With Manchester City’s preseason matches kicking off this afternoon, it could be a big summer tour for some of the returning players.
From West Ham United to Liverpool, these five fixtures are a chance for players from both the senior and youth teams to impress Pep Guardiola, get back into the swing of things and potentially change the course of their entire season. The big news is that club record signing Rodri is set to make his first appearances in a City shirt after joining from Atletico Madrid, but who else should we be keeping an eye on? Here’s a look at some of the stars and prospects who we’re excited to watch in the famous blue and purple…
City fans who don’t follow the EDS got no more than a glimpse at Spanish youth international Angeliño before he was sold to PSV last summer, but he’s back with an elevated squad status and a whole lot to prove…
It’s abundantly clear by now that José Ángel Tasende, to use his full name, has been bought back to be an important component of the first-team squad. With Benjamin Mendy’s ongoing injury problems ruling him out until after the tour is over, this is Angeliño’s chance to show Pep Guardiola and the fans that the team needn’t miss Mendy’s attacking presence while he’s unavailable.
The livewire left-back got ten league assists in the Eredivise last season and has the potential to put up similar numbers for City if he’s used generously. All he needs is a good preseason to prove to Pep that he’s ready for regular Premier League action. At just over £5m, he could be one of the bargains of the summer.
After a more-than-solid 2018/19 season, everyone’s favourite Ukranian CAM-turned-fullback was rewarded with a new long-term contract and a new squad number. Clearly, then, he’s here to stay.
But where does the signing of Angeliño leave Oleks? Is he still first-choice? Is he ahead of the Spaniard but behind Mendy? Or does Pep have a new position in mind for him entirely? Zinchenko plays in midfield at a high level for his national team, and started his career in a similar position; there’s no doubt he has the technical ability to play anywhere in the middle of the park.
How Zinchenko is used in pre-season will give us a huge clue as to how Guardiola envisions his role in the team going forward. With these three left-backs, alongside Laporte and Danilo, City surely now have more decent options in the position than any other club in the world.
Kevin de Bruyne
What’s not to like about a world-class player returning to his best? Kevin de Bruyne had a frustrating 2018/19 but two wonderful performances at the end of the season have left Manchester City fans watering at the mouth.
First there was the absolute masterclass against Tottenham in the Champions League, where he grabbed three assists even though the team was knocked out. The Belgian was brilliant that day, reminding us all of the joy of watching opposition defenders terrified by this monster of a player. Then, right at the end of the campaign, he came off the bench to light up the FA Cup final with a goal and assist in the 6-0 thrashing. Preseason will be a good indicator of how sharp De Bruyne is ahead of the Premier League opener, and how long we’ll need to wait to see him consistently back to his Centurion season form.
We’ll need to wait a bit longer to see Gabriel Jesus in action once again, but boy will it be worth it.
Like De Bruyne, Jesus lit up the FA Cup final with a masterful performance, scoring two fantastic goals. He followed this up with an incredible Copa America, banishing old World Cup demons with two goals and two assists, and essentially winning the final against Peru single-handedly. When this boy is high on confidence, his ceiling is sky-high. Unreal movement, surprising aerial presence and clinical finishing have all become hallmarks of his game under Guardiola, and a Wembley meeting with Liverpool- if he’s back by then- could be the perfect warm-up to get the Brazilian in the mood for a great 2019/20. If he can stay consistent, the Young Player of the Season award is not unrealistic for Jesus.
It was disappointing to see Eric García missing out on the squad list after being called up to play for Spain’s U19 team, but young centre-back Taylor Harwood-Bellis is a more than adequate replacement.
Harwood-Bellis is quite the prospect. Like Phil Foden, he was discovered by City playing as a child in Stockport. Supporting City has run in his family for generations, and at well over six feet tall he certainly fits the physical bill as well as the technical one. Remember Guardiola’s unveiling in 2016, when players from each of the different squads came onto the stage to welcome the new coach? Harwood-Bellis was there, captain of the Under-15 squad. He’s also led England at a Euros at U17 level, dominated Sunderland’s senior team at the Stadium of Light, and become the youngest goalscorer in UEFA Youth League history. If that’s not a player you’re excited to see in action, then I don’t know what to tell you.
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