Saturday 8 August, 3.00pm
City round off their pre-season fixtures with the Eastlands tradition of a prestige home fixture. Celtic are this season’s visitors and it promises to be an entertaining game with the Scots doubtless in jubilant mood following their Champions League heroics on Wednesday.
Expect to see them singing the praises of none other than Georgios Samaras, and it’s been a while since anyone did that at Eastlands! The opposing fans should also give a warmer reception to Shay Given and Craig Bellamy than we heard on Wednesday night.
Following today’s Champions League draw pitting his side against Arsenal, Tony Mowbray will probably appreciate the chance to give his side a run out against Premier League opposition, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Celtic in fairly relaxed mode following their midweek exertions.
Hughes on playing Celtic:
“It will be another good test for us.
“Celtic’s confidence will be on a high because they had a fantatic win in midweek. Our game at Rangers was at a better level than we had before, and that is what you want. You need a gradual increase in the intensity.”
For City supporters it’s a last chance to see how the team is coming together, with the possibility of Carlos Tevez making an appearance. Given his lack of training I doubt it will be more than a substitute’s role, but it would still give everyone a boost to see the Argentine in a City shirt.
We could certainly do with a lift after what was a thoroughly disappointing defensive display at Ibrox. There’s been much talk of us attempting to crack the top four this season, but after the shambles on Wednesday night, it’s hard to see us challenging Aresnal or even Villa and Everton.
Hughes spoke afterwards about focusing on the defending in training, but with many of the players disappearing for internationals next week, things need to be in place for the Celtic game. I hope it all comes together, but frankly I have doubts about Hughes’ defensive methods. The players don’t look comfortable and the opposition seem able to create chances to easily.
Of course the real test is next week at Blackburn, but if things don’t improve by then, the pressure on Hughes could soon become unbearable. He’s been allowed a free reign to bring in the players he wanted and set the team up as he liked, but with this comes a higher level of expectation. Excuses that it takes time for new players to gel will only pass muster for a short time in a season where Sheikh Mansour’s millions have given City fans every reason to be optimistic.
Prediction: City 3 Celtic 1.