Just days after Manuel Pellegrini complained that a congested fixture list was putting too much strain on Premier League players comes news of a proposed midseason friendly game between Manchester City and Al Ain in Abu Dhabi.
The friendly game would be the showpiece event for the opening of the Hazza bin Zayed stadium, the new home of the current Arabian Gulf League champions, Al Ain. City would also enjoy some warm-weather training during an unusual week-long break from competitive football.
If the match does go ahead, City's January schedule would look like this:
Jan. 1—Swansea (a)
Jan. 4—Blackburn (a)
Jan. 8—West Ham (h)
Jan. 12—Newcastle (a)
Jan. 14—Proposed friendly against Al Ain (UAE)
Jan. 18—Cardiff (h)
Jan. 21—West Ham (a)
Jan. 29—Spurs (a)
With plenty of league fixtures, an FA Cup third-round match and a two-legged semi-final against West Ham in the Capital One Cup taking place in January, the friendly seems like an unhelpful distraction to a side focused and playing well.
Pellegrini is unlikely to publicly criticise the idea, with the decision to play the match probably out of his hands, but he must surely be annoyed at the timing of the game.
City are just one point behind leaders Arsenal and in a fine run of form, so a trip away for a meaningless friendly will surely be seen as an inconvenience by Pellegrini and his staff. The club's desire to be a commercial success on a worldwide scale means that this kind of engagement will become commonplace in future, but from a purely footballing perspective there can be little merit in engaging in midseason friendlies of this nature.
The tempo of the match itself is hardly going to be intense; however, it's the travelling to and from the Middle East in between league matches with Newcastle and Cardiff that is likely to take its toll on the players and their general fitness. Success on the pitch should be uppermost in the minds of those at the club. If City are doing well on the pitch, commercial success will no doubt follow.
The focus of everyone at the club has to be reclaiming the Premier League title they won in 2012 and progressing as far as possible in the Champions League.
Manuel Pellegrini is unlikely to see any benefit outside of the financial and commercial boost the club will receive, and he will very likely be tempted to make sure his best players, such as Vincent Kompany, David Silva, Fernandinho and Yaya Toure, are allowed to stay at home and rest, preferring to take a collection of fringe and youth players.
The risk of injury and fatigue is glaringly obvious, but it seems that's the price a side must pay if they want to improve their off-field profile in other parts of the world.
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.
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