AC Milan vs Manchester City: Predicting City's XI at International Champions Cup

Phil Keidel@@PhilKeidelContributor IIJuly 25, 2014

Manchester City had a lot of fun at Sporting KC's expense in City's most recent match.
Manchester City had a lot of fun at Sporting KC's expense in City's most recent match.Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

Manchester City supporters can be forgiven for not knowing what to hope for as City begin the Guinness International Champions Cup against AC Milan in Pittsburgh.

Ordinarily, Sky Blues faithful are only interested in seeing the club win. The Premier League title, the FA Cup, even the Capital One Cup—if it's silver, City fans want their side to bring it home.

But the Guinness International Champions Cup is a series of exhibitions:

This year’s format will consist of two groups of four in a round-robin format.  Each team will play a total of three matches in group play and the two group leaders will face off on August 4 in the final at Sun Life Stadium in Miami.

And there's the problem.

City are already committed to play AC Milan on Jul. 27, Liverpool on Jul. 30 and Olympiacos on Aug. 2. That's three matches in three American cities (Pittsburgh, New York and Minneapolis in that order) in one week.

Do City really need to play a "cup final" in Miami two days after the Olympiacos match? Have you ever been to Miami in August? It's really hot.

At least City boss Manuel Pellegrini will have plenty of players to choose from for these friendlies. Early reports were less than encouraging on that front, but the earliest information about City's roster for this tournament turned out to be unreliable.

Relevent Sports, the entity behind the Guinness International Champions Cup, provided what seems to be the definitive City roster for the remainder of their American exertions.

Among the notable omissions are Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Martin Demichelis. All five of those men are still recharging their batteries after deep World Cup runs by their national teams.

Negredo's injury takes one of Pellegrini's options away.
Negredo's injury takes one of Pellegrini's options away.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Of those named to this roster, City fans can already cross Alvaro Negredo off. The broken fifth metatarsal in the Spaniard's right foot has ruled him out into October.

Samir Nasri's status is also in question after the Frenchman sustained a knee injury in City's second Scottish friendly at Heart of Midlothian.

Per Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail, Pellegrini had this to say of Nasri's status going forward: "‘Samir had a little problem the last game we played in Scotland...we’ll see during the week when he starts kicking the ball if he can play against Milan. I think for Liverpool he will be okay."

Wheeler's report focused more on the bright new phenom City fans want to see more of after his star turn against Sporting Kansas City.

After registering a goal and an assist for City against Sporting KC, Kelechi Iheanacho drew praise from Pellegrini: "Kelechi is just 17 years old and he’s a very important player for us in the future. He demonstrated today what he can do in the future."

Pellegrini noted that City supporters may not see Iheanacho in Premier League this season due to work-permit issues for the Nigerian forward.

"For the moment he will stay with us and we’ll see when we return to England what will happen with him. But he’s a very important player for the future for the club," Pellegrini noted.

At least for now, Pellegrini's primary problem is deciding how hard he wants to pursue a place in the tournament final.

Were it my decision, the City XI against AC Milan would look suspiciously like the group that eviscerated the defending Major League Soccer champions on their home pitch. There is no real reason to try to win this tournament. Keeping City's stars fresh and healthy for the upcoming season is far more important.

But it is not my decision. Pellegrini has to protect the club's superstars from injury, but he cannot shield them all in this tournament. And once City made the choice to participate in this tournament, City tacitly stated that they would bring a representative team and make an honest go of it.

Besides, City are vying for the hearts and dollars of American world football fans who are not already betrothed to Manchester United and Liverpool just because those clubs used to be good.

Based on the foregoing, here is my predicted XI for City against AC Milan: Willy Caballero; Micah Richards, Dedryck Boyata, Matija Nastasic, Gael Clichy; Fernando, Javi Garcia, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Jesus Navas; Stevan Jovetic.