Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta believes his club deserve to be back in the title race with Manchester United because he and his team-mates have "never stopped believing" that they can win the Premier League.
United had been eight points clear at one stage but have since seen that lead reduced to just three after a loss to Wigan and a 4-4 draw with Everton, and City could go top on goal difference with a win in Monday's Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium.
And Zabaleta feels that their determination in coming back, as well as their form in leading the league for a long time earlier in the season, has merited results.
“We’ve never stopped believing in ourselves, but to be honest, after the Arsenal defeat [on April 8] I thought our chance had probably gone,” he told the club's official website.
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"We've been five points clear before so we know how it feels, but United losing against Wigan and dropping points at home to Everton shows that in football you have to believe, because you just never know.
"If we have another chance for the title it's because we deserve it. We’ve kept going and we will continue to do that and see what happens."
Zabaleta expects the derby on April 30 to be one of the most important of the clubs' histories.
“We know how important this game is. United are the team we want to beat, especially because it gives us the chance to get back to the top,” he explained.
“For the race for the title it's very important, that's why it's probably one of the biggest derbies ever.
“We have to play the same as we play every game. We need to be strong mentally, focus on what we have to do and give it our all.
“We've got the talent and we've got quality - we've got everything. But behind this the mentality and the attitude for that game has to be more than 100 per cent. I'm sure if we put everything into this game, with the quality we've got it can make the difference.”
As well as calling on the players to give their all, Zabaleta also outlined just how much of a lift the home fans can give to their side.
He added: “We need the support of the fans as always, but now more than ever.
“The role of our incredible fans cannot be understated for this game. This is the one we’ve all been waiting for and we all need to be together, both the players and the fans."