MANCHESTER CITY manager Mark Hughes has warned his team to raise their game against Hamburg tonight in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup — or pay the price.
City arrived in Germany ahead of the first leg match at the HSV-Arena on the back of a 2-0 defeat by Arsenal.
But Hughes is expecting a better performance against a side currently joint top of the Bundesliga and coached by former Tottenham boss Martin Jol.
He said: “We will have to be markedly better when we play Hamburg and improve on what we produced at the weekend. We hopefully have 12 games left and we want to make sure that we finish the season in the right manner.
“It is important we look back on the season and think that we’ve made progress.”
City’s form on the road has been poor, with record signing Robinho failing to produce anything like his best form.
But Hughes insists the Brazilian, who has not scored since the game at Blackburn on December 28, is not the only one at fault.
He said: “Away from home we’ll take a goal from anybody. It’s not just about Robinho.”
City have been the marathon men of the UEFA Cup and are set to play their 15th match in the competition after starting out on their journey in July.
Belgium midfielder Vincent Kompany has been ruled out of the game against his former club because of a hamstring injury.
His absence leaves Hughes short of numbers in midfield as another former Hamburg star, Nigel de Jong, is cup-tied. However, Martin Petrov (knee) and Stephen Ireland (ankle) both travelled to Germany after injury problems.
Jol, who lost his job at Tottenham in October 2007, may be in with a chance of guiding Hamburg to a first Bundesliga title since 1983, but he has indicated he would like to work in England again.
He said: “I want to build a good side at Hamburg and stay here for another one or two seasons.
“I still have my house in England. So if there was a very good opportunity, maybe a club with ambitions of Europe, I would think about it.”
Hamburg will again be without a number of key players as Bastian Reinhardt, Thimothee Atouba, Romeo Castelen, Maxim Choupo-Moting, Guy Demel and Alex Silva are injured.
However, Paolo Guerrero (ankle) and Collin Benjamin (thigh) returned to training today after ankle and thigh problems respectively and could be involved against City.
Guerrero’s inclusion in particular would be a real bonus as he scored twice in Hamburg’s 3-2 win away to Galatasaray in the last round.
Asked where his priorities lie, Jol said: “I cannot pick teams for games like Villa and Spurs did because we have only 14 to 15 players to call on.
“City may have the quality but we have the spirit.”
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