The first match to be played in Manchester City’s 2019 pre-season tour will see the reigning champions of every domestic cup competition take on a familiar foe; Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham United in the Premier League Asia Trophy.
The first step of this journey kicked off with a hiccup. Due to an administration error from former kit sponsor Thomas Cook, City were forced to wait a day before travelling to China. Will this affect Pep Guardiola’s preparations? Only time will tell.
The travelling squad includes: Bravo, Walker, Danilo, Stones, Sterling, Gundogan, Zinchenko, Angelino, Laporte, Rodri, De Bruyne, Sane, Bernardo, David Silva, Grimshaw, Nmecha, Touaizi, Bazunu, Pozo, Doyle, Bolton, A.Garcia, Harwood-Bellis, Bernabe, Poveda and Knight.
The notable absentees for the Blues’ include: Sergio Aguero, Nicolas Otamendi, Gabriel Jesus, Ederson, Fernandinho – all of which are on holiday after participating in the Copa America. Riyad Mahrez is still playing in this years AFCON, whereas Benjamin Mendy is still in rehabilitation in Barcelona, and has been all summer. Other noticeable absentees include Eliaquim Mangala and Fabian Delph, who are expected to be leave the club in the coming days and weeks, and finally Eric Garcia who, despite rumours that he would miss this year’s U19 European Championships, has travelled with the young Spanish squad.
With a squad of experienced first team starters and a significant number of youth players, Pep Guardiola has some good variety for his team selections. You could expect the players that have had the longest holiday breaks to be involved in the action. However, it is completely possible for Pep to play a full side of regular starters.
The absences of both of City’s two main strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus leaves room for someone new to take up that role in pre-season. The likely occupants for the centre forward position would be Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Lukas Nmecha or perhaps a false nine formation with Bernardo in the middle.
West Ham on the other hand have also had their issues with strikers recently, with the departure of talisman Marko Arnautovic to China (ironically). My guess is that they will sign a new forward before the start of the new Premier League season. The other fixture in the Premier League Asia Trophy will see Newcastle United take on Wolves in the early fixture on Wednesday. The winners of this match will play the winners of Manchester City and West Ham in the final.
Most City fans will be anticipating how new signings Rodri and Angelino will perform ahead of the new campaign. It is without a doubt they will both get some playing time before the season officially kicks off. It will be particularly interesting to see how Rodri will slot into the crucial deep midfielder role that has been superbly occupied by Fernandinho recently.
Manchester City certainly won’t have had the ideal preparation for their opening pre-season fixture against Manuel Pellegrini’s men, given the farcical events surrounding travel partner Thomas Cook. The back-to-back delays and cancellations of flights to Shanghai will have no doubt infuriated Pep Guardiola and officials at the club, and it is highly likely the players will now have missed two days of training as a result of the delay in travelling to the Far East. Only time will tell how much of an impact this may have had on the players, especially in the upcoming fixture against the Hammers.
My personal hope for pre-season is that no more ‘unforeseen issues’ happen to befall the club or any of the players, and that everyone manages to keep their fitness for the upcoming season.
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