Pablo Zabaleta does not believe Manchester City will be able to use tiredness as an excuse if they slip up at Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Wednesday.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini has amassed a hefty injury list during English football’s hectic schedule and he courted controversy by naming five teenage full-debutants for Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round tie at Chelsea.
Pellegrini’s virtual concession of the match was roundly criticised as Chelsea ran out 5-1 winners, with the Chilean insisting the scheduling of the match forced him to prioritise protecting key players for the trip to Kiev.
Zabaleta was one of the unfortunate senior City performers to endure the Stamford Bridge thrashing and he acknowledged Dynamo’s lengthy mid-season break from domestic competitions means they have not had similar concerns of late.
However, the Argentina right-back believes Pellegrini’s decision to rest up the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure means the Premier League side should be mentally and physically sharp at NSK Olimpiyskiy.
“It is true that they had a long break, time to have a good rest and recover some of the players who have been injured for them,” Zabaleta told a pre-match news conference. “I would say that we don’t need to think about this.
“They’ve been preparing [for the] the game with a lot of time
“The calendar in the Premier League is hard. We’ve been playing a lot of games in January and February.
“But I think tomorrow we will see a team-sheet where most of the players were rested last weekend.
“Physically and mentally we have to be fresh for tomorrow and play at 100 per cent.”
City are aiming to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time in their fifth campaign.
Progressing as group winners this time around ensured they avoided their last-16 fate of the past two seasons, where European champions Barcelona proved too strong on each occasion.
But Zabaleta, who played when City lost a Europa League clash in the Ukrainian capital in March 2011, believes Kiev will pose plenty of problems as Pellegrini’s men seek to bounce back from three consecutive defeats.
“Over the last four years we’ve been learning a lot about how we have to play these games,” he added.
“In the last two years we’ve gone out at this stage because we were against probably the best team in the world, Barcelona.
“I am not going to say this game will be easy. Dynamo Kiev have lots of experience in this competition, are a big team in Ukraine and have the mentality to play these types of games.”