Mark Hughes believes the Blues trip to Abu Dhabi to play the United Arab Emirates could become a permanent fixture in the club’s calendar.
The manager and a squad without many of its top internationals, including the sizeable English contingent and star strikers Emmanuel Adebayor and Carlos Tevez, were delayed an hour at Manchester Airport this morning by fog but will have no such trouble in the Emirate where the winter temperatures are up in the 90s.
There will be a late evening kick-off for the match on Thursday evening and Hughes is intrigued to see how his mix and match side will shape up against one of football’s emerging nations.
The UAE is in love with the ‘beautiful game’ and the City chief is quick to praise the progress that has been made.There is no reason why this match cannot be a permanent fixture, especially if this trip goes as well as we hope,” he declared.
“We expect it to be beneficial to everybody concerned. As well as playing we will be out in the community meeting people.The Premier League is now a global attraction, watched by followers from more than 200 countries worldwide.
“We have experienced the effect the presence of Manchester City can bring in different countries. We visited South Africa in the summer for the Vodacom Challenge, and the reception we got there was phenomenal.
“I think our visit to Abu Dhabi can help us to harness the undoubted enthusiasm the people of Abu Dhabi have for our club and football in general.
We hope to become the club of choice for the people of Abu Dhabi to follow, and make them proud of the football we play in the same way we aim to do with our supporters in Manchester.
“We'll make ourselves accessible during the week. Our main focus is to train, play the game and win, but we'll go there representing Manchester City, which is a big honour. We'll make sure everybody appreciates how we feel about playing and working for a great club.”
The Blues boss believes that the UAE players will benefit from playing stiff opposition but has clearly done his homework before arriving in Abu Dhabi.
“The UAE had a good showing in the under 20s World Cup and did really well which shows that progress is being made and that the future is promising,” he said.
“They will be going up against our better young players so it will be interesting. We have studied how the UAE go about their job.
“You can only improve as a player or a team by playing against better opposition. If you do that, the tests that they set you mean you have to adapt and raise your level. That's probably the way forward. Teams in the UAE have to expose themselves to top quality teams, and learn and improve as a consequence.”