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Sheffield United boss Paul Heckingbottom knows that “no one else on the planet” expects his side to be able to beat Manchester City in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final.
The Blades, who confirmed on Thursday that their EFL transfer embargo has been lifted, take on Pep Guardiola’s side in the last-four clash at Wembley trying to pull off a big upset and reach the final for the first time since 1937.
It is a huge task given the level City are currently playing at as they chase a treble, with the Champions League and Premier League still on their radar.
“There is probably no one else on the planet thinking we’ll be in the final, but that’s not to say we can’t do it,” Heckingbottom said.
“We have to approach the game in that way and with the intention of causing an upset.
“This season so far has been great, the position we are in in the league, the FA Cup semi-final, it could end up being a really memorable season in this club’s history, but we have to achieve something for that.
“To do that in the FA Cup, we have to get past one of the best teams on the planet.
“We are going to enjoy it and try to give a really, really good account of ourselves. We know who we are playing, we know their calibre of player and we need them to have an off day and we be at the top of our game.
“The occasion itself means it is a totally different experience anyway, but we want to make sure we get things out of this season, not just a pat on the back for doing well so far.”
Whatever happens on Saturday, the Blades have another huge game on Wednesday when victory over West Brom will guarantee them promotion back to the Premier League after two years away.
And the definitive nature of their task has made it easier to focus on the clash with City.
“How it has allowed me to speak to the players today is, we know what the situation is in the league, we know the position we are in, all that hard work, everything we have done early on has put us in the position where we can relax now,” he said. “That is on Wednesday. We know where we’re at.
“It probably does help, all our attention and focus is on this game, the FA Cup semi-final. But in my opinion, we have approached every game like this.”
The Blades will be without midfielders James McAtee and Tommy Doyle, who are ineligible as they are on loan from City.
It is especially hard for Doyle, whose stunning goal ensured victory over Blackburn booked the spot in the last four, as his grandfathers both played at Wembley for City.
The pair will travel with the squad to the national stadium and be part of the day.
“They will be there,” Heckingbottom said. “We will have the majority of people who have helped us this season down there. In terms of how we approach the game, it will be exactly the same as normal.
“We want everyone to go down and be part of it. Once we arrive at the ground and it’s matchday, people involved in the game are there and the other guys can go into the stand and watch the game.
“We have tried to be inclusive all season anyway and tried to make sure everyone has felt part of it.”
The Blades confirmed on Thursday that their EFL embargo has been lifted with immediate effect.
They were sanctioned by the governing body in January for breaching guideline 52.2.3 which concerns non-payment of transfer funds to other clubs.
“Sheffield United acknowledges that the sanctions imposed relating to EFL regulation 52.2.3 have been lifted with immediate effect,” a club statement read.
“As previously stated, the board of directors would like to assure supporters that promotion to the Premier League remains the primary objective this season and will continue to support Paul Heckingbottom and the team.”
The lifting of the embargo is not related to the possible takeover of the club by Dozy Mmobuosi, the PA news agency understands.
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