Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta was delighted to return to the starting line-up and keep a clean sheet against Manchester United.
Zabaleta’s start in Thursday’s Manchester derby was his first in the Premier League since the draw with Tottenham Hotspur in January and he was proud of his typically committed performance up against United winger Anthony Martial.
He said: “I felt very well after a while out of the team. It is never easy when you are not involved in the team during a certain period of time, you feel the lack of pace, but in general terms I felt well.”
The Argentinian has seen Spaniard Jesus Navas starting at right-back in recent weeks and Zabaleta has been impressed with his shift in position.
“Navas performed very well. In a team is always very important have players that are able to perform in different positions in the field – have as many alternatives as possible. Then the manager has the final choice. I always try to be ready.”
Thursday’s goalless draw ensured City remain in pole position for a top three finish – provided they can win their final five games of the Premier League season.
City face Middlesbrough on Sunday – less than three days after the derby – but Zabaleta doesn’t expect the quick turnaround to affect his teammates in any way.
“We just have to rest and try to recover as soon as possible. We are into the last month of the season. The season is facing its end and we are beginning to feel the huge amount of games we have played but we have a squad large enough to face these final games in a good condition,” said Zabaleta.
City drew praise for their attacking intent in Thursday’s derby and while Zabaleta was frustrated with the lack of goals, he is also aware how important it was to keep Jose Mourinho’s visitors out.
The 32-year-old stated: “We expected them to play like that – very well organised in defence, defending deep, not letting us find many free spaces near the box. They are very strong in the midfield and have very fast strikers.
“We knew that we would have to score the first goal in order to change the game and after that be able to find more spaces. We had the possession, we controlled the game and had many chances. The only thing we missed was a goal.
“We knew we should keep calm, control the ball, play our game and be patient – not getting crazy because they had players ready to attack fast and we did it very well. When you can’t win a game it is important not to lose it.”
There will be full build-up and coverage of Middlesbrough v Manchester City on mancity.com!