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Zabaleta hails returning teammates

Pablo Zabaleta admits he is expecting a tricky test when Arsenal visit the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, but believes City have players returning at just the right time.

After emerging from a period with no fit first team strikers, Manuel Pellegrini welcomed Stevan Jovetic back to the starting line-up against Everton last weekend, while Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany were fit enough to be named on the bench.

Now, as the English Champions look to retain the Premier League title and progress in the Champions League, Zabaleta is hoping the whole squad will be fit and firing to give City the best chance of a strong second half to the season – starting with Sunday’s clash against the Gunners.  

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“We have been training very hard for Sunday because we have a very tough game against a very tough team,” the defender told mcfc.co.uk.  

“It’s good to see some important players coming back from long term injuries because we know, looking forward, that now is a really crucial period for our team.

“We are excited to try to do well and win something at the end of the season, and to do that you always need your best players in good form.”

Following the date with Arsene Wenger's side, City then take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge when the Premier League resumes after FA Cup fourth round weekend, and the Argentine believes that makes victory against Arsenal even more important as City bid to overhaul the west Londoners at the top.

Added Zaba:  “We know it is a crucial game for us to win and get three points because then we face Chelsea next week. We have two very important games coming up in the Premier League and hopefully we can do well in both of them.”

However, while the stakes remain high, the fan favourite is expecting an entertaining encounter for the sell-out crowd.

 Zaba, who turned 30 on Friday, is wary of the Gunners’ attacking threat but believes Pellegrini’s men, including Aguero, will pose plenty of problems for the opposition to ponder as well.

He said: “This is a fixture for people who really love football.

“We will have to concentrate and defend well as they have very good attacking players, pass the ball short and make runs behind defenders.

...Pablo Zabaleta...

 

“We need to be solid at the back, and they concede space at the back, and we have Aguero back again, which is very good news for us.”

City have added another striker to the ranks in the form of January signing Wilfried Bony, although he will have to wait for his debut until after the conclusion of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Zabaleta is familiar with trying to prevent the Ivorian from scoring against him in past encounters with Swansea, and is now looking forward to playing alongside him in a blue shirt.

He declared: “We will give him a great welcome to the club. We know him very well as a player because we’ve played against him many times and he always scores!

“The manager and the club have seen his talent and thought it was a good opportunity to bring Bony here, and we wish him all the best.”

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