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Man City finally face United on level terms
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Not since the glory days of 40 years ago have City fans approached a Manchester derby with such high hopes as they will take into Sunday's Premier League clash at Old Trafford.

Since winning the league in 1968 and giving United a farewell shove out of the old first division in 1974, City fans have been forced to dine on meager derby rations.

Even the 5-1 thrashing of 1989, a 4-1 win in 2004 and their first home and away double for four decades in the 2007/08 season have been achieved against a backdrop of total United dominance.

City's brief spell in the limelight when they won the league, FA, League and Cup Winners' cups from 1968-70 has been totally obliterated by United's groaning honors collection.

Instead, City fans satisfied themselves with supporting a cash-poor but charismatic club which they considered the heart and soul of Manchester unlike their wealthy Salford-based rivals, whose support base encompassed the whole country and much of the world.

However, since the arrival of owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the millions he has pumped into the club, the fans have drawn a line at smilingly writing off failure as "typical City" and are starting to believe they can challenge again for honors.

They go into the game level with United on 12 points, from one game less, having won their first four of the season.

Last weekend's 4-2 home success over Arsenal was widely seen as the new team's "coming of age" and City would dearly love to build on that with the biggest of all top-four scalps.

"We played well against Arsenal, now we have to go to Old Trafford and show our credentials," Kolo Toure told Sky Sports. "Man City will be a force this season."

Midfielder Stephen Ireland told the club's website (www.mcfc.co.uk): "I can't wait for the match, derby matches are great occasions and everyone is looking forward to it, especially after the win over Arsenal.

"There will be an extra edge to this game, there is no doubt about that. Carlos Tevez coming here and some of the things that have been said this summer may even sharpen that edge."

Tevez's move did not go down too well with everyone at Old Trafford but the Argentine striker is doubtful for Sunday because of the knee injury he picked up playing for Argentina.

Robinho and Roque Santa Cruz are also out injured and Emmanuel Adebayor looks likely to be suspended after his clash with Robin van Persie last weekend.

United, who were superb at Tottenham despite going 1-0 down after a minute and having Paul Scholes sent off, warmed up with a 1-0 Champions League win at Besiktas.

The Old Trafford game is not the only table-topping derby on Sunday as leaders Chelsea take on fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham lost their 100 percent start with a 3-1 home defeat by United last week while Chelsea's last-minute 2-1 win over Stoke City gave them five wins out of five.

Chelsea added a further victory with a 1-0 home success over Porto in the Champions League on Tuesday and will be pleased to welcome back striker Didier Drogba who was suspended for that match.

Tottenham have not won at Stamford Bridge for almost 20 years.

Liverpool visit West Ham United on Saturday, while Arsenal are also in action, at home to Wigan Athletic.

(Reuters via China Daily September 18, 2009)

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