Tuesday 23 July 2013
Vincent Kompany says Manchester City are "the sharpest he has seen in a long time" and a side that "mean business" ahead of their Barclays Asia Trophy semi-final encounter with South China on Wednesday.
"This is the sharpest I've seen the time in a long time"
Man City take on South China at 1.30pm BST, shortly after Tottenham Hotspur have faced Sunderland at Hong Kong Stadium, in what is the only official Barclays Premier League event outside of the United Kingdom, and Kompany is confident of a strong display, having been encouraged by what he has seen in training.
"We've worked very hard this pre-season already," said the Belgium international. "There's still more to come but sometimes you can just have a sense and you feel that this squad is hungry. There's been a great group atmosphere but at the same time we've been working really hard and I've got to say this is the sharpest I've seen the team in a long time."
So far City's two pre-season matches have produced back-to-back defeats but Kompany is unconcerned by results that have reflected a side whose primary focus has been acquiring match fitness in the build-up to this event.
"I know the games and the results probably didn't show it but that's only because in training we worked ever so hard and the focus was on increasing our fitness levels," said the 27-year-old. "I can see a team that means business and that’s a great thing for me to see."
Assistant manager Brian Kidd added that City will be playing for pride as they gear up for a season in which they are striving to reclaim the Barclays Premier League title they lost to Manchester United last time around.
"The players are hurting from last season because they're a proud bunch"
"The players are hurting from last season because they're a proud bunch," said Kidd. "They didn't take [losing the title] lightly, believe you me. But the application, professionalism and attitude of our squad is second to none and I wouldn't change it for any squad in the Premier League.
"It's not easy, I've had experience in my career of winning the championship and the following season is more difficult, but we've certainly got the players who are equipped for a challenge on the Premier League.
Among Kidd's charges are new City signings Stevan Jovetic, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, who joined up with their team-mates at training today, along with head coach Mauricio Pellegrini, who is back from Chile following a family bereavement.
"We have new players of good quality who are joining the squad but there’ll be healthy competition and they'll soon find out that we've not only got great, talented players in our squad but great people – really good people," added Kidd. "Vinny is a leader, and he's young as well, and I think there's more to come from Vinny both as a player and as a captain. It's fantastic if you have a great captain, it's very rare now in football. I can't say enough about our squad."
Kompany has already caught a brief glimpse of what the new arrivals can bring to the side and has been impressed by what he has seen so far. "They only joined training for 20 minutes yesterday but the level and intensity in training has been extremely high," he said. "The pleasing thing is they fitted straight in. You can tell that the homework's been done and we've brought in some really good players. Everybody's excited and, as Brian Kidd said before, competition is key to how good our squad will be this season and we have brought some really good players in."
South China FC go into the tournament on a high after being crowned Hong Kong champions this summer, having finished four points clear of Kitchee with 36 points from 18 matches.
"We will be playing as a team to face Man City, no matter which star players are on the pitch"
And captain Chan Wai-Ho, who was named Hong Kong Player of the Year last season, believes the climate in the region could benefit his side this week.
"I have experienced playing against some of the top teams from the Premier League before and obviously the opponents will have a better chance of winning," he said. "But we might have a better edge to have a chance to win matches because the humidity levels are quite high and also with us playing at home."
Asked about Manchester City's new signings, Wai-Ho said his team would not be focusing solely on one player. "We cannot concern ourselves only with the new players. We will be playing as a team to face Man City, no matter which star players are on the pitch."
Wai-Ho is a doubt for the Manchester City match, describing himself as "50/50" after injuring himself in training but says he is ready to play if called upon. South China general manager Cheung Po Chun said he will finalise his starting line-up on Wednesday.
"His injury was not too serious," explained Po-Chun. "Whether he is OK to start, I will make my decision before the game. All of the players on the bench are fit and capable of playing."
Po-Chun, who has been in charge of South China for only a month, is relishing the opportunity of playing in the Barclays Asia Trophy and is hoping that the South China fans will see a different side under his tutelage.
"I am sure that the performance of South China will be better than last season," he added. "I hope the fans will see a new South China. I am glad that they have given me the opportunity to lead this team. Against Manchester City, we will win or lose as a team. We will do our best whoever we are playing.
"Not only are we looking forward to competing against these strong teams here from the Premier League but I am very glad Barclays are giving the opportunity for the team to participate in this tournament and also giving a lot of support to local Hong Kong football development."
Man City (from): Hart, Richards, Kompany, Zabaleta, Lescott, Milner, Nasri, Negredo, Dzeko, Sinclair, Kolarov,Garcia, Navas, Aguero, Rodwell, Barry, Silva, Clichy, Fernandinho, Wright, Pantilimon, Nastasic, Jovetic, Suarez, Boyata, Toure, Tchuimeni-Nimely, Huws, Guidetti, Razak, Johansen.
South China (from): Tsang Man Fai, Tin Man Ho, Zhang Chunhui, Tse Sean Ka Keung, Chak Ting Fung, Jovo Pavlovic, Chan Wai Ho, Liu Stephen Garlock, Jonathan Jack Sealy, Joel Bertoti Padilha, Carlos Augusto Bertoldi, Lee Wai Lim, Joao Emir Porto Pereira, Aender Naves Mesquita, Chan Siu Kwan, Lee Hong Lim, Kwok Kin Pong, Luk Michael Chi Ho, Lo Kong Wai, Kouta Jige, Dhiego de Souza Martins, Mamadou Hady Barry, Cheng Lai Hin Michael.
There are some tickets still available for this match, as well as Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland, which kicks off at 6pm local time (11am BST). To find out how to buy them click here.