A Manchester derby at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium awaits…
Our man in China @markbooth_mcfc picks out five things to look out for in Monday’s game.
1 More than a friendly?
Pep Guardiola poured cold water on any notion that this pre-season meeting was an opportunity to lay down a marker for the new season in his pre-match press conference on Sunday.
“It’s really a friendly” he urged, before adding “but of course we would always like to win!”
The press were attempting to play up his rivalry with Jose Mourinho and turn it into the focal point for this exhibition match but, as a football man through and through, Pep is always eager to deflect attention away from these trivial matters.
Most important for Pep is coming through the game with no new injury issues and getting more minutes into the legs of his squad with that first Premier League game against Sunderland creeping up fast.
Mourinho seconded this sentiment in his press conference, so don’t expect to see the tackles flying in like they would in a derby at the Etihad or Old Trafford.
2 The Returned
Only Kevin De Bruyne, Eliaquim Mangala and Bacary Sagna are now missing from the tour party here in China.
Sergio Aguero, Jason Denayer, Joe Hart, Nolito, Nicolas Otamendi, David Silva and Raheem Sterling have all arrived in Beijing following their summer breaks but will this match come too soon for them?
With just two days of training under their belts, it seems unlikely they’ll be thrown straight back into any kind of match action - even in a friendly – but you never know.
3 History Boys
City and United have never contested a Manchester derby outside of the UK and so this promises to be an iconic moment in a long-standing rivalry.
Guardiola told journalists on Sunday that he expects United to be a serious rival next season after their big-money signings, meaning this is a derby which could be supercharged when the sides meet for the first time in September.
This time around we expect a number of young players to be involved on both sides and that could add some spice in itself, given this window of opportunity for boys in both blue and red to impress their new managers.
4 The Heat
Early indications are that the temperature will drop a few centigrade before Monday night’s derby which bodes well for an entertaining encounter.
It’s looking like it will be 26 degrees at kick-off which will be some relief to the players who have been training in a downright balmy 33°C in their first days in the country.
That should mean we’ll be in for more of a typically “Premier League” paced game than we might have been which is great news for the Chinese public descending upon the Bird’s Nest Stadium.
5 Golden Memories
This match will be played in a stadium with special significance for two members of City’s tour party.
Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta both won Olympic Gold with Argentina there back in 2008 and Pablo even scored against Arsenal back in 2012!
Will the pair create more precious memories in Beijing this time around?