Manchester City boss upbeat about prospects despite aggregate loss to German side Hamburg.
Manchester City boss Mark Hughes believes his expensively-assembled side funded by Abu Dhabi investors can use their UEFA Cup exit as a launching pad for a fresh European assault next season.
Despite being reduced to 10 men and hitting the woodwork twice, City beat Hamburg 2-1 in their quarter-final second leg on Thursday, but went out 4-3 on aggregate.
Now Hughes has challenged his team to repeat their performances in the last six games of the Premier League season to ensure they finish in the top seven and return to European competition.
"That's the standard and we've got to do it more often," said Hughes, whose side are in 11th place in the table, six points off seventh spot which would guarantee a place in the new-look Europa League next season.
"It was important we made a statement and it was there for everyone to see."
He added: "We're proud of the performance. It was a big night for us and we've produced a real performance of desire and commitment.
"The crowd sensed something really special was happening but we just needed that break at the right time."
City came from behind to win 2-1 on the night, and Elano twice hit the woodwork, but Paolo Guerrero's opener gave the hosts too much to do after the 3-1 loss in Germany as Hamburg advanced to an all-German semi-final with Werder Bremen.
"It's a good experience for our team. To get to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup is fantastic," said Hamburg coach Martin Jol.
Aided by a brace from Diego, Bremen drew 3-3 away to Italy's Udinese, to wrap up a 6-4 win overall.
The other semi-final will be an all-Ukrainian affair after Dynamo Kiev swamped a poor Paris Saint Germain 3-0 after a goalless draw in France and Shakhtar Donetsk won 2-1 at Marseille with Brazilian pair Fernandinho Luiz Rosa and Adriano on target for a 4-1 aggregate win.For all the latest sports news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.