MANCHESTER - The intense rivalry between neighbours and Premier League table toppers Manchester City and Manchester United makes their derby the biggest game of the season for the players, City captain Vincent Kompany has said ahead of Sunday's clash.
Both clubs have enjoyed stellar starts to the campaign with the Etihad outfit riding a 13-game winning streak to open up an eight-point lead and United losing just twice in 15 games to keep up their pursuit.
The highly anticipated encounter could see City extend their advantage over second-placed United to 11 points and Kompany, who has first-hand experience of the ferocity of the derby, says there is more at stake than just points.
"Not just to me but to every player it means more than any other game," Kompany told the club's website. "I'm very honest about it. I do think in football people like to downplay the derbies, say it's just another game, just another three points, but in reality it's so much more than that and it always is."
The fixture is even more enticing as City are on the verge of a record-breaking 14 consecutive league wins while United are unbeaten in 40 games across all competitions at Old Trafford.
City midfielder Fernandinho believes Paul Pogba's absence through suspension could hinder the hosts but is expecting United to deal with the Frenchman's exclusion and hold their own in a difficult fixture.
"Of course, any team that loses such a good player, they are going to miss him," the Brazilian told British media. "But Manchester United have good players and it doesn't matter who is going to play in his position, they will do a good job. It will be a tough game for both teams."
Fellow midfielder Yaya Toure is wary of United's counter-attacking threat but believes City will be ready defensively.
"This year I think when you see United, they are going to be worried about us. That's going to make them very dangerous on the counter-attack and we have to be ready for that," Toure said.
"It's going to be a tough game, a derby is a derby... We don't want to lose... when I see United playing games against big teams, they always wait for a mistake to hit them on the counter-attack."