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Pablo's words of wisdom

Pablo Zabaleta 0809

Pablo Zabaleta 0809

Pablo Zabaleta is determined to talk a good game as well as play one in City's demanding finish to a season that the former UEFA Cup finalist insists needs to end in qualification for Europe next time round.

That might be a big ask in anybody's language, but popular Argentinian Zabby is ensuring he can make his point in the dressing-room debates by pursuing English lessons and cutting down on his Spanish conversations. Having gone so close to UEFA glory in the Espanyol side that lost the all-Spanish final to Seville on penalties a couple of years ago, Pablo wants to make sure his team-mates get all the inside info he can supply.

City's squad is truly multi-national, but Zabaleta said: "English in the first language in the world, so it's important to know. I go to my teacher Trisha every week for two hours and I'm getting a little better.

"When I first arrived in Manchester I had no English and it was difficult for me. Now when I speak to Mark Hughes one to one I understand, although it is harder for me when he speaks to us all at the same time.

"And I still have to listen hard to Stevie Ireland! Dunney, Shay Given, they are from Ireland as well and I can tell what they say to me, but Stephen's accent is very different. But I think I'm getting there."

Pablo cannot stress how vital is is that Mark Hughes' men consolidate this first season of the new regime by clinching a place in next season's Europa Cup, which will replace the UEFA Cup in the calendar.

He said: 'It's very important for the club. We need to go up the table for seventh place. Other clubs like West Ham are a distance away from us but we need to finish high up there and it is possible.

"These last three months are an opportunity for us to climb the table - and to win the UEFA Cup. So the next game against Aalborg is very important, and they will be difficult for us. They won well at Deportivo.

"We will need to play well, be strong and quick. We know we will have to work hard to get past them."

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Mark Hughes 0809

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