Zabaleta ready for second half push
Defender Pablo Zabaleta has acknowledged the second half of the season is when Manchester City have to step up their game.
Although their 100 per cent home record remains intact after nine matches it was given a severe examination by Liverpool in a 2-1 win on Boxing Day.
That moved City into second place in the Barclays Premier League, just a point behind Arsenal, and with struggling Crystal Palace visiting on Saturday there is a chance for them to go top ahead of the Gunners' Sunday encounter at Newcastle.
"It was a massive win. We played against a very strong side in Liverpool and it was really important to get three points and keep the team winning their home games. I think we did a good job," Zabaleta said.
"We have to push even more now. We know December and January is one of the key points for the big teams to make a difference because we play many games and you need to try to keep winning.
"At the moment we are doing well, are one point behind the leaders and that is why Crystal Palace is also a key game.
"We are very comfortable and we feel good and have huge confidence.
"Sometimes there is talk we need to improve our performances away from home but we had a good win at Fulham and now our next game is at home to Crystal Palace so we need to have a good rest and be fit for that game."
Nine straight wins means the Etihad is formidable place for opposition teams to go, but boss Manuel Pellegrini is conscious they need to avoid complacency.
The Chilean is not happy his side have to play so soon after the Liverpool match and his players unusually underwent a recovery session immediately after the game before all being taken back to the team hotel to prepare for Saturday.
"What I think we must have at least 72 hours from this game to another," he said.
"All the other teams at the top of the table apart from Manchester United (and City) play 72 hours after.
"These days we play so closely the rest of the teams must be the same, although not a winter break, no."
Having been regularly attacked by Liverpool Pellegrini must prepare his side for another approach from what will be a pragmatic approach from a team managed by Tony Pulis.
"Palace are a different challenge but maybe everyone thinks we are going to beat them because it is an easy game," he said.
"All the teams in relegation positions provide tough opposition.
"We must now try to recover as soon as we can and we will see what happens on Saturday but I don't think it will be an easy game.
"We will start talking about not making a mistake and thinking it will be an easy game."
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace midfielder Barry Bannan has set his sights on upsetting City after proving his point to former club Aston Villa.
Bannan returned to Villa Park on Boxing Day for the first time since being sold in the summer by the club he served for nine years, and came out on the winning side.
A spectacular injury-time strike from Dwight Gayle earned Palace a 1-0 victory to lift them out of the relegation zone ahead of the trip to the Etihad Stadium.
Bannan played a key role against Villa and almost opened the scoring with a shot that was tipped onto a post by Brad Guzan.
The only sour note for the 24-year-old was being booed by Villa fans, although there was plenty of applause when he was substituted late on.
He said: "It's football, people move on to different places, but hopefully I've shown that I'm good enough to be playing in this league and hopefully they'll be the ones that will be sorry for selling me.
"This club will always be in my heart. I support them now kind of as well so it's a bit sad to see people booing but it happens in football. When I came off at the end there were a few that clapped so it was nice to see they appreciated me."
Pulis has top scorer Marouane Chamakh available for the clash after suspension.