Pablo Zabaleta has conceded that Manchester City's poor away form is threatening to derail their title challenge.
"There is a long way to go and we have many games to the end of the season, but when you lose points like this it will be really difficult to fight for the title," said Manuel Pellegrini's right-back following City's 1-0 defeat at Sunderland. "Every time we play away though it's not happening for us; we cannot keep a clean sheet. We must defend much better."
Zabaleta, who came on as a second-half substitute in his team's fourth loss in six away matches in the Premier League, accepts that a squad as strong as City's should be doing much better. And particularly at the Stadium of Light, a ground where they have lost their last four league games 1-0.
"We are playing much better at home than we are away but in this league you need away points, especially when you are a team like us that wants to win things," said Zabaleta whose side have now slipped to eighth in the table. "We have only beaten West Ham away and that is not good enough for Manchester City."
He and his team-mates are frustrated they must now wait to try to put things right. "When you have a defeat like this you want to play as quickly as you can, but we now go into an international break, and then we will face Spurs at home, which will be a crucial game for us," said Zabaleta.
"We are so disappointed. We had a great chance to reach third position and we knew before the game that Chelsea had dropped points on Saturday, and that Spurs had lost just before us. It was a great chance, but unfortunately we didn't take it."
Zabaleta is reluctant to make excuses for City's disappointing haul of four points from a possible 18 on their travels but does highlight Pellegrini's bad luck with injuries. "We have had too many problems with injured players – we lost Vincent Kompany for too many games, and now we have lost [Matija] Nastasic, David Silva and Fernandinho, who are very important players for this team," he said. "With Silva, sometimes we look a better team because he is an important player for us, especially in the attacking phase. Having five or six injuries makes it very difficult for us."