Sunderland will travel to Manchester to play title favourites Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in their opening fixture of the brand new Premier League season. The game will see David Moyes and Pep Guardiola both take charge in their first competitive fixture as managers.
Both sides have been in relatively good form in their pre-season campaigns. Sunderland have faced some tough opposition since returning to training at the start of July, including trips to Austria to face German giants Borussia Dortmund, and games against English Football League sides in Rotherham and Hartlepool. The Black Cats remained unbeaten throughout their six pre-season games, winning four and drawing two.
Manchester City have had the tougher tests in pre-season of the two teams. The Citizens faced testing opposition in the form of Arsenal, Bayern Munich and St Johnstone. They also played Dortmund, winning on penalties in the International Champions cup. The Blue’s didn’t remain unbeaten however, losing two and winning two.
Sunderland have been unfortunate in their preparations for Saturdays game, after a week full of distractions and injury blows. Today Moyes told the media that a number of players would miss out on the trip to Manchester. Lee Cattermole, Jan Kirchoff, Billy Jones and Seb Larsson will all miss out, as well as worries over Jermain Defoe’s fitness after Sunderland’s star striker only returned back to training late in the week. Moyes has however this week added new additions to his squad, bringing in Papy Djilibodji, Donald Love, Paddy McNair and today confirmed the arrival of hot prospect Adnan Januzaj on a season long loan from his old club Manchester United.
New Manchester City manager Guardiola will also take charge of his first competitive game on Saturday evening. The Citizens don’t quite have as many injury worries as the visitors, but do have Argentinian defender Nicolas Otamendi facing a late fitness test with a tendon problem. £47-million-man John Stones looks set to start after his arrival from Everton mid-week. New man Leroy Sane is also unlikely to feature, as well as Samir Nasri, who has been linked with a move away from the Etihad. Guardiola also insisted he was happy with his number one keeper Joe Hart, after the Englishman’s summer of criticism.
What the managers have said
Moyes was this week faced with a transfer request handed in by Lamine Kone, after the Ivorian was subject to a bid from Everton. The Scotsman said: “He’s a big part of it, he’s a big player here. He was definitely in my team tomorrow, but now I have got to make a decision of what he has come out and said.” The former Lorient man will be fined for his statement released on Thursday evening.
Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss Guardiola admitted in his pre-match press conference that it would take time to create something at Manchester City. “Tomorrow we don’t know if everyone is going to play or if we will get the result but I will not accept not playing with soul. To create ideas, it takes time, but to play with Soul we don’t need time,” Guardiola said.
The Black Cats haven’t won a season opener since 2009 where they beat Bolton Wanderers but would most likely settle for any result tomorrow. City however are unbeaten in their last seven season opening fixtures, winning each of the last five. They have never begun the Premier League with a defeat at home.