Football

Manchester City Vs Manchester United, Sat 17 Apr 2010

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Manchester City left-back Wayne Bridge could face Manchester United in the derby on Saturday at Eastlands.

The defender has recovered from a hernia operation, which caused him to miss five matches.

He is one of four players who are in line to return with Stephen Ireland (ankle) and Patrick Vieira (knee) on the mend from injuries while Pablo Zabaleta is free from suspension.

Bridge has endured a troubled season off and on the pitch and only returned to action against Hull in February after missing 13 games because of a knee problem.

Roberto Mancini wants to show the world Manchester's finest at Eastlands - and that means Wayne Rooney being fit.

It will not be decided until Saturday whether Rooney's troublesome ankle injury will stand up to the strain of a frenetic derby, in which United will look to retain an outside chance of retaining their Premier League crown.

City will also be trying to take a significant step towards securing Champions League football and, under those circumstances, Mancini could be forgiven for hoping Rooney does not recover.

However, in bracketing the England striker alongside his own Carlos Tevez as the best forward players on the planet - Lionel Messi excepted - Mancini hopes they are both on view.

"I want Rooney to play," Mancini said. "If people around the world are watching a game between City and United it is better for the best players to be involved.

"And, whilst Messi is the best, Messi, Tevez and Rooney are the top players in the world."

While the importance of Rooney to United has been obvious for some time now, arguably City are just as reliant on Tevez.

With 28 goals to his name, Tevez is by far the Blues' most prolific marksman, and with 10 in his last eight games the 26-year-old is hitting form at just the right time given Mancini rates the next month as the most important period in City's illustrious history.

"The last month will be fantastic for us. Maybe the most important in our history," said Mancini.

"If we finish fourth we can change the whole way our club is. To play in the Champions League next season is most important for the club and the players."

To that end, Mancini is anxious to present a united front.

Tevez has not helped that situation with his criticism of Mancini's training methods, which he feels are too tough.

However, the Italian makes no apologies for dragging his players through regular double sessions, pointing to City's present Premier League status as proof that they are working.

"This is my style," he added. "I don't think we work hard. I think we work well. Carlos has done that, like the other players.

"We have improved over the last three months. I am content about that."

Certainly Tevez's performances do not hint at the resentment that characterised his last days at United.

The Argentina star has already damaged his old club this season, scoring in both legs of the Carling Cup semi-final, even if his efforts ultimately ended in failure.

A more tangible reward lies in wait this time, which is why Mancini is hoping Tevez maintains his current form.

"Maybe Carlos wants to score in this game more than the others," said Mancini. "I just hope he plays very well, like he has done in the last few games.

"I don't want him to think about other issues. He played for United for two years and did very well for them.

"But now he plays for Manchester City and we are glad he is here with us."

Rooney is set to return for United.

He missed the draw at Blackburn with an ankle injury but has been training and is rated as more likely than Rio Ferdinand (groin) and Ryan Giggs (hamstring) to be involved.

John O'Shea is also fit, whilst Owen Hargreaves is in Sir Alex Ferguson's squad for the first time since September 2008.

Hargreaves' fitness is one of the matters Ferguson must wrestle with this summer as he looks to reshape a squad that has already been bolstered by the signings of Javier Hernandez and Chris Smalling, with more set to follow.

It provides a backdrop to a potentially pivotal day, given Chelsea must also visit City's top-four rivals Tottenham later in the day.

"It is the most significant derby for a long time," said Ferguson.

"City and Spurs are trying to get into the Champions League for the first time in their history.

"It is the first time since I have been manager that we are facing City when they have a genuine chance of achieving something."

Copyright (c) PA Sport 2009, All Rights Reserved.

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Topics:
Football
Manchester City
Wayne Bridge
Premier League
Manchester United

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