Manchester City are preparing to kick off their 2013/14 campaign with a home game against Newcastle United on Monday. Manuel Pellegrini’s four new signings—Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo—could all be involved but Serbian defender Matija Nastasic is out with an ankle injury.
As I reported on these pages on Friday, one major piece of good news for City is Sergio Aguero’s return from a knee injury. The striker hasn’t played for City since May but has trained with the squad for well over a week and he is available for selection again.
Whether Pellegrini will start him after playing no part in City’s preseason matches is unclear.
Where Pellegrini chooses to play David Silva remains the most important selection issue. Silva is City’s best attacking player, yet at times last season he was on the periphery of matches because of his tendency to drift wide.
If City play with two strikers, Silva may well find himself coming in off the left again, but if Pellegrini plays 4-2-3-1, it’s likely we’ll see Silva in the central attacking position behind the lone striker. Many feel a central role best allows Silva to dictate play with his effective passing game.
Pellegrini has a history of embracing players of Silva’s ilk, particularly at Villarreal where Juan Roman Riquelme was central to his side’s approach, and City fans will be keen to see Silva used in the same way. He has the ability to control and influence a match like few others and ensuring he is utilised properly will be key to City’s chances this season.
Loic Remy, Newcastle’s new signing from QPR, has been ruled out with a calf problem but Jonas Gutierrez could be involved after recovering from a hamstring complaint.
It’s been a summer of discontent at St James’ Park after the appointment of Joe Kinnear as director of football. Many feel Kinnear is a relic of the past and that his appointment undermines manager Alan Pardew, with Kinnear’s bizarre and often contradictory comments causing the club some embarrassment.
Their relationship is clearly strained, yet there’s no doubting the quality in Newcastle’s ranks. In Fabricio Coloccini, Yohan Cabaye, Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Cisse they have a spine of excellent players and should provide a stern opening day test for City.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity