Pablo Zabaleta believes Manchester City would be foolish to focus solely on Premier League leaders Leicester City with the chasing pack closing in on the Champions League places.
City have won one of their past five league matches and lie 12 points adrift of Leicester in fourth, albeit with a game in hand on Claudio Ranieri’s shock title favourites.
Manuel Pellegrini’s team could have slipped to fifth by the time they host bitter rivals Manchester United in Sunday’s derby, where Louis van Gaal’s men will aim for a win to close to within one point of their neighbours.
“Of course we need to be honest with ourselves and just think that the gap between Leicester and us is big – 12 points,” Zabaleta said.
“We have a game in hand, but I think it is not right just to think about the title. We need to think about winning the next game, be focused on the next game and this is probably at the moment the best way to see how far we can go in the league.
“Obviously we cannot make any mistakes. We have dropped a lot of points recently so now is just about winning our games. Hopefully we can start on Sunday.”
Having joined City in 2008, Zabaleta is well-versed in the intense local rivalry that will once again consume Manchester this weekend.
“I would say, always, this game is bigger than any other game,” he added.
“We know what this game means for the fans. Also, in the league we cannot drop any points.
“The reality is this: Leicester keep winning their games and the rest of the teams… everything is very tight from the third position down to fifth, sixth and seventh.
“United is one of those games where we need to try to perform well, secure the three points and let City fans celebrate another derby.”