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The 27-year-old admitted that regaining the Premier League title will be "very tough" from their current position, while playing down individual praise directed at him

Pablo Zabaleta has indicated that Manchester United's seven-point lead over Manchester City means Roberto Mancini's men cannot afford any more slip-ups.

The reigning Premier League champions did not have the best of months in December, dropping points by drawing with Everton, losing 3-2 in the Manchester derby and suffering a shock defeat to Sunderland on Boxing Day.

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Despite a convincing win at home to Stoke on New Year's Day, City are seven points behind Sir Alex Ferguson's men. The 27-year-old was happy with the victory but is wary that the team are under a lot of pressure to keep producing.

"The most important thing is always the performance of the team," he told reporters. "We played a great game, we had a lot of chances, defensively we were very solid and it's another clean sheet.

"It's a good three points to carry on and we know that we are under pressure because we need to win every game.

"We know we are seven points behind United so it's going to be very tough, but keeping positive and keeping working is the key to catching United. It was hard to lose against Sunderland but always you need to try to respond well. We did it and I'm very proud for the team."

The Argentine full-back netted City's first goal in the 3-0 victory over the Potters, as well as putting in a solid defensive display.

The former Espanyol defender accepted praise of his own contribution but insisted that it is the team's overall performance that is more important.

"You feel great when people give you credit but I always try to put the team before me," he added. "Football is not about individual players, it's about the collective.

"I'm very pleased for the lads. We did great yesterday and it's great when you see everyone play well."

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