Man City V Man Utd at Etihad Stadium : Match Preview

20 March 2016 11:17
Man City V Man Utd - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Crunch Manchester derby in race for top-four spot

Chris Smalling has called this weekend's derby Manchester United's "time to step up" in the wake of their disappointing Europa League exit to rivals Liverpool.

This has been a difficult campaign at Old Trafford, where Louis van Gaal has struggled to follow-up a solid start to life in the hotseat.

United started the weekend sixth in the Barclays Premier League with only nine matches remaining, increasing the importance of Sunday's short trip to Manchester City's Etihad Stadium.

Thursday's 1-1 draw with Liverpool led to them bowing out at the last-16 juncture of the Europa League, with the 3-1 aggregate loss meaning Champions League football will only return if they can break into the top four.

Manuel Pellegrini's side currently occupy the last spot and boast a four-point cushion over United - a gap that Smalling, one of the few highlights in a disappointing season, is determined to narrow on Sunday.

"It doesn't stop," the England defender said. "Luckily we've got another big game to get another reaction. There's nothing like a derby.

"I think it is (the best way to recover). We're going to want to make sure we go into that international break on a high.

"The only way we can close the gap on the top four is by beating somebody who's already in there. It's our time to step up."

City will be without Vincent Kompany, with Pellegrini hopeful the City captain could be back in action in around a month.

Pellegrini has also revealed the defender's latest calf injury is a fresh one affecting his other leg, and not a recurrence of the problem that has already blighted his season.

Kompany suffered his fourth calf injury of the campaign - and his 14th since joining the club in 2008 - when he pulled up in the opening minutes of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev.

The 29-year-old's national coach with Belgium, Marc Wilmots, has said the player could be out for five to eight weeks but Pellegrini has backed up an initial prognosis of around one month.

"I'm talking with the doctor," said Pellegrini. "I think Vincent has an injury in the other leg, not the same calf as last time.

"We'll see in the way he improves but in maybe one month he can be ready. He can still play a part in the season."

The loss of Kompany is a major blow to City at a critical stage of what has been an inconsistent season and Pellegrini is aware of the importance of this weekend's match.

The Chilean said: "Always a derby is dangerous. It doesn't matter the position of both teams. If it's a derby of the Premier League it is doubly dangerous.

"Both teams will try to arrive as near the top of the table as they can for the next season."

Pellegrini remains hopeful Kompany's fellow centre-back Nicolas Otamendi, also injured in midweek, can recover from a dead leg in time to face United.

He said: "Nico is running but it's a risk if he takes another kick in the same leg. We'll assess him on Saturday and decide."

Ander Herrera is a doubt for United with the groin issue that forced him to sit out Thursday's game but Ashley Young and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson could come back into contention having returned to training.

Source: PAR