Manchester City will grow even stronger - Pablo Zabaleta

Manchester City will only get better and will be the team to stop next season, according to West Ham defender Pablo Zabaleta.

The Argentine left the Etihad Stadium at the end of the last season after nine years at the club but is now focused on helping his new side avoid relegation with the Hammers just three points above the drop zone.

West Ham's 4-1 defeat to City on Sunday plunged them further into trouble and Zabaleta, who ironically brought up 100 Premier League goals for his old club when a cross deflected in off him, admitted they were no match for his old side.

"We played against the champions; against the best team in the league and it was tough," he told reporters. "They were miles better than us, no excuses.

"So now we have to move onto the next game. We've got Leicester away, three games to go until the end of the season, we are three points above the relegation zone so it's in our hands.

"Obviously it's always nice to see the lads. I'm very pleased in the way they've been playing this season and I think they got what they deserved by being champions.

"They are such an attacking team, they have a huge talent with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, [Ilkay] Gundogan, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus -- they've been so good so far this season. We tried our best but it was not good enough.

"The club has a great ambitions and I'm sure they will go for a few good players in the summer to bring players in to improve the squad because they will go for the big trophies next season again. So I'm sure the future for Man City is very bright for the next years."

West Ham's future is far more precarious with bottom-three sides Southampton and Stoke both picking up vital points at the weekend.

But Zabaleta believes that one more win form their remaining three games -- away to Leicester City and home to Manchester United and Everton -- would be enough to keep them in the Premier League.

"We cannot pretend that the teams below will not win a single game. But it's still in our hands," he said. "We need to go for the three points in the next game -- that's it.

"Leicester is a team that doesn't have anything to play for, they lost their last game against Crystal Palace. Then we've got United and Everton so it's still in our hands. We just need to forget [the City] result. It's not been good but we need to remain positive and move into the next game believing we can get the three points.

"One more win or three or four points would be enough to be safe 100 percent. But we cannot hope for Swansea, Southampton and Stoke to keep dropping points, we need to think about West Ham, going into the game to take three points."

Zabaleta also defended teammate Declan Rice after the 19-year-old made individual errors in the recent defeats to Arsenal and insisted he's been one of the better players this season.

"I've been very impressed with Dec. He's been really good so far this season," Zabaleta said.

"He came on as an 18-year-old, it's never been easy. But he's got that talent and he's got that personality to become one of the great players for West Ham in the future. I'm very happy and pleased for him. He's got a great future.

"We need to support him. I will be the first to show support because as a young lad you can make a mistake. But listen, well all make mistakes and he can learn from it. But the most important thing is to show support to him.

"I've been talking to him every day because I really do believe he's been really good -- he's been one of the best players -- even at the age of 18-19. He's been one of the best and most consistent players in the team this season and he showed he's got the personality to keep a place in the team.

"Now it's a tough period. We are in a relegation battle and we need of course to do well. We don't need to have individual mistakes in the next games because it can cost us points. But as I say, Dec's been incredible apart one or two mistakes in the last few games so we support him 100 percent."