Zabaleta: Facing Manchester City is a very good preseason test
Pablo Zabaleta knows better than anybody in the West Ham United squad how difficult a task the Hammers have to reach the Premier League Asia Trophy final.
For the Irons take on Zabaleta’s former club Manchester City in the semi-finals in the Chinese city of Nanjing on Wednesday evening, fresh from achieving an historic domestic treble last season.
However, while there may be no tougher opponent around than Pep Guardiola’s side these days, the full-back says the game will act as a perfect tune-up for the challenges which await in the Premier League this coming season.
“It's good to play against my former team and to see some of the Man City players I worked with before,” he smiled, when asked how he feels about facing his old club in his pre-match press conference. “Of course, I've got such great memories from my time at Manchester City. It's a very good test for us, for West Ham as a team, to play against the champions of England.
“We hope we can play a good game on Wednesday and continue building our style of play and everything we need to get the best from this squad."
We are not friends at all when we play against them. We want to win, of course
It is now two years since Zabaleta swapped east Manchester for east London, but many of his former teammates remain in City colours and are set to feature on Wednesday evening.
The Argentinian was asked if the knowledge he has of his opponents will help the Hammers, but says any advantage will be negligible against such powerful opponents.
“I know some of the players but of course in a game it’s completely different,” said the No5, who signed a new one-year contract this summer. “You know them when you have to play some one-on-one situations or the way they play, but the game is different.
“We are not friends at all when we play against them. We want to win, of course.
“We are here to improve, to keep our fitness level up, but whenever you play against the champions of England it means even more, so I hope we can do a good game on Wednesday and, whoever plays, the team does well and we win the match.”
West Ham’s Premier League Asia Trophy semi-final with Manchester City will be broadcast live in the UK by Sky Sports, with kick-off on Wednesday at 1.30pm BST.