Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini spoke earlier this week of the importance of derby matches in modern football, particularly the forthcoming Manchester Derby in which his side will take on crosstown rivals Manchester United on Sunday at Old Trafford.
"I think that all the derbies are fantastic," he said of the traditional rivalries. "In Milan, in Manchester, in Rome, in general. I think in the city where there are two very important clubs it's a very important derby."
Mancini's side currently sits two points ahead of United at the top of the Premier League table. However, that lead is a luxury that is very much under fire as Manchester City heads to one of the toughest stadiums in the world.
On the other hand, a victory at Old Trafford would put City an impressive five points clear of United and definitively prove that they are a legitimate force in the run for the title.
It's a battle for the No. 1 spot in the league and Roberto Mancini knows full well how significant the match could be to his side's title chances.
"It's very important," he said of the match. "A derby is usually different from another game, but in this case I think it will be very, very different. For the first time in a long time, we can go [to Old Trafford] on the top."
Even with a squad capable of rising to the top of the table in the early stages of 2011-12, Manchester City has had difficulty finding that extra bit of an edge to beat United. Their current standing in the league could give the perceived underdogs the confidence they need to pull off an upset and retain their spot.
The match has been described as a six-point game for the two sides that are expected by many to compete in a season-long race for the title. However, Chelsea aren't very far behind and a United victory could not only drop City to second place, but make the race much closer between three sides than Mancini would prefer it to be.
Instead, he would prefer City to run away with the lead early and put as much space between him and the closest rivals as possible. That's a goal that exists apart from regional rivalries and fan feuds.
City will enter the match with an attacking agenda, hoping to overwhelm the hosts with the most potent goal-scoring offense in England right now. It won't be easy, a simple truth that Mancini acknowledges.
"We know that Sunday will be a very hard game," he finished. "United at home is incredible."