Is Edin Dzeko hearing footsteps from Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo?
Manchester City will look to put forth a more credible showing than they gave in their recent 2-0 loss to SuperSport United FC when they line up in Durban, South Africa against AmaZulu FC tomorrow, July 18.
Off the pitch, the match has added significance, as it has been scheduled to coincide with the 95th birthday of ailing former South African president and global icon Nelson Mandela, per the Mail & Guardian. The match itself is part of the Nelson Mandela Football Invitational.
As for the match, several City players will need to perform at a much higher level than what they gave in Pretoria.
Daniel Eslick of Goal.com projects that City manager Manuel Pellegrini will play this friendly with a decidedly unfriendly starting lineup.
Granted, the Citizens are still not expected to play Sergio Aguero in this match, as he has only recently rejoined the team, according to the club's website. Similarly, neither David Silva nor Jesus Navas are yet with the club on the preseason tour.
With a roster as deep as City's, though, any lineup Pellegrini chooses will be pretty stout.
Eslick predicts that City mainstays Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and new man Fernandinho will feature, as well as club veterans Micah Richards and Gareth Barry.
Both Richards and Barry are ostensibly playing for their places on the team.
Richards continues to haggle with the club over his contract, per the Daily Mail. He faces very stiff competition for his job, as City conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League last season with Richards making only seven appearances.
Barry's lot is even worse, according to Mark Ogden and John Percy of The Telegraph.
"The £30 million signing of Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho from Shakhtar Donetsk, combined with the club’s desire for Jack Rodwell and Javi Garcia to make a greater contribution...has left Barry facing reduced opportunities under Pellegrini," wrote Ogden and Percy.
Elsewhere, Edin Dzeko figures to get one of a few more opportunities to distinguish himself positively after eschewing good chances against SuperSport FC.
ESPNFC.com's Simon Curtis had a sardonic take on Dzeko's current plight: "Talk of the need for a striker or two had thankfully not been playing on Edin Dzeko's mind, as he calmly reproduced some of his very best lamp-post impersonations from last season's repertoire."
All kidding aside, with Aguero coming back to resume his position at the top of City's list of strikers, and with more help in the form of Alvaro Negredo apparently on the way (per ESPNFC.com), it is getting late early for Dzeko to make a better impression on Pellegrini.
Of course, much of this analysis will go wanting if Pellegrini makes the same sort of wholesale lineup changes against AmaZulu as the full-on swap he made at the half against SuperSport.
It is hard to judge any player on a half (or less) of match play.
Rodwell, for one, anticipates a better effort from the Citizens in Durban: "It was our first game back, with a lot of fitness missing from a lot of players, so I think that was key. Next game we'll get better."
Pellegrini and the club's fans surely hope so.