Pablo Zabaleta has warned Manchester United that Manchester City are heading into this weekend’s derby at Old Trafford with a spring in their step.
City have enjoyed a superb week having thrashed Bournemouth 5-1 before coming from behind to beat Sevilla 2-1 in the Champions League with a last-gasp winner.
They now face their arch-rivals Manchester United looking to maintain their momentum at the top of the Premier League and open up a five-point gap over their neighbours.
Zabaleta is well aware of the importance of the derby to fans, having played in 14 of them since joining City in 2008, and thinks the Sevilla win gives them the perfect springboard.
The Argentina defender, fit again after a recent knee injury, said: “It was a massive win for confidence. Now hopefully we can put in a good performance on Sunday and win the game.
“Derbies are always special games. I have had the opportunity to play a lot of them since I have been here and I know it is a special game for the fans.
“It is a huge game, probably one of the greatest games you can watch in the Barclays Premier League, especially with both teams near the top of the league. They have a chance to beat us and go on top of the table and we have a chance to extend the gap.
“Now it is time to be focused on the game, forgetting about the Champions League – hopefully we did that job on Wednesday – and play a good game on Sunday.”
City have been rejuvenated this season after an underwhelming title defence last term. They hit their nadir as they were overpowered in their last derby against United at Old Trafford in April, losing 4-2.
They responded by winning their final six games of last season and carried the momentum into the current campaign, extending the sequence to a club record 11 successive top-flight victories.
Zabaleta now hopes United will feel the full force of City’s power.
He said: “When you lose a derby like that it is very frustrating but now we have another chance to show how good we are doing in the Premier League.”
Painful memories for Pellegrini
Manager Manuel Pellegrini thinks the shock of that derby result last spring may have jolted his team back into life.
Pellegrini said: “I remember that game, it was a strange defeat. We started really well but we finished playing very badly.
“Maybe that was one of the reasons for the important reaction of the team and why we won the last six games.”
Pellegrini’s team selection will be eagerly anticipated as his refusal to confirm whether captain Vincent Kompany will feature has dominated the derby build-up from a City perspective.
Kompany has been named on the bench for the two City games played since Pellegrini voiced displeasure at his appearance for Belgium during the recent international break. The defender has been confirmed as fully fit but Pellegrini has given no guarantees the 29-year-old will return.
Discuss City’s line up and the derby game on the Manchester City Your Say forum.