Pablo Zabaleta has told Manchester United they cannot use Robin van Persie’s absence from Tuesday’s derby as an excuse -- because Manchester City are without the injured Sergio Aguero.
United are waiting to see if 17-goal striker Van Persie’s season will be ended by the knee problem he sustained after scoring a hat trick against Olympiakos in Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 win.
But City, who beat the Red Devils 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium in September, have their top scorer Aguero sidelined by the hamstring injury he suffered against Barcelona, and he will also sit out Tuesday's clash with their local rivals at Old Trafford.
“Van Persie is a top player and he scored great goals in the Champions League game. But also we don't have Sergio Aguero. Both teams will miss the main strikers,” Zabaleta said.
“I think they don't have an excuse for that because they still have very important players. They can play [Wayne] Rooney. Even if they don't have Van Persie they still have a very good team. We have to be aware of that.”
City have won on their last two trips to Old Trafford, and Zabaleta added: “Every derby is a special game. We have won at Old Trafford recently. Hopefully we can do it again.”
Manuel Pellegrini’s side warmed up for the Manchester derby by beating Fulham 5-0, with a hat trick from Yaya Toure that took the midfielder to 20 goals in a season for the first time in his career.
“He is a world-class player. He does everything well. I think he's got 20 goals this season,” Zabaleta said. “This is fantastic for a midfield player. He shows how good he is doing for the team. Hopefully he can score a few more hat tricks between now and the end of the season.”