Zabaleta knows size of City prize

Manchester City's unsung hero Pablo Zabaleta has admitted his team-mates have all the incentive they need to secure victory at Newcastle on Sunday.

Will you dance with me?

Rival bosses Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini are agreed in their assessment that if City collect three points from the Sports Direct Arena, a first title since 1968 is heading to the blue half of Manchester.

Relegation-threatened QPR might have something to say about the validity of that assessment.

However, even getting to that stage is not quite so straightforward for City.

After all, an unexpected hammering at Wigan apart, Newcastle have hit a rich vein of form.

Wednesday's defeat of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge kept them in the scrap for a top-four berth, within touching distance of Arsenal and level on points with Tottenham.

Zabaleta accepts all this.

But, as he points out, the prize at stake for City is enormous.

"We have all the incentive we need," the Argentina star told mcfc.co.uk.

"We know that we're playing for the title and this game will make the difference.

"We need three points. We are well aware that if we lose or draw, United can overtake us if they beat Swansea.

"We know what is at stake. I can see our players are very focused.

"The momentum within our team is incredible and there is a very positive atmosphere."

Yet the spectre of Cisse hangs heavy over the fixture.

His 13-goal contribution has been one of the major reasons why Newcastle's form has not dipped over the second half of the season as so many people expected.

With seven wins from eight games, Newcastle are the Premier League's form team at present and City will take them lightly at their peril.

"They've probably been one of the best teams in the Premier League over the last three months and in Papiss Cisse, they have a real find," said Zabaleta.

"The guy is unbelievable and every goal he has scored has been world class. All their players have done very well so it's going to be a really difficult game."

Six weeks ago, City would have approached the fixture with a sense of trepidation.

After all, they were in the middle of a run that brought them just two victories in 10 Premier League away games.

They eventually fell eight points adrift of Manchester United and their championship challenge seemed to be at an end.

The return of Carlos Tevez changed all that though.

It was Zabaleta's fellow countryman that grabbed a hat-trick at Norwich and although the win that followed at condemned Wolves was scrappy, it maintained winning momentum that will carry City to Tyneside on a wave of optimism.

"Our performances away from home have been better in the last few games," said Zabaleta.

"We had a poor run at the beginning of the year and we struggled to find our form.

"But we are back to our best now and St James' Park is the perfect setting for a game of this magnitude.

"It is a great stadium and they have great fans who are very excited because they're playing for the Champions League spot.

"But that is not our concern. We are only thinking of ourselves.

"This is a huge opportunity for our club. We are writing our own history as we go along and have two huge games left.

"Our attitude won't change - we will fight until the end."

And Mancini is very keen for Zabaleta and his defensive colleagues to produce a repeat of their performance against Manchester United, when they denied Wayne Rooney and company a single shot on target at the home goal.

"We hope to stop Newcastle having any shots," said Mancini.

"But I don't know whether Newcastle will agree with us. I don't think they will.

"It will be more difficult but we will try."



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