Zabaleta rues poor away form


Pablo Zabaleta has seemingly questioned Manchester City's title chances, with the Argentine admitting that it will be 'difficult' to win back the crown they won in 2011/12 if they continue to struggle on the road.

City are currently eighth after their first 11 games on a measly 19 points, six points adrift of leaders Arsenal. 

Manuel Pellegrini's side lost 1-0 to Sunderland at the Stadium of Light at the weekend - their fourth loss outside of Manchester already this campaign - and the Argentine defender knows that his side need to improve their away form to stand any chance of winning their second Premier League crown.

"When you lose points like that it will be very difficult to fight for the title," he was quoted by the Daily Mirror.

"We are so disappointed, we had a great chance to reach third position. We knew before our game that Chelsea had dropped points, and that Spurs had lost just before us. 

"It was a great chance, but sadly we didn't take it." 

Phil Bardsley's first-half opener ensured the Citizens left Wearside for the fourth consecutive year reeling from a 1-0 defeat, adding to their losses at Aston Villa, Cardiff and title rivals Chelsea. They also struggled away to Stoke, drawing 0-0 at the Britannia Stadium. 

If it were not for their formidable home record, where they have won all of their opening five games scoring 20 and conceding only two in the process, then they would have fallen even further off the pace set by the Gunners. 

Despite their impressive defensive record at fortress Etihad, it is a different story on their travels and Zabaleta admits his side just can't keep a clean sheet away from home.

"I don't know what it is about our away form, when you look at the games we've played we have dominated them all. 

"But it's true we can't keep a clean sheet. When you play away from home you must defend better, and try not to concede goals."

The right-back is worried that teams have worked City out on the road, giving his teammates very little space or time in the attacking third by getting 11 men behind the ball.

"We had no space to create chances. It is sometimes hard to play against 11 players defending, but you must give them credit - they are in a tough position fighting relegation, so it was a very important game for them."

Luckily for City, their title rivals have also faltered in the opening stages of the season, with Man chester United losing three of their first six games and Chelsea picking up only one point from their last two league games. 

However, with the gruelling Christmas schedule rapidly approaching, their away form must improve if they're to mount a serious title challenge. 

Next up for Pellegrini's team after the international break are Andre Villas-Boas' Spurs, a game Zabaleta admits is crucial.

"When you have a defeat like this you want to play as quickly as possible, but now we go into the international break. We then face Spurs at home, which will be a crucial game for us," he added.

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