The Community Shield spots up for grabs in Man City final tour game
Man City’s chance of a better test
It has been a strange grouping of opponents for Manchester City on this summer tour, certainly compared to previous seasons.
The chance to play a Wolves team that was further ahead in their preparations as they focused on a Europa League qualifier was undoubtedly useful, but that has been about as high profile as it has got rather than taking on United, Real Madrid, or Bayern Munich.
Kitchee was a mismatch as the Hong Kong side were just so inferior to the Blues, and Pep Guardiola spoke again afterwards about conditions being far from ideal. Heat, humidity, and issues have followed them from Manchester to China and then Hong Kong, while it is strange logic to travel further away for the final leg of the tour.
City cannot do much about the weather in Japan – it is set to be another scorcher – but given they are playing a team from their stable in Yokohama F Marinos they should be able to control more of the things they have been unable to previously in order to ensure that they get as much as possible from their last warm-up match before taking on Liverpool at Wembley.
Claudio Bravo will keep goal again for the fourth pre-season game but there is a decision to be made about the Community Shield.
The Chilean has not lost his knack of hairy moments and there were more signs of skittishness against Kitchee, including when he fell into the net trying to keep out a chip that had gone over the bar.
Bravo restored some of his reputation in his second season at the club as a solid backup for Ederson and it is that position that he will be in when the season starts. The Brazilian, though, will surely not need much time to be back up to speed and in contention for Wembley.
Guardiola, who will likely have an almost identical squad for the Liverpool game, must decide whether he has seen enough from Bravo out here to keep faith in him for the cup competitions.
Kids off the bench
After that first youthful XI that started in Nanjing a week ago, City’s line-ups have been remarkably strong. The manager has not been messing about as he looks to gel his players ahead of the new season and that has meant senior players being given the bulk of the playing time.
However, there have still been opportunities – Nabil Touaizi and Iker Pozo both scored against Kitchee – and there is the carrot of a Community Shield appearance looming for any youngster that manages to impress. Last year Claudio Gomes made his debut in the final seconds against Chelsea at Wembley and there are a number who will be dreaming of the same.
De Bruyne magic
What made Kevin De Bruyne so remarkable in the 2017/18 campaign was that he produced moments of such utter wonder every three days for nine months.
The Belgian was relentlessly brilliant, and it was only a wonder season from Mo Salah that saw him miss out on being named the best player in the division.
After a troubled time of it last year, De Bruyne looks back to being comfortably better than anyone else on the pitch and while it is too early to predict what is to come the more performances he turns in like this the more excitement will and should grow.