Man City brushes aside poor Stoke
The Barclays Premier League champions were rarely troubled as they eased to a convincing victory at the Etihad Stadium after Zabaleta opened the scoring late in the first half.
Dzeko tapped in for a second just before the hour and the lively Aguero added a third from the penalty spot 16 minutes from time. The only concern was that Aguero limped off before the end of what was also expected to be talisman Yaya Toure's last game before the African Nations Cup.
It was another painful trip to Eastlands for Stoke, who have now lost on all five Premier League visits and conceded 14 goals in the process without reply themselves.
Their last league win at City came in October 1997 when the two clubs were in the third tier and there seemed little prospect of the Potters improving that dismal record from the outset.
The champions were completely dominant from the first minute but it remarkably took them until the 43rd to make the breakthrough.
Aguero, looking hungry, combined well with James Milner in the area early on but Asmir Begovic saved his low shot with his legs. Toure looked to sign off in style before international duty but twice shot over from distance.
Aguero met a dipping cross from Gareth Barry but his first-time shot flew narrowly over the bar. Stoke switched off as David Silva was allowed a free header from a Barry free-kick but the Spaniard's effort was well off target.
Aguero had another good chance when he controlled well and turned to shoot inside the area but Begovic was equal to it. Dzeko, starting a second successive game after his double at Norwich on Saturday, found himself through on goal but failed to work his Bosnia team-mate Begovic.
Aguero did beat Begovic when he got on the end of a Barry cross but the Argentinian's header came back off the post. The hosts were finally rewarded for their superiority two minutes before the interval when Milner's cross was parried by Begovic and the excellent Zabaleta drove home the rebound.
City carried their momentum into the second half and Robert Huth, who had regularly been troubled by Aguero, bundled the Argentinian over outside the box.
The champions failed to make the most of the free-kick but Stoke's goal was soon under threat as Dzeko latched onto a Toure through ball and sent a dipping half-volley narrowly over the bar.
He was getting closer to troubling his friend Begovic and he accepted a gift from the keeper to double City's lead in the 56th minute. Aguero weaved his way through the area and poked a shot at Begovic which, unsighted by a defender, he could only parry and Dzeko pounced inside the goal area.
Dzeko celebrated by revealing a T-shirt which displayed the message 'Happy New Year' but his joy was ended by a yellow card from Michael Oliver. The introduction of Matthew Etherington for quiet striker Kenwyne Jones gave Stoke greater width as Jon Walters moved into a central position.
For the first time they started to give the hosts' defense something to think about but Joleon Lescott - hoping to make a point after being recalled - looked particularly solid. Joe Hart also showed he was still alert as he palmed away a free-kick from Charlie Adam.
Steven Nzonzi, free to play after appealing his sending-off against Southampton last weekend, made a good run but was quickly crowded out. But Nzonzi was then the guilty party as City all but wrapped up the game from the penalty spot in the 74th minute.
There may have been debate over whether Silva was in the area when touched by the former Blackburn midfielder but there was no doubting the contact. Aguero struck from 12 yards and, although Begovic will be disappointed not have saved his shot, it was a goal the striker deserved for a fine display.
It proved Aguero's last meaningful contribution, however, as he pulled up soon after with what seemed a hamstring injury and he was replaced by compatriot Carlos Tevez.
The game started to peter out but Stoke had a late flurry as Glenn Whelan, with the possible aid of a deflection, brought a fine save out of Hart with a long-range low shot, which was tipped onto the post.