Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini insists Manchester United will remain title favourites even if they lose Monday's crunch derby at the Etihad Stadium.
Mancini has repeatedly written off City's chances of winning the Barclays Premier League recently, even though they have cut United's lead from eight to three points. Victory in possibly the most eagerly-anticipated Manchester derby of all time would take City back to the top of the table on goal difference with two games remaining, but Mancini is still publicly downbeat.
When asked if he was surprised United had allowed City back into the race, Mancini said: "I am not surprised because in football, until you finish the championship or every game, anything can happen. But my opinion is always the same - I think they have more chance than us."
He added: "We play the derby Monday and then afterwards Newcastle, that will be a very tough game, then after that QPR. Instead, United will play against Swansea and Sunderland and I think for them they will be two easy games. I think (even) if we win this game, they are favourites."
Mancini, however, is in agreement with his Manchester United counterpart Sir Alex Ferguson over the importance of Monday's encounter.
Ferguson has described the match as the "derby of all derby games" and the biggest of such he has been involved with.
Mancini said: "I agree. I think that after 50 years, Manchester United and Manchester City are playing for the title. For this reason I agree with him."
Controversial striker Mario Balotelli is available again after serving a three-match suspension for his sending off at Arsenal earlier this month and joins an otherwise fully-fit squad.
City have flourished in Balotelli's absence, winning all three of their games and scoring 12 goals in the process, but Mancini will not rule out recalling his fellow Italian.
He said: "We have another two training sessions but all the players are available. I have 48 hours until the game, I have time to decide for every player."