What you need to know about Sporting KC’s opponent in the Champions Shield exhibition match.
Manchester City (also known as simply City, the Sky Blues or the Citizens) is the reigning English Premier League champion. Manager Manuel Pellegrini’s side is littered with world-class athletes (including 10 who made 2014 World Cup rosters) and plays a high-paced attacking brand of soccer (102 goals scored in the league last year).
Sporting Kansas City is the only Major League Soccer club scheduled to play City on this four-game preseason tour of the United States. The EPL champs will play English rivals Liverpool, Italian club AC Milan and Greek champions Olympiacos over the next two weeks.
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The little brother all grown up
For many years, Manchester City existed in the shadow of Manchester United — one of the biggest global icons in the world of sports. City spent most of that time as an affable punching bag before transitioning over the last decade into the noisy little brother demanding attention.
Well, that little brother is now fully grown up with the jacked physique of a professional wrestler. During last season, they turned into the bully defeating United twice by a combined score of 7-1.
Since the club was purchased by the Abu Dhabi United Group — privately owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the insanely rich ruling family of Abu Dhabi — in 2008, City has spent its way into the upper echelon of the sport. How much? Since 2008, City has spent more than $1 billion on transfers to bring in top players.
It turns our, money can buy happiness. Manchester City has won two of the last three English Premier League titles — United won the other — as well as a Football League Cup in 2014 and an FA Cup in 2011. Success in the Champions League, however, has continued to elude them.
Who’s missing from the U.S. Tour?
While this is one of the strongest squads in all of Europe, it will be somewhat depleted during this tour. Pellegrini has given the majority of his World Cup players an extended break before. Goalkeeper Joe Hart (England), midfielders Yaya Toure (Ivory Coast) and David Silva (Spain), and forward Edin Dzeko (Bosnia-Herzegovina) — all eliminated during the World Cup group stage — will join the club for the tour after the SKC match.
Several notable players, including Argentina’s Sergio Agüero and Martin Demichelis and Belgium captain Vincent Kompany, are not expected to join the team until after the U.S. tour is completed.
Spanish forward Álvaro Negredo had to pull out of the tour after injuring his ankle.
The traveling roster isn’t completely barren of talent. Talismanic French midfielder Samir Nasri, Spanish winger Jesús Navas and Montenegro forward Stevan Jovetic will likely be the focus of the attack. Gael Clichy, Micah Richards and Aleksandar Kolarov are all experienced Premier League defenders.
City’s two newest offseason acquisitions, goalkeeper Willy Caballero and midfielder Fernando, are likely to see extended playing time.
But the majority of the traveling roster are either unproven youngsters or young players who have yet to gain consistent playing time. Look for Pellegrini to rely on several of those youngsters against Kansas City, most notably: Dutch defender Karim Rekik, Welsh midfielder Emyr Huws and Swedish forward John Guidetti.
The Manchester City brand is coming to America for a lot longer than just this tour. Starting in 2015, New York City FC (backed by a partnership between the City Football Group — which is part of the Abu Dhabi Group — and the New York Yankees) will join Major League Soccer. The team is off to a solid start after plucking former Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis as manager and adding Spanish striker David Villa as the club’s first major signing.