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Shipshape to repel Pirates

South African welcome

South African welcome

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.

Amongst those unavailable are England under 21 stars Nedum Onuoha and Micah Richards and Brazilian internationals Robinho and Elano. They have all been given additional time to recover from summer games.

Hughes will mix and match for the Challenge opener adopting the attitude that each contest from now on is a step down the path to the all-important opening Barclays Premier League encounter with Blackburn next month.

"We're looking forward to the Vodacom Challenge, 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,” he declared.

"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 this afternoon is Rudd Krol, former member of the legendary Dutch international side of the 1970s. He is keen to see how his charges will shape 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,” he ventured.

Mark Hughes


“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."

The game is being beamed back to the stadium environs on a big screen at the family fun day to celebrate the kit launch and will be shown live on mcfc.co.uk.


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