Aleksandar Kolarov believes Manchester City are a better side than Manchester United, but concedes that the Red Devils deserve to land the Premier League title.
It was at this stage last season that City embarked upon a late surge which carried them past United and to the top-flight crown.
Twelve months on and any hopes they had of defending that crown appear to have gone, with United having pulled 15 points clear at the summit with only eight games remaining.
A derby duel at Old Trafford on Monday will offer City an opportunity to close that gap, but they will be playing for little more than pride.
Kolarov insists that will provide enough motivation to the Blues squad, with it important for them to get one over on their fiercest rivals.
He told Sky Sports News HD: "I have to be honest, they have been better this season.
"We have played good, but some games we have made mistakes. Against small teams, we have made a lot of mistakes - away especially.
"They deserve it because they are in first place at the moment. But, for us, that doesn't change anything. We are going to try and win in the game at Old Trafford, to be proud.
"They are confident in this moment and it will be a different game but - if we play like we know, if we are all at 100 per cent - I think we are better than them."