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Press praise for Zabaleta on Etihad send-off

EMOTIONAL NIGHT: Pablo Zabaleta

EMOTIONAL NIGHT: Pablo Zabaleta

Welcome to your matchday media round-up as we hurtle towards our penultimate Premier League game, and final match at the Etihad Stadium in the 2016/17 season.

There are plenty of plots and subplots to keep your eye on, namely City's quest for Champions League qualification and the final home game for Club legend Pablo Zabaleta.

There are plenty of tributes to the Argentinian in the media, including this eloquent offer from ESPN columnist Simon Curtis.

He writes: "The match with West Brom will be the last home game of the season and will, therefore, offer the supporters a final chance to show appreciation to one of the club's all-time stalwarts, Pablo Zabaleta.

"It is often the case in these days of easy hyperbole that such situations and their intrinsic merit are overblown to a level where many lose sight of reality, but in the case of the craggy Argentina international, every word of praise coming his way has been fully and utterly deserved. Zabaleta represents all that is good in a world of modern football that has shed itself of so much of its ideological roots.

"That Zabaleta arrived at the Etihad in the weeks leading up to the club's takeover by Sheikh Mansour only serves to underline what a talisman he has been, unrelenting in his efforts while remaining low maintenance in a very high-maintenance environment.

"His debut, against Chelsea at the Etihad in Sept. 2008, passed with hardly a mention from that weekend's press as his blustering efforts were lost in the flashbulbs of Robinho's picturesque Premier League entrance on the very same day. We did not realise at the time, but it was highly apt that Zabaleta's workmanlike introduction should be overshadowed by the ephemeral, graceful but temporary flight of Robinho. Ever since that moment, he has been putting in the hard graft so that others more talented might strut their elegant stuff."

in the case of the craggy Argentina international, every word of praise coming his way has been fully and utterly deserved

Over to the Daily Express now, who report boss Pep Guardiola's thoughts on how the Zabaleta aspect of tonight's game might affect the performance.

Richard Tanner scribes: "Guardiola believes his players will be striving hard to give the Argentina international a winning send off while edging them towards Champions League qualification.

“'No, I’m not about worried about the emotional impact of it' he said. 'That is going to help us more.

“'I have a lot of respect for Pablo – he’s had nine years here. To replace that you need someone who has been here for nine years. That is a long time and it is not easy.

“'That is why he deserves all the fans to come tomorrow and support us more than ever, especially in the moments when we are in trouble. They have to come to support us more than ever and one of the most important players in the history of Manchester City.'”

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A quick peek over at what the opposition are thinking ahead of the match, and boss Tony Pulis flagged the physical demands his side are under with winger Matt Phillips missing out and Gareth McAuley and Hal Robson-Kanu doubtful.

“Matty won’t be fit,” said Pulis in his pre-match press conference.

“I don’t think Gareth will be fit for the trip to Manchester City because of the injury he picked up against Chelsea.

“We are hoping that he will be fine for the game at Swansea on Sunday.

“We will have to wait and see with Hal and make a last-minute decision.

“We are heading to Manchester City, who are one of the best sides in the league, off the back of playing the best team in the league on Friday night.

“We know that it’s going to be very tough physically.”

Finally to a couple of transfer snippets.

The MEN have linked with City with a possible move for Germany international defender Holger Badstuber.

And the Daily Mail believe Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is on the Blues' radar.

That's your lot for today, we'll be back at the same time, same place for all the post-match reaction!

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