Zabaleta eyes perfect run-in
Published 06/04/2014 | 14:37
Pablo Zabaleta says winning is the only objective now as Manchester City look to seize control of the title race.
City underlined their status as favourites for the Barclays Premier League crown with an ultimately comfortable 4-1 win over Southampton on Saturday.
Given that they also have games in hand over rivals Chelsea and Liverpool, third-placed City could afford to draw next week's crunch clash at Anfield.
But with the battle so tight, defender Zabaleta insists they cannot set out to achieve anything less than the full three points.
Acknowledging City needed to overcome a battling Southampton for their latest victory, the Argentinian said: "The most important thing was to win - we must keep winning all games. It is going to be very tough until the end of the season.
"At the end of the season, sometimes, teams can look a little tired but I think we must keep winning games.
"Every single game now is going to be like a final, (but) we have belief.
"I think we have a great team to make success this season but it is not going to be very easy.
"We need to keep working hard and keep playing like (we did) in the second half. I think playing in that way we will have more chances."
City made the perfect start against Mauricio Pochettino's mid-table side as Yaya Toure netted a third-minute penalty after Jose Fonte was adjudged to have tripped Edin Dzeko.
But they failed to build on that and Saints responded well, even after 17-goal top scorer Jay Rodriguez suffered a serious-looking - and potentially World Cup-ending - knee injury.
Rodriguez, who had been in the frame for a place in England's squad for Brazil, was carried off on a stretcher after landing awkwardly midway through the first half.
The player, club and national boss Roy Hodgson will all be awaiting updates on his condition early next week.
Saints equalised with a Rickie Lambert penalty after Zabaleta tripped Jack Cork but two goals just before the break put City in command.
The first was highly controversial, with David Silva clearly offside before setting up Samir Nasri.
But as Pochettino complained, Dzeko headed a third and the game was effectively gone. Substitute Stevan Jovetic added a fourth nine minutes from time.
Zabaleta said: "I think they are probably one of the best teams in the league, for sure.
"I think we must give them a lot of credit because they are having a great season, they played really well.
"We didn't play our best in the first half but then we came back stronger.
"We had the control of the ball in the second half. We scored four goals and that is great for us."
Pochettino bemoaned the decisions of referee Chris Foy after the game. He was unhappy with the award of City's early penalty and then felt the missed Silva offside completely changed the game.
Striker Lambert was in full agreement with his manager, telling the club's website, saintsfc.co.uk: "It is a disgrace of a decision, I have got to say.
"You can understand two or three yards but five or six - it's unbelievable. I haven't got words for it.
"It absolutely killed us going into half-time. At 1-1 at half-time at this place, it gives everyone a lift.
"We're not saying we would have drawn or won, but it would have been a different game. Going back out at 3-1 down, it's hard to get back into a game."
Most thoughts at the club after the game were with Rodriguez, who had been enjoying an outstanding season.
Lambert, who has his own World Cup hopes, said: "I'm gutted. Absolutely devastated.
"He has been superb for us. He is on fire, he has been on fire all season.
"Obviously with what is coming up, it is hard to put into words. I can't imagine - his head's gone in there, which you can imagine."