Pablo Zabaleta admits to having a feeling of déjà vu ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final showdown with Chelsea.
With Millwall and Wigan contesting the other semi, pundits and journalists have somewhat unfairly dubbed the City v Chelsea game as the final in terms of the showpiece fixture, but Zaba, a strong contender for the Blues' player of the season, says this is not the way to prepare for Sunday’s game.
“We need to think about Chelsea and not beyond this match at the moment,” he said.
We are aware people are saying our semi-final is going to be ‘the final’, but that is disrespectful to Millwall and Wigan and nobody wins a trophy for winning a semi
“The same thing happened when we played United in 2011 because Bolton and Stoke were in the other game
“We need to beat Chelsea and then we can think about who we will play but it doesn’t matter that Wigan and Millwall aren’t considered top teams in that they are challenging regularly for major honours because in one game, anything can happen and it would all be about who plays the best.
“Our total focus right now is Chelsea who we know will be a very tough opponent, but we are in a good moment form-wise and if we play at our best we will have a great chance.”
City began the season with a Community Shield win over the West Londoners and after a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge, the Blues then saw off Chelsea 2-0 at the Etihad Stadium six weeks ago.
Pablo, however, warns that prior encounters mean little in a one-off game.
“Those results don’t mean a thing on Sunday – this is a different game and Wembley is a special place to play football and it gives everyone and extra motivation,” he said.
“It’s a very big pitch, too, so there are many factors to take into account on the day and they could have a bearing on what happens. I’m just looking forward to going back because the last time we played a semi-final there it was a fantastic occasion.
For me, it was a special game because it was the first time I’d played at Wembley and to beat United as well was even better – I still have the battle scar on my thigh from Scholes’ high tackle to prove it!
“It was an incredible game and the celebrations from our supporters is something I will never forget. Obviously the final against Stoke was more important because we had a trophy to show at the end of it.
“We will prepare properly for Sunday and hopefully, things will go our way.”
City are back in Premier League action on Wednesday against Wigan - get your tickets here.