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City hold key to Zabaleta ambition

22 Sep 2010 09:10:57

| Submit Comments| Comments (49)| Printable Version1/1Play SlideshowClose MapDUAL AMBITION: Pablo ZabaletaPablo Zabaleta believes he needs to nail down his place in the Manchester City team to become a national hero. The thoroughly professional Argentinian is expected to keep his place at left back for tonight?s Carling Cup tie at West Brom. But with Wayne Bridge and Joleon Lescott both just a couple of weeks away from fitness, and first-choice Aleksandar Kolarov back in the fray later in the year, Zabaleta?s run in a less comfortable role is limited. And things do not get any easier for the likeable Buenos Airean in his favoured position of right back, with Jerome Boateng expected to be at least on the bench against Chelsea on Saturday, and Micah Richards finding a new lease of life. Zabaleta was one of manager Roberto Mancini?s favourites last season, playing in every game for which he was available bar one ? the Premier League derby at Eastlands, when Nedum Onuoha was preferred. That run in the team put him back in the Argentina reckoning, although then manager Diego Maradona?s dismissal of many Europe-based players meant he did not go to the World Cup, even though the team ended up without a regular right back. Maradona?s departure, and the appointment of Sergio Batista, was a fillip for the ambitious 25-year-old. Batista was in charge of Argentina?s squad which won Olympic gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics ? and he picked Zabaleta for all six games. Like Mancini, Batista is a huge fan of Zabaleta?s attitude and application, as well as his dogged, uncompromising defensive style, and that brought the player a recall to the Argentina squad for the first time in two years. He played a half in the 1-0 win over Republic of Ireland last month, and was on the bench for the friendly demolition of world champions Spain. And that is yet another incentive to Zabaleta to regain his City place, although Sunday?s win at Wigan was his first league start.


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