NEW YORK: Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders face off Thursday in a closely watched US presidential debate, which will be moderated by CNN, ahead of the key New York primary in the increasingly acrimonious Democratic race for the White House. The former secretary of state holds a double-digit lead over the Vermont senator in polls and needs a big win in next Tuesday’s primary after losing seven of the last eight contests to her leftist rival. The Brooklyn-born, self-described Democratic socialist is similarly dreaming of a shock win in Clinton’s adopted home state to keep alive his dream of wresting the nomination from the Democratic frontrunner. It makes for a dramatic showdown in a state in which both claim close ties. New York is the state that elected Clinton twice to the US Senate, and Sanders was born and brought up in Brooklyn. “I think it will be lively,” Clinton predicted of the debate – their first since March 9 and scheduled at Sanders’ insistence, looking to close his trailing gap behind the former first lady.