Manchester City will gear up for its first match of the 2014 Guinness International Champions Cup (ICC) on Sunday. City will face off against a wounded AC Milan following the Serie A team’s 3-0 upset to Olympiacos in the tournament’s opener on Thursday. City, on the other hand, comes into the tournament after handing Sporting Kansas City a 4-1 thrashing on Wednesday. The odds favor City to log its first 2014 ICC victory against Milan at the Heinz field in Pittsburg, PA.
This year’s ICC features two groups, each consisting of four teams. In pool A are Manchester United, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AS Roma. Pool B consists of Liverpool FC, AC Milan, Olympiacos and Manchester City. Olympiacos snagged the first three points of the tournament in Toronto on Thursday against AC Milan. The Greek powerhouse saw goals from Alejandro Dominguez, Dimitris Diamantakos and Andreas Bouchalakis in the 16th, 49th and 78th minutes, respectively.
Milan looked weary on the pitch against a high-tempo Olympiacos, a posture that is sure to deliver a second upset for the squad if they plan on facing City with the same attitude. Absent from Milan’s lineup on Thursday was striker Mario Balotelli, who has made headlines this week as reports surge that Adriano Galliani is keen on swapping Balotelli for Arsenal’s Joel Campbell.
Meanwhile, City welcomes back the likes of Edin Džeko and Barclays Golden Glove recipient, Joe Hart. However, following the team’s victory against Sporting Kansas City, manager Manuel Pellegrini said that the World Cup returners would be unlikely candidates for Sunday’s match. Instead, Pellegrini is better situated to go with the likes of goalkeeper Willy Caballero and right-winger, Jesús Navas.
Navas, who was left off the Spanish roster for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, has high hopes for City’s performance this year and plans to kick-start league play with a solid showing at the Guinness International Champions Cup. Caballero is likely to take advantage of the opportunity to establish himself in the net for City. Caballero employs a bold sweeper-keeper style of play that will definitely prove advantageous for City’s defense and counter-attacking capabilities—that is, if Milan can offer enough attacking force to put it to the test.
Milan will look to bounce back from one of their poorest league performances last season, however the team’s opening game against Olympiacos makes that task increasingly difficult. Today’s game offers both teams the opportunity to iron out the kinks with potential lineups and player formations. The Guinness International Champions Cup presents the perfect venue for managers to gear up for league play.
Pellegrini is taking advantage of the ICC to grease the gears of his younger players. The City manager said of the youngsters, “It’s an important chance for them to show what they can do, and maybe this moment it is their moment.” Kelechi Iheanacho and Jason Denayer are two of the younger players that saw playing time against Sporting Kansas City.
The Guinness International Champions Cup game between AC Milan and Manchester City will be a defining moment for both teams’ pre-season play. It will be an opportunity for the younger players to establish themselves on the pitch and log some playing time while many of the 2014 World Cup veterans rest. The odds favor City, however both teams are experiencing the same effect of pre-season uncertainties and opportunities. For this reason the game stands to surprise and even defy some of the odds.
Commentary by Courtney Anderson