Pablo Zabaleta says the return of David Silva made the difference as Manchester City took apart Crystal Palace on Saturday.
Zabaleta insists the Spaniard is the best player he has ever played with and believes his ability to orchestrate the game and supply City’s youthful forward line makes him indispensable.
“If you look at the performance, everything we have done we did really well – defensively and offensively as well,” the Argentine said.
“It’s good to see David back in the team because he makes the difference.
“We have players upfront with pace and they can produce so much, but they need someone in behind them who can control the game and find the last pass and David Silva is all about that.
“He is the type of player who controls the game, he plays between the lines and gives you that extra pass you need, the balls between defenders.
“In attack, he’s a really important player for us. You can see how the team played today around him.
“I’ve been saying this for years [that Silva is the best I’ve played with]. I am a lucky man.
“When you play alongside those players you feel happy to play with them.
“For me, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen and we are so lucky to have David at Manchester City.
“But apart from that, the whole team was fantastic.
“It was good to score five goals because I think the goal difference at the end of the season is going to be huge, so we’re very pleased.”
City ended the weekend just one point behind third-placed Liverpool having played a game less than the Merseysiders, with Manchester United now four points behind in fifth.
If City win their remaining three games – against Leicester, West Brom and Watford – they are guaranteed to finish third and secure automatic qualification to next year’s Champions League.
Zabaleta has warned against complacency, though, and says only by hitting the same performance level they managed against Palace can they be assured of finishing inside the top four.
“We are looking to secure the Champions League place,” he added.
“It’s going to be hard because Liverpool is there, United, Arsenal. It’s going to be hard.
“We still have three games to play, the next two at home. We can’t drop points at home.
“If we are at our best and we perform like this, we have a chance to win the next games and secure the Champions League spot.
“But we cannot relax. Now we will rest, we have a long week to prepare the Leicester game. It’s going to be tough.”