Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Right! Richards: I'll Fight for ; Defender Wishes His Pal Pablo Zabaleta Luck in the Cup but Warns He Faces a Battle for His Place

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

The Right! Richards: I'll Fight for ; Defender Wishes His Pal Pablo Zabaleta Luck in the Cup but Warns He Faces a Battle for His Place

Article excerpt

SPECIAL REPORT STUART BRENNAN Follow Stuart on Twitter @STUBRENNANMEN MICAH Richards will be cheering on his 'amazing' pal Pablo Zabaleta at Wembley on Saturday... then planning to snatch his place in the team next season.

The big Blue defender's return to fitness this season has come too late

Richards is also likely to miss out on a place on the bench for the FA Cup final.

That will not stop Richards, who has been at City since the age of 14, from being 100 per cent behind his team-mates as they seek a third major trophy in three years.

He returned to first team action on Tuesday night, captaining a weakened City team to a win over West Brom which sealed the Blues' place in next season's Champions League.

But Richards will step aside for the final as Zabaleta returns at right back, and that is how it should be, said the England defender.

"I've not played any part in the FA Cup this season, so to play or even be on the bench I think would be harsh on the lads who have worked hard this season to get there," he said.

"I'll be there supporting them. I'll travel down with the boys and wish them all the best. And I think that they deserve it.

"We haven't played the best football this season, like we did last, but I think we definitely deserve to win the FA Cup."

Zabaleta's form has nailed him on as City's first-choice right back, as well as earning him a place in the PFA's Premier League team of the year.

It also raises the possibility that next season Richards could switch to centre back, especially with Kolo Toure set to leave, and Mancini keen to expand the 3-5-2 system he has used with mixed results over the last two seasons.

Richards was always earmarked to be a centre back, but his speed and power down the flanks have turned him into a storming, raiding right back.

Zabaleta had already edged him out of the team towards the end of last season, but this season has been a calamity for Richards.

He injured an ankle in August playing for Great Britain in the Olympics, and four games into his comeback in October, he damaged his knee meniscus and required surgery which kept him out for six months.

He returned to action against Wigan in the Premier League last month, but looked rusty and was quickly dropped again by Mancini. …

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