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Zabaleta shocked by Newcastle woes ahead of Etihad clash

Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta is surprised to see Newcastle United languishing in the Premier League relegation zone ahead of the two sides going head-to-head on Saturday.

Newcastle are still searching for their first league win under Steve McClaren having surrendered a 2-0 lead to draw with Chelsea last time out, with only local rivals Sunderland keeping them off the foot of the table.

City are themselves attempting to recover from back-to-back Premier League losses to West Ham and Tottenham that have seen them surrender top spot to Manchester United.

Zabaleta made his first appearance of the season as a stoppage-time substitute during Wednesday's 2-1 Champions League win at Borussia Monchengladbach and the Argentina international could return to the starting line-up against opponents he expected to be faring far better. 

"I'm very surprised to see Newcastle where they are because of the experience they had towards the end of last season," he told City's official website, referring to Newcastle's last-day escape from relegation last season.

"After that situation, you expect to bring in new players - which has happened - but the results haven't been good so far, though there was a definite improvement against Chelsea last weekend.

"It's not my club, but for me it is a real shame to see them in that situation. Newcastle is a club that has a fantastic stadium and great supporters who fill their ground every week. St James'' Park is a place I love to play at and probably the away ground I look forward to playing at the most each season.

"That's why I am disappointed to see them near the bottom and in my opinion, they should be doing a lot better. They went down the first season I came to England but came back up again under Alan Pardew and have done okay since. They have a new coach now and there is a long way to go so there is time for them to improve and climb the table.

"It doesn't change me wanting to beat them on Saturday, though. We need a good result ourselves and we have to start winning games again and need to build on our win over Borussia."

City were indebted to heroics from goalkeeper Joe Hart against Monchengladbach before a goal from Martin Demichelis and Sergio Aguero's last-minute penalty completed a dramatic turnaround.

"I am very happy with the character of the team to come from one goal down and, in the last 30 minutes, to play the way we did," said manager Manuel Pellegrini at a pre-match press conference for the Newcastle game.

"It demonstrates that we have a strong team with strong character and that we can play the same way in Europe as we do here."