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Hughes can see his way clear to seventh

Mark Hughes 0809

Mark Hughes 0809

Mark Hughes suspects that City's UEFA Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of Hamburg could yet prove a blessing in disguise as his team mounts a refreshed assault on a seventh-place finish in the League.

Manager Hughes already believes that the second-leg performance at City of Manchester Stadium, when the Blues came within the width of the woodwork of overturning a 3-1 deficit, convinced his players they can scale the heights.

Now, ironically, the fact that the team can focus completely on the Barclays Premier League has underpinned the back-to-back wins that offer second-wind City a fighting chance of an immediate return to Europe.

With his old club Blackburn next up in the arena where the Blues have beaten ten of the last 11 visitors, Hughes said: "The chase for seventh place now has our whole, undivided attention after Hamburg.

"We are having clear weeks leading into Premier League games so the only focus is that match, which wasn't always the case this season. We've played 16 games in Europe, so some working weeks were quite fragmented.

"At times that had an impact on our performances at Premier League level. With the continuity we now have in training, and being able to prepare for every game as we would like, we anticipate having a good finish."

Hughes shared the bitter disappointment of City's 2-1 second-leg win, a brave but hollow victory that saw Hamburg squeeze into the UEFA semi-finals, after setting his sights on reaching the Istanbul final on May 20th.

But he added: "I've been really pleased since. People thought we would switch off until next season. But that night made us realise what a good team we are when everybody works hard and we're at the top of our game."

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Elano Blumer training 0809

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