Pablo Zabaleta says the Manchester City players never doubted Pep Guardiola’s style despite a run of six games without a victory.
City beat Barcelona 3-1 on Tuesday night to remain on course for the Champions League knockout stage — three days after ending their winless streak with a 4-0 win over West Brom to remain top of the Premier League.
Zabaleta said City deserved their victory over Barca — their first in six attempts against the La Liga champions — and believes it shows their switch to Guardiola’s high-pressing, passing game is beginning to work at the Etihad.
“The whole team played a very complete game,” the Argentine defender told reporters.
“Perhaps in the first half Barcelona dominated the game a bit more but the goal just before half-time was important for our confidence. The most important thing is that we won and now we have to keep going.
“We had started the season really well, winning all the games in the Premier League and the Champions League, until we had a small blip and perhaps people were talking about a crisis or saying we doubted our style of play a little bit, but we responded well in the last couple of games.
“Obviously Pep’s way is to believe in hard work, believe in what we’re doing, what we’re working towards, and that’s the best way to go.”
Guardiola praised Zabaleta, who was making his first appearance since he got a nasty cut in the 4-0 defeat at the Camp Nou a fortnight ago.
The City boss said that he had only had one training session before Tuesday’s game but told him he was ready if needed.
“The important thing is we showed the way to compete against the big teams — like Zabaleta, for two weeks with no training session after the Barcelona game,” he told a news conference. “[Monday] was the first day. [On Tuesday] he arrived and said ‘I’m ready if you need me’.
“So he played against Neymar. Guys … Neymar! And he played how he played. That is the steps to go forward.
“That is why I am so pleased — for my guys, for the team, because from the beginning we said, ‘win or lose, in the end we will try.’”