Ryan Giggs says Manchester City are discovering the harsh reality of life as Premier League champions as they attempt to avoid falling six points behind Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow.
Having denied United a 20th league championship when they won the title on the final day of last season, City go into the derby having been eliminated from Europe in midweek.
Roberto Mancini's team remain unbeaten in the league, but they have stuttered to draws against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Everton this season and Giggs, a 12-time Premier League winner with United, says that retaining a title is always harder than winning it in the first place.
"I think teams raise themselves against us because we are United, and City have found that a bit this season because they are the champions and because of the money they've spent," Giggs said.
"With all the exposure and quality of players they've got, everyone wants to beat them. It's tough when you are champions and have to defend the title."
And Giggs admitted that City's title success had intensified the rivalry between the two clubs.
"With City winning the league last season, it has added spice," Giggs said. "You see a lot more City shirts knocking about and you get the odd comment. We have just got to make sure that it doesn't happen again.
"We have had different challenges down the years, from the likes of Arsenal in the late '90s and then there was Chelsea with Jose Mourinho coming in. City is different again, because they are right on our doorstep."
Despite the agony of losing the title on goal difference, with Sergio Aguero's crucial goal for City coming in injury-time against QPR on the last day of the season, Giggs insisted that losing out to their neighbours was bad enough regardless of the events of the final day.
"It hurt anyway," he said. "It was very disappointing, obviously, and it was even more disappointing because it was City." (© Daily Telegraph, London)