City visit the Camp Nou tonight after being invited to play Barcelona in the prestigious Joan Gamper trophy. Whether it is right to be playing this fixture after the start of the Premier League season has split opinion amongst many fans and pundits.
It may not be the conventional thing to do, but these are not conventional times at Eastlands. For the City hierarchy it is an opportunity to raise the club’s profile and build our links with one of the most prestigious clubs in world football, whose star players we keep failing to sign. Last year Ronaldinho, this year Eto’o, next year Messi?
For Mark Hughes, it represents a chance to hone the teamplay and tactics of the side as he seeks to assimilate all the new signings. Carlos Tevez has the opportunity for more match time as he seeks to build up his fitness levels.
“It’s a high-profile, prestigious game and given everyone else in the Premier League is playing as well we thought it could also add to our match fitness.
“It’s still early in the season and we are still making sure everyone is up at the right level of fitness, so that will come into my thinking when I pick the team.
“We will want to give a good account of ourselves but key for us at the moment is the game at the weekend.”
For Kolo Toure it represents the first opportunity to play against his younger brother since he joined Barca. Several of the players have said how they are looking forward to playing the Champions of Europe at the Camp Nou. This is hardly a friendly they will find a chore.
“Playing Barcelona in the Nou Camp is a bit special, especially the form they are in now. We’ll be able to see where we are standing after a long pre-season and that first game. We’re all excited – I’ve never played at the Nou Camp, so this is my first time.
“I watched the Champions L eague final, I think everybody here did. Barca were very impressive, but they had been all season – that’s why they won the three big prizes, the Spanish League and Cup as well as the Champions League. They play football at its best.”
It seems fair to assume that whilst keeping one eye on Saturday, Hughes will be required to put out a strong line-up. It wouldn’t do to get panned, and given this is traditionally Barca’s final warm-up game before the new season they are likely to be running at close on full speed. A daunting prospect, yet also thrilling.
Hughes has stated that Carlos Tevez is set to play a bigger role than he has so far, while Wayne Bridge and Emmanual Adebayor are both set to miss out with minor knocks. This could mean an opportunity for Ryan McGivern to line up against Lionel Messi as Javier Garrido may be on the move soon according to reports.
For Barca, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to make his debut and 70,000 tickets have already been sold with a 100,000 capacity crowd expected to fill the Camp Nou as Catalonians flock to see the new striker. Even for City fans it will be interesting to see how the Swede measures up as a replacement for Eto’o. It seems difficult to believe that Barca gave Ã‚Â£40 million PLUSÃ‚Â the Cameroon striker for Imbrahimovic.
Eto’o was eventually rated at Ã‚Â£17 million in the deal, some Ã‚Â£8 million less than City had agreed to pay, but that’s history now. Though it could be worth mentioning to David Moyes that arguably the most potent striker in Europe last season who scored the crucial first goal in the Champions League final is valued at less than we have already offered for Joleon Lescott. But hey, Eto’o is a year older.
For those unable to attend the fixture, it’s being screened live on the City web site.