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Perfect test against Pirates

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Mark Hughes sees this afternoon's Vodacom Challenge match against Orlando Pirates as the perfect way to start City's build-up to the new season.

The Blues take on the Pirates at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane at 2.00pm UK time in the shadow of the new ground being built for next year's World Cup, with the Manager able to pick from a squad of 21 players currently in South Africa.

With a busy post-season period of international matches meaning some of the squad have only just returned to training, Hughes could be set to try different combinations today, but for him it's all steps down the path to that all-important Barclays Premier League encounter with Blackburn next month.

We're looking forward to it, it's a different environment for us and it enables us to get together as a group as well as get to know each other as a group. That's very important for the new guys.

Mark Hughes


"It is early in our preparations because our international players only came together on Monday, and a few of them are a little bit behind in terms of conditioning. We will use this time in South Africa with a view to getting our fitness up to the right level for the first Premier League game against Blackburn.

"We hope as a club that we are creating the right environment to get the correct work out of the players, which will let them prosper. Their qualities will always come to the fore if they put in good work. It's a lot easier if you have top-quality players, which we certainly have here."

Hughes' opposite number is Rudd Krol, and the former member of that legendary Dutch side of the 1970s is keen to see how his charges will match up in front of 18,000 excited fans today.

"It's a big match for us, but we have the same problems with international players needing a little bit more time for rest. This will be a great experience for our young players and our newer players, we will see what they can do against a squad as strong as City's. For them, it is a fantastic chance to play against such big players."

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