Belfast Telegraph

Manchester City will be ready if Chelsea slip up, warns Zabaleta

By Simon Peach

Pablo Zabaleta has not given up on Premier League glory, warning runaway leaders Chelsea that Manchester City have the personnel and personality to capitalise on any mistakes.

Life at the Etihad Stadium got off to a dream start for Pep Guardiola, only for the end of their indomitable winning streak to throw their season off kilter.

Last weekend's 4-2 humbling at Leicester led to questions about City's style and substance, yet they responded by overcoming Watford and then coming from behind against title rivals Arsenal.

Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling strikes cancelled out Theo Walcott's early opener to run out 2-1 victors, with Zabaleta underlining the importance of a win that propelled them into second.

"It was massive," the right-back said after City won a Premier League match they were trailing in at the break for the first time since November 2012. "We had been talking before the game that it was a huge game for both teams because we are two teams that are looking to try to catch Chelsea, trying to reduce that gap to them.

"We know they are on a run of games and a real solid team, but of course we are not going to give up.

"We have confidence, we have belief. There's a long way to go until the end of the season.

"We showed in the last two games that playing that way we are one of those teams that can fight for the title for sure."

City have shown flashes of brilliance this season, from the first-half dominance in overcoming Manchester United at Old Trafford to the impressive Champions League defeat of Barcelona.

Sunday, though, was the first statement result they have had in the league at the Etihad Stadium and a platform that Zabaleta believes can be built upon.

"We always try to be a solid team, especially when we play at home," he said. "It was really good.

"We tried to make the pitch wide and play with wings, very open and be an attacking team all the time. We were talking before that probably we are struggling a little with our threat from counter-attacks and we needed to be concentrated, more focused.

"Obviously we conceded that early goal in the game but the reaction of the team was really good.

"That showed the personality that we also have apart from the talent. This is the way to continue playing."

Zabaleta is one of the standard bearers in the City dressing room, with his determination to win on Sunday seeing him play through the pain and exit the Etihad Stadium wearing a brace on his left knee.

The right-back was hurt trying to get a shot away after 15 minutes against Arsenal and was due to see a specialist yesterday to find out the severity of the injury.

"I am good," he said. "Unfortunately, I came off at half-time, a problem with my ligament.

"I felt it straight away after 15 minutes and I just tried to finish the first half.

"I had some pain in the ligament and it was a risk to continue playing, to possibly make it worse, and that's why I came off.

"But I am pleased and so happy because of that victory against one of the greatest teams in the league. So, for us, it was a massive win.

"Hopefully, from my experience because I did it twice last year, it is not too bad.

"My wish is a grade one, maybe I can have an injection in there and be ready in, I don't know, maybe 10 days. We'll see."

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