Man City boss Pep Guardiola had insisted that the upcoming derby match against Man United is not on his mind, ahead of tonight’s clash with Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. City have come under fire over the last few days, following reports that the club has failed to comply with financial fair play regulations, yet amid a tough week at the Etihad, Guardiola is keen to focus on his current European commitments.
The Manchester Derby will always be a fixture that holds the attention of a global audience; however, in certain weeks there is an extra buzz surrounding the match. Last season, United arrived at the Etihad facing the prospect of watching their bitter rivals lift the title – a factor which likely had a massive psychological impact on Jose Mourinho’s players. This weekend however, the pressure has shifted in the direction of the blue half on Manchester, with City emerging as the ‘bad guys’ of English football, following a damning article published by German newspaper Der Spiegel.
The article centres around City’s owners the Abu Dhabi United Group, and the methods that they have used to get around financial fair play rules. It’s perhaps too early to tell if the club will face any form of severe punishment by UEFA, but it certainly doesn’t look good, and it’s perhaps the last thing that Pep Guardiola and his players need on the eve of a huge fixture.
“Every game is important, and you have to evaluate,” said Guardiola. “Shakhtar is the most important because it’s the first one. After dropping points against Lyon every game is a final.
“We have a big chance to make an incredible step and qualify for the next round, then we have three or four days to think about United.”
Guardiola confirmed that both centre-back Nicolas Otamendi and midfielder Ilkay Gundogan have returned to training and are in contention to feature in tonight’s match. “They are ready,” he said. “Except Kevin [De Bruyne] and [Eliaquim] Mangala, they are ready.”
“We feel more comfortable at home than away,” he added. “I prefer to play here than in Donetsk for example.
“Tomorrow we have a final for us to be one of the best 16 teams in Europe.”