derby could define city

LONDON - It is not often that an end-of-season Manchester derby is more important to City than United but tomorrow's clash could go a long way to deciding whether the home side can break up England's big four.

LONDON - It is not often that an end-of-season Manchester derby is more important to City than United but tomorrow's clash could go a long way to deciding whether the home side can break up England's big four.

United, of course, are not out of the Premier League title running but even victory at Eastlands would still leave Chelsea strong favourites for the silverware.

City desperately need the points to tighten their grip on the fourth place that secures a foothold on the Champions League.

United were in pole position three weeks ago but a 2-1 home defeat by Chelsea followed by a 0-0 draw at Blackburn Rovers last weekend has left them four points behind the Londoners with four games remaining.

It is not an insurmountable gap, even with Chelsea's recent big wins giving them a superior goal difference of five, but the bigger issue for United could now be holding off Arsenal for second place.

Arsene Wenger's side are third, two points behind United, after their 2-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.

Tomorrow's game is the fourth Manchester derby of the season and will have to go some way to live up to the previous three.

United won the league clash at Old Trafford 4-3 in September. City won the first leg of their League Cup semifinal 2-1, with a double from former United forward Carlos Tevez, only for United to snatch a place in the final with Wayne Rooney's last-gasp goal for a 3-1 success at Old Trafford in the second leg.

The in-form England striker remains a doubt for the match because of a twisted ankle that kept him out of the Chelsea and Blackburn games.

United fans, unimpressed by the efforts of Dimitar Berbatov in Rooney's absence, will be desperate to have him back.

Should United triumph, they will hope Chelsea drop points in their awkward-looking trip to Tottenham later tomorrow.

That would also suit Arsenal, who refuse to lie down in the championship race despite taking a couple of standing counts and they would remain in the mix with victory at Wigan on Sunday. - Reuters

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