Zabaleta expects tough tussle

Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta expects to be involved in a tight battle for the title this season.

Last Updated: 20/08/13 at 16:22 Post Comment

Zabaleta: Strong battle ahead for the title

Zabaleta: Strong battle ahead for the title

City made an emphatic start to the new campaign with a 4-0 thrashing of 10-man Newcastle in their Barclays Premier League opener at the Etihad Stadium.

The result firmly underlined the championship credentials of a side that began the campaign as joint-favourites along with Chelsea.

Champions Manchester United were rated third, but Zabaleta believes there could be plenty of teams in the reckoning.

The Argentina international said: "One of our main targets for this season is to win the title back but we know how difficult it is.

"There is a long way to go but we are very positive. We have a very strong squad and obviously we will try to win as many trophies as we can.

"The battle for the title will be good.

"People are talking about only three teams but I do not agree with that.

"I think Spurs are a very strong team and also Liverpool are coming back.

"Then obviously Chelsea, United and Arsenal. Arsenal didn't have the best start to the season but it is going to be a very interesting season."

After last term's disappointments, confidence has returned at City over the summer following the appointment of Manuel Pellegrini as manager.

The arrivals of Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic early in the close season also brought a fresh look to the squad.

Two of them, Fernandinho and Navas, started as City swept aside the challenge of Newcastle in an impressive first outing.

The hosts looked quick and confident from kick-off and scored inside six minutes through David Silva. Sergio Aguero added a second before the break and Newcastle's problems deepened when Steven Taylor received a straight red card for later catching the Argentinian with his arm.

Yaya Toure curled in a fine free-kick for the third and substitute Samir Nasri's fine individual effort completed the scoring.

It might have been worse for the Magpies but their goalkeeper Tim Krul was in good form, Edin Dzeko spurned a number of chances and substitute Negredo had a late effort disallowed.

Zabaleta said: "I think the performance was fantastic. It is also good to start the season well.

"We played a fantastic game. For the manager it is good to start well because it brings confidence.

"The team spirit was great and we played fantastic football, keeping the ball, going forward, we scored four goals.

"I think this is the way we want to play. We always play to win and I think it was a great game today."

The only negative for City was the loss of captain Vincent Kompany in the second half with what appeared to be a groin injury.

City are already light on central defenders following Kolo Toure's summer move to Liverpool and with Matija Nastasic also out injured.

Kompany, who limped off after 71 minutes, was expected to undergo a scan on Wednesday with City likely to learn the seriousness of the problem later in the week.

His absence would be sorely felt by City who missed their skipper for two months at a critical stage of last season's doomed title chase.

Zabaleta said: "I think he pulled his groin and obviously it is hard for the team to lose the captain.

"He is one of the most important players for the team but sometimes it happens in football.

"Obviously after the pre-season people are a little bit tired. I wish him a speedy recovery and hopefully he can come back as soon as possible.

"We have got two games before the international break so it is important for him to have a good recovery."

Kompany's injury might lead to fresh speculation of a bid for another defender before the transfer deadline but Pellegrini has suggested Nastasic could be training again this week.

Zabaleta went into the opening game just hours after it was announced he had signed a new four-year contract.

The 28-year-old has become one of the club's most consistent performers since his arrival from Espanyol in 2008 and was particularly impressive throughout last season.

"I think it is something special for me," said Zabaleta. "I am really happy.

"I feel at home here at this club. That is why when the club came to me to sign a contract extension I didn't think twice."


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