think that on Sunday it will be City versus United and last year it was the same. It was not me versus Moyes and this time it’s not me versus Van Gaal.
“It doesn’t depend on what we do in the games before the derby, it’s important for us to play well against Manchester United. “We are a team and we need top players with top performances all the time.”
City will be without their playmaker David Silva but Pellegrini expects Yaya Toure to be fully fit for the match.
“David has a problem with his ligament and he will be out for about three weeks, so he will not be available,” Pellegrini confirmed.
“Yaya has a small problem. We’ll see tomorrow but I think he will be fine.”