Zabaleta return set to ease Manchester City's injury crisis in defence

The 27-year-old fullback has recently been consigned to the sidelines with a problem of his own but could be ushered back into the starting lineup straight away this weekend.
Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta has confirmed that he is fit and will be ready to be involved during this weekend's trip to West Ham.

Manager Roberto Mancini faced a defensive injury crisis ahead of the game at Upton Park, with Micah Richards, Maicon and Aleksandar Kolarov all confined to the treatment table, so the Argentina international's return will serve as a timely boost for the Italian manager's preparations.

"I feel good, I've been training with the team and I think I should be fine to play on Saturday," Zabaleta told the club's official website. "We have some problems in defense at the moment. We've had three fullbacks injured over the past few months, so it is great to be back with the team."

After Richards was ruled out for up to four months with a meniscus tear in his right knee, following his recovery from a hamstring injury of his own, Zabaleta had nothing but sympathy for his teammate.

"It's very disappointing for Micah. He's been injured from the start of the season, then he came back and was playing well, but now he has this knee injury," Zabaleta said. "This is a time when he has to be extra strong. Obviously it is difficult physically, but also mentally it is very tough when you are injured, you have to stay very strong."

When it comes to the team's title chances, though, Zabaleta remained positive that the side could defend their Premier League crown this season, despite strong competition from the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United.

"It was important to win at the weekend against Swansea and to get three points," Zabaleta said. "We are only in November, I think it is too early to say who is going to win the league or to say what teams will fight for the title.

"Chelsea are doing well, so are Manchester United as well as Tottenham and ourselves, but there is a long way to go yet and everything is very tight at the top of the table. That is why we have to work very hard. There is a good feeling among the team about defending the title."

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