Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta is hoping to put an injury-ravaged first half of the season behind him in 2016.
The Argentina full-back missed the first two months of the season after sustaining knee ligament damage during training and suffered a recurrence of the problem during October’s 5-1 League Cup win over Crystal Palace.
Zabaleta was an unused substitute for Tuesday’s goalless draw at high-flying Leicester City and feels he is back up to speed physically ahead of Saturday’s trip to Watford.
“The knee feels really good and I’ve felt great in training over the past few days,” he told City’s official website.
“I started full training again a few days before the Sunderland game [on December 26] so it was too soon to return because I needed a few intense sessions with the team to get my sharpness back, but it felt good to be on the bench again at Leicester.
“I damaged the same ligament as I injured earlier in the season, just a slightly different area. It was just bad luck more than anything and I’ve seen a specialist to make sure I come back 100 per cent and not make this a recurring injury. I’ve had a few injections and, as I say, now I feel great and ready to go.”
Zabaleta is one of City’s longest-serving players, having joined the club in 2008, but he has not crossed paths with Watford in the Premier League – a team who have impressed the 30-year-old on their top-flight return this term.
“It will be a tough game and they’ve done really well to be so high in the Premier League at this stage of the season,” said Zabaleta, who featured when City knocked Watford out of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium in 2013 and 2014.
“They look really solid as a team and they have a really good manager in Quique Sanchez Flores, who I know from my time in Spain where he managed Valencia and Atletico Madrid. I think he’s doing a great job, though it doesn’t surprise me.
“They have some really hard-working players as well with [Troy] Deeney and [Odion] Ighalo are playing really well – they have scored a lot of Watford’s goals this season and we’re expecting nothing less than a really tough match.
“I’ve never played at Vicarage Road before but from what I’ve seen on TV it’s a really tight ground with the crowd right on top of you so we have to be prepared for everything.”