Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong believes Sunday's showdown with Liverpool at Eastlands could be pivotal for their season.
Roberto Mancini's men edged back above their rivals in the race for fourth place in midweek with a scrappy and unconvincing 1-1 draw against 10-man Stoke.
The Blues now hold a one point advantage over Rafa Benitez's men and also have the benefit of a game in hand, while Aston Villa and Tottenham remain firmly in contention as the season enters the home straight.
Holland international De Jong believes victory over the Merseysiders will help them make a major step towards realising their ambition of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League.
He said: "It's a massive game for us and we know a win will dent one of our main rivals for a Champions League spot."
The former Ajax and Hamburg hardman has settled in comfortably to life in Manchester and feels a special affinity with the supporters.
De Jong believes the Eastlands faithful appreciate his uncompromising style of play and has claimed City supporters outnumber their United rivals in Manchester.
He added: "I love the City fans and the fighting spirit they have - it's something I can relate to.
"I noticed from the moment I arrived in Manchester how many Blues there were compared to Reds.
"This is a working-class city. The people are used to hard work and want to see players play in a way they would if they had the opportunity.
"I'm not the sort of player who will make a nice move during a game - in fact, I'd rather win a fair, crunching tackle than score a goal. That's just how I am.
"I see the passion our fans have for this club. I totally relate to that."