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Chelsea v Manchester City: Zabaleta ready to show experience in ´final´ showdown

Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta hopes Chelsea will feel the weight of expectation when the sides meet in the FA Cup fifth round on Sunday.

City travel to Stamford Bridge still in contention for honours across four competitions, although back-to-back home losses to fellow title chasers Leicester City and Tottenham have checked their ambitions in the Premier League.

Speaking at his pre-match news conference on Friday, City boss Manuel Pellegrini stated he would field a selection of youngsters in his side due to the forthcoming midweek trip to Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League and a lengthy injury list.

Zabaleta could feature as one of the seasoned older heads to balance the visiting line-up and he is under no illusion as to the task lying in wait against a Chelsea side unbeaten in 12 domestic matches since Jose Mourinho’s departure.

“It was big draw for us and will be a great game,” Zabaleta told City’s official website.

“Chelsea are one of the favourites to win the FA Cup and I heard Guus Hiddink talking about this as a final so there is a lot of expectation on them to win this game.

“It is probably a final in that two of the biggest clubs are playing one another at this stage, but we will see what happens on the day.

“They are on their own ground and have been playing well so it’s one of the toughest draws we could have been given, but we are going there to beat Chelsea.

“We’ve said all season we want to try to reach the final in this competition. The FA Cup is one of those trophies that the fans and the players want to win.”

City beat Chelsea at the same stage of the competition in 2014 and boast a 2013 semi-final win over their opponents, but last won at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League in 2010.

Hiddink is prepared to select a strong XI on the back of Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League loss at Paris Saint-Germain, although the veteran Dutchman remains without captain John Terry due to a hamstring injury.

“There will be not many changes because we take this competition very seriously,” said Hiddink, who lifted the trophy with Chelsea in 2009.

“I think [City] were a bit unlucky in the last games but a big team always reacts.”

United States defender Matt Miazga could make his Chelsea debut in defence as Terry and long-term absentee Kurt Zouma (knee) sit out, with an untried City attack possibly lying in wait.

Kelechi Iheanacho has scored four goals in the previous two rounds and could be joined in Pellegrini’s line-up by former academy colleagues Bersant Celina and Brandon Barker, while midfielders Aleix Garcia and Manu Garcia are also in the frame having been unused substitutes against Tottenham.

Bacary Sagna returned to training on Friday following a knee injury but Pellegrini remains without Eliaquim Mangala (hamstring), Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Samir Nasri (thigh), Jesus Navas (hamstring), Fabian Delph (Achilles) and Wilfried Bony (calf).

Fri 19 Feb, 2016
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