Friday 26 July 2013
Manchester City head coach Manuel Pellegrini is looking forward to pitting his side against Barclays Premier League opposition for the first time as he attempts to mastermind a victory over Sunderland and claim an "important trophy" by winning the Barclays Asia Trophy final on Saturday.
"We have an important trophy to play for and it is always important to win trophies"
Man City reached the showpiece after overcoming South China 1-0 on Wednesday night thanks to a headed goal by Edin Dzeko, and Pellegrini is hopeful his side can get his tenure off to a flying start by winning some silverware.
"It will be a different match," said Pellegrini. "Firstly, because it will be against another Premier League team, so it will be very useful ahead of our first official Barclays Premier League match with Newcastle in August. If we win, it is better, because we have an important trophy to play for and it is always important to win trophies."
The Chilean tactician, who left Malaga to join City last month, has not yet decided upon his starting line-up, with two of his latest signings having only joined their new team-mates in Hong Kong on Monday, but he intends to give a number of players the opportunity to experience playing before a 40,000 sell-out crowd at Hong Kong Stadium.
"Tomorrow I will try to play all the players," he explained. "I will try to give a similar average of minutes for all the players."
Unlike Alvaro Negredo, who impressed in a 20-minute cameo on Wednesday, fellow new signings Jesus Navas and Stevan Jovetic have yet to appear in City colours, and Jovetic is eager to make his City debut in the final.
"I like to play behind the striker or the left side"
"I only arrived here three or four days ago," the Montenegrin international, speaking in English, told journalists at the pre-match press conference. "But for now I'm feeling very good, the guys have treated me very well. We have a very good team and I just hope that I’m going to be in the first team."
Asked where he is expecting to be deployed in Pellegrini's line-up, Jovetic replied, "I like to play behind the striker or the left side but the coach will decide which position is best for me and I will play there."
If Jovetic is just getting to know his team-mates Sunderland winger Adam Johnson has been reacquainting himself with his former City colleagues, with whom he played for two seasons until joining the Black Cats a year ago and who are staying at the same hotel in the city. But the England international is confident his side can manage a fourth victory in three years against the 2011/12 Barclays Premier League champions.
"It's always nice going back to your old teams and seeing familiar faces," said Johnson, who scored the only goal in Sunderland's 1-0 home win against City last term. "We played them last season and did alright. This time around I still want to win."
Although Wednesday's semi-final was delayed by half an hour due to heavy rain, the 26-year-old winger says his players adapted well to the circumstances as they battled back from conceding a Gylfi Sigurdsson's opener with goals by Cabral, Wes Brown and David Moberg Karlsson.
"We dealt with the conditions quite well as a team and used them to our advantage. We covered a lot of the pitch and worked hard and if we do that again the conditions won't come into it."
"We covered a lot of the pitch and worked hard and if we do that again the conditions won't come into it"
Like City, whom Pellegrini said was hopeful of adding further personnel to his squad this summer, Sunderland have made recent changes to the squad with eight new players arriving in the close season, but Johnson is pleased by the way they have adapted so quickly.
"It's a totally different team," he said. "We've made a lot of new signings but, with [Emanuele] Giaccherini and Jozy [Altidore], they’re two quality players and it’s easy to play with quality players.
"As soon as you're on the same wavelength as a good player, it doesn't take time to get the chemistry so it's been pretty easy – it's been the same with all the lads as soon as they've come here. We've gelled really quickly and everyone has got on well, and hopefully that's going to show even more in the next few weeks."
Head coach Paolo Di Canio is particularly pleased with the way his players have responded to his training methods and the character they showed in battling back to beat Spurs, despite the punishing pre-season schedule he has imposed upon his charges.
"We weren't really sharp, but we showed that, in the long run, we are resistant, so that's the first signal that we are working good. In the future we will be more sharp and strong. We have to keep going because we want to build a resistance and strength, they are really feeling it in the legs, but, did in the second half, especially, when we came out on top.
"We showed that, in the long run, we are resistant"
Paolo Di Canio
"Until today I'm very happy because it was easy, I have found a group of intelligent players. They have started to understand how important it is for us all to live together so that once we go back to Sunderland they have put down the work to bridge the gap between the different mentalities, people who come from abroad.
"If you don't understand the mentality of your team-mates straight away it's difficult, so this is a great moment to build together and bond together. At the moment from what I can see the group have enjoyed together, suffered together, this is a good thing."
Success in Saturday's Barclays Asia trophy will only serve to strengthen that burgeoning Black Cats bond.