Belfast Telegraph

Zabaleta: City boosted by derby win

Pablo Zabaleta has no doubt City should be regarded as the top club in Manchester following their derby win on Sunday.

After playing second fiddle to United for the majority of Sir Alex Ferguson's reign, City are now enjoying a period of supremacy over their local rivals.

They recorded a historic fourth successive derby victory thanks to Sergio Aguero's second-half strike at the Etihad Stadium.

The last time City enjoyed such a good run of form against their local rivals was 1970.

Louis van Gaal claimed United were the biggest club in town on the eve of the derby - but Zabaleta thinks otherwise.

"All I can say is that Manchester City's players and the owners are doing a big, big effort to be a top team not just in Manchester but also in the Premier League and also in Europe," the City defender said.

"And now probably it's different history than years ago where probably United was the main team in the city.

"Now it's a bit different. We are dominating at the moment in the derby games. But that shows how Manchester City are improving year after year."

Confidence levels had dropped at City following the bad run of form, which had seen the club draw with CSKA Moscow and suffer defeats to West Ham and Newcastle.

But Zabaleta thinks City's confidence has been restored following their morale-boosting victory over United.

"It was a great victory because we needed those three points to get confidence back and hopefully that can continue," the City right-back said.

"It was a massive win for us. It's one of those games that everyone enjoys winning. The derby is always special and I'm glad our fans can enjoy another win."

Even though they won, City were unhappy to have scored just once against a United team that was down to 10 men for the majority of the game because of Chris Smalling's silly dismissal.

Manuel Pellegrini's team were far more prolific against United last season, when they recorded a 7-1 aggregate win over their rivals.

United were not the only team to get a pasting off City last term. City beat Arsenal 6-3, scored five against the same CSKA team they drew with two weeks ago, and they put 11 goals past Tottenham over the course of two games last year.

Now Zabaleta hopes City will start producing similar results to help them in their quest to catch Premier League leaders Chelsea.

"We had to get back to our best form to be the team that we used to be - sharp, clinical and aggressive," the Argentinian said. "This is the team we want to see week-in, week-out.

"It has been a tough start to the season for the big players who came in late (after the World Cup) and we didn't have a good pre-season.

"There is still a long way to go and we are still confident because we are only six points behind Chelsea."

City will be hoping for an upturn in form in Europe too - starting with the visit of CSKA Moscow on Wednesday.

The Blues drew 2-2 with the Russians a fortnight ago, leaving them with just two points from their opening three games.

The Champions League has not gripped the imagination of City fans - the club are offering two tickets for the price of one for Wednesday's game in a bid to fill the stadium.

But Zabaleta is hungry for success in the competition and states Wednesday's game is a must-win.

"It's a huge game," he said. "We need a win because if not it's going to be very hard to qualify for the next round. We are desperate to qualify."

City have been boosted by the news that Frank Lampard could be fit for the game.

"I'm not far off selection," the midfielder told City's official website. "Fingers crossed, if all goes well over the next couple of days, I'll be back in contention.

"I had a small injury in my thigh - an old injury I'd disturbed slightly."

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