Zabaleta eager for Aguero to return
Manchester City full-back Pablo Zabaleta is in no doubt team-mate Sergio Aguero's return to fitness will prove vital for the Blues' Barclays Premier League title challenge as it nears its finale.
Striker Aguero, City's top scorer this term with 26 goals, looks set to feature in Sunday's crunch clash with Liverpool at Anfield after missing five matches due to a hamstring problem.
Ahead of the showdown, the Reds are top of the table with five more fixtures to go, four points clear of third-placed City, who have two games in hand over them.
Two years ago Aguero and Zabaleta's fellow Argentinian Carlos Tevez returned towards the end of the campaign after a lengthy absence - which had stemmed from the infamous incident in Munich earlier that season - to help City overhaul Manchester United and become Premier League champions for the first time.
And regarding Aguero, Zabaleta said: "It's a good time for him to come back.
"I can see why people say it's similar to Tevez returning - although it's a different situation.
"Like with Carlos, it's great for any team to have the best players back again - particularly at this part of the season. That's the good news for us.
"He is an important player and he is going to score goals. He is fast, he is quick. Sometimes we need a player like Sergio."
City have fared well in the run of matches Aguero has sat out, winning them all aside from a 1-1 draw at Arsenal and scoring 15 times while conceding only twice.
Zabaleta believes the Blues have missed the 25-year-old frontman, but also feels it is clear Manuel Pellegrini's men are not dependent on Aguero.
"Have we missed him? Yes course," Zabaleta, 29, said.
"You always want the best players to be in the team and fit for any game at this time of the season.
"But we know we also have important players like (Edin) Dzeko, Yaya (Toure) is having a great season, (David) Silva, (Samir) Nasri - we have a lot of talent in front.
"That is why, even without Sergio, we keep scoring goals. We can't just rely on him."
While City have impressive firepower in attack, in Liverpool they will be coming up against the one club to have scored more Premier League goals than them this season.
The Reds have 90 league goals compared to City's 84, and Zabaleta has stressed the need for the visitors to be mindful of their defensive duties on Sunday.
He said: "Liverpool score a lot of goals - we know they have great players in front with (Luis) Suarez, (Raheem) Sterling, (Daniel) Sturridge. They are in a great, great moment.
"I think we must work really hard not to concede any goal. But we have defended well for a few weeks - not conceding many goals.
"We know Anfield is always a very tough place to go and get points. The atmosphere there is fantastic. It will be a great game."
City won 4-1 at home against Southampton last time out and Zabaleta has emphasised the belief the players in the Blues camp have that they can secure the club's second Premier League crown.
"Every single game now is going to be like a final," he said.
"We have belief. I think we have a great team to make success this season but it is not going to be very easy.
"We need to keep working hard and keep playing like against Southampton in the second half. I think playing in that way we will have more chances."