Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne would welcome the attention if Manchester United made him a marked man in this weekend’s derby at Old Trafford.
The Belgium international netted a superb injury-time winner to snatch a 2-1 Champions League victory for City over Sevilla on Wednesday – his fifth goal in seven starts for Manuel Pellegrini’s team since joining for a club-record fee from Wolfsburg.
Injuries to Sergio Aguero and David Silva mean United are likely to view De Bruyne as their biggest source of danger in the top-of-the-table clash, but the 24-year-old is happy to take the heat because he believes his team-mates will benefit.
“If they put maybe two people on me then that means that someone else has more space,” he said.
“I think that we have such a great team. At this level it is very difficult to put two people on one guy in the big games.
“If they do that, someone else will be free and have more chances to do something for us.”
De Bruyne’s club and international captain Vincent Kompany spent the past two City matches on the bench having gone against Pellegrini’s wishes and played for Belgium in their Euro 2016 qualifier against Israel – his first action after missing five domestic games with a calf problem.
Omitting Kompany from the starting XI against United would heighten speculation of a significant rift between manager and skipper, but such talk is wide of the mark as far as De Bruyne is concerned.
“I don’t know what they talked about together so maybe Vinny will [start] on Sunday,” he said. “I don’t know – it’s something between the manager and him.
“Maybe he wants him to train a little bit to be fully fit without any risks. I don’t see any problems.
“He [Kompany] is acting normal so I think everything is fine.”
While De Bruyne is primed for a first taste of cross-Manchester hostilities, City crowd favourite Pablo Zabaleta will hope to play in his 15th derby.
The Argentina full-back is well versed in the local passions roused by the fixture.
“I’ve played a lot of derbies since I’ve been here and I know that is the special game,” he said. “As a player you know how the Manchester City supporters feel about that game.
“Manchester is a very special city and when you walk around you see City supporters, Man United supporters and everyone is talking about that game.
“I’m sure you will see in the news and in the dressing room people focused on that game – everyone talking about the derby.
“It’s a huge game. It’s probably one of the greatest games that you can watch in the Premier League, especially because both teams are at the top of the league.
“They have a chance to beat us and go on top of the table. If we win, we extend this gap between City and United.”