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Pablo ready for big Blues challenge

Pablo Zabaleta vs Fulham 0809

Pablo Zabaleta vs Fulham 0809

Pablo Zabaleta admits it has become tougher this season to claim a place in the team - and it's not likely to get any easier despite City chasing success on three fronts.

The versatile Argentine made his first start of the campaign in the 2-1 Carling Cup win over Fulham at right-back after Micah Richards was ruled out by a shoulder injury.

Zaby, whose Premier League duty has been restricted to 30 minutes at Portsmouth, hopes to line-up against West Ham on Monday night but concedes that there is a terrific fight for places.

He said: "Fulham was a difficult game because the team had just played in the derby and we went into extra time in a physical game against a team who had changed eleven players.

"I was happy to be given an opportunity to show my quality. It's not easy being on the bench, everyone wants to play but it's so difficult - there are so many quality players, you need to work hard every day for your opportunity.

"There are a lot of games. We are fighting for every competition - the Premier League, the FA Cup, the Carling Cup. It's important for us because we need an opportunity to win a competition."

Pablo insists the derby blip at Old Trafford, when City lost 4-3 to a controversial late goal, will have no long-term bearing on the team's challenge to the established top four.

He said: "We'll have had a good rest after Fulham, and West Ham will be a great game to win after the derby result. It's an opportunity for three points to keep us high in the table.

"It's not impossible to finish in the top four, but it's not easy - the Premier League is very combative. We have good quality players, but we need to play very well to be in the top four."

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