Pep Guardiola downplays importance of Manchester derby to title race

Pep Guardiola claims Manchester City’s league position is irrelevant heading into Sunday’s derby at Old Trafford.

City have an eight-point lead over arch-rivals Manchester United ahead of this weekend’s eagerly-anticipated encounter.

But City boss Guardiola says it is too early in the season for that to influence his gameplan.

Guardiola said: “Winning, drawing or losing on Sunday, we are not going to win or lose the Premier League. It’s December.

“It’s an important game because it’s United – you can get points and deny your opponent points and it’s the same for them.

“We just focus on what we have to do to make a good performance and try to win the game. That is all I am concerned about. I am not going into the game thinking, ‘OK, we have an eight-point lead, what do I have to do because we have an eight-point lead?’.

“If it was the semi-final in the Champions League, or the quarter-final or the final, you have one result in the first leg and you have to think about the second one a little bit in terms of what you have done in the previous game.

“But the Premier League is a marathon. We haven’t even arrived at the halfway stage yet. There are a lot of points to play for, more than 70.

“We just focus on the game and the result, and then after, recovery and thinking about Swansea three days later. It’s simple like that.”

City go into the game on the back of their first defeat of the season, a 2-1 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk in a Champions League dead rubber on Wednesday.

But a number of players who did not feature in Ukraine are likely to return, including David Silva and Fabian Delph, who have overcome a minor injury and sickness respectively. Captain Vincent Kompany, however, will be assessed after suffering discomfort in training.

Victory for City would be a 14th in succession in the Premier League, a record for a single season.

Guardiola insists he will approach the game – for which heavy snow is forecast – the same as he has any other.

He said: “The big challenge is to play good, to try to control the start point. It’s hard because it’s United at Old Trafford but we want to try to play our game.

“The focus is going there relaxed and knowing that if we don’t win the individual duels, it will be almost impossible to beat them.

“We will try to play well, to play good football, what we have done, to be what we are. I would like to finish the game and go to the locker room and feel we were what we have been for the season.

“As for the result, nobody knows what is going to happen. We will try to find the best way to play well and to win the game.”

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