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The Toe Poke

Richards praises Zabaleta form

Micah Richards believes his replacement at right-back, Pablo Zabaleta, has been Manchester City's outstanding player this season – but argues he would have been just as effective if he had stayed fit.

Ankle and knee injuries have meant that Richards has only made four appearances for City in the current campaign but, though the 24-year-old is back in training, Zabaleta is set to keep his place for Monday's Manchester derby.

But Richards made more starts than the Argentine when both were available last year and is frustrated he has not had the chance to build on that title-winning season.

"Pablo Zabaleta has been playing at right-back and he's been my Player of the Year so far," he said. "Zaba's been incredible and deserves all the plaudits he has been getting.

"But I can't help thinking I wish it was me but because I've been out and Maicon's missed most of the season, so Zaba's been able to express himself more and everyone has seen the results.

"Last season, both Zaba and me were playing well so we tended to chop and change and both had runs in the team. Now, because he has had a good run in the team, he's proved he is one of the best defenders around and has fantastic commitment and desire.

"I think we're very similar in that way. I think I'd have had a similarly successful season and that's where the frustration kicks in."

Richards knows he faces a battle to regain his place, adding: "I don't expect to just walk back into the team, because the lads have all been playing so well but I want to finish strongly and then really power into next season after having a full pre-season training behind me."


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