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Football Man City bid to seal Premier League title against Man Utd

Manchester City can become English champions for the fifth time if they beat bitter rivals Manchester United on Saturday, but manager Pep Guardiola fulfilled his promise to prioritise Champions League progress by resting a number of key players.

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Pep Guardiola is bidding for his first Premier League title since joining Manchester City play

Pep Guardiola is bidding for his first Premier League title since joining Manchester City

(AFP/File)

Manchester City can become English champions for the fifth time if they beat bitter rivals Manchester United on Saturday, but manager Pep Guardiola fulfilled his promise to prioritise Champions League progress by resting a number of key players.

City have to overturn a 3-0 first leg deficit when they host Liverpool on Tuesday in the second leg of their quarter-final.

And Guardiola made four changes to the side beaten at Anfield in midweek with City's outstanding candidate for player of the year honours Kevin de Bruyne dropping to the bench alongside Gabriel Jesus and the returning Sergio Aguero from injury.

However, history awaits Guardiola's men if they can see off their local rivals at the Etihad Stadium as they will seal the league title earlier than any side ever has.

Hours before the 1630GMT kick-off, fans braved rain and cold winds to gather at pop-up bars around the ground to watch famous City wins over United in years gone by along with highlights of a record-breaking season shown on a big screen.

City have traditionally lived in the shadow of their local rivals with United boasting a record 20 titles.

But backed by the millions of their Abu-Dhabi owners, City's third title in seven seasons is evidence of a decisive turning of the tide in Manchester.

"We are going into it to win it," Guardiola said ahead of the clash, but the Catalan did warn "we have one eye on Tuesday."

Fuelled by their Emirati owners, Manchester City have spent heavily to build their current squad play

Fuelled by their Emirati owners, Manchester City have spent heavily to build their current squad

(AFP)

Mourinho said he wanted to delay City's title celebrations but admitted it would not be the "end of the world" if Guardiola's team won the match, conceding they deserve to be champions.

Pogba claims

Extra intrigue was added to an already hotly-anticipated encounter when Guardiola made the surprising claim on Friday that he was given the chance to sign United's club-record signing Pogba in January.

"I said no. We don't have the money to buy Pogba because he is so expensive," Guardiola told reporters as he attacked the conduct of Pogba's agent Mino Raiola.

Pogba hasn't always made Mourinho's starting XI in big games this season, but the French international is included in a physical three-man midfield alongside Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera.

Emirati riches

Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba play

Manchester United's French midfielder Paul Pogba

(AFP/File)

Despite Guardiola's suggestion that City could not stretch to Pogba's price tag, the investment by the Emirati owners, who took over in 2008, has been phenomenal.

The CIES Football Observatory estimates that the current City squad cost 878 million euros to assemble.

Guardiola, also a former manager of German giants Bayern Munich, has himself splashed out nearly 600 million euros in his time in northwest England, but he defended the level of spending.

"It's impossible to do that, to play the way we play, the results we achieved, without top players," he said. "It's impossible. And today the top players cost a lot of money.

Manchester City's high-scoring Sergio Aguero (L), midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) and Portuguese playmaker Bernardo Silva did not come cheap play

Manchester City's high-scoring Sergio Aguero (L), midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (C) and Portuguese playmaker Bernardo Silva did not come cheap

(AFP/File)

The first of City's Premier League titles came in 2012 as City edged out United on the final day of the season when Aguero scored in the 94th minute against Queens Park Rangers.

"Nothing will beat that," said Nathan Rodgers, 25, draped in a sky blue and white City scarf. "But we can enjoy it more today."

However, the spectre of United spoiling their big day had some home fans on edge.

"We've been through too much to gloat just yet," said Angela Cartwright. "I'll be much happier later on if we've won."

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