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Arsenal must end season on a high

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Zabaleta: Hard to understand exit

Pablo Zabaleta has claimed it is hard to understand why Manchester City's squad of superstars have failed to reach the knockout stages of the Champions League for two successive seasons.

• Mancini laments City mistakes
• Jolly: City's missed opportunity

City's 1-1 draw with Real Madrid on Wednesday means it is mathematically impossible for them to reach the last-16.

Roberto Mancini's team are bottom of the group and without a win in five Champions League games and, unless they beat Borussia Dortmund and Ajax cannot record a victory against Real, they will not even get a place in the Europa League.

And defender Zabaleta told the Manchester Evening News: "We expected more. When you see the squad we have, you want to try to go through to the next round.

"Now, the chance has gone and it's hard to understand. It's the second year in a row this has happened - it's hard to see, when you see the players that we have."

City began the game against Real playing with manager Roberto Mancini's controversial 3-5-2 system but switched back to 4-4-2 when they were trailing 1-0 to Karim Benzema's early goal.

And Zabaleta, who switched from the right of the three-man defence to become a left-back, admitted the City players prefer to play with four at the back.

"We started the game really slow with some defensive problems, and then we changed to 4-4-2 as we felt more comfortable with that system," he added. "We conceded three or four chances at the start of the game that cost us a goal. In the second half we showed a different spirit and deserved a second goal."

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