Zabaleta believes UEFA ban will fuel Manchester City’s quest for glory

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‘It has been tough on the players but the Champions League ban will only increase their desire to win it’: Pablo Zabaleta believes UEFA decision will fuel Manchester City’s quest for European glory

  • Manchester City have been banned from the Champions League for two years 
  • The club will appeal to the court of Arbitration for Sport over the UEFA decision
  • If appeal fails then it could be the last chance for long-serving players like Silva

Pablo Zabaleta believes Manchester City will have even greater motivation to win the Champions League this season following UEFA’s decision to expel them from the competition for the next two seasons for breaching financial rules.

If City’s appeal to the court of Arbitration for Sport fails, it will be the last chance of wining’s Europe’s elite club competition for long-serving players like David Silva, who will leave the club after a decade of service in the summer, and possibly striker Sergio Aguero.

And Zabaleta, a stalwart City defender for nine years between 2008 and 2017 before joining West Ham, insists the stakes couldn’t be higher when Pep Guardiola’s team take on Real Madrid in the Bernabeu Stadium in the first leg of their round of 16 tie on Wednesday.

West Ham defender Pablo Zabaleta spoke to some of his former team-mates on Wednesday

‘It’s a huge game, of course,’ he said. ‘It has been a tough week for the whole Manchester City football group, players, staff and everyone. But I think they should bring everyone together now and just focus on a competition that the club – and some of the players who have been here for so long – have been trying to win. I know what winning it means to them.

‘The UEFA decision will increase the motivation for sure because everyone at the club trusts the people in charge and what they have done.

‘I know some of the players have been here for so long, they have won all the domestic competitions, so winning the Champions League is massive for some of them. But if they have been here so long that is because they always felt it was the right place for them.

‘I don’t know what will happen at the end of the season whether it will be the two-year ban or it is reduced to a single year or maybe they can prove everything was done right, and hopefully, fingers crossed, it will be.

Former City defender says club will have greater motivation to win the Champions League

‘In the meantime, the players should let Ferran Soriano [City’s chief executive] and his people deal with all the legal issues and just concentrate on what happens on the field. In the Premier League there is a big gap between them and Liverpool so the Champions League next week is going to be huge for City.’

Zabaleta went into the City dressing room to speak to his former team-mates following West Ham’s 2-0 defeat at the Etihad in midweek and is convinced there will be no mass exodus if City’s appeal fails and they have to spend two years in the European wilderness.

‘I went to see some of the lads in the changing room and we talked a little bit about the situation,’ he added. ‘Obviously they don’t know at the moment what’s going to happen but I’m sure the players will show loyalty to the club.’

The former Argentina international is equally convinced that City have the quality to beat a Real team who are not considered the force that won four Champions League in five years, even though they are top of La Liga.

Zabaleta was in Roberto Mancini’s City squad when they faced Real in the group stages in 2012-13 – a 3-2 defeat away followed by a 1-1 home draw – and the semi-finals in 2015-2016 when Manuel Pellegrini’s team drew the first leg 0-0 before a 1-0 defeat in the Bernabeu dashed their dreams of reaching the final. This time he is sure the outcome will be different.

‘City have a great squad of players and I think they can beat Real, ‘ he said. ‘They have to go and attack them. They have to play to win the game because they have quality, and I’m sure that is the way the team always plays – to win games.

‘A lot of City fans will travel to Madrid to support the team, and everyone – players, staff, fans, will come together for the the game. The club has the right mentality that you need for these sort of games.

‘Hopefully they can get a good result on Wednesday and complete the job in the second leg at the Etihad. For them it will be massive.’ 

 


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