MX23RW : Thursday, February 27 20:20:52| >> :600:418588:418588:
Feb 26, 2020 at 8pm UK at ​Estadio Santiago Bernabeu
Attendance: 75,615
Real Madrid
Man CityManchester City
Isco (60')
Ramos (86')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Jesus (78'), De Bruyne (83' pen.)

Zabaleta looking forward to "huge game" against Real Madrid

Zabaleta looking forward to
© Reuters
Former favourite Pablo thinks punishment can bring players and fans together.

Pablo Zabaleta expects Manchester City's European ban to spur on his old team when they face Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League this week.

Last week's bombshell announcement from UEFA that City face a two-year continental ban and a £24.9million fine for "serious breaches" of Financial Fair Play rules has put a new complexion on their already mouth-watering tie with Zinedine Zidane's Madrid side.

City are appealing against their punishments and have adopted a bullish tone but if the ban stands this season could be the last opportunity for them to win the trophy they most desire under Pep Guardiola.

"It's a huge game," Zabaleta said of Wednesday's first leg at the Bernabeu. "It's been a tough week for the whole of Man City: the players, the staff, everyone.

"But I think this should bring everyone together. It's the competition the club has been trying to win. Some of the players have been here so long.

"Of course it will increase the motivation of everyone at the club."

Zabaleta spoke to a number of his old colleagues when West Ham visited the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night, losing 2-0, and sensed a unity in the dressing room.

"They trust the (board), what they have done," said Zabaleta, who replaced the injured Ryan Fredericks in the second half. "The coaching staff and players should focus on what is going on on the field.

"In the league the gap to Liverpool is too big but the Champions League is going to be huge. They've played Real Madrid before. Of course they are a huge club with great players but I'm sure Man City can beat them.

"A lot of City fans will travel to Madrid to support the team. The players and staff will come together. They have the mentality you need for those games.

"They have to play to win the game. They have the quality and that's the way the team always plays. Hopefully they can get a good result and then the second tie here, the atmosphere will be massive."

News of the ban has sparked plenty of speculation about the club's star players. While Guardiola has promised to stay, the vultures will surely be circling for the likes of Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero if they are banished from Europe.

"I think some of the players will show loyalty to the club for sure," Zabaleta said after visiting the City dressing room. "Some of them have been here so long, they've won all the domestic competitions.

"The Champions League is massive but if they've been here for so long it's because they felt it was the right place for them."

With UEFA's case hinging on the accounts filed between 2012 and 2016, there have also been suggestions that the club could be stripped of the Premier League title won under Manuel Pellegrini in 2014, but Zabaleta brushed off questions about potentially losing one of his winners' medals.

"I think it is too soon to talk about this," he said. "We cannot talk about these things until we see (about the appeal).

"But nothing has changed for us."

body check tags ::

Click here for more stories about Pablo Zabaleta

Click here for more stories about Manchester City

Share this article now:
New Instagram promo
Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring for Man City on December 15, 2019
Read Next:
Sterling praises Zidane's 'winning mentality'
Sports Mole Logo
Enter your email address to subscribe to Sports Mole's free match previews newsletter! Updates are sent twice a week.

rhs 2.0
2Manchester CityMan City27183668293957
3Leicester CityLeicester27155754272750
5Manchester UnitedMan Utd27118841291241
6Tottenham HotspurSpurs2711794436840
7Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd27101072925440
8Wolverhampton WanderersWolves2791263832639
13Crystal Palace2789102432-833
14Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2787122441-1731
15Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton27610113239-728
17Aston Villa2774163452-1825
18West Ham UnitedWest Ham2766153248-1624
20Norwich CityNorwich2746172451-2718

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Ultra close-up image of Kevin De Bruyne [NOT FOR USE IN ARTICLES]Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!