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Boss set for special Barca date

Mark Hughes

Mark Hughes

City's midweek date with Barcelona will be a particularly special occasion for Mark Hughes.

The manager spent a season with the Catalan giants in the mid-1980s that he has recalled fondly, but he won't allow sentiment to get in the way of the business in hand when City take on last season's Champions League winners in the Nou Camp.

Everton's Europa League commitments this week saw City's home fixture with the Toffees postponed, giving the Blues a gap in the first week of the season that Hughes wanted filling with meaningful action. A chance to play one of the world's great sides in their own backyard was one that the boss did not want to pass up, and it also ticks several boxes with an eye on preparations for Saturday's home game against Wolves.

He said: "It's a high-profile and prestigious game, and given that everybody else is playing this week we thought it still being so early in the season that we wanted to add to our match-fitness.

"We'll look to get a lot of positives out of this game, and it was an honour even to be asked over. We are obviously mindful that we have a very important game at the weekend, and we don't want to compromise anybody. There are a few bumps and bruises about, but we should go over and enjoy the experience. It's not very often you get the opportunity to play in the Nou Camp in front of 100,000, so you should take that chance."

Hughes did get the chance to play in that footballing cauldron, and although the memories of his time with Barca are tinged with some regret he affirms that his stint there was crucial in his development.

"I enjoyed my time there," he declared. "I went out as a young lad but came back much more experienced, and I came back married as well! It was a big time in my life, the football did not go as well as I would have liked and it was difficult at times because I was out there on my own for long periods. I found it difficult to impose myself in the team but it was a good experience for me.

"With hindsight, maybe I could have made more of the opportunity that was given to me at the time but at the time you tend to have a different mindset. But, it was a wonderful experience overall, Barcelona is a fantastic city and I came back from it as a better player and a better person."

City will boast a strong squad for the Joan Gamper Trophy game, but Hughes will be playing a delicate balancing act with Saturday's game in mind.

"We are still early in the season and getting to the right fitness levels, so that will come into my thinking for selection. We want to give a good account of ourselves, but the key for us is our game at the weekend and that will be upmost in my thinking.

"I've played in this tournament when it used to be a four-team tournament spread over a couple of days. They always view it as the last game before the real stuff starts, it was always a very important game to them, so to be asked play is very nice for us."


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