Mind the gap in derby build-up
- Wed 25 Apr 2012, 9:07AM
- Posted by Peter Ferguson
Mind games. Do they only exist if we want them to? Football loves 'em, of course, and they're going to crop up time and again this week. Maybe that's what some people would like ...
Simon Stone, that rock of the Press Association writing in the Independent, examines the conflicting stances of the managers preparing for the, er, biggest derby ever. Yes, ever.
He reckons: "Manchester City's manager, Roberto Mancini, seems to be as determined to play down the significance of Monday's derby as his opposite number at Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson, is to build it up as the title decider.
"For both managers, it seems a calculated decision to either hype or undermine the game, knowing that City faltered in March and the start of April when the pressure for them to be champions was at its most intense.
"While victory would put City top on goal difference with two games of the Premier League season to go and in pole position to win a first championship since 1968, Mancini is adamant that this match has no more than its usual significance."
He quotes Roberto: "The derby is always the game of the year. For the supporters, a derby is always a different game to the others. It is important for the city.
"Manchester has two top teams who are in a position to play this important game. But for us it will just be one more game, not because we fight for this or for that, and after it there are another two games, very tough games."
Stoney reels off the "remarkable sequence of fixtures involving the two clubs over the past three seasons," including, of course, "that awesome 6-1 win for City at Old Trafford, something Mancini does not expect to be repeated in his lifetime:
The one at Old Trafford was a fantastic derby ... but it was a game that can happen only once every hundred years
The piece also includes the much-quoted verdict on the season by Club owner Sheikh Mansour: "The difference is three points and we do have a chance. But whatever happens and even if we don't win I am very happy and satisfied with the players, the team and the management."
Simon says that "Mancini is happy to endorse that view. 'We are happy to be where we are. We already have 10 more points than we got last year, and I am happy that we can finish the season well.'"
Over at the Guardian, Jamie Jackson writes that City "should be at full strength for the derby, with only Micah Richards requiring rehab due to a hamstring problem, while Mario Balotelli is available again following his suspension.
"Richards missed the 2-0 win at Wolves, which Yaya Touré did play in despite being hampered by a recent knee problem. The Ivorian will be available and Mancini hopes he has recovered his full form by Monday."
The Mail, meanwhile, reports that "Inter Milan are pressing ahead with interest in Nigel de Jong and Aleksandar Kolarov. City are keen on Inter's Italy defender Andrea Ranocchia, but any swap deal for the 24-year-old could prove complicated."
Well let's face it, nothing's straightfoward around here these days ...