David Silva has urged his Manchester City team-mates to step up in the absence of injured captain Vincent Kompany as they bid to win the Premier League.
City are not expecting Kompany back any time soon, with a persistent calf problem set to sideline the key centre-back until the “last part of the season”, according to manager Manuel Pellegrini.
With that in mind, midfielder Silva knows City must improve without the Belgium international if they are to win a third title in five seasons.
“He is a key player for us and our captain. With or without him we have to work hard to concede less. It’s a duty we have to fulfil before too long. Hopefully we can do that in this New Year. It’s not just the defence that defends but the whole team,” Silva said ahead of City hosting Everton at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday.
“It’s the same when we’re attacking – you need to have everyone helping out going forwards, so it’s down to us all to perform our defensive duties and it’s something we’ll be trying to do to help the cause.
“Any team will miss their captain when they’re out and we’re no exception. When you look all over the field there are lots of figures willing to step up to the plate when needed.
“We have lots of experience all over the team and it’s up to people like that to do that. Thinking positively, we’re battling on every front and involved in every trophy so it’s about trying to be involved as long as we can to the end of the season in each of those competitions.”
City are third in the league and three points adrift of leaders Arsenal.
The 2015-16 season has been a topsy-turvy one with City already losing five matches and Silva believes the title race could go down to the final day.
“You never know – it’s happened in the past, hasn’t it?,” Silva said, eluding to City’s dramatic title win on the final day the 2011-12 campaign ahead of rivals Manchester United after they scored twice in stoppage time against QPR.
“I hope it’s us who are successful in winning the title. Obviously it would be nice if it was settled a little bit before the end of the season. But if it has to come down to the last game of the season, then so be it.
“It’s been a very exciting season and, above all, it’s very tight at the top. It’s going to be a close-run thing right through until the end of the season. Each game is tough, it always is, but somehow this year it’s even tougher, especially away from home.”