Manuel Pellegrini hopes the extra rest enjoyed by his Manchester City players will allow them to turn up the derby-day heat on Manchester United.
The Manchester rivals meet at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday in the Premier League following a week of contrasting fortunes in European competition.
City overcame the early loss of captain Vincent Kompany to his latest calf injury to close out a 0-0 draw with Dyanmo Kiev and secure a place in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time, where they will face re-crowned Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.
If City were left to celebrate a largely forgettable match, United had nothing to show for a pulsating 1-1 Europa League draw against Liverpool on Thursday – the damage having been done for Louis van Gaal’s team in a 2-0 loss at Anfield a week earlier.
Pellegrini has regularly bemoaned the strains of City’s schedule on an injury-hit squad this season, controversially naming a team featuring five full debutants in a 5-1 FA Cup defeat at Chelsea, but his side could be fresher than their neighbours as they look to arrest a damaging slide of one win from five league matches.
“It’s always important, if you have 24 hours or 48 hours more of resting,” the Chilean said.
“It’s not a decisive thing for the game but you can prepare the game better.
“That’s the problem of playing in the Europa League – playing on Thursday is difficult.
“One of the most important things in big teams is you never have time to work, you play so many games during the week.
“As Van Gaal says, you must just recover during the days. That’s why also maybe not the biggest teams are competing for the title because you [do not] have the complete week to work.”
Premier League leaders Leicester City are free of the strains Pellegrini identifies and 12 points better off than his own team, whose prospects of retaining a spot in the top four would be badly damaged by defeat to United, who can close to within a point of their rivals.
Kompany’s fellow centre-back Nicolas Otamendi sustained a dead leg against Kiev and is battling to be fit for the weekend, while Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis – Pellegrini’s other central defensive options – have displayed erratic form this season.
United’s main fitness concern centres around Ander Herrera after a groin complaint ruled him out against Liverpool.
Attacking stars Kevin De Bruyne and Wayne Rooney (both knee) will sit out once again for their respective sides.
United winger Jesse Lingard could make a maiden derby start after coming off the bench to hit the crossbar in a 0-0 draw with City at Old Trafford in October.
“You watch big games like this one when you are growing up and you want to be involved,” he told MUTV.
“It’s going to be a tough match as always, but we are going to be ready and prepared. Hopefully we can go there with the right mindset and a creative game plan.
“Everyone will be ready and we’ll believe [we can win the game] on Sunday.”
Key Opta stats
– Manchester United have won just one of their last eight Premier Leauge away games (W1 D3 L4)
– Sergio Aguero has scored seven goals in seven Premier League games against Manchester United and will level Wayne Rooney’s league-best tally of eight Manchester derby goals if he finds the net.
– Manuel Pellegrini could become the first Manchester City manager to win four league derbies against United since Joe Mercer in 1970.
– Marcus Rashford has been invovled in three of Manchester United’s last four league goals (two goals, one assist).
– United had not lost three successive away games at Manchester City since 1955.
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