Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta has admitted that the Premier League champions have begun to look over their shoulders, as they worry more about missing out on the top four than retaining their now virtually extinct hopes of defending their title.
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Monday evening’s defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace has seen Zabaleta and co drop from second to fourth, with just a seven point cushion now separating them from the fifth place Reds, who returned to form with an FA Cup win over Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday.
City have only won four of their last ten Premier League matches, a run that has also included defeats against Arsenal, Liverpool and Burnley.
The pressure is continuing to mount on manager Manuel Pellegrini, who’s now facing the prospect of missing out on any silverware this term – a near unforgivable return for the demanding Etihad owners.
City face neighbours United this weekend, knowing that defeat will likely see the gap on the teams below them cut yet further. With challenging trips to White Hart Lane and Swansea City’s Liberty Stadium also still to come, Zabaleta is well aware of the need to address their slide.
He told the Daily Express: “Obviously with United and Arsenal now above us, we need to push really hard because if we can’t win the league we need to make sure we take the second position because if you can’t win trophies sometimes you just have to push to finish as well as you can.
“Fourth position would mean we would have to have a play-off to qualify for the group stage of the Champions League and we also have Liverpool, Southampton and Spurs who will be aiming to get into the top four so we need to react quickly and finish strongly.”