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Hughes rally cry for UEFA glory night

Mark Hughes pitchside 0809

Mark Hughes pitchside 0809

Mark Hughes is calling for a supreme effort on and off the pitch as the Blues look to overcome a two-goal deficit against Hamburg in Thursday night's UEFA Cup quarter-final.

City may trail Martin Jol's side but they have an away goal in their locker, and with the sold-out signs long since having gone up at the City of Manchester Stadium, there is a sense that something very special could be in the air.

Looking ahead to the tie, Hughes told the Wednesday afternoon pre-match press conference held at the stadium: "We're all working hard and trying to make this club successful, and on Thursday the crowd are going to be our 12th man. For us to beat Hamburg, we are going to need everyone pushing in the same direction.

"We have always held this competition in the highest regard and have given it the utmost respect this season. Now we are into the latter stages, and it is up to us to see how far we can go.

"We're gearing up for the business end of the season and it's an opportunity to get into the semi-finals of a major European competition. It's a big ask, there's a deficit to make up and we are going up against a very accomplished side.

"We'll have to be at our best to match them, and we have great respect for their ability, but they are a side that concede goals on their travels. We are a team that can score goals at home ... and I think there is a real opportunity for us on Thursday night."

The boss played a part in a famous European Cup-Winner's Cup comeback for Manchester United way back in 1984, helping to overcome a 2-0 first leg defeat with a 3-0 home win. As well as drawing upon his own experiences, Hughes says that the squad have enjoyed their taste of European football this season and can use it to their advantage with the home support on Thursday.

"I have always enjoyed European football, as a player, fan and as a manager. There is a different atmosphere that surrounds European football, and I know that the players have enjoyed it this year. We have not got a great deal of European experience in the squad, compared to Hamburg, but progressing to the latter rounds from the Fair Play League and being the last English team in the competition is something we are very proud of. I think we should get a little bit of credit for that."

He also mounted a stout defence of Robinho, backing the mercurial Brazilian to come good from his recent dry spell in front of goal.

Mark continued: "In some games teams have been able to stop him having the impact we would liked him to have had, but he is an outstanding player. Technically he is as good as anyone in the Premier League, but the second half has been a struggle for him as it has been for a number of our players in the second half of the season.

"We have had more games this season than we have been used to, and those extra games have taken an edge off our game at times. But we should not doubt Robinho's ability, because he is an outstanding player." Doubts persist over several key squad members, and Pablo Zabaleta is also now on the injury list, as the boss added: "We've got a number of injuries - Craig Bellamy will not be available, while Shaun (Wright-Phillips), Vincent (Kompany) and Wayne (Bridge) are all doubts. Pablo has a groin strain which we hope will resolve itself, but he is a doubt at the moment."

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