Kevin De Bruyne believes victory in next week’s derby would see Manchester City strike a “massive blow” in the title race.
City restored an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a hard-fought 2-1 win over a stubborn West Ham at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
It was their 13th successive league victory and extending that run by beating arch-rivals and nearest challengers Manchester United at Old Trafford next weekend would put them in an even more dominant position.
Midfielder De Bruyne said: “A derby is always special. It is a big game, the first against second, so everybody will be up for it. Hopefully we can win the game, it would be massive.”
After some emphatic wins in the autumn, City have been finding the going tougher recently with West Ham the latest team to take Pep Guardiola’s side to the wire.
Following on from Raheem Sterling’s last-gasp clinchers against Huddersfield and Southampton, David Silva this time popped up to volley home De Bruyne’s pinpoint cross in the 83rd minute.
It was the least City deserved for their second-half dominance but it left the Hammers frustrated after a hard-working display.
Angelo Ogbonna put the visitors ahead on the stroke of half-time with a firm header from a corner, further underlining a growing belief that City side can be exposed at set-pieces.
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That effort was cancelled out by Nicolas Otamendi just before the hour and after creating a series of chances to win the game – many of them repelled by West Ham goalkeeper Adrian – Silva finally broke through.
De Bruyne said: “Obviously it’s more difficult when the other team has 11 behind the ball, it takes more time, but the late goals are evidence of them getting tired with the way that we play. I think the character has shown in the last game.”
Before the derby, City will face Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine in their final Champions League group match. Having already secured top spot, Wednesday’s match has little riding on it for City and Guardiola is expected to rest players.
De Bruyne will definitely not feature having incurred a suspension.
He said: “Maybe (it is) good for me to get a little bit of rest and prepare myself for Sunday.”
City’s performance impressed their former defender Pablo Zabaleta, who captained West Ham on his first return to the Etihad since leaving the club in the summer.
The 32-year-old said: “They are doing great and have a great team. I am so pleased to see them playing that well. I wish them all the best and hope they can win a lot of trophies.”
The Hammers are still awaiting their first win under new manager David Moyes.
Zabaleta said: “It was really nice to be back in front of the City fans but I was a little upset because I thought we did great and were so close to getting at least one point. We showed much better discipline as a team and now we need to move on.”