Manchester City should be at full strength for the derby with Manchester United on Monday 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 Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday, which Yaya Touré did play in despite being hampered by a recent knee problem. The Ivorian will be available and Roberto Mancini, the City manager, hopes he has recovered his full form by Monday.
“If Yaya Touré is on form, he is a top player,” Mancini said: “But we need him to be 100% and on Sunday he was so-so. We also need to check on Richards to see how his hamstring is. Providing he has recovered, with Balotelli back from suspension, we will have everyone.” The Italian has missed the past three games after he was sent off in the 1-0 defeat at Arsenal this month.
Richards undertook some rehabilitation work at the club on Tuesday and although the 162nd derby is seven days away it is understood the right-back’s participation is not in doubt.
After the champions dropped two points in their 4-4 draw with Everton at Old Trafford on Sunday, City trail United by three points as they chase a first title since 1968. Mancini’s men have a superior goal difference of six over United. This means unless there is a seven‑goal swing, if the Blues win all of their remaining three games they can claim the title, even if Sir Alex Ferguson’s men take maximum points from their final two.
This makes the derby on Monday the most crucial in the history of the fixture although Mancini attempted to play down its significance. “The derby is always the game of the year,” he said. “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. 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.”
There have already been two meetings this season with United being humiliated 6-1 in front of their own supporters in October and Ferguson’s men gaining some revenge by knocking City out of the FA Cup 3-2 in January at the Etihad Stadium.
“The one at Old Trafford was a fantastic derby,” said Mancini. “But it was a game that can happen only once every