Although the World Cup is in his future plans, Argentine Zabaleta is concentrating hard on the present and making himself indispensable to City boss Hughes.
"We all know it's not easy because there are a lot of players with fantastic quality in this squad. You have to fight for your place because it seems that there's two of everyone now.
"I think there's a big difference with us this season, there have been a lot of changes over the year and we now have great players in every position.
"That's what you need, because there are so many games in the Premier League of a high standard all through the season. We all have to work twice as hard now but that's good for everyone and especially the team."