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Zabaleta: Premier League tougher than ever

PASSION: Pablo Zabaleta has been explaining the reason behind his celebration against Watford.

PASSION: Pablo Zabaleta has been explaining the reason behind his celebration against Watford.

Manchester City’s Pablo Zabaleta is the media’s main man this morning, with the Argentine featuring in a number of reports as we take a look at Friday’s back pages.

There was a goal scoring performance from the 31-year-old in Wednesday’s win against Watford, with the added bonus of a clean sheet, which Zabaleta is hoping to build on.

Quoted in ESPN, the defender believes defensive solidity will be key if City are to succeed in what he describes as the most challenging Premier League title race in recent memory.

"I think this is probably the hardest Premier League we have seen in the last few years,” he told reporters.

"We have been talking the last few days that we needed to improve defensively. We kept a clean sheet [against Watford]. We were solid at the back and that is a big difference.

"We were strong in the air and conceded few chances. That is what you need to win the games."

There’s more from the fan favourite in the Manchester Evening News, where Zabaleta has been explaining the reason behind Wednesday’s passionate celebration.

Stuart Brennan has the story, in which the full back says: “When you score goals sometimes, there’s something comes from inside.

“Also it’s been quite hard for me at the beginning of the season because I had that operation in my ankle. I was playing last season with so much pain.

“It was the right decision to stop in the summer to recover from the problem. I’m getting back to my best fitness level and feeling good.”

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Meanwhile, with Sunday’s showdown with Arsenal looming large, player-turned-pundit, Danny Murphy has delivered his analysis ahead of the Etihad’s third v fourth clash.

The BBC man thinks the Gunners’ arrival in East Manchester is the perfect opportunity for Pep Guardiola’s men to send a message to their title rivals after the defeats to Chelsea and Leicester.

“Sunday's game against Arsenal is a wonderful opportunity for Guardiola to put things right,” says Murphy.

“City may be going through a transitional period but they are still capable of blowing teams away.

“Their performance in their 3-1 home defeat by Chelsea at the start of December was actually pretty good - they made enough chances to beat the side that is flying high at the top of the table at the moment.

“A win at the weekend would be a statement to the other teams at the top that City still mean business, but Arsenal are likely to look at the game in the same way.”

That’s your lot for today, Blues, but we’ll be back again at the same time tomorrow with more City-centric news and views.

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