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Thursday 30 March 2017

Zabaleta aims to be back for Liverpool tie

Injured Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta
Injured Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta

Injured Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta is targeting a return to full fitness in time for his team's trip to play second-placed Liverpool in the Premier League on December 31.

The Argentina international was taken off at halftime during his team's 2-1 home over Arsenal on Sunday with a knee injury and has ruled himself out of the trip to Hull City next Monday.

"Hopefully it is not too bad," the 31-year-old said. "Maybe I can have an injection in there and be ready in, I don't know, maybe 10 days. We'll see.

"I felt it straight away after 15 minutes and I just tried to finish the first half.

"I was with some pain in the ligament and it was a risk to continue playing, possibly make it worse, and that's why I came off."

Having racked up consecutive home wins in the league for the first time since August, Zabaleta believes third-placed City must keep stringing together wins to put pressure on leaders Chelsea, who are seven points ahead of them.

"We know they are on a run of games and a real solid team at the moment, but of course we are not going to give up. We have confidence, we have belief. There's a long way to go until the end of the season," he added.

Meanwhile, Leroy Sane has found his feet in England and is ready for an extended run in the City side after the German forward scored his first goal for the club on Sunday, team-mate Raheem Sterling has said.

Sane, who swapped Schalke 04 for City in the close season, equalised against Arsenal shortly after the interval at the Etihad Stadium, before Sterling struck to secure a 2-1 victory that lifted the home side to third in the table.

"For him, not starting at the beginning of the season does not help but he's getting back into it now and I'm really happy for him," Sterling said of the 20-year-old, who struggled with a hamstring problem in August.

"Hopefully he can now kick on. Before the game I said to him, 'if I had a shot like you I'd be shooting every minute and no one would be able to take the ball off me'.

"I said, 'if you get a chance, just shoot' and he got his goal so I'm really pleased for him."

Back-to-back home wins against Watford and Arsenal have given Sterling hope that City can close a seven-point gap on leaders Chelsea to fight for league title. "I'm massively excited about this season and what we can achieve," Sterling added.

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