MANCHESTER -- Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has hailed Nicolas Otamendi as "a superman," with sources telling ESPN FC the defender is set for a new deal.
The Argentine has been outstanding form this season as City has built a lead of 15 points at the top, helped by the fact that they have conceded the fewest goals of any team in the Premier League.
Otamendi, 29, has made more passes than any player in the league and in Wednesday's victory over Newcastle United, he made only 10 passes fewer than the entire home side.
The centre-back signed a five-year deal when he joined from Valencia in 2015 but is set for talks over an extension, and Guardiola says they would not be so clear at the top without him.
"We have a superman in the team, as Nico Otamendi helped us absolutely. Without Nico, it would not be possible, what we have done," Guardiola told a news conference ahead of the New Year's Eve trip to Crystal Palace.
"Everyone speaks about a bit of players such as Raheem [Sterling], like David [Silva], like Kevin [De Bruyne], like Sergio [Aguero], and they deserve it, but if I would like to point to a player who deserves full respect, for what they have done until now, it's Nico.
"Nico has been amazing. He is a guy who even with pain in the ankle, in the knee, in the back, he always fights. He's one the hugest competitors I've ever seen in my life.
"He was so important. I cannot imagine the situation we are in at the moment in terms of the table and how we play without him. It would have been impossible."
Otamendi's form has been inconsistent in his first two seasons but he has been at his best this season.
And Guardiola says he serves extra credit as he has not had a regular defensive partner and that he demands a lot of his central defenders.
"Being a central defender in our team is not easy, you play 40 metres in front, defending a lot of space behind, you have to help us with the build-ups, they can't just be worried about defending," he added.
"It's so demanding but this can only happen when you are brave, you have courage, you have a huge personality to try to do it. Even when the people thought we were not able to do these things. When they believe it's good for the team and it's good for himself to try it.
"Right now he's reading the situations, where the spaces are to pass the ball, amazingly. I'm really impressed."