Manchester City begin their preparations for their return to Premier League action at the Academy Stadium on Saturday afternoon when they take on fellow City Football Group side Girona. The Citizens have not played since losing 2-1 to Brentford last month, while their Spanish rivals Osasuna drew 1-1 on Wednesday. Manchester City vs Girona Club Friendly.
Manchester City vs Girona Club Friendly
Pep Guardiola will be forced to watch his former pupil celebrate Christmas Day at the top of the Premier League table. As the reigning champions continue to play catch-up to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal in the race for the 2022-23 top-flight crown.
A 2-1 loss to Brentford just before the World Cup break left Man City five points behind the top-of-the-table Gunners. Although they were due to face the north London outfit earlier this season before the death of Queen Elizabeth II. A major calendar shake up.
Before resuming their quest for a third successive Premier League title against Leeds United on Boxing Day, Guardiola’s side must test their wits against old rivals Liverpool in the fourth round of the EFL Cup next Thursday and two games with Chelsea in the league and the FA. Far from a welcome way to enter the Cup 2023.
However, what has been warmly welcomed by Man City fans is that Guardiola has signed a new deal at the Etihad until the summer of 2025. Although Brazil are reportedly already set to test the English champions’ resolve as they search for Tite’s successor.
Will Guardiola test his first-team
For now, though, Guardiola will test his first-team regulars and academy graduates in equal measure as his side prepare for their only winter friendly of the year. But while a training camp in Abu Dhabi is on the menu for City, Girona have peaked during the World Cup.
Finishing the first half of the season with three straight wins under their belt was the perfect tonic for a Girona side who have not had an ideal start to avoid immediate relegation from La Liga.
The visitors ended the 2022-23 La Liga season with just two wins from their first 14 matches. But consecutive 2-1 wins at Athletic Bilbao and Elche just before the World Cup break saw Michel’s side move up to 13th in the table – five points clear of Sevilla in the drop zone.
At A Glance Girona
Girona won the Copa del Rey by the same scoreline at Quintana Roo and recorded a 1-1 draw against Real Madrid during their five-game unbeaten run and they carried that form into their winter friendlies.
After beating Standard Liege 1-0, Girona drew Osasuna 1-1 in midweek with Alix García canceling out Lucas Toro’s opener, extending their unbeaten run across competitive and non-competitive matches to an impressive seven matches.
A remarkable 14-game scoring streak will serve Girona well against a weakened Man City side, but a 1-0 success against Standard Liege also represents their only clean sheet in 18 matches in all competitions, and a well-rested Erling Braut Haaland can also. Make sure to punish such weaknesses.
At A Glance Man City
Man City attacker Julian Alvarez is preparing to start for Argentina at the World Cup finals and will thus be absent. While a host of other Qatar 2022 representatives are yet to return to training with Guardiola’s men.
English quintet Phil Foden, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Jack Grealish and Calvin Phillips are all taking longer after their quarter-final exits, while Ederson, Nathan Ake, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo and Ruben Dias also suffered last-eight heartbreak.
Manuel Akanji, Aymeric Laporte and Rodri were all ruled out earlier and so Erling Braut could return to training soon. Along with Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne, who should both play a part in this one.
Riyad Mahrez can also expect to line up for the Citizens. And Guardiola should also work with youngsters such as Cole Palmer, Liam Smith and Carlos Borges.
Injuries in Both Team
City’s medical room is empty at the moment, but the same can’t be said for Girona, who have Juanpe Ramirez and Ibrahima Kebay out for long periods with heel and knee injuries respectively.
Borja Garcia’s cruciate tear will also take a bit longer. While David Lopez, Valeri Fernandez, Xavi Hernandez and Rodrigo Riquelme could complete the seven-man absentee list for the Spanish side.
Two City loanees in Yangel Herrera and Yann Couto could come up against their parent clubs. Although the former must shake off fitness concerns alongside Reinier, who is enjoying a temporary spell at the club from Real Madrid.
Manchester City possible starting lineup:
Carson; Lewis, Burns, Katongo, Gomez; Palmer, Robertson, De Bruyne; Mahrez, Haaland, Borges
Girona possible starting lineup:
Gazzaniga; Couto, A. Martinez, Bueno, Gutierrez; Terrats, Romeu, Garcia; Martin, Stuani, Vallejo
Prediction Manchester City vs Girona Club Friendly
We say: Manchester City 2-0 Girona
While Man City are far from full strength as they look to return to their World Cup squad, Girona’s plethora of injuries pose problems for Michel and his leaky defence.
The Spaniards never seem to have trouble finding the net, but De Bruyne and Haaland should take center stage on the show for a resurgent Man City side to victory.