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Mancini: everyone wants a Zabaleta

Roberto Mancini has lauded Pablo Zabaleta as one of Manchester City's unsung heroes.

The popular Argentinian does not have the profile of his countryman, the club's leading scorer and captain Carlos Tevez.

But Mancini has nothing but praise for Zabaleta, who led the side in the 3-0 FA Cup victory against Aston Villa in midweek.

Zabaleta joined City from Spanish team Espanyol in August 2008 when Mark Hughes was manager of the club.

And Mancini is delighted with the way the player switches positions without complaint.

"Pablo is a player that all the managers would like to have," Mancini said ahead of the home game against Wigan this evening.

"He is always ready. He can play in every position and does very well. He is a fantastic guy.



Deserved

"Pablo deserved to be captain (against Villa). He is one of the best signings this club has made."

Wigan and City sides head into the Eastlands clash with contrasting goals.

City are aiming to step up their bid for a Champions League place while their opponents want to remain in the top flight.

Wigan have struggled to win games and go into the match on the back of a 4-0 defeat by Manchester United.

But Mancini is taking nothing for granted and admires the work of opposite number Roberto Martinez at the DW Stadium.

The Italian is looking for a positive result ahead of the Europa League last 16 first leg meeting with Dinamo Kiev in the Ukraine next Thursday.

Mancini said: "We need the points too, like Wigan. It will be a difficult game. I like Roberto Martinez. He is a good manager and they are a good team. They don't deserve to be bottom.

"Wigan play very well. I watched the game against Manchester United and before they (United) got their first goal, they (Wigan) had three or four chances to score.

"Now it is important for us to recover our strength. Then I can change two or three players and keep them fresh."

Kolo Toure will be the notable absentee as the Ivorian is suspended pending a full inquiry into his failed drugs test and, under Football Association rules, will not be considered until the case is resolved.

Vincent Kompany is expected to return in central defence following a hip problem, while Nigel de Jong may be fit to claim a place on the bench after a six-game absence with an ankle injury.



Devastated

Meanwhile, Arsene Wenger has revealed Toure has been left devastated by his failed drugs test.

The City defender is suspended from all forms of the game until a hearing into his case is held by the English Football Association.

Toure is facing the possibility of anything up to a two-year ban unless he can come up with some mitigation for testing positive for a 'specified substance', which the 29-year-old believes came from a stimulant contained in one of his wife's slimming tablets.

"He is devastated but legally, what is forbidden is forbidden.

"The mistake he made is not have asked the Manchester City doctor whether he could take it or not.

"It was completely the kind of stupid thing that can happen when you're punished in life. Cross the road, don't look right or left and boom. Half the people don't ask if you deserve it, if you're caught, you're caught.

"He wants to control his weight a little bit because that is where he has some problems and he took a product belonging to his wife.

"I don't think there's a desire there to do something wrong and hide it. He was not cautious enough."