Manchester City full-back Pablo Zabaleta feels his team have been rattled by speculation since confirmation Pep Guardiola would take over as manager next season.
The Bayern Munich coach’s three-year deal with the Premier League giants was confirmed in early February and potential arrivals and departures have been talked about since.
Zabaleta, whose team sit fourth in the table ahead of the derby at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, said it had impacted City.
“We know it is not easy for everyone,” the Argentinian said.
“There is a lot of speculation about new players coming in and players going out. What we have got to do is focus more.”
Manuel Pellegrini’s men are 15 points behind league leaders Leicester City, who have played two games more.
But Zabaleta and Co. are only a point clear of fifth-placed West Ham and the 31-year-old knows his team are in a dangerous situation that could see them miss out on Champions League qualification.
“It is not unthinkable that we could finish outside the top four. There are a lot of teams challenging for third and fourth place,” he said.
“At the moment everything is very tight. We have Arsenal just ahead of us and then there’s West Ham, United, Liverpool and even Stoke behind us.
“Obviously Leicester have a good advantage and also Tottenham, but the rest of the teams down to sixth or seventh can think about the other two places.
“If you can’t win the league then you must try to secure a Champions League spot and it is so tight that we can’t afford to drop many more points.”